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The Pharisees were an ancient sect of Judaism; they existed during the time of rabbis Hillel and Shammai, and during the time of Jesus. They are the direct predecessor to what eventually became known as Rabbinic Judaism.

In contrast to other Jewish groups of the time, such as Saducees, Pharisees held that the books of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible, also called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. They pointed as proof to the text of the Torah itself, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other sources. This parallel set of material was originally trasmitted orally, and came to be known as the "the oral law". By 200 CE much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah, the core document of rabbinic Judaism. Thus, from the Saduccee and Essene point of view, the Pharisees were the liberal party, which allowed for flexibility in the interpretation of the law.

This sect was present in the days of Jesus. Christians have traditionally seen Jesus as an opponent of the Pharisees, accusing them of being only outwardly religious, rather than inwardly observant of the Law. Jesus was opposed to the Pharisees emphasis on observance of religious purity laws. Some modern day scholars argue that this reading is no longer tenable, and that when the New Testament is read in its historical context, Jesus's attitude towards the law was more like a liberal offshoot of Pharisee thought.

While during the first century CE and earlier, the Pharisees were faced with opposition from other Jewish groups such as the Essenes and the Saducees, they were eventually triumphant; rabbinic Judaism as it is known today is descended from them.

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The Pharisees formed a brotherhood of their own, admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to observe the Levitical laws of ritual purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the 'Am ha-Aretz (the ignorant and careless boor), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and to a conscientious regard for vows and for other people's property.

Principle of Democracy

It was only after a long struggle with the Sadducees that they won their lasting triumph in the interpretation of Jewish law. The Sadducees, jealously guarding the privileges established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as priest, insisted upon the literal observance of the Torah. The Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation, at the same time asserting the principles of religious democracy and progress. With reference to Ex. xix. 6, they maintained that "God gave all the people the heritage, the kingdom, the priesthood, and the holiness" (II Macc. ii. 17, Greek).

The idea of the priestly sanctity of the whole people of Israel in many directions found its expression in the Torah as, for instance, when the precepts concerning unclean meat, intended originally for the priests only were extended to the whole people (Lev. xi.; Deut. xiv. 3-21); or when the prohibition of cutting the flesh in mourning for the dead was extended to all the people as "a holy nation" (Deut. xiv. 1-2; Lev. xix. 28; comp. Lev. xxi. 5); or when the Law itself was transferred from the sphere of the priesthood to every man in Israel (Ex. xix. 29-24; Deut. vi. 7, xi. 19; comp. xxxi. 9; Jer. ii. 8, xviii. 18).

The very institution of the synagogue for common worship and instruction was a Pharisaic declaration of the principle that the Torah is "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deut. xxxiii. 3). In establishing schools and enjoining each father to see that his son was instructed in the Law the Pharisees made the Torah a power for the education of the Jewish people all over the world.

The same sanctity that the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem claimed for their meals, at which they gathered with the recitation of benedictions and after ablutions, the Pharisees established for their meals, which were partaken of in holy assemblies after purifications and amidst benedictions . Especially were the Sabbath and holy days made the means of sanctification,

From Temple practise were adopted the mode of slaughtering and the rules concerning "ta'aruvot" (the mingling of different kinds of food) and the "shi'urim" (the quantities constituting a prohibition of the Law). Though derived from Deut. vi. 7, the daily recital of the "Shema'," as well as the other parts of the divine service, is a Pharisaic institution, the Pharisees having established their Chavurah, or league, in each city to conduct the service.

The Temple Service

In the Temple itself the Pharisees obtained a hold at an early date, when they introduced the regular daily prayers besides the sacrifice and the institution of the "Ma'amadot" (the representatives of the people during the sacrifices). Moreover, they declared that the priests were but deputies of the people. On the great Day of Atonement the high priest was told by the elders that he was but a messenger of the Sanhedrin and must officiate, therefore, in conformity with their (the Pharisees') rulings.

While the Sadducean priesthood regarded the Temple as its domain and took it to be the privilege of the high priest to offer the daily burnt offering from his own treasury, the Pharisees demanded that it be furnished from the Temple treasury, which contained the contributions of the people. Similarly, the Pharisees insisted that the meal-offering which accompanied the meat-offering should be brought to the altar, while the Sadducees claimed it for themselves.

