Research papers on the people of the Bible and other Bible topics include topics such as The Pharisees. Who were the Pharisees and what was their role in Biblical history?
Pharisees research papers begin by stating that the Pharisees took their name either from the Hebrew perusim ('separated ones') or parosim ('specifiers,' in that they identified the correct meaning of God's law to the people). According to Josephus, the Pharisees "lived thriftily, avoiding luxury. [believed in free will and] that there is an undying power in souls and an accounting to reward and punish those who were righteous and unrighteous in life. Eternal punishment is offered to the latter, but re-creation in a new life to the former [Jewish wars, II, 161]". British historian, Paul Johnson (A history of the Jews), argues that Pharasaism grew out of opposition to the Hellenistic paganism then being prospered by the Seleucid dynasty that governed Judea.
Pharisees have been rather harshly portrayed in the New Testament. However, it appears that at the time of Jesus, Pharasaism was divided into two schools of thought:
- Shammai - A rigid and unforgiving in outlook
- Hillel - A considerably more generous in judging those less instructed in the niceties of the Law
It is likely that much of Jesus' negativism in this regard was directed toward the first group and not the latter, especially since a number of Pharisees (e.g., Nicodemus) were counted among his supporters. Interestingly, significant numbers of Pharisees opposed the Herodian dynasty ruling Judea at the time of Jesus' ministry, specifically because of the gentile ancestry.
Closely related to the Pharisees was a late-developing group, the Zealots, which was particularly devoted to expelling foreigners from Judea and distilling out unwanted importations into Jewish practice (most notably, Hellenizing influences). However, their most noted characteristic was their attachment to violence (e.g., assassination of both Roman occupation troops as well as Jews identified as collaborators) to achieve their goals.