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The Beliefs of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians
In Mark 8:15, Jesus warns the disciples to, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” The Holy Bible, KJV. Jesus was using the word leaven to represent the teaching and doctrines of the Pharisees and of Herod. What exactly are these teachings and doctrines?
This essay will answer this question by summarizing the beliefs and teachings of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians. The essay will discuss the main aspects accepted and rejected by each of the groups, starting with the Pharisees, continuing onto the Sadducees, and then onto the Herodians.
The Pharisees’ roots can be traced back to the 2nd century BC, during the period of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are considered to be the Spiritual descendants of the Hasideans, or Righteous Ones. The Hasideans were a pre-Christian Jewish sect, who joined the Maccabean revolt to fight for religious freedom and stop the rise of paganism. The Pharisees emerged as a group of laymen and scribes, and also as a contradistinction to the Sadducees.
In Luke 12:1, Jesus once again warned the disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees. It said, “. . . ‘Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’” The Holy Bible, KJV. This time Jesus actually reveals the Pharisees true nature, they were hypocrites. This is evident in their teaching of the Law. They accepted both written Law and oral Law, which are the teachings of the prophets and oral traditions of the people. They admitted the principle of the evolution of the Law, changing the law as it suited them. This resulted in a strange interpretation of the Law.
Certain circumstances would result in the Law being adapted and changed as time went on. It is due to the progressive adaptation of the Law by the Pharisees that Mosaic Law has continued to be the living force of Judaism today. Their hypocrisy is also revealed in their beliefs concerning religion. The Pharisees often tried to make Judaism accessible to everyone, even if this meant adapting their rituals.
They asserted that God could be worshipped outside the Temple and even outside Jerusalem, and worship did not consist of sacrifices, as the common belief of the day, but instead in prayer and study of God’s Word. Because the Pharisees rejected the Temple as their place of worship, they decided to instead use the synagogue. This meant that everyone including women and children could go to worship and not only the men, as was the custom in the Temple.
The Sadducees disagreed with several of the beliefs of the Pharisees, despite coming form the same background. Also thought to come from the Hasideans, the Sadducees were a more priestly sect compared to the Pharisees. Their name may have derived from Zadok, who was the High Priest during reigns of both David, and his son, Solomon.
The Sadducees beliefs contrasted with the beliefs of the Pharisees often. However, they united to defeat one common enemy, Jesus Christ. The Sadducees strictly adhered to the Law a lot more than the Pharisees did, causing them to appear harsher than the other religious sects of the time. If the penalty of a sin was death according to the Law, they would have no problems carrying out the judgement themselves. They would never go beyond the written Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and flatly refused to use oral tradition when dealing with the Law.
Their religious beliefs also contrasted the Pharisees’ greatly. They denied the immortality of the soul, stating that when someone had died that was it. They also refused to believe in resurrection after death, causing them to think that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead and their souls non-existent. Finally, they rejected the existence of angelic spirits, whether angels of God or Satan. The teachings of Jesus threatened their beliefs and caused them to want Jesus dead. By uniting with the Pharisees, they thought they could easily kill Him.
The Herodians’ origins are somewhat unknown, however there are a two main theories of who the Herodians were. The first theory is that the Herodians originated from the Boethus family, who were a family whose daughter had married one of Herod’s sons and whose sons had been provided a position in the government.
If this theory was correct then the Pharisees would be in complete opposition to them. The Herodians would want the Herodian dynasty to continue so that the family kept in the government. The second theory is that they were only a disorganized group of people who supported the Herodian dynasty. They would have originated from Idumea, which is a Greek name for the area of Edom. Whichever theory is correct they supported and wished to further the Herodian dynasty.
They beliefs of the Herodians are mainly focused around King Herod. The Herodians wanted Jesus dead because King Herod wanted Him dead. The Herodians also believed that Herod was the true Messiah, so when Jesus began His ministry and claimed to be the Messiah, the Herodians were angry with Him. They only trusted man for peace and prosperity, believing that Herod could bring them peace. However, Herod could only bring them temporary peace not eternal peace like God. The Herodians wanted temporary peace immediately, not eternal peace later.