Trivial as these differences appear, they are survivals of great issues. Thus the high priests, who, as may be learned from the words of Simon the Just (Midrash Leviticus Rabbah xxi.), claimed to see an apparition of the Shekinah when entering the Holy of Holies, kindled the incense in their censers outside and thus were enveloped in the cloud when entering, in order that God might appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat (Lev. xvi. 2). The Pharisees, discountenancing such claims, insisted that the incense must be kindled by the high priest within the Holy of Holies (Sifra, Achare Mot, 3; Tosef., Yoma i. 8; Yoma 19b; Yer. Yoma i. 39a).

On the other hand, the Pharisees introduced rites in the Temple which originated in popular custom and were without foundation in the Law. Such was the water-procession of the people, on the night of Sukkot, from the Pool of Siloam, ending with the libation of water in the morning and the final beating of the willow-trees upon the altar at the close of the feast. The rite was a symbolic prayer for the year's rain; and while the Hasidim took a prominent part in the outbursts of popular rejoicing to which it gave rise, the Sadducean priesthood was all the more averse to it (Suk. iv. 9-v. 4; 43b, 48b; Tosef., Suk. iii.). In all these practises the Pharisees obtained the ascendency over the Sadducees, claiming to be in possession of the tradition of the fathers ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6; 16, § 2; xviii. 1, §§ 3-4; Yoma 19b).

A Party of Progress

Yet the Pharisees represented also the principle of progress; they were less rigid in the execution of justice ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6), and the day when the stern Sadducean code was abolished was made a festival (Meg. Ta'an. iv.).

While the Sadducees in adhering to the letter of the law required "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," the Pharisees, with the exception of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, the Shammaite, interpreted this maxim to mean due compensation with money (Mek., Mishpatim, 8). The principle of retaliation, however, was applied consistently by the Sadducees in regard to false witnesses in cases involving capital punishment; but the Pharisees were less fair. The former referred the law "Thou shalt do unto him as he had intended unto his brother" (Deut. xix. 19, Hebr.) only to a case in which the one falsely accused had been actually executed; whereas the Pharisees desired the death penalty inflicted upon the false witness for the intention to secure the death of the accused by means of false testimony (Sifre, Deut. 190; Mark i. 6; Tosef., Sanh. vi. 6; against the absurd theory, in Mak. 5b, that in case the accused has been executed the false witness is exempt from the death penalty, see Geiger, l.c. p. 140). But in general the Pharisees surrounded the penal laws, especially the death penalty, with so many qualifications that they were rarely executed (see Sanh. iv. 1)

The laws concerning virginity and the levirate (Deut. xxii. 17, xxv. 9) also were interpreted by the Pharisees in accordance with the dictates of decency and common sense, while the Sadducees adhered strictly to the letter. The difference concerning the right of inheritance by the daughter as against the son's daughter, which the Sadducees granted and the Pharisees denied (Yad. iv. 7; Meg. Ta'an. v.; Tosef., Yad. ii. 20; Yer. B. B. vii. 16a), seems to rest on differing practises among the various classes of people; the same is true with regard to the difference as to the master's responsibility for damage done by a slave or a beast.

Sabbaths and Festivals

Of decisive influence, however, were the great changes wrought by the Pharisees in the Sabbath and holy days, inasmuch as they succeeded in lending to these days a note of cheerfulness and domestic joy, while the Sadducees viewed them more or less as Temple festivals, and as imposing a tone of austerity upon the common people and the home.

To begin with the Day of Atonement, the Pharisees wrested the power of atoning for the sins of the people from the high priest (see Lev. xvi. 30) and transferred it to the day itself, so that atonement was effected even without sacrifice and priest, provided there was genuine repentance. So, too, the New Moon of the seventh month was transformed by them from a day of trumpet-blowing into a New-Year's Day devoted to the grand ideas of divine government and judgment (see New-Year). On the eve of Passover the lessons of the Exodus story, recited over the wine and the matzah, are given greater prominence than the paschal lamb. The Biblical command enjoining a pilgrimage to the Temple in the festival season is fulfilled by going to greet the teacher and listen to his instruction on a festal day, as in former days people went to see the prophet.

