Member of a Jewish religious party in Palestine that emerged c. 160 BC in opposition to the Sadducees. The Pharisees held that the Jewish oral tradition was as valid as the Torah. They struggled to democratize the Jewish religion, arguing that the worship of God was not confined to the Temple of Jerusalem and fostering the synagogue as an institution of worship. Their belief that reason must be applied in the interpretation of the Torah and its application to contemporary problems is now basic to Jewish theology.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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