Lesson #6 – Groups during the time of Jesus and the apostles


Gnostics – every man has a spark of divine identity within himself that needed to be released as a means of illumination that resulted in self-awareness. Salvation is by knowledge. Some of their written works were the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. Some of them have their own ideology from such as a person named Seth and involved a serpent. They believed that it did not matter what you did in the body because the spirit was all-important.

Sanhedrin – was both a political and religious counsel that oversaw the application of the Law as applied to citizens of Judaism. They had a symbiotic relationship with the Romans. The high priest who was originally intended to be a descendent of Aaron was appointed by the king. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin but a secret Christian. Trials were not to be held at night even though Jesus was put on trial throughout the night. Later they tried Peter and Stephen.

 Pharisees – to declare themselves as strict interpreters of the Law while setting up regulations for the people that they themselves could not keep. Jesus spoke often against the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Eventually they were considered the normal expression of what was Judaism. Misapplied Old Testament regulations were meant for the priest but imposed onto every Jew. Paul described himself as a Pharisee of Pharisees. They held strictly to the Law while they later added the development of traditions alongside of the law.

Sadducees – They became secularized, and members of an aristocratic group separate from the people. They had various contrast with the Pharisees on such matters as marriage, the daily offerings, and repeated washings. They believed that God never interfered with the course of human history and, man had no immortal soul. Furthermore, they did not believe in spirits and angels, or the resurrection.

Scribes – at first, they seemed to hold the position of a secretary for a prophet.  During the time of Jesus, they were so knowledgeable of the Law that they were the ones who interpreted the law from an important position on the Sanhedrin. Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel who was a scribe. When the debate came up in the Sanhedrin what to do about the apostles, Gamaliel said to leave them alone if they were of God and if not, they would eventually prove themselves false. They preserved the law by copying and transmitting Old Testament Scriptures. They taught the law and functioned as judges concerning the law.

Essenes – kept from everyday society while living In a group that practiced community property, maintained a deep piety, were a priestly sect, led by someone called The Righteous Teacher who supposedly had revelations from God, They lived in the wilderness to separate themselves from the perverse men. They regarded themselves as the true Israel. Some believe that John the Baptist’s parents who were aged died when he was young which resulted in him living with the Essenes and might explain his unusual dress and eating habits coming from the wilderness.

Stoics – with the Epicureans confronted Paul at Athens in Acts 17. It was a rational pantheism. God was not personal but a spiritual force or power that was within men and things. The highest good was to follow reason or virtue and suppressed emotions.

Epicureans – the supreme good is pleasure or happiness which was a matter of their mind not of momentary whims or instincts. Denied miracles and prophecy and immortality. Their religion included superstition. To be happy it was to be delivered from the fear of the gods.

Maccabean – in 168 BC this priestly group who got their name from the leader Judas Maccabeus, revolted against Rome. It was during that time the king of the Seleucid Empire whose name was Antiochus IV Epiphanies, fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel by sacrificing a pig on the Temple altar and later carried out a massacre of Jews. This is called the abomination of desolation. Their writings are posted to the Catholic Bible between the Old and New Testament.

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