The Pharisees (//; Hebrew: פְּרוּשִׁים Pərūšīm) were a social movement and a school of thought in the Levant during the time of Second Temple Judaism. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical, and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism.
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Conflicts between Pharisees and Sadducees took place in the context of much broader and longstanding social and religious conflicts among Jews, made worse by the Roman conquest. Another conflict was cultural, between those who favored Hellenization (the Sadducees) and those who resisted it (the Pharisees). A third was juridico-religious, between those who emphasized the importance of the Second Temple with its rites and services, and those who emphasized the importance of other Mosaic Laws. A fourth point of conflict, specifically religious, involved different interpretations of the Torah and how to apply it to current Jewish life, with Sadducees recognizing only the Written Torah (with Greek philosophy) and rejecting doctrines such as the Oral Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and the resurrection of the dead.
Josephus (37 – c. 100 CE), believed by many historians to be a Pharisee, estimated the total Pharisee population before the fall of the Second Temple to be around 6,000. Josephus claimed that Pharisees received the full support and goodwill of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees, who were the upper class. Pharisees claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish Laws, while Sadducees represented the authority of the priestly privileges and prerogatives established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as High Priest. The phrase "common people" in Josephus' writings suggests that most Jews were "just Jewish people", distinguishing them from the main liturgical groups.
Pharisees have also been made notable by numerous references to them in the New Testament. While the writers record hostilities between some of the Pharisees and Jesus, there are also several references in the New Testament to Pharisees who believed in him, including Nicodemus, who said it is known Jesus is a teacher sent from God, Joseph of Arimathea, who was his disciple, and an unknown number of "those of the party of the Pharisees who believed", among them the Apostle Paul — a student of Gamaliel, who warned the Sanhedrin that opposing the disciples of Jesus could prove to be tantamount to opposing God — even after becoming an apostle of Jesus Christ.