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Eyal Regev

The Pharisees (פרושים, Gk. Φαρισαῖοî) were one of the Jewish sects or philosophies in the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods, along with the Sadducees and the Essenes. Explicit references to Pharisees are found in Josephus, in the New Testament gospels and Acts of the Apostles, and in Rabbinic literature.Their name, which may derive from the Semitic root prš (“separate”), was adopted by a large group, of whom some (in rabbinic terminology, ḥaberim, “fellows”) were particularly zealous about purity and tithing, while others were less so. The name may also derive from another meaning of the same root—“to interpret”—since the Pharisees were known for their interpretations of scriptural laws. The Pharisees’ interpretations were challenged by other groups but popularly accepted.Josephus describes the Pharisees as a religious and political party that existed since the days of Jonathan the Hasmonean (AJ 13.17–173). They taught that there is life after death and that man controls his own destiny, though fate also plays a role in human fortunes. In an effort to provide his Greek and Roman readers with a point of reference, Josephus compares them to the Stoics (.


Pontius Pilatus  

Helen K. Bond

Pontius Pilatus was the fifth Roman prefect of Judaea, c. 26–37 ce. Incidents from his administration appear in the works of Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. He is best known, however, for sending Jesus of Nazareth to the cross, an event noted by Tacitus (Ann. 15.44) and described at length in the Christian gospels.Little is known of Pilate’s early life, though he probably belonged to the equestrian class and came to Tiberius’s attention through his military accomplishments. He may have owed his advancement to L. Aelius Sejanus, though he remained in his post when the latter fell in 31ce. The small region of Judaea (which included Samaria, Idumaea, and the coastal region around Caesarea Maritima) had been under Roman governance since 63bce, but only came under direct rule in 6ce, after the reigns first of Herod I and then of his son Archelaus. It is unclear whether Judaea was already an autonomous imperial province at this period (so Joseph. .



Avner Ecker

After the Babylonian exile, Jews returned to their city under Cyrus I and rebuilt their temple in Jerusalem in 539 bce. Jerusalem eventually became the only monotheistic centre within the Greco-Roman world. Most Jews regarded their temple as the only temple to Yahweh. Three annual pilgrimages from the entire Mediterranean basin marked the city’s life cycle. The temple grew rich through donations, tithes, and a voluntary tax given by Jews. The city of the Second Temple Period was run according to a set of Jewish religious laws. Antiochus IV attempted to mould it into a Greek-style polis and instigated the Maccabean revolt (167–160 bce). The riches of the temple allured Hellenistic and Roman rulers alike, whereas the unique religious character of Jewish Jerusalem posed continuous political challenges. Indeed, the city was besieged, and the temple occasionally plundered by a succession of Hellenistic and Roman conquerors. Jerusalem and the temple flourished under Herod and his dynasts (Plin. HN 5.