The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God

During the time of the second Temple, there were distinct sects of Judaism in Palestine, including the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots, and the Essenes. They had unique difference which was reflected in their religious philosophy as well as in their social lives. This paper will focus on these sects, particularly on their religious philosophies and the relationships among them. In addition, it will explain what each group expected of their Messiah. Finally, I will explain the significance of temptation of Jesus and how the temptation related to His Messianic role.

The Pharisees

The Pharisees saw themselves as custodians of righteousness, and therefore despised other groups. The believed in the Torah and argued that God’s Law was more than just mere words (Capes, 2008). To understand the words of God, the Pharisees believed that people needed to debate, argue and meditate on it to decipher the hidden meaning thereof.  This oral tradition was used by the Pharisees to supplement the given law of God. In addition, they believed in angels and demons and also taught about the resurrection of the dead (Flusser, 2007). They also believed that God was interested in the affairs of humanity, and would punish or reward people depending on their actions. This will result to eternal life or condemnation.

The Sadducees

The Sadducees believed they were above the Pharisees in religious matter and their philosophy was based on literal translation of the Law (Flusser, 2007).They did not see the need to interpret the word of God as the Pharisees did; although they supported their actions with outside sources like the Book of Decrees. In addition, they loved wealth, which they believed was a symbol of divine acceptance (Capes, 2008). Their philosophy did not have Jewish origin, but they were influenced by the Greek culture. They did not believe in angels or demons and believed God was nor concerned about humanity. They did not believe in the life after death. The Pharisees and Sadducees, although, they espoused different philosophies, were united in condemning Jesus. The two groups had social and political influence among the Jews, which put a lot pressure on the Romans. In one way or the other, the two felt threatened by Jesus. Therefore, they used their authority to have the Romans sentence Jesus to death (Perry et al, 2012).

The Zealots

As their name suggests, they had a great zeal for the Torah as well as the life of the Jewish community like the Pharisees (Chamblin, 2000). They opposed Roman occupation of their land. However, they did not favor paying tribute to the Roman emperor, like the Pharisees did. Moreover, they loved confrontations unlike the Pharisees. Many of their members were referred to as Sicarii, because of carrying daggers, which were carried secretly to be used against anyone found committing a sacrilegious activity. They also used the weapon against anyone found propagating anti-Jewish ideals.

The Essenes

Although the philosophy of the Essenes was almost similar to that of the Pharisees, they had unique traditions and rules. They were stricter in keeping the law than the other sects (Chamblin, 2000). Moreover, they considered the other groups as worldly and corrupt. The Essenes practiced a more purified life and had monastic form of organization (Flusser, 2007). Celibacy was practiced widely as a form of devotion to God and spiritualism. They believed in hard work, and living in harmony with one another and sharing worldly goods. This was the opposite of what the Sadducees practiced (Flusser, 2007). Indeed, their religious orientation is believed to be the basis of modern Christianity.

Messianic Expectations of the Different Sects

The Messiah, as used by the early church, was a person whom the early Christians believed would liberate them from all manner of suffering (Chamblin, 2000). Within the Jewish sects, there were varied expectations among them of what the Messiah would look like or what he would do to the Jewish community. The Pharisees and Essenes looked at someone who would reclaim the dynasty of David. David’s rule was characterized by success in many ways (Perry et al, 2012). David was charismatic and had great loyalty to God, something that brought God’s favor on the Israelites.  It was a norm among the Jews for a king to be anointed with oil. Indeed, the choice of David, and his anointing with oil by Samuel marked the start of dynasty that the Pharisees and Essenes expected the Messiah to fulfill. In addition, they expected a peaceful transition where the Romans would not be rulers, but would stay and be governed under a new rule (Chamblin, 2000).

On the other hand, the Zealots expected the Messiah to have military prowess like David to liberate the Jews from the Romans’ iron-fisted rule. They believed that God’s kingdom would be preceded by the defeat of the Romans by the Messiah. Therefore, the Zealots expected a person who would remove the Romans from their country and create a new state for the Jews (Perry et al, 2012).

The Sadducees were characteristically different from the other sects because this did not have a specified expectation of the Messiah (Chamblin, 2000). They were lovers of money and wealth and most likely, they did not wish anything to change. Indeed, they were the most influential in Judaism and punished those who did not live according to God’s Law. However, they were hypocritical, since they were not themselves following what they taught.

Temptation of Jesus and His Messianic Role

The temptation of Jesus had a close relationship to the role of Jesus as the Messiah. The devil tempted Jesus on different fronts, all of which were rejected by Jesus (Kirk, n.d). In this manner, Jesus was disputing the notion of Messiah as was held by the different sects existing in the land of Judah at that time.

The devil said he would give Jesus the entire kingdoms of the earth if he worshiped him.  However, Jesus rejected the political type of Messiah (Perry et al, 2012). The Jews expected someone who would come and conquer the Romans, hence overcome their suffering. Following the political power would have seen Jesus disobey God. The political conquest expected by the Pharisee, the Zealots and the Essenes would have been fulfilled if Jesus had accepted Satan’s offer. However, Jesus did not accept the offer since His Messianic role required suffering and death for mankind. The liberation that He was to offer man was not political, but spiritual. The war was not a physical one as the Jews thought, but spiritual. However, the Sadducees, as explained above did not have any expectation of the Messiah. Nevertheless, their love for money and wealth would have been advanced had Jesus accepted the offer of wealth by the evil one (Kirk, n.d).


The above discussion has shown distinct religious philosophies propagated by the Jewish sects at the time of the Second Temple. Indeed, there were some similarities, but also well established differences among the sects. This was reflected also in their expectations of the messiah. However, the temptation of Jesus was a divine way of challenging the notion of His Messianiship as held by the sects.



Capes, B. D. (2008). Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity: essays in honor of Larry W. Hurtado and Alan F. Segal. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

Chamblin, K. (2000).Commentary on Mathew, Appendix A: Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. Retrieved from

Flusser, D. (2007). Judaism of the Second Temple Period: Volume 1, Qumran and Apocalypticism. Grand Rapids: The Hebrew University Press.

Kirk, A.  (n.d). The Messianic Role of Jesus and the Temptation Narrative: a contemporary perspective. Retrieved from

Perry et al, (2012). Western Civilization: ideas, politics, and society. New York: Cengage Learning.

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