The three main philosophies which characterized Judaism in the New Testament period and before were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. So what’s the difference between these three groups?
Though one may at first be struck at the apparent disunity that is suggested by the Jewish faith having such distinct sects, it is important to remember two things:
First, these different “schools of thought” as Josephus called them were not very large. Although they were certainly influential and may appear in the New Testament and various other writings of the time, this influence was not proportional to their number of followers. This is largely due to how each group dealt with those in power, which will be discussed later.
The second point to be made is that these three groups were similar in many ways. They were strictly monotheistic, focused on their covenant relationship with God, and were adamant about properly following God’s law.