PHARISEES (From the Hebrew, meaning division or separation.) - Tradition is an important part of Jewish theology. It consists of a compilation of the successive interpretations given to the Scriptures which became articles for dogmas. Amongst scholars this was the subject for interminable discussions, most of which were over simple questions as to the meaning of words and their form, just like theological disputes and subtleties of scholastics in the Middle Ages. From all this resulted different sects, each one wishing to have the monopoly of the Truth and consequently detesting one another, as so often happens.
Among these sects the most influential were the Pharisees, whose chief, Hillel, a Jewish doctor born in Babilonia some 180 or 200 years BC, was the founder of a famous school where it was taught that faith should be put only in the scriptures. The Pharisees were persecuted at different times, especially under Hyrcania (who was sovereign pontiff and king of the Jews), Aristoblus and Alexander, who was a king of Syria. However, Alexander granted them honours and restored their properties which made it possible for them to reacquire their old powerful status. This was conserved until the ruin of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, at which time the name disappeared in consequence of the scattering of the Jews.
The Pharisees took an active part in religious controversy. They were faithful practitioners of exterior cults and ceremonies, full of ardent zeal, proselytism, enemies of innovations, maintaining great severity of principles. But behind the cover of punctilious devotion lay dissolute habits, a great deal of pride and above all an excessive desire to dominate. Religion was actually a means to an end, rather than an object of sincere faith. It possessed nothing of virtue beyond outward appearances and ostentation. Nevertheless, they exercised a great influence over the people, in whose eyes they were sacred. This is how they became powerful in Jerusalem. They believed, or made out they believed, in Divine Providence, the immortality of the soul, eternal punishment and the resurrection of the dead (See chapter 4, item 4). But Jesus, esteeming simplicity and the qualities of the heart above all else, whose preference within the law was for the spirit which vitalizes to the word which kills, applied Himself throughout His mission to the unmasking of their hypocrisy, and because of this was considered by them to be their enemy. This then is the reason why the Pharisees, together with the High Priests, incited the people to eliminate Him.