Especially significant are the Pharisaic innovations in connection with the Sabbath. One of them is the special duty imposed upon the mistress of the home to have the light kindled before Sabbath (Shab. ii. 7), whereas the Samaritans and Karaites, who were in many ways followers of Sadducean teachings, saw in the prohibition against kindling fire on Sabbath (Ex. xxxv. 3) a prohibition also against light in the home on Sabbath eve.

The Samaritans and Karaites likewise observed literally the prohibition against leaving one place on Sabbath (Ex. xvi. 29), while the Pharisees included the whole width of the Israelitish camp—that is, 2,000 ells, or a radius of one mile—in the term "place," and made allowance besides for carrying things (which is otherwise forbidden; see Jer. xvii. 21-24) and for extending the Sabbath limit by means of an artificial union of spheres of settlement (see 'Erub; Sabbath). Their object was to render the Sabbath "a delight" (Isa. lviii. 13), a day of social and spiritual joy and elevation rather than a day of gloom. The old Hasidim, who probably lived together in large settlements, could easily treat these as one large house. Yet while they excluded the women from their festal gatherings, the Pharisees, their successors, transformed the Sabbath and festivals into seasons of domestic joy, bringing into increasing recognition the importance and dignity of woman as the builder and guardian of the home.

In regard to the laws of Levitical purity, which, in common with custom, excluded woman periodically, and for weeks and months after child-birth, from the household (Lev. xii. 4-7, xv. 19-24), the Pharisees took a common-sense course of encouraging the wife, despite the letter of the Law, to take her usual place in the home and appear in her wonted dignity before her husband and children (Ket. 61a; Shab. 64b).

So, too, it was with the Pharisaic leader Simeon b. Shetaḥ, who, in the reign of Queen Salome Alexandra, introduced the marriage document (Ketubah) in order to protect the wife against the caprice of the husband; and while the Shammaites would not allow the wife to be divorced unless she gave cause for suspicion of adultery, the Hillelites, and especially Akiva, in being more lenient in matters of divorce, had in view the welfare and peace of the home, which should be based upon affection.

Many measures were taken by the Pharisees to prevent arbitrary acts on the part of the husband. Possibly in order to accentuate the legal character of the divorce they insisted, against Sadducean custom, on inserting in the document the words "according to the law of Moses and of Israel" (Yad. iv. 8; but comp. Meg. Ta'an. vii.).

Aristocracy of the Learned

Most of these controversies, recorded from the time previous to the destruction of the Temple, are but faint echoes of the greater issues between the Pharisaic and Sadducean parties, the latter representing the interests of the Temple, while the former were concerned that the spiritual life of the people should be centered in the Torah and the Synagogue.

While the Sadducean priesthood prided itself upon its aristocracy of blood (Sanh. iv. 2; Mid. v. 4; Ket. 25a; Josephus, "Contra Ap." i., § 7), the Pharisees created an aristocracy of learning instead, declaring a bastard who is a student of the Law to be higher in rank than an ignorant high priest (Hor. 13a), and glorying in the fact that their most prominent leaders were descendants of proselytes (Yoma 71b; Sanh. 96b).

For the decision of their Scribes, they claimed the same authority as for the Biblical law, even in case of error (Sifre, Deut. 153-154); they endowed them with the power to abrogate the Law at times, and they went so far as to say that he who transgressed their words deserved death (Ber. 4a). By dint of this authority, claimed to be divine (R. H. 25a), they put the entire calendric system upon a new basis, independent of the priesthood. They took many burdens from the people by claiming for the sage, or scribe, the power of dissolving vows.

On the whole, however, they added new restrictions to the Biblical law in order to keep the people at a safe distance from forbidden ground; as they termed it, "they made a fence around the Law", interpreting the words "Ye shall watch my watch" (Lev. xviii. 30, Hebr.) to mean "Ye shall place a guard around my guard" (Yeb. 21a). Thus they forbade the people to drink wine or eat with the heathen, in order to prevent associations which might lead either to intermarriage or to idolatry (Shab. 17b). To the forbidden marriages of the Mosaic law relating to incest (Lev. xviii.-xx.) they added a number of others (Yeb. ii. 4).

After they had determined the kinds of work prohibited on the Sabbath they forbade the use of many things on the Sabbath on the ground that their use might lead to some prohibited labor.

