Pharisees and Sadducees

Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees?

It's important to know who these people were to interpret and understand the New Testament more clearly.

It also helps us understand how Christianity evolved, and how Christianity started to include the Gentiles.

Some distinctions that we will cover here that are common misunderstandings include the belief that Jesus and his Apostles were starting a new religion (while in reality, Jesus was teaching the transition from the Old Law of Moses to worshipping Christ), all the Pharisees unanimously crucified Jesus (while in reality, some Pharisees believed in Jesus and the Pharisees actually consisted of distinct schools), and finally that Christianity replaced Israel because the Jews rejected Jesus (when in reality, Christianity is intended to be for both Jews and Gentiles, respecting the transition to bring Christ into all Christians lives - both Jew and Gentile), and finally that Pontius Pilate was a ruthless and cruel dictator.


  • Before the rise of Rome, in approx 750 BC, recall that the Jews, after centuries of captivity, won their freedom from the Syrian King (Antiochus). The Jews had a fresh fear and belief that Israel was punished for not following the Law of Moses. Key Jewish leaders exclaimed they would never again come under bondage from their rebellion, and were determined to honor God's commandments so that Israel would not suffer from God's curses or punishments ever again. In a zeal to observe the commandments, new fanatical groups formed to promote holiness. One group was the Pharisees, and another Sadducees.
  • The Pharisees started out as a well intended group, with the word Pharisee meaning "pure". They were Ultra orthodox, meaning they kept all of the old laws. But one problem that developed among them was that they distanced themselves from Gentiles, or any unrighteous non-Pharisee. They formed two schools: Shammai and Hillel. (Shammai being strict and Hillel being more compassionate to Gentiles).
  • The Pharisees from Shammai believed that only the Jews of Abrahamic descent were beloved by God, Salvation was available only to Jews, and Gentiles were therefore not allowed to convert to Judaism.
  • In 10AD, the hatred for Gentiles was so severe by Pharisees, 18 edicts were passed that prevented Jews from entering Gentiles houses (or they will become defiled), or eating or purchasing food from a Gentile.
  • Pharisees of the Hillel school quoted Jesus (quoting the Golden Rule (Do to others what you want them to do to you. (Matthew 7:12) . And also, Love God with all of your heart and love your neighbor as yourself), therefore this explains Jesus' different interactions with Pharisees: he rebuked the Pharisees of Shammai, but tolerated Pharisees of Hillel.
  • It is assumed based on historic documents, Shammaiites viewed healing a sick person on the Sabbath as Work (IE prohibited), while Hillelites viewed Healing the Sick on the Sabbath as a good deed.
  • The Pharisees favored the rich over the poor, because of the prevailing attitude that poverty was a sign of being cursed by God, while Prosperity shows Gods blessings.
  • The Pharisees were known to abuse their rights given to them under the Law of Moses, by adding clarifying principles to the law to favor those with Wealth and Power.
  • Jesus was frustrated over the Pharisees conscious denial that they were sinners, because of their own perceived obedience to the commandments.
  • Both Hillelites and Shammaiites rejected Jesus in the flesh, Hillelites could not imagine a transition from Rabbinic culture to a Christian Messiah, while Shammaiites rejected Jesus out of spite and bitterness.
  • Part of the problem with the Pharisees was they intended to regulate every aspect of Jewish life, by adding to the law what they decided from their meetings and acting as the 'Thought Police of Israel', forcing ordinary citizens to observe the Pharisee customs.
  • Although the bible gives a First impression that Pontius Pilate is a compassionate ruler (because a small episode is included), non biblical history shows him to be an extremely cruel and demonic individual, even being expelled from office by Vitellus.
  • To summarize, the Pharisees extended Moses Law themselves, became an abusive upper ruling class, acted haughty and snobbish, were not compassionate to the poor, rejected non Jews, acted with extreme (Jesuit) treatment of non Pharisees (IE Its our way only, and non Pharisees should die), they rejected Jesus in the flesh, and rejected all Gentiles that wanted to convert to be Pharisees.


  • The Sadducees were a group of Jewish Priests, who controlled the Temple in Jerusalem at the heart of Jewish worship.
  • They rejected oral traditions of Pharisees, and were distinct in that they added many of their own religious beliefs.
  • The Sadducees denied the reality of spirits, denied the Resurrection, denied existence of Satan, denied the supernatural, denied possibility of miracles, and denied a coming Messiah.
  • The head of the Sadducees was Annas, father in law of Caiaphas. His six sons occupied so many high priest positions, they were considered the local Mafia in Jerusalem, and were widely hated by all of the common people (for their horrible abuses).
  • Sadducees were a major group that persecuted the early Christian church.
  • Jesus performed many miracles that directly conflicted with the belief of the Sadducees, some even while the Sadducees were either witnessing the miracle or nearby! For example, in direct conflict with Sadducees beliefs, Jesus miraculously resurrected Lazarus, just 3 miles from Jerusalem in the presence of numerous hostile Pharisees! (Proving to the Sadducees that Resurrection is possible, through Christ). He presented himself at the Temple during Passover, when the city contained over a million Jews, and declared he is the Messiah the Sadducees deny is coming!
  • Jesus also performed many more miracles, proving his supernatural abilities, and proving that the Sadducees were promoting false doctrine.