The Four Philosophies

Judaism in the time of Jesus was monotheistic, but not monolithic. Josephus famously divided Jewish thought in four: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and “the fourth philosophy”. They all awaited the Messiah, or Anointed One, a leader anointed by God who would reunite the Jewish tribes and, perhaps, rule them as King of Israel directly descended from David. How the Messiah would appear – born as a child, or descending from Heaven – was not certain. (But he would be a man, not a God or some Son of God.)

Sadducees - the pro-Roman philosophy under the Occupation

The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection. With no real sense of an afterlife, let alone a Day of Judgment, they were inclined toward what was presently available. They were comfortable working with (or for) the Romans, and therefore were the religious and political ruling class among Jews.

The Pharisees believed that, God being just, all people would have to be resurrected so that they could be appropriately rewarded. This sentiment was more attractive to the lower classes than to the rulers, and the Pharisees were stricter than the Sadducees about social justice, adherence to the Law and not collaborating with the Romans.

The Essenes sought purity by withdrawing from everything to do with the Roman occupation – they didn’t like the idolatrous coins, let alone having to pay taxes, so they lived in isolated communities away from the cities.

And the Fourth Philosophy was that of the military resistance to the occupation: the Zealots. Heroes and patriots, or robbers and murderers, depending on your point of view, they led province-wide insurrections about once a generation for a period of 200 years – from the time the Romans occupied Palestine, until the Romans finally massacred, enslaved and deported almost the entire Jewish population.


One comment on “The Four Philosophies

  1. billy says:

    it was nice meeting u , I will leave a thought once I have looked over this interesting perspective. Billy


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