Also in regard to moral laws there are such additional prohibitions, as, for instance, the prohibition against what is called "the dust of slanderous speech" (Yer. Peah i. 16a) or "the dust of usury" (B. M. 61b), or against unfair dealings, such as gambling, or keeping animals that feed on property of the neighbors.

Doctrines of the Pharisees

The aim and object of the Torah, according to Pharisaic principles, are the training of man to a full realization of his responsibility to God and to the consecration of life by the performance of its manifold duties: the one is called "the yoke of God's Kingship" and the other "the yoke of God's commandments".

Every morning and evening the Jew takes both upon himself when reciting the "Shema'" (Berachot ii. 2). "The Torah preaches: Take upon yourselves the yoke of God's Kingdom; let the fear of God be your judge and arbiter, and deal with one another according to the dictates of love" (Sifre, Deut. 323). So says Josephus: "For the Jewish lawgiver all virtues are parts of religion" ("Contra Ap." ii., §§ 17, 19; comp. Philo, "De Opificio Mundi," §§ 52, 55).

Cain and the generation of the Flood sinned in that they denied that there are a Judgment and a Judge and a future of retribution (Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8; Gen. R. xxvi.). The acceptance of God's Kingship implies acceptance of His commandments also, both such as are dictated by reason and the human conscience and such as are special decrees of God as Ruler (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 13). It means a perfect heart that fears the very thought of sin (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, 2); the avoidance of sin from love of God (ib. 11); the fulfilment of His commandments without expectation of reward ('Ab. Zarah 19a); the avoidance of any impure thought or any act that may lead to sin (ib. 20b, with reference to Deut. xxiii. 10). The acceptance of God's Kingship implies also recognition of His just dealing with man, and a thankful attitude, even in misfortune (Sifre, Deut. 32, 53; Sifra, Shemini, 1; Mek., Yitro, 10; Ber. ix. 5, 60b). God's Kingship, first proclaimed by Abraham (Sifre, Deut. 313) and accepted by Israel (Mek., Yitro), shall be universally recognized in the future.

The Future Life

This is the Messianic hope of the Pharisees, voiced in all parts of the synagogal liturgy; but it meant also the cessation of the kingdom of the worldly powers identified with idolatry and injustice. In fact, for the ancient Hasidim, God's Kingship excluded that of any other. The Pharisees, who yielded to the temporary powers and enjoined the people to pray for the government (Abot iii. 2), waited nevertheless for the Kingdom of God, consoling themselves in the meantime with the spiritual freedom granted by the study of the Law (Abot vi. 2). "He who takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah, the yoke of the worldly kingdom and of worldly care, will be removed from him" (Abot iii. 5).

Josephus ("B. J." ii. 8, § 14; "Ant." xiii. 5, § 9; xviii. 1, § 3) carefully avoids mentioning the most essential doctrine of the Pharisees, the Messianic hope, which the Sadducees did not share with them; while for the Essenes time and conditions were predicted in their apocalyptic writings. Instead, Josephus merely says that "they ascribe everything to fate without depriving man of his freedom of action."

This idea is expressed by Akiba: "Everything is foreseen [that is, predestined]; but at the same time freedom is given" (Abot iii. 15). Akiba, however, declares, "The world is judged by grace [not by blind fate nor by the Pauline law], and everything is determined by man's actions [not by blind acceptance of certain creeds]." Similar to Josephus' remark is the rabbinical saying, "All is decreed by God except fear of God" (Ber. 33b). "Man may act either virtuously or viciously, and his rewards or punishmentsin the future shall be accordingly" ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 3). This corresponds with the "two ways of the Jewish teaching" (Ab. R. N. xxv.; see Didache). But it was not the immortality of the soul which the Pharisees believed in, as Josephus puts it, but the resurrection of the body as expressed in the liturgy, and this formed part of their Messianic hope.

In contradistinction to the Sadducees, who were satisfied with the political life committed to their own power as the ruling dynasty, the Pharisees represented the views and hopes of the people. The same was the case with regard to the belief in angels and demons. As Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus indicate, the upper classes adhered for a long time to the Biblical view concerning the soul and the hereafter, caring little for the Angelology and Demonology of the Pharisees. These used them, with the help of the Ma'aseh Bereshit and Ma'aseh Merkabah, not only to amplify the Biblical account, but to remove from the Bible anthropomorphisms and similarly obnoxious verbiage concerning the Deity by referring them to angelic and intermediary powers (for instance, Gen. i. 26), and thereby to gradually sublimate and spiritualize the conception of God.


