I was about to launch into a discussion of the different views of the afterlife among various Jewish sects (those that held to the idea of the resurrection and those that apparently did not), but then realized that first I need to give some information about what the groups themselves were all about.  So I’ll devote two posts to the question, lifting the discussion from my textbook The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.



It was during the rule of the Hasmoneans, and evidently in large measure in reaction to it, that various Jewish sects emerged. As we have seen, the Jewish historian Josephus mentions four of these groups; the New Testament refers to three. In one way or another, all of them play a significant role in our understanding of the life of the historical Jesus.

I should emphasize at the outset that most Jews in Palestine did not belong to any of these groups. We know this much from Josephus, who indicates that the largest sect, the Pharisees, claimed 6,000 members and that the Essenes claimed 4,000. The Sadducees probably had far fewer. These numbers should be considered in light of the overall Jewish population in the world at the time; the best estimates put the number at something like 4 million.

What matters for our purposes here, however, is not the size of these groups, for they were influential despite their small numbers, but the ways in which they understood what it meant to be Jewish, especially in light of the political crises that they had to face. Members of all of the sects, of course …

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