The latter party strenuously maintained these positions.
The rise of the Essenes is also ascribed to this period.
At the beginning of our era, Judaism was in external appearance thoroughly prepared for the advent of the Kingdom of God.
The other nations, once fallen into idolatry, He had allowed to grovel amid their impure rites ; but He had dealt differently with the Israelites whom he wished to be unto Him "a priestly kingdom and a holy nation" ( Exodus 19:6 ).
Their repeated falls into idolatry He had not left unpunished, but He kept alive among them the revealed religion which ever represented God as the true and adequate object of their devotion, trust, gratitude, of their obedience and service.
No wonder, too, that in opposition to the lukewarmness for the oral Law evinced by the priestly aristocracy -- the Sadducees as they were called -- there arose in Juda a powerful party resolved to maintain at any cost the Jewish separation -- hence their name of Pharisees -- from the contamination of the Gentiles by the most scrupulous compliance, not only with the Law of Moses, but also with the "Traditions of the Elders".
The former of these leading parties was pre-eminently concerned with the maintenance of the status quo in politics, and in the main sceptical with regard to such prominent beliefs or expectations of the time as the existence of angels, the resurrection of the dead, the reference of the oral Law to Moses, and the future Redemption of Israel.
Nor was this happy condition materially interfered with under Alexander the Great and his immediate successors in Syria and in Egypt.
In fact, the first contact of the Judean Jews with hellenistic civilization seemed to open to them a wider field for their theocratic influence, by giving rise to a Western Dispersion with Alexandria and Antioch as its chief local centres and Jerusalem as its metropolis.
On the one hand, this religious attitude of the Judean Jews secured the preservation of Monotheism among them.