This group arose during the time of the Maccabees under the reign of John Hyrcanus (134-104 BC). They were a conservative group in belief as opposed to the liberal Sadducees, and guardians of the written and oral law. They were the bitter and most hateful enemies of Christ. They condemned Him for just about everything He did, for healing and working on the Sabbath, casting out demons, they denied His miracles, and they sought to kill Him early in His ministry. They threatened retaliation upon all who would accept Jesus, they accused Him of outright lying, they plotted His death, and ordered His arrest at Gethsemane.

The Jewish Encyclopedia lists seven types of Pharisees, which are the "Shoulder", "Wait a Little", "Blind", "Pestal", "Ever-Reckoning", "God Fearing" and "God Loving" Pharisee. The Pharisees were utterly denounced by Jesus and John the Baptist. Their doctrine would include an almost fatalistic concept of God's sovereignty, a belief in the resurrection of the just and the damnation of the wicked, and the existence of angels. There were about 6,000 Pharisees during the time of Christ.

Other political groups and community groups that wielded influence about 2000 years ago in the land of Israel included the Galileans, Herodians, Sadducees, Sanhedrin and Scribes.

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