The Pharisees

Second Temple Jewish Sectarianism

Among the diverse sects of ancient Judaism, the Pharisees emerged as a significant group with a profound impact on Jewish thought, law, and religious practice. In this post, we explore the Pharisees’ origins, beliefs, and contributions, shedding light on their role as guardians of Jewish tradition and proponents of ethical living.

The Pharisees
The Pharisees Confront Jesus

The Pharisees were a prominent Jewish sect that emerged during the Second Temple period (516 BCE – 70 CE). Their name derives from the Hebrew word “P’rushim,” meaning “separated ones” or “separatists.” The Pharisees sought to maintain strict adherence to Jewish law and preserve the Jewish people’s religious traditions.

Furthermore, their commitment to interpreting and applying Jewish law was central to the sect’s identity. They emphasized the oral tradition, known as the Oral Torah, which comprised interpretations, explanations, and applications of the written Torah (the Five Books of Moses). By embracing the Oral Torah, the Pharisees sought to clarify and expand upon the commandments to guide daily life and foster ethical conduct.

Second Temple Jewish Sectarianism
Second Jewish Temple

Moreover, the Pharisees were known for their ethical teachings and emphasis on righteous living. They emphasized the importance of justice, compassion, and moral conduct in personal and communal life. The belief that fulfilling religious duties should go hand in hand with ethical behavior was a cornerstone of Pharisaic ideology.

Israel Archaeological Seven Day Tour - Dead Sea - Qumran Caves
Qumran National Park – Where the Essenes Were Living – Another Jewish Sect

The Pharisees strongly emphasized ritual purity to sanctify everyday life. They advocated for the observance of purity laws, such as ritual washing before meals, and the meticulous observance of Sabbath and dietary laws. Ritual purity served as a means to draw closer to God and maintain spiritual integrity.

Despite not holding political power, the Pharisees commanded significant influence and enjoyed widespread support among the Jewish population. Their commitment to ethical living, accessibility of teachings, and focus on individual spiritual growth resonated with many Jews. The Pharisees’ emphasis on personal responsibility in observing the commandments appealed to those seeking a deeper connection with God and a sense of purpose.

Masada Museum
The Sicarii
A Comb, Briad, and Sandal Belonging to the Sicarii – Another Jewish Sect

The Pharisees were not a monolithic group, and they engaged in theological debates and conflicts with other sects, most notably the Sadducees. These disagreements centered around interpretations of scripture, ritual practices, and religious authority. As depicted in the New Testament, the Pharisees’ interactions with Jesus of Nazareth have also shaped popular perceptions of their beliefs and practices.

Legacy and Rabbinic Judaism

The Pharisees’ influence extended beyond the Second Temple period. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Pharisees’ teachings and practices formed the foundation of Rabbinic Judaism. The Pharisees’ commitment to the Oral Torah and their emphasis on ethical living became integral to developing Jewish law, religious thought, and the formation of the Talmud.

The Pharisees, with their emphasis on interpreting Jewish law, ethical teachings, and commitment to religious practice, played a significant role in shaping ancient Judaism and the subsequent development of Rabbinic Judaism.

Their teachings resonate within Jewish thought and practice, emphasizing the importance of ethical conduct, personal responsibility, and the ongoing interpretation of Jewish law. Understanding the Pharisees provides valuable insights into the diversity of Jewish beliefs and the rich tapestry of Jewish history.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history.

Did you know the Hoopoe is Israel's national bird?! For more cool info about Israel, join our ever growing community and get exclusive travel tips, and giveaways!

Simon Peter


Teutonic Order

The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem also commonly known as the Teutonic Order is a Catholic religious order ...

The Etzel (The Irgun)

The Etzel, otherwise known as the Irgun, was a Zionist semi-militarized organization that operated between 1931 and 1948 in Mandate Palestine.

Flavius Josephus

Flavius Josephus (Yosef Ben Matityahu) was a historian who was born in Jerusalem. He's the main historical source for the 2nd Temple period

Via Maris

The Via Maris, (Way of the Sea) was an ancient trade route that ran along the coastal plain of the Israel, connecting Egypt to Mesopotamia

Acheulean Industry

This post will delve into the Acheulean Industry presence in the Land of Israel, unearthing intriguing insights into our human heritage.


Philistia was populated by several different ethnic groups throughout history, including the Canaanites, Israelites, and Philistines

Valley of Tears Battle

The Valley of Tears Battle is a major battle in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was one of the heroic battles during the Yom ...

The Zealots

The Zealots were a political movement in 1st-century Second Temple Judaism that sought to incite the Jews to rebel against the Romans.

Knights Templar

The Knights Templars were a Catholic military order founded in 1119, headquartered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem through 1128. The order was active until ...

The Umayyad Dynasty

The Umayyad dynasty was a Muslim dynasty that ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 661 to 750 CE. They left an impact on the Land ...

Need help?