The Nuttall Encyclopedia
E . Separatists), a sect of the Jews who adopted or received this name because of the attitude of isolation from the rest of the nation which they were compelled to assume at the time of their origin. This was some time between the years 165 and 105 B.C., on their discovery that the later Maccabæan chiefs were aiming at more than religious liberty, and in their own interests contemplating the erection of a worldly kingdom that would be the death of the theocratic, which it was the purpose of Providence they should establish; this was the separate ground which they at first assumed alone, but they in the end carried the great body of the nation along with them. They were scrupulously exact in their interpretation and observance of the Jewish law as the rule to regulate the life of the Jewish community in every department, and were the representatives of that legal tendency which gave character to the development of Judaism proper during the period which elapsed between the date of the Captivity and the advent of Christianity. The law they observed, however, was not the written law as it stood, but that law as expounded by the oral law of the Scribes, as the sole key to its interpretation, so that their attitude to the Law of Moses was pretty much the same as that of the Roman Catholics and the High Churchmen in relation to the Scriptures generally, and they were thus at length the representatives of clericalism as well as legalism in the Jewish Church, and in doing so they took their ground upon a principle which is the distinctive article of orthodox Judaism in the matter to the present day. In the days of Christ they stood in marked opposition to the Sadducees ( q. v .) both in their dogmatic views and their political principles. As against them, on the dogmatic side, they believed in a spiritual world and in an established moral order, and on the political their rule was to abstain from politics, except in so far as they might injuriously affect the life and interests of the nation; but at that time they had degenerated into mere formalists, whose religion was a conspicuous hypocrisy, and it was on this account and their pretensions to superior sanctity that they incurred the indignation and exposed themselves to the condemnation of Christ.
Wood, James, ed. Entry for 'Pharisees'. The Nuttall Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/nut/p/pharisees.html. Frederick Warne & Co Ltd. London. 1900.