Jewish Sects in Jesus’ Day

Many have asked for an explanation of the different groups in the day of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  There were four basic groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.  Jesus was challenged by each of these groups and He addressed them as well.  Jesus corrected or challenged different points of their belief system that He deemed in-congruent with God’s original intent. Interestingly, Jesus’ teachings were most in line with the Pharisees and yet they were the ones primarily set out to crucify Him.


1. They accepted the Torah as inspired and authoritative. Also, they believe oral tradition was equally inspired and authoritative. (Jesus challenged their oral tradition)

2. They held to a mediating view that made it impossible for free will or the sovereignty of God to cancel each other out.

3. They accepted a rather developed heirarchy of angels and demons.

4. They taught that there was a future for the dead.

5. They believed in the immortality of the soul and in reward and punishment after death.

6. They were champions of human equality.

7. Their teaching emphasized ethical rather than theological ideology.


1. They denied the oral law was authoritative and binding.

2. They interpreted Mosaic Law literally. (Jesus challenged this)

3. They were exacting in Levitical purity. (Jesus challenged this)

4. They attributed all to free will. (Jesus challenged this)

5. They argued their is neither resurrection of the dead or a future life. (Jesus challenged this)

6. They rejected belief in angels and demons. (Jesus challenged this)

7. They rejected the idea of spiritual world. (Jesus challenged this)

8. Only the books of Moses were canon. (Jesus challenged this).


1. they followed strict observances of purity laws. (Jesus challenged this)

2. They were notable for their communal ownership. of property.

3. They had a strong sense of mutual responsibility.

4. Daily worship and study of scriptures was essential.

5. Took oaths of piety and obedience.

6. Sacrifices made on holy days and sacred seasons.

7. Marriage avoided, but not condemned.

8. Attributed everything to fate. (Jesus challenged this)


1. Opposed payment of taxes to Caesar. (Jesus challenged this)

2. Fierce loyalty to Jewish traditions. (Jesus challenged this)

3. Opposed to use of Greek language in Palestine.

4. Prophesied the coming of the time of salvation.

2 Comments on “Jewish Sects in Jesus’ Day

  1. So excited a friend turned me on to your blog–as a fellow female Nazarene Pastor (of a Messianic Congregation). A lot of people don’t realize that Jesus was a Pharisee (he actually upheld much of the Oral Tradition–he challenged their push of the Oral Law while dropping the actual Law–and the hedge they had created), or that John the Baptist was quite likely an Essene. Studying the Gospels from a Hebraic perspective has been an amazing adventure for me and our church.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: