Modern Pharisees & Sadducees?


What was Jesus’ essential problem with the Pharisees? I have always thought it was their treatment of “sinners” as irredeemable outcasts while believing themselves to be so “pure” (justified) by following the letter of the law that they themselves had no need of God’s mercy. Who are the modern Pharisees? Is “Pharisaism” (is that a word?) a major problem in the Church today? I do not know many / any Catholics who believe it is impossible for even the most hardened sinner to be redeemed. Yet, it seems that anyone today who either defends the Church’s moral doctrine or insists on the need of repentance from sin risks being labeled a Pharisee or “doctor of the law.”

What about the Sadducees? They were the priestly class. I have always thought that their problem was being sellouts and political schmoozers. They were willing to cow-tow to the Romans in order to retain their social and political status and keep earning their fees and royalties from the Temple. Who are the modern Sadducees?


For the most part, modern Jews, with the exception of the Karaites, follow the Pharasaic tradition. But they follow the true Pharisees (hopefully), not the hypocrites which Jesus denounced. Jews today believe, and have always believed, that all “sinners” are capable of redemption through prayer and, in particular, good deeds.


I think the OP was speaking metaphorically - who today acts like the Pharisees and Saducees?

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for following the law meticulously but not having the inward dispositions, like love and humility, that God desired. We can see elements of this in people that are outwardly religious but don’t have a real relationship with Christ.

Saducees could be compared to modern day preachers who espouse accommodation to the materialism, immorality, and idolatry of the culture. Like churches that accept abortion or homosexual marriage, for example.


Just a side note: Everyman’s Talmud, A Cohen taught me an interesting thing about the Pharisees.

He claimed that they were liberal, that is, they looked for ways around particular laws.

Now, as with all things, this would apply to some of them. I do not know the percentage.

In the Gospels one can hear it in the case concerning “korban.”

At least I think I can.

As said, a side note.


The Pharisees were conservatives, and the Sadducees were liberals. Jesus did not condemn all Pharisees, nor all Sadducees. Rather, He criticized the most common errors in each group.

The Sadducees had a failure of belief; they did not believe in angels or in the resurrection. They also had liberal views on divorce: that a husband could divorce his wife for any reason.

The Pharisees piled up rules and regulations (the traditions of men) and interpreted these strictly. They followed the letter of the law, but not also its spirit. They were filled with pride, and treated sinners in a harsh and condescending manner.

Anyone today might fall into similar errors, or might have a tendency toward these types of errors. So modern Pharisees and Sadducees are not any one particular group.

To avoid being Sadducees, we should learn the teachings of the Church well, and trust in those beliefs. We should also be careful to observe the moral law, and not loosen it for any reason.

To avoid being Pharisees, we must place the love of God and neighbor first, above rules and the details of exterior worship. We must strive to be humble, to confess our sins in a heartfelt manner, and to be kind to our fellow fallen sinners.


Ron Conte -

Thank you for your excellent summary. Jesus sure seemed to be a lot harder on the Pharisees than the Sadducees. At least, the Pharisees received a lot more attention in the Gospels.

Where do the “scribes” and “doctors of the law” fit in? I have read somewhere in the past that they were mostly (but not all) Pharisees.

Are you aware of a solid Catholic book or other resource that discusses these (and other first century Jewish groups like the Zealots and the Essenes), what their beliefs and practices were, and a good discussion of the problems that Jesus had with each of them?

I have not been able to find anything.


Found something, by Felix Just, SJ, PhD:

Still, it is pretty basic. Am still interested in an in-depth treatment of these groups if anyone knows of one.



The only reliable sources we have for the priests of the Second Temple in that era is from Josephus and Philo. Using the Talmud for information is fraught with potential error and I would not recommend it.

Take the time to read Josephus and Philo if you are serious about the question. The works are available online and you can do a search in areas of interest.

I am sure there are very thick books on the subject but whatever they add is not going to be particularly helpful and could be misleading.


The scribes and doctors of the law of today are theologians and other scholars. Jesus was critical of them for their emphasis on human scholarship over faith – which is still the problem today.

The Essenes were holy ascetic Jews, who lived separately from other Jews. They had a different set of practices, did not worship at the temple of Jerusalem, did not use animal sacrifices. I don’t see any specific criticisms of them in the Gospels. But they were perhaps overly-harsh in their lifestyle – not something everyone could follow. And they made changes to the disciplines of the OT.

The Zealots were Jews who wished to rebel against the Roman occupation. Not really a theological sect. I suggest that the Zealots of today are those who over-politicize Catholicism, and are mainly interested in changing the political system, rather than in changing hearts and minds.


Just for the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were, in a way, fundamentalists. If we believe the accounts about them they seem to have tried keeping - or more likely, reconstructing - “old time religion.” They rejected many ideas that appeared later in Judaism (and expressed only vaguely or completely absent in the older books of the OT) like the resurrection of the body and had an apparently literalist way of understanding Mosaic Law. So I guess that’s their main fault. They seem to didn’t like for the seed to grow into a tree.

In a way, they’re quite similar to early modern evangelicals - and some modern-day types - who were looking for ‘primitive Christianity’, y’know before all those nasty pagans brought their filthy ‘smells and bells’ with them. :rolleyes: For modern day analogues, maybe they’d be close to hard-line Fundamentalists on the Protestant side and the Vatican II-rejecting type of ultra-‘Traditionalists’ on the Catholic side. But then again, every religion has its share of ultra-fundamentalists and ultra-liberals/modernists, really.

In fact, there is one theory that the Sadducees arose out of what was seen as excesses on the part of the Pharisees in regards to certain religious matters, pretty much like how Protestant fundamentalism arose as a reaction against theological liberalism and modernism in the 19th century.

And because the Sadducees were mainly comprised of priests and aristocrats (priestly aristocrats?) their form of Judaism seem to have emphasized the Temple cult and keeping the priestly caste at the top. No wonder their rivals were the populist Pharisees. (For the Pharisees, since God declared that Israel will be to Him “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” it therefore follows that all Jews must live in purity and holiness like the priests in the Temple should - the Temple priests were in their view not that unique or special, since the purity laws prescribed for priests in the OT are really applicable to all Jews.) If they collaborated with the Romans politically it is just so the Temple and the priesthood that was important for them would not be compromised and destroyed.


I think its that the Pharisees taught the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law like some Catholics today, in my experience some Traditionalists and in particular SSPX.


Sadducees are those who complety disregard Tradition and put in their own purposes.

Pharisees are those who elevate their traditions and make it hard for others follow God.


modern day Pharisees evolved into rabbinical Judaism after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Karaite Judaism might have some connection to the Sadducees. Both groups have different believes. The Pharisees believe in the written law (Torah) and the oral law. They hold a tradition and true for modern day rabbinic Jew that Moses received an oral law (oral Torah) that was passed down to generation to generation until written down in the Babylonian Talmud and Mishnah. Now what was Jesus problem with them?

Matthew 15
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’** 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.”

the command to wash your hands before eating is not found in the bible or the written Torah. The section of Matthew is titled tradition of the elders how the oral law (tradition) is abused to cancel out the written word of God. Seems here that Jesus is going against tradition and human laws but look at this passage:

Matthew 23:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

The Pharisees seat at the chair of moses meaning they have the power and authority to interpret the law kinda how the current pope is a successor to peter and sits on his sit. Here Jesus is not condemning so much about their traditions and oral law but more about hypocrisy and practice what you preach.**


It’s just the hypocrisy or holier-than-thou priggishness and self-righteousness that all humans struggle with to one degree or another-even outside of religion. Certain Pharisees exemplified the trait, and so became perfect foils for Jesus to contrast true holiness against. Even today religion can often tend to draw that type into leadership positions…


UMMMMMM wow im amazed people dont know… Yeah… well ya see… ok this post is only for those who are mature in the faith and are ‘thinck skinned’ to the unknown and hearing heresies so here is goes…

This sounds stranger than it actually is, so dont freak out when you hear what I’m about to say… but… Jesus was actually a Pharisee and the school of pharisees actually became the Catholic/Orthodox Church with the Orthodox still bearing the same outfits. Jesus would have been taught by Hillel who started the school. Hillel died during jesus mentorship. Hillel was the head Rabbi of all Israel who could interpret scripture and law. Only the head Rabbi could do this. Israel was without a head Rabbi for 7 years until Jesus got the job. Jesus wasnt known for no reason at all. People knew he was head Rabbi. This is why he was able to interpret scripture and judge trials.

The disciples were actually his students. usualky they are boys but he chose men. Only the pharisees had this system. Only they had synagogues, believed in the afterlife, did Readings, etc. There were TWO factions of the Pharisees:

-The Hillel school, (Jesus own school teaching social justice and charity. Where Gamielel taught Paul and later became the Catholic Church.)
-The Shamai school (Very big on tradition, nobility and looking to take over the Hillel school).

The Pharisees followed around Jesus… actually this is way too long to get into but this very well documented. Needless to say, Jesus had authority to override scripture, turn tables over in the temple, pretty much Judge a womans stoning, etc. The Pharisees represent the Shamai school who was out to topple him. Ultimatelly the children of Satan controlled ‘Gods word’ and Jesus came to liberate religion from the grips of Satan to make a long story short.


Straight from the Talmud, eh?

Well, if the OP wanted “modern-day” equivalents of the Pharisees and Sadducees, that’s OK. But the Talmud was written centuries after Jesus and the near-complete destruction of Judaism and the Jews in two revolts.

Josephus would be our only true source.

Jesus was a renegade in almost every sense and would be called a Pharisee only in the loosest sense- both the Pharisees and Sadduccees were out to kill him.


Dont forget St. Paul being a “Pharisee of the Pharisees”. Things drastically changed after Jeaus ‘death’ and there obviously a shakeup in the establishement. Placing Jesus under an athoritative body would completely change pur view of him (not me, but most with carnal minds). People like to think Jesus took on students, was interpreting Law, doing readings, and judging stoning trials just our of his own will… like a personal dream of men to just walk and have everyone follow you. I might still have the video in my history where the Fr. says passingly that the Pharisiacal school and structure became the Catholic Church - not Judaism in any way shape or form or we’d have archiological evidence and writings as such. The Jews seem to become Mohammads problem where they also killed him. They killed all the early apostles, martyrs, Saints, etc.

It’s so amazing people have forgot these things and cant see whats right in front of them in modern times.


Perfect answer. It is truly difficult to follow Christ.


Is this even true?


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