(Hebrew: parash, separate)
A member of the party of the Pharisees, who aimed to be "set apart from" all mankind by religious and political independence.
The sect originated soon after the return from the Babylonian Captivity.
Besides Holy Scripture, they reverenced a particular tradition which they ascribed to Moses.
They believed in good and evil angels; in the immortality of the soul; and in a resurrection.
They stoutly upheld the theocracy and their country's cause, and possessed great influence with the common people.
Most of the scribes and lawyers belonged to this party.
In New Testament times they had degenerated into pious hypocrites full of uncharitableness, pride, and avarice and were noted for their hollow reliance on outward works.
They were bitter enemies of Jesus and were most severely denounced by Him (Matthew 23).
There were some exceptions, such as Nicodemus (John 3) and Gamaliel (Acts 5).
New Catholic Dictionary