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Old Testament

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During the first century A.D. the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and the Nationalist all lived in Palestine. Something that all these groups had in common was that they were all Jewish, however, most did not identify themselves with any of these groups. Even though all these groups were jewish, their definition and perception of the messiah were all different. Each group also dealt with Roman rule differently, which cause a lot of problems. A big portion of the scribes, during the 1st century were Pharisees. The Pharisees were the on who interpreted and enforced the law, along with the traditions. According to Mark 7:5, one of the charges against Jesus, along with one of His disciples, was that that they had violated tradition (Mark 7:5). During Jesus' trial, He argued the charge, of him violating tradition, was in human origin, rather than being divine (Niswonger, 1993). The traditions of the Pharisees were refered to as oral law. When the bible did not give clear instruction, they would look to the traditions for guidance. The Sadducees mostly came from aristocratic families and held positions of significance and importance. Sadducees enjoyed being at the top of society. The temple in Jerusalem was controlled by the Sadducees. With the Sadducees having control of the temple they were able to obtain a lot of power and wealth. Along with their control of the Temple, the high priest of the Sanhedrin was always a Sadducee. In order for the Sadducees to maintain their power, they kept close association with Roman leaders and cooperated with them politically so that they could keep their political influence. Common people resented the sadducees because of their cooperation with the Romans and for their aristocratic positions (Robinson, 1986). The Sadducees wanted to keep their position with the Roman government and the church because of their success. The Sadducees were suspicious of the teachings about the messiah. They were suspicious of the teachings because they the teachings and the anticipation of the coming of the messiah would disrupt the Sadducee traditions. There was conflict with the Pharisees because the Sadducees felt that their official roles in the Temple gave them the power to make official interpretations of the Law as opposed to the Pharisees lay interpretation (Robinson, 1986). The third religious party of Jews in Palestine in the 1st century were the Essenes. Within the Essenes, there were different divisions. The Qumran Essenes are best known from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947. Since the Essenes tended to be more strict that the Pharisees and did believe that some of the traditions were valid. The Essenes, along with the Pharisees, possessed a hatred towards the Romans and played a big role in the first Jewish revolt. The Essenes did not believe that the priesthood of the Sadducees was for real. Likewise, the Essenes believed that the time of the messiah was near and that after the messiah had established the new kingdom, they would be restored as legitimate priests (Robinson, 1986). The final group of people, were the Nationalist. The Nationalists tended to be very patriotic and devoted themselves to national liberty for the Jewish people. After the revolt, the were later called Zealots. The Zealot beliefs mostly aligned with the Pharisees and were believed to be an offshoot of the group. The Nationalists resisted the Roman rule of the Jews. One branch of the Zealots/Nationalists was responsible for assassinations and terrorism that was directed at the Roman government and at other Jews, such as the Sadducees, who cooperated with the Romans. They would not recognize any ruler of Palestine other than God. The seven year revolt that started in 66 A.D. resulted in the great losses for the Jews and the loss of the Nationalists, Essenes, and the Sadducees (Robinson, 1986). The first century revolt of the Jews against the Roman government was caused by the different beliefs and traditions of the four religious and political parties in Palestine. The Sadducees, who got their power from the Temple and from political relations with the Romans; while the Pharisees, Essenes, and Nationalists were against Roman rule. The Nationalists carried their anti-Roman beliefs to the extreme and performed acts of violence against the Romans and the Sadducees. Following the revolt, only the Pharisees remained to rebuild Judaism (Satterfield, n/d).

References
Niswonger, R., (1993). New Testament History. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Robinson, S., (1986). “The Setting of the Gospels” in Studies in Scripture: Vol. Five The Gospels. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.
Satterfield, B., (n/d). The Inter-Testamental Period. Retrieved January 11, 2010 from http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/PDF/NT/IntertestamentalPeriod.pdf

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