The Ecole Initiative: Pharisees

The nature and status of all of the various religious groups which arose after the fall of Judah (eg Pharisees, Sadducees, Boethusians, Essenes, Zealots, Samaritans; there were probably many others) are shrouded in obscurity. Although we have writings which are arguably sectarian in outlook, we have few contemporary descriptions of the varieties of Jewish faith. A few Roman authors offer descriptions, which are probably little more than "travellers' tales" (eg Pliny, NH 5.73); the Jewish philosopher Philo mentions some groups in passing; and in three broadly similar passages the Jewish historian Josephus sketches the views of what he describes as the three major Jewish sects -- Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes -- on a small range of issues, likening them to the Greek philosophical schools of Stoics, Epicureans and Pythaogreans well-known to his readers.

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