After defeating the Seleucid forces, Judas Maccabaeus's nephew John Hyrcanus established a new monarchy in the form of the priestly Hasmonean dynasty in 152 BCE, thus establishing priests as political as well as religious authorities. Although the Hasmoneans were heroes for resisting the Seleucids, their reign lacked the legitimacy conferred by descent from the Davidic dynasty of the First Temple era.
The Pharisee ("separatist") party emerged largely out of the group of scribes and sages. Their name comes from the Hebrew and Aramaic parush or parushi, which means "one who is separated." It may refer to their separation from Gentiles, sources of ritual impurity or from irreligious Jews. The Pharisees, among other Jewish sects, were active from the middle of the second century BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Josephus first mentions them in connection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). One of the factors that distinguished the Pharisees from other groups prior to the destruction of the Temple was their belief that all Jews had to observe the purity laws (which applied to the Temple service) outside the Temple. The major difference, however, was the continued adherence of the Pharisees to the laws and traditions of the Jewish people in the face of assimilation. As Josephus noted, the Pharisees were considered the most expert and accurate expositors of Jewish law.
Josephus indicates that the Pharisees received the backing and good-will of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees associated with the ruling classes.In general, whereas the Sadducees were aristocratic monarchists, the Pharisees were eclectic, popular, and more democratic. (Roth 1970: 84) The Pharisaic position is exemplified by the assertion that "A learned mamzer takes precedence over an ignorant High Priest." (A mamzer, according to the Pharisaic definition, is an outcast child born of a forbidden relationship, such as adultery or incest, in which marriage of the parents could not lawfully occur. The word is often, but incorrectly, translated as "illegitimate".)
Sadducees rejected the Pharisaic tenet of an Oral Torah. In their personal lives this often meant an excessively stringent lifestyle from a Jewish perspective, as they did away with the oral tradition, and in turn the Pharisaic understanding of the Torah, creating two Jewish understandings of the Torah. An example of this differing approach is the interpretation of, "an eye in place of an eye". The Pharisaic understanding was that the value of an eye was to be paid by the perpetrator. In the Sadducees' view the words were given a more literal interpretation, in which the offender's eye would be removed. From the point of view of the Pharisees, the Sadducees wished to change the Jewish understanding of the Torah, to a Greek understanding of the Torah. The difference between these two groups survived in the form of Rabbinic and Karaite Judaism, the Pharisees settled in Babylonia after the exile where they became known as Rabbinic Jews and preserved the Pharisaical oral law in the form of the Talmud, while the Sadducees settled in Tiberius in the Galilee where they became known as Karaite Jews and preserved the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible.
The sages of the Talmud see a direct link between themselves and the Pharisees, and historians generally consider Pharisaic Judaism to be the progenitor of Rabbinic Judaism, that is normative, mainstream Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple. All mainstream forms of Judaism today consider themselves heirs of Rabbinic Judaism and, ultimately, the Pharisees.