Pharisees (generally derived from Heb. pe-rushim, the separated), a sect of the Jews, mentioned first by Josephus as an established religious party during the priesthood of Jonathan, about 150 B. C. They are generally considered essentially the same with the Assid-eans (Heb. 'hasidim), mentioned in the books of the Maccabees, who took their rise as a party in the resolute determination to resist the adoption of Grecian customs under Antiochus Epiphanes. Their name probably indicated their separation from the rest of the Jews by the assumed holiness of their lives and their strict observance of religious ceremonies. In the time of Christ they were divided into two schools, that of Hillel, who represented a moderate Pharisaism and laid the foundation of the Talmud, and that of Shammai, who demanded more austere observance. The former finally prevailed. Our knowledge of them is derived from Josephus, himself a Pharisee, the New Testament, especially the writings and speeches of the apostle Paul, and the Mishnah. They maintained that besides the written law of God there was an oral law handed down by tradition to explain it.
This oral law consisted of unwritten supplementary instructions, given directly by God to Moses, opinions decided by the majority of the elders, decrees made by prophets and wise men in different ages, and legal decisions of proper ecclesiastical authority on disputed questions. The authority of this oral law was rejected by the opponents of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, who clung to the literal meaning of the Mosaic law. The Pharisees, unlike their Sadducee opponents, believed in the immortality of the soul, in rewards and punishments beyond the grave, and in resurrection. Their enthusiasm for traditional observances and national manners and customs gave them great influence among the people, while the Asmonean princes and their adherents generally sided with the Helle-nizing Sadducees. Josephus says: "TheSad-ducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them; but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side." In the New Testament the Pharisee opponents of the Christian teachings appear in a very unfavorable light, being represented as proud, hypocritical, and intolerant. - See Biedermann, Pharisder und Sadducder (1854); Geiger, Urschrift, etc. (1857), and Sadducder und Pharisder (1863); Delitzsch, Jesus und, Hillel (1866); and Wellhausen, Die Pharisder und die Sadducder (1874).