Intertestamental: Religious Groups
Religious Groups of the Period Between the Old and New Testaments.
Catholic Encyclopedia: Essenes
One of three leading Jewish sects mentioned by Josephus as flourishing in the second century B.C., the others being the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Concerning their origin, history, and tenets there has been much inconclusive controversy. The only ancient authorities we have are a few paragraphs in Philo Judeaeus, a somewhat lengthier description in Josephus, and a scanty notice in Pliny. The following synopsis is derived mainly from the first two.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Pharisees
Party representing the religious views, practises, and hopes of the kernel of the Jewish people in the time of the Second Temple and in opposition to the priestly Sadducees. They were accordingly scrupulous observers of the Law as interpreted by the Soferim, or Scribes, in accordance with tradition. No true estimate of the character of the Pharisees can be obtained from the New Testament writings, which take a polemical attitude toward them (see New Testament), nor from Josephus, who, writing for Roman readers and in view of the Messianic expectations of the Pharisees, represents the latter as a philosophical sect. "Perisha" (the singular of "Perishaya") denotes "one who separates himself," or keeps away from persons or things impure, in order to attain the degree of holiness and righteousness required in those who would commune with God
Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes
By Mitchell G. Bard. Of the various factions that emerged under Hasmonean rule, three are of particular interest: the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.
Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes
Examination of Their Distinctive Doctrines. Apart from the repulsively carnal form which it had taken, there is something absolutely sublime in the continuance and intensity of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah. It outlived not only the delay of long centuries, but the persecutions and scattering of the people; it continued under the disappointment of the Maccabees, the rule of a Herod, the administration of a corrupt and contemptible Priesthood, and, finally, the government of Rome as represented by a Pilate; nay, it grew in intensity almost in proportion as it seemed unlikely of realisation.
Religious Groups: The Silent Centuries
Religious Groups of the Intertestamental Period by Al Maxey
Judaism was certainly no exception to the human tendency toward sectarianism. The various sects or factions within the Jewish religion all considered themselves to be good, honorable, godly people, and to be devoted followers of Divine Law. However, their beliefs and practices were often quite diverse, which would frequently lead to quarreling, hatred, and division .... and at times even to death. It was very similar to the situation found among believers today --- each group claiming to be genuine followers of the Lord and His teaching, and yet hopelessly divided over various perceptions, preferences, and practices peculiar to their faction of Christianity. As is the case with God's people today, these various sects (and their sectarian spirit) led to a deplorable state of affairs within Judaism, which too often resulted in the people of God being mocked and scorned by the people of the world.
The Ecole Initiative: Pharisees
The nature and status of all of the various religious groups which arose after the fall of Judah (eg Pharisees, Sadducees, Boethusians, Essenes, Zealots, Samaritans; there were probably many others) are shrouded in obscurity. Although we have writings which are arguably sectarian in outlook, we have few contemporary descriptions of the varieties of Jewish faith. A few Roman authors offer descriptions, which are probably little more than "travellers' tales" (eg Pliny, NH 5.73); the Jewish philosopher Philo mentions some groups in passing; and in three broadly similar passages the Jewish historian Josephus sketches the views of what he describes as the three major Jewish sects -- Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes -- on a small range of issues, likening them to the Greek philosophical schools of Stoics, Epicureans and Pythaogreans well-known to his readers.
The Ecole Initiative: Sadducees
No materials survive from the Sadducees themselves. Our only sources are the Christian Bible (New Testament), Josephus (BJ 2.119, 164--66; Ant 13.171--73, 293--98; 18.11; 16--17; 20.199; Vit. 10--11) and scattered rabbinic texts of varying value. These are all to a greater or lesser extent hostile. It is therefore impossible to derive a balanced view of this group. Their name has been derived from TSADDIQ ("righteous") and from the name Zadok (either the high priest or another). They have been seen as a primarily religious group (of priestly conservatives); as the Judean aristocracy (again through a supposed link with the priesthood) and as a political party. They have been identified by some scholars (and by some of the later rabbinic traditions) with the Boethusians, an equally obscure group whose major difference with the Pharisees appears to have been over the calendar. Attempts to link the Sadducees with some of the Qumran writings (the Dead Sea Scrolls) depend on circular assumptions about the nature and beliefs of the group.
The Qumran Community and the Essene Sect
By Cleve A. Johnson. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 scholars have spent years studying them and the nearby ruins of Qumran. It has been assumed by most scholars that the community of Qumran was an Essene group and that they were responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the past several years much debate has arisen concerning whether or not the community at Qumran was part of the Essene sect and whether or not the members of the community wrote the Scrolls or if the community was only responsible for hiding them.
Jewish religious-political faction of Judah, existing for a period of about 70 years or possible more, in the 1st century CE. The Zealots achieved fairly little, except to trigger heavy Roman control over the Jews and the closing off of Jerusalem to Jews. But they were the main actors in one of the central legends in Jewish history: the defence of Masada and the subsequent collective suicide.
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