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From this week’s gospel:

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

Who were the Pharisees anyway?

Here is an excerpt from a post called Ask the Pastor? from Pastor Greg of the Bethany Bible Church in Portland Oregon.

The Pharisees was a religious and political party that had its origin in the second century before Christ. During a time when it seemed as if the whole world was embracing Greek culture, the Jewish group known as the Hasidim arose to combat this influence and to preserve Jewish ways. Eventually, one branch of the Hasidim broke off and formed their own community. Others however, who remained a part of regular Jewish life, formed the group that later became known as the Pharisees (“separate ones”). They so esteemed the “letter” of the law of Moses (more so than the “spirit” of the law), and so esteemed the oral traditions that were said to have sprung from the law, that they developed strict applications of the law for everyday life. The most famous Pharisee in all the Bible – although few people realize that that’s what he once had been – is the Apostle Paul (Phil. 3:5).

This leads us to who the Sadducees were. As you might have picked up by now, a Sadducee is not at all the same thing as a tax collector. The Sadducees were, like the Pharisees, a political and religious party in Jewish culture. Some scholars believe that they had their roots in a high priest named Zadok who lived in the days of David and Solomon (2 Sam. 15:24; 1 Kings 1:34-35); although this isn’t certain. By Jesus’ day, they were the ruling party in Jewish cultural life. They were generally wealthy men; and they generally tried to get along with the Roman government. The Sadducees were distinct from the Pharisees in several ways. The Sadducees, for example, rejected the oral traditions that the Pharisees held to. The Sadducees believed that only the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were authoritative.

The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, and in angels and spirits; while the Sadducees rejected such beliefs (Acts 23:6-10)…. A perhaps-overly generalized way to think about the differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the times of Jesus was to see the Pharisees as Scripturally liberal (because they added oral traditions to its commands), but conservative in politics (because they opposed the Romans); and the Sadducees as Scripturally conservative (because they rejected oral tradition), but liberal in politics (because they sought to fit in with the Romans).

Both groups fought against each other for influence over the population; and both groups were in conflict with Jesus (Matthew 22:15-33; and especially verse 34 and following).

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