Jews were lead by members of several religious groups in Christ’s time. Although Rome governed Palestine, expecting tribute and peace, guidance for civil and moral conduct rested with Jewish religious leaders.
The most prominent Jewish leaders in the gospels include Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, lawyers, elders, chief priests, the Sanhedrin, and the High Priest. With few exceptions, these leaders customarily opposed Jesus.
Luke 11 Outline
The Lord’s prayer (model prayer)
Parable of the friend at midnight
Ask, seek, and knock
Blasphemy and teaching on demons
Pharisees slander miracles
Parable of the divided house
Parable of the unclean spirit
Jesus blesses the obedient
The sign of Jonah
Lamp of the body
Woes pronounced on Pharisees and Lawyers
Pharisees emerged around 150 B.C., and disappeared in 70 A.D. when Rome destroyed Jerusalem. Initially they were a political party. Their bitter rivalry with the Sadducees ultimately ignited a civil war around 90 B.C. that lead to the death of 50,000 Jews.
Many Pharisees were priests. In Christ’s time, the office of high priest was appointed by Rome, which favored the Sadducees.
Pharisees and Sadducees had strong theological differences. Pharisees strictly adhered to written laws and oral traditions. Sadducees rejected these traditions, known as the “oral Torah,” advocating only the written Law of Moses.
Pharisees believed the written law was incomplete. Unwritten traditions were handed down, debated, refined, and expanded by Pharisees. Rules were enacted to prevent Jews from breaking the Law. Jesus condemned Pharisaic traditions (Mark 7:1-13).
Pharisees believed all Jews were to be like priests, observing purification rituals developed for the priesthood. They also believed in angels and in the resurrection of the dead; a theological difference Paul used to advantage (Acts 23:6-10).
Notable Pharisees include Paul (Acts 26:4-6), Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-35, 22:3), Nicodemus (John 3:1-21, 7:45-53, 19:38-40), Simon (Luke 7:36-50), and converts in Jerusalem (Acts 15:4-6).