|Series Theme: Bible Study Approaches|
Title: 17. Who's Who in the Gospels
A resource to help you understand the people in the Gospels
This page is an additional resource if you have only recently started reading the Bible and have no understood the various people and groups you find in the four Gospels in the new Testament.
There were a variety of religious and political groups and individuals in Israel in Jesus' day. We hope the following will help you understand them:
The People and Groups
Senior figures in the Jewish community. The elders joined the priests and scribes against Jesus (Matt 27:12)
A religious sect of reportedly 4,000 Jews in Palestine during the time of Christ, but not mentioned in the NT. The Essenes lived a simple life of sharing everything in common. They practiced strict rules of conduct and were mostly unmarried.
A native or resident of Galilee , the most northerly of the three provinces of Palestine ( Galilee , Samaria , Judea ). Also a political freedom party who were followers of Judas of Galilee who headed a rebellion against all foreign domination. Came into collision with Pilate (Lk 13:1-3) and Jesus' enemies tried to associate him with them (Mt 26:69, Mk 14:70, Lk 23:6).
There were a number of different Herods, who were rulers as follows:
A semi-political party (Matt 22:16; Mark 3:6; 12:13 ) who joined with the Pharisees to oppose Jesus. It appears that they were really neither a religious sect nor a proper political party, but Jews who supported the dynasty of Herod and therefore the rule of Rome .
The natives or residents of the southernmost of the three provinces of Palestine
Descendents of Levi, of the tribe of Levi. Mentioned only twice in the Gospels Lk 10:32 & Jn 1:19 and were probably helpers in the Temple .
"Pharisee," = "the separated ones, separatists," a religious party who first appeared about 135 B.C. They were also known as chasidim, meaning "loved of God" or "loyal to God." According to Josephus, their number at the height of their popularity was more than 6,000.
They were exponents and guardians of the oral and written law, and in belief were traditionalists or conservatives. Their orthodoxy was spiritually barren and there were therefore opposed by Jesus (Mt 12:1,2 23:1-33, Lk 6:6,7; 9:37 -54; 12:1)
Originally spiritual servers in the Temple , descended from Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. In Jesus' time they also had civil powers. The head of the order was the High Priest or Chief Priest, who in Jesus' day was a very powerful spiritual and political figure.
Being part of the religious establishment, the priests plotted to destroy Jesus ( Mt 26:3-5,14-15,47,51; Mk 14:10-11,43-47,53-66; 15:1; Lk 22:1-6,50,54,66-71; 23:1-2; Jn 11:47; 19:15-16,18) and were involved in trying and condemning Jesus (Mt 26:57-68; 27:1-2; Mk 14:53-65; Lk 22:54-71; 23:13-24; Jn 18:15-32).
A Roman official, generally of praetorian or consular rank, who served as deputy consul in the Roman provinces. The term of office was one year, though it could be longer in special instances, but the powers of the proconsul were unlimited in both the military and civil areas.
Both Sergius Paulus, Paul's famous convert (Acts 13:7), and Gallio ( 18:12 ) were such officials.
Procurator = "governor". Pilate, Felix, and Festus were such governors in Palestine with headquarters in Caesarea . Generally the procurators were appointed directly by the emperor to govern the Roman provinces
Various officials are indicated by this word. In Jn 2:8,9 it means the governor of a feast. In Jn 3:1 and 7:26 it refers to members of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin.
A religious and political party which exercised comparatively little influence among the people. The root of the word means "to be righteous." The Sadducees were largely of the Jewish aristocratic priesthood. Under the Romans they become the party favorable to the government.
Since they were satisfied with the present, they did not look forward to a future messianic age. The Sadducees had a number of distinctive beliefs, contrasting strongly with those of the Pharisees:
They held only to the written law and rejected the traditions of the Pharisees. In other words, the Sadducees believed that the Word of God alone was the seat of religious authority. The Pharisees, on the contrary, believed that just as binding as the Law itself, was the supposed oral tradition of the teachings of Moses and the rulings on the law made by the scribes over the years.
They denied of the resurrection of the body, personal immortality, and retribution in a future life (Matt 22:23 ; Mark 12:18 ; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8; cf. Acts 4:1-2).
They denied the existence of angels and spirits (Acts 23:8).
They differed from both the Pharisees and the Essenes on the matter of divine predestination and the freedom of the human will. They threw aside all ideas of divine interposition in the government of the world.
The Sadducees are mentioned by name in the NT only about a dozen times (Matt 3:7; 16:1, 6, 11-12; 22:23, 34; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 4:1; 5:17; 23:6-8); but it must be remembered that when mention is made of the chief priests, practically the same persons are referred to.
The residents of the central province of Palestine who historically were mixed race, only part Jewish, and who were therefore despised by the pure Jews.
A ruling council of the Jews of 70 or 72 members, comprising Chief Priests or heads of 24 priestly courses, scribes (lawyers), and the elders. (Included Pharisees and Sadducees). Jesus was taken before this council (Mt 26:57-68)
Originally they were writers and transcribes of the law. By Jesus' time they were also teachers of the Law, or lawyers (Mt 7:29 ; 13:52 ; 17:10 ; 23:2-3). They tested Jesus with questions, bringing to Jesus a woman taken in adultery (Jn 8:3).
Some of them were members of the council (Mt 2:4), and they conspired against Jesus (Mt 26:3,57; 27:41; Mk 14:1; Lk 22:66). They were reproved by Jesus for their hypocrisy (Mt 15:20 ; 9:3; 12:38 ; 15:1; 16:21 ; 20:18 ; 21:15 )
A Ruler of a fourth part of a region (Mt 14:1; Lk 3:1; 9:7; Acts 13:1)
Members of Jewish patriotic political party started to resist Roman rule over Israel . with violence and assassination, eventually provoking the Roman war. Simon the Zealot was distinguished from Simon Peter by this epithet (Luke 6:15 ; Acts 1:13 ).