Those who tried to live its strict religious observances were called ‘Pharisees’.
‘Pharisee’ is a Hebrew word which means ‘separated’. Although not priests, the Pharisees considered themselves a special, separate, religiously superior class of Jews.
Around one hundred and thirty years before Jesus a religious reform movement began.
These Pharisees tended to interpret God’s laws in strict, unbending ways that made the literal observance (or the ‘letter’) of the Law of Moses difficult for many people, particularly the poorer members of society.
The Herodians and the Pharisees were religious and political enemies.
The Romans appointed kings in some parts of their empire. The kings in Galilee during the time of Jesus were the Herods. Those who supported the Herods were called ‘Herodians’.
Money-changers and dove-sellers in the Temple
Greek and Roman coins were used, along with the coins brought by travellers from other countries.
Pagan (i.e. non-Jewish) money could not be taken into the Temple or used to purchase animals for sacrifice.
Dove-sellers also provided an essential service for worshippers. Doves were the least expensive of all the animals that could be sacrificed at the Temple (lambs and bulls cost much more), so poor people bought doves to offer in sacrifice to God.
The Gospels indicate that in the time of Jesus many of the money-changers and dove- sellers took advantage of their control of this specialised market to charge outrageous prices to rich and poor alike. Jesus saw this injustice.
The priests of the Temple had allowed vendors to conduct business in the very courtyards dedicated to prayer. This activity was offensive to God.
The tax-collectors and sinners
In the time of Jesus, the Jews were captives to the power of the Roman Empire.
Tax- collectors were considered traitors, for they collected taxes from their fellow Jews on behalf of their Roman oppressors.
Tax-collectors were also well-known for cheating by charging more tax than they should, keeping the extra money for themselves.
Tax-collectors were excluded from community worship.
In the eyes of most Jews of the time, this put tax-collectors on the same level as ‘sinners’.
The Sadducees were a conservative priestly party. They were wealthy and powerful and, in general, they scorned the ordinary people.
The Sadducees had been prominent as the ruling class in Israel during the centuries before Rome conquered the Jews
The main influence of the Sadducees was in temple worship.
They were religious fundamentalists who did not believe in a messiah or the resurrection of the dead.
‘Zealot’ comes from the word ‘zeal’ or intense devotion or enthusiasm. The Apostle Simon was a Zealot. In following Jesus he was required to abandon his involvement in violent resistance against Rome.
This group was similar to the Pharisees but they were also militant nationalists.
The Zealots tried to end Roman rule of Palestine by violent means.
They recognised only God or someone sent by God as their leader.
Like many Jews, they anxiously awaited a Messiah to lead a powerful army that would defeat the Romans.
Jesus the Messiah (the Christ)
The Greek word for messiah is Christos (the Christ). Both Messiah and Christ mean ‘the Anointed One’.
The prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming of a servant of God who would be filled with the Holy Spirit and bring about the salvation of God’s people. They called him the ‘Messiah’.
In the time of Jesus, people had different ideas about what this messiah would do.
Many thought he would be a warrior king who would free Israel from Roman power.
The Romans were concerned about the Messiah. They feared that he would attract thousands of followers and lead a rebellion against them.
Jesus the Son of man
One of the books of the Old