We have heard and read about the Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament. They were the ones persecuting Jesus and His apostles. They were well versed of the law but their lives do not reflect what they knew off. A third group emerged but it was never mentioned in the Holy Bible. The third group was called the Essenes. How is one group similar or not to the other groups?
New Testament Study: The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes
The Pharisees, or the common people, were the most important group among the three. They were considered the spiritual fathers of the modern Judaism. The Pharisees believed in the Oral Law given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai. The Written Law, or the Torah, for the Pharisees was equally important as the Oral Law. The Pharisees also believed the existence of afterlife. In the afterlife, the Pharisees believed that God rewards the righteous and punishes the unrighteous. (Bard, 2008)
The Sadducees were the priests and the aristocrats. They believed on the Written Law; rejecting the Oral Law. For them, there was no such thing as afterlife since it was not in the Written Law. The Sadducees focused on rituals in the temple. (Bard, 2008)
The Essenes was a smaller group compared to the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They considered illegitimate the priests in Jerusalem for they were not from the family of the high priest Zadok. They were not in favor of the Temple worship and festivals and so they refused to participate in any. They believed to move out of Jerusalem and lived at Qumram, near the Dead Sea. They lived a monastic life and believed to have a strict observance of celibacy. (Just, 2001)
Comparison of the Groups
The Pharisees believed on both the Oral and the Written Laws. The Sadducees believed only on the Written Law. The Essenes believed on Inspired Exegesis, or the process of interpreting the text of the law. The Pharisees were concerned on application of priestly laws to the nonpriests such as giving tithes and purification laws. The Sadducees were more concerned on rituals and festivities in the Temple. The Essenes rejected these actions of the Pharisees and Sadducees because they believed that the proper way to live is to live the monastic way of life and the practice of celibacy. The Pharisees believed on the afterlife, while the Sadducees do not. The Essenes believed on spiritual survival but the meaning of this was vague. The Pharisees partly believed on having free will, while the Sadducees agreed that there is free will. The Essenes do not believe on having free will. (Bard, 2008)
Personally, I believe on the eternal life, that there is life after our life on Earth. God has set eternity for us. One can spend eternity in heaven with the Kingdom of our God or in hell. To where one will spend eternity depends on how he or she lives his or her live on earth. I also believe in the importance of giving tithes. Tithing is given emphasis on the Old Testament and the New Testament. Everything comes from God. He has required us to give only a tenth of have we have. Today, I believe that proclaiming the Gospel is important. Jesus had given His great commission in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Regarding free will, I believe that we do not have a free will. Our actions depend not on our free will but on the influence of what we believe. When we follow God, we are influenced by His will. When we disobey God, we are influenced by the devil’s will. So we do not have our own will.
The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes were groups of people that have different ways of serving God. Their practices depend on what they believed. There were differences but to each group, what they practiced was the “right” way. Today is the most important. And what is more important is Jesus. Whatever are the practices we are exposed to, serving God wholeheartedly must be our lifestyle.
“The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.” BELIEVE Religious Information Source web site. (2007). Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://www.mb-soft.com/believe/txo/pharise2.htm
Bard, Mitchell. “Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.” Jewish Virtual Library. (2008). Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/sadducees_pharisees_essenes.html
Edersheim, Alfred. “Chapter 15.” Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ. Blue Letter Bible. (July 6, 2006). Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://blueletterbible.org/Comm/alfred_edersheim/sketches/sketches15.html
Just, Felix. “Jewish Groups at the Time of Jesus.” Catholics Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. (October 19, 2001). Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Jewish_Groups.htm
Levine, Lee. “The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes on Law.” MyJewishLearning, Inc. (2002). Retrieved September 25, 2008, from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history_community/Ancient/ReligionandCultureTO/Sects/PharSadEs.htm