The Hassidean party of the early days of the Hasmonean revolt developed into the group known as the Pharisees. The name, which in Hebrew mean separatists, presumably refers to their insistence on ritual purity. They developed the process of interpretation of the Torah, giving wide - ranging meanings to the Scriptural text. Their teachings evolved into the Mishnah and Talmud, and thus constitute the basis of rabbinic Judaism. They also stressed the religious importance of study and denied that knowledge was the prerogative of the priesthood. Their own membership was by no means homogeneous, and they all tended to popularise the Jewish religion and decrease the exclusive importance of the Temple cult.
In all these aims they were opposed by a party called the Sadducees, which name may derive from Zaddok, who was a high priest in biblical times. This group, which was largely made up of priests and aristocrats, insisted on the exclusive centrality of the Temple and objected to the broad interpretation the Pharisees were applying to the Bible. They rejected the Pharisaic supernatural beliefs, claiming that they had no basis in Mosaic Law. They denied the doctrine of the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul and rejected the belief in the existence of angels and ministering spirits. Because of their strict adherence to the letter of the written law, the Sadduccees acted severely in cases involving the death penalty. The Mosaic principle of 'an eye for an eye' was interpreted literally and not as referring to monetary compensation - the view adopted by the Pharisees. There were also numerous legal ritualistic details in which these two parties differed. The Saduccees were far less popular in their outlook. By virtue of the fact that it was they who controlled the Temple and constituted the religious establishment, the Pharisees were, in fact, revolutionaries. The latter did not limit either their opinions or their activities to the religious sphere; they objected to the Hasmonean dynasty assuming both the kingship and the high priesthood, holding that the high priesthood should be in other hands. The fact that the Hasmoneans were not of the Davidic line also affected the recognition they were given as kings. In the reign of Alexander Yannai most of the Pharisees fled the country because of royal persecution. However, the main efforts of the Pharisees were centred on the religious life of the people, and the attitudes and doctrines they developed there, became the basis for Judaism throughout the ages.
During this period, several sects sprang up, amongst whom the Essenes stand out. Isolationist in their outlook they removed themselves from the mainstream of Jewish life. None of them survived.