Pharisees, Sadducees, Edomites, Great Sanhedrin

Around 60 b.c. The Roman Triumvirate Pompey brought Judea under Roman Rule. He pushed all the Jews into the areas of Gallilee, Jericho and Jersalem.  Then he settled Greeks and Syrians in the rest of the land of Palestine. Originally, Galilee was settled by the tribe of Benjamin who always followed the tribe of Judah.

A few years earlier, Hyranicus, a descendant of the Maccabees, conquered the land of Idumea.  Idumea was the home land of the Edomites. He forced all the Edomites to be circumcised and follow the Jewish laws. This was a big mistake.  They were told by God never to mix with the Edomites.

The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1903 edition, says under the heading Edom,

They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation, and their country was called by the Greeks and Romans “Idumea” . . . From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate nation, though the name “Idumea” still existed (in) the time of Jerome.

 The Edomites were the descendants of Esau.  Esau married into the families of the Canaanites.  The Canaanites were the people that God told Moses and the Israelites to kill and drive out of the land  of Canaan.  They were warned never to mix or marry with the Canaanites.  God gave Edom the land south of Judea.  They were driven western toward by the Natabeans to the area that became Idumea.  Their border was only 19 miles from Jerusalem.  

Flavus Josephus who lived from 37 A.D., to 100 A.D. Confirms Edomite occupation in southern Judea.

“That country is also called Judea, and the people Jews; and this name is given also to as many as embrace their religion (Judaism), though of other nations. But then upon what foundation so good a governor as Hyrcanus (grandson of Mattathias patriarch of the Maccabees, a family of Judahite patriots of 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.) Took upon himself to compel these Idumeans (Edomites) either to become Jews or to leave their country, deserves great consideration. I suppose it was because they had long ago been driven out of the land of Edom, and had SEIZED ON AND POSSESSED THE TRIBE OF SIMEON (their land not the people), AND ALL THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH, WHICH WAS THE PECULIAR INHERITANCE OF THE WORSHIPERS OF THE TRUE GOD WITHOUT IDOLATRY…”

So the land of Palestine at the time of the Messiah was similar to the U.S.  It was very diverse with many nationalities. The word “Jews” in scripture refers to the inhabitants of the land.  But it can also mean the tribe of Judah in some cases.  The name for the land of Palestine was called Judea because they combined the name Judah and Idumea.

Now at the time of the Messiah, the Sadducees were in control of the temple. Pharisees were the synagogue leaders.  According to the Ency. Britannica and Philo, there were 6,000 Pharisees during the time of the Messiah. 

Some had to be non-Jews and Edomites. When Herod came to power, he solidified his position by bringing in relatives from Idumea and appointing many non-Jews to important positions. And he killed the entire Sanhedrin except Hillel and Shammai.  Herod was practicing Judaism, as many Edomites and Nabateans had been commingled with the Jews and adopted their customs.

“Herod I”. Encyclopaedia Judaica. (CD-ROM Edition Version 1.0). Ed. Cecil Roth. Keter Publishing House. ISBN 965-07-0665-8

Notice the scriptures below.  They Edomites were called the Herodians in scripture and were politically aligned with Herod.  They plotted with the Pharisees to kill the Messiah.

Mat_22:16  And they send to him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any one: for thou regardest not the person of men.

Mar_3:6  And the Pharisees went out, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against him, how they might destroy him.

Mar_12:13  And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, that they might catch him in talk.

The Bible also proofs that some of the Pharisees were Edomites.  Notice the verse below: 

 Joh 8:33  They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

The Pharisees told the Messiah that they had never gone into bondage.  This could only apply to the Edomites because the tribe of Judah was taken into captivity in 585 BC by Babylon.  They would have never told the Messiah that they never went into captivity.  THIS VERSE PROOFS THAT THE EDOMITES WERE MIXED AMONG THE PHARISEES.


 The word Sanhedrin refers to a religious court.  In the time of Christ, there were two Sanhedrins operating in Jerusalem, the first of which was a 23-member court run by the Sadducees that handled local affairs.

Its larger counterpart, the Great Sanhedrin, was comprised of 70 elders with a president, who in the time of Jesus was Gamaliel.  Acts 5:25 shows this group and the Great Sanhedrin coming together to discuss the problem of the Christians. The Great Sanhedrin functioned much like a combination of the Senate and Supreme Court, and most of its members at the time of the Crucifixion were Pharisees from the school of Shammai.

You will note in the Book of Acts that Gamaliel, the president of the Great Sanhedrin, encouraged tolerance of the Christians, but because he and his followers were outnumbered by Sadducees Pharisees.

The Great Sanhedrin ultimately elected to persecute the Christians.  At the trial of Jesus before the elders of Israel, Gamaliel  may not have been present.  If he had the circumstances may have turned out quite differently. The trial held to try Jesus was hurriedly assembled and included almost across the board members who were either Sadducees, or else Pharisees from the school of Shammai.  It is possible that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimithea represented the school of Hillel.

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