A Brief Overview of the Gospels: A Bible Study - Part 5
As we close out this series on the Gospels, we will briefly look at some of the religious and political influences of the day. During the Gospels period, there were many political and religious groups that were in power. To understand these groups is to understand the times in which the Saviour lived.
1. The Galileans
a. Politically extreme “right” fanatics of their day
b. They arose in northern Palestine headed by Judas of Galilee and
were against all foreign elements
c. They came into violent collision with Pilate (Luke 13:1)
d. Christ’s enemies attempted to identify both Christ and His
disciples with this group (Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:70; Luke
2. The Herodians
a. Political group from the family of Herod
b. Placed in power by Rome for Rome
c. They joined the Pharisees in an attempt to silence Christ
d. They were condemned by Christ (Mark 8:15; 12:13-17)
3. The Levites
a. Descendents of Jacob’s third son, Levi (Genesis 29:34)
b. They had charge of the temple
c. They were sent by the Jews along with the priests to spy on the
ministry of John the Baptist (John 1:19)
4. The Pharisees
a. This group came into being during the time of the Maccabees
under the reign of John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC)
b. They were guardian to the written and oral law
c. They were conservative and legalistic in their beliefs
d. They plotted the death of Christ (John 11:47-53)
e. They were responsible for Christ’s arrest (John 18:3)
f. They demanded that a guard be placed at Christ’s tomb
g. They were denounced by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; Luke
7:30) and Jesus (Matthew 5:20; 16:11; 23:1-36; Luke 7:30)
h. Their doctrine included a fatalistic approach to God’s
sovereignty, a belief in the resurrection of the just and
damnation of the wicked, and the belief in the ministry of angels
These beliefs contrast with the beliefs of the Sadducees.
5. The Sadducees
a. This group originated from Zadok, the high priest during the
reign of Solomon (I Kings 2:35)
b. They were the aristocratic and political party among the Jews
and were rivaled by the Pharisees (Acts 23:6).
c. They did not believe in anything supernatural including angels,
the resurrection of the dead, and the immortality of the soul.
d. Both set aside their differences to concentrate on the common
goal of ridding the world of Christ
6. The Samaritans
a. A race living between Judea and Galilee
b. They began when King Sargon II took captive the Northern kingdom
in 722 BC leaving behind the poorest and uneducated
c. These eventually intermarried with homesteaders who came
from all over the then known world to settle (II Kings 17:24-33)
d. They offered to help in rebuilding the temple, but were refused
e. It was the Samaritan Sanballot who attempted to stop the
building of the walls during Nehemiah’s day (Nehemiah 6:1-9).
f. Jesus was rejected by the Samaritans in His earthly ministry
“because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem”
7. The Sanhedrin
a. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish Supreme Court in religious and
b. The word comes from “Sun” (together with) and “hedra” (a
sitting place), thus a board or council which sat in session
c. It originated from Moses (Numbers 11:16, 17) or Jehoshaphat
(II Chronicles 19:8)
d. The board was made up of 70 to 72 members with the High
Priest acting as President
e. It was also made up of the heads of the 24 priestly service
divisions, scribes and lawyers, and the elders who represented
8. The Scribes
a. These were students, interpreters, and teachers of the Old
b. They were Christ’s most bitter enemies along with the Pharisees
c. Christ denounced them for making the Word of God of none
effect (Matthew 16:21; 21:15; 23:2; 26:3; Mark 12:28-40).
d. The Scribes were also referred to as lawyers (Matthew 22:35;
Luke 10:25; 11:45-52; 14:3)
Under the power of Rome there were many groups that influenced daily life in Israel. They each had a part to play as the Greatest Story Ever Told was unfolding. Each had a relationship to the life that Christ lived. Each had a part in the final movement to the cross.
God allowed His Son to be born at just the right time in “His story” for all the pieces to go together.
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