The Pharisees are furthermore described by Josephus as extremely virtuous and sober. The ethics of the Pharisees is based upon the principle "Be holy, as the Lord your God is holy" (Lev. xix. 2, Hebr.); that is, strive to imitate God.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" is declared by them to be the principal law (Talmud, tractate Shabbat 30a; Ab. R. N., text B, xxvi.), and, in order to demonstrate its universality, to be based on the verse declaring man to be made in the image of God (Gen. v. 1). "As God makes the sun shine alike upon the good and the evil," so does God extend His fatherly love to all (Shir ha-Shirim Zuṭa, i.; Sifre, Num. 134, Deut. 31, 40).

Idolatry is hated on account of the moral depravity to which it leads (Sifre, Num. 157), but the idolater who becomes an observer of the Law ranks with the high priest. It is a slanderous misrepresentation of the Pharisees to state that they "divorced morality and religion," when everywhere virtue, probity, and benevolence are declared by them to be the essence of the Law (Mak. 23b-24a; Tosef., Peah, iv. 19; et al.; see Ethics).

The Charge of Hypocrisy

Nothing could have been more loathsome to the genuine Pharisee than Hypocrisy. "Whatever good a man does he should do it for the glory of God" (Ab. ii. 13; Ber. 17a). Nicodemus is blamed for having given of his wealth to the poor in an ostentatious manner (Ket. 66b). An evil action may be justified where the motive is a good one (Ber. 63a). Still, the very air of sanctity surrounding the life of the Pharisees often led to abuses. Alexander Jannĉus warned his wife not against the Pharisees, his declared enemies, but against "the chameleon- or hyena- ["ẓebo'im"-] like hypocrites who act like Zimri and claim the reward of Phinehas:" (Soṭah 22b). An ancient baraita enumerates seven classes of Pharisees, of which five consist of either eccentric fools or hypocrites: (1) "the shoulder Pharisee," who wears, as it were, his good actions. ostentatiously upon his shoulder; (2) "the wait-a-little Pharisee," who ever says, "Wait a little, until I have performed the good act awaiting me"; (3), "the bruised Pharisee," who in order to avoid looking at a woman runs against the wall so as to bruise himself and bleed; (4) "the pestle Pharisee," who walks with head down like the pestle in the mortar; (5) "the ever-reckoning Pharisee," who says, "Let me know what good I may do to counteract my neglect"; (6) "the God-fearing Pharisee," after the manner of Job; (7) "the God-loving Pharisee," after the manner of Abraham (Yer. Ber. ix. 14b; Soṭah 22b; Ab. R. N., text A, xxxvii.; text B, xlv. [ed. Schechter, pp. 55, 62]; the explanations in both Talmuds vary greatly; see Chwolson, "Das Letzte-Passahmahl," p. 116). R. Joshua b. Hananiah, at the beginning of the second century, calls eccentric Pharisees "destroyers of the world" (Soṭah iii. 4); and the term "Pharisaic plagues" is frequently used by the leaders of the time (Yer. Soṭah iii. 19a).

It is such types of Pharisees that Jesus had in view when hurling his scathing words of condemnation against the Pharisees, whom he denounced as "hypocrites," calling them "offspring of vipers" ("hyenas"; see Ẓebu'im); "whited sepulchers which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones"; "blind guides," "which strain out the gnat and swallow the camel" (Matt. vi. 2-5, 16; xii. 34; xv. 14; xxiii. 24, 27, Greek). He himself tells his disciples to do as the Scribes and "Pharisees who sit on Moses' seat [see Almemar] bid them do"; but he blames them for not acting in the right spirit, for wearing large phylacteries and ẓiẓit, and for pretentiousness in many other things (ib. xxiii. 2-7). Exactly so are hypocrites censured in the Midrash (Pes. R. xxii. [ed. Friedmann, p. 111]); wearing tefillin and ẓiẓit, they harbor evil intentions in their breasts. Otherwise the Pharisees appear as friends of Jesus (Luke vii. 37, xiii. 31) and of the early Christians (Acts v. 38, xxiii. 9; "Ant." xx. 9, § 1).

Only in regard to intercourse with the unclean and "unwashed" multitude, with the 'am ha-areẓ, the publican, and the sinner, did Jesus differ widely from the Pharisees (Mark ii. 16; Luke v. 30, vii. 39, xi. 38, xv. 2, xix. 7). In regard to the main doctrine he fully agreed with them, as the old version (Mark xii. 28-34) still has it. Owing, however, to the hostile attitude taken toward the Pharisaic schools by Pauline Christianity, especially in the time of the emperor Hadrian, "Pharisees" was inserted in the Gospels wherever the high priests and Sadducees or Herodians were originally mentioned as the persecutors of Jesus (see New Testament), and a false impression, which still prevails in Christian circles and among all Christian writers, was created concerning the Pharisees.

History of the Pharisees

It is difficult to state at what time the Pharisees, as a party, arose. Josephus first mentions them inconnection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). Under John Hyrcanus (135-105) they appear as a powerful party opposing the Sadducean proclivities of the king, who had formerly been a disciple of theirs, though the story as told by Josephus is unhistorical ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 5; comp. Jubilees, Book of, and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs).

The Hasmonean dynasty met with little support from the Pharisees, whose aim was the maintenance of a religious spirit in accordance with their interpretation of the Law . Under Alexander Jannĉus (104-78) the conflict between the people, siding with the Pharisees, and the king became bitter and ended in cruel carnage ("Ant." xiii. 13, § 5; xiv. 1, § 2). Under his widow, Salome Alexandra (78-69), the Pharisees, led by Simeon ben Shetah;, came to power. But the bloody vengeance they took upon the Sadducees led to a terrible reaction, and under Aristobulus (69-63) the Sadducees regained their power ("Ant." xiii. 16, § 2-xiv. 1, § 2).

Amidst the bitter struggle which ensued, the Pharisees appeared before Pompey asking him to interfere and restore the old priesthood while abolishing the royalty of the Hasmoneans altogether ("Ant." xiv. 3, § 2). The defilement of the Temple in Jerusalem by Pompey was regarded by the Pharisees as a divine punishment of Sadducean misrule. After Jewish national independence had been lost, the Pharisees gained in influence while the star of the Sadducees waned. Herod found his chief opponents among the latter, and so he put the leaders of the Sanhedrin to death while endeavoring by a milder treatment to win the favor of the leaders of the Pharisees, who, though they refused to take the oath of allegiance, were otherwise friendly to him ("Ant." xiv. 9, § 4; xv. 1, § 1; 10, § 4; 11, §§ 5-6). Only when he provoked their indignation by his heathen proclivities did the Pharisees become his enemies and fall victims (4 B.C.) to his bloodthirstiness ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4; 6, §§ 2-4).

The family of Boethus, whom Herod had raised to the high-priesthood, revived the spirit of the Sadducees, and thenceforth the Pharisees again had them as antagonists; still, they no longer possessed their former power, as the people always sided with the Pharisees ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 4). In King Agrippa (41-44) the Pharisees had a supporter and friend, and with the destruction of the Temple the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees.

From this time on Jewish life was regulated by the teachings of the Pharisees; the history of Judaism was seen from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older, priestly tradition (Abot i. 1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future.

One of the main contributing factors for the dominance of Pharisee belief, and its subsequent development as the mainstream rabbinic Judaism, is its relative flexibility in Jewish law and Jewish belief. This allowed the pharisses/rabbinic Jews a way to develop a way of life that was not centered on the Temple in Jerusalem.

As an example, the pharisee/rabbinic Jewish response to the loss of the Temple can be found in a classic midrash, Avot D'Rabbi Nathan:

"The Temple is destroyed. We never witnessed its glory. But Rabbi Joshua did. And when he looked at the Temple ruins one day, he burst into tears. "Alas for us! The place which atoned for the sins of all the people Israel lies in ruins!" Then Rabbi Yohannan ben Zakkai spoke to him these words of comfort: "Be not grieved, my son. There is another way of gaining ritual atonement, even though the Temple is destroyed. We must now gain ritual atonement through deeds of loving-kindness."

See also: Judaism, Christianity

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