Whatever question may be possible as to the force or character of Pharisaism in the time of Christ, there can be no doubt that it became both all-pervading and ennobling among the successors of Aqiba (q.v.), himself one of the martyrs to Hadrian's severity.
That chief literary expression of Pharisaism, the Mishnah, was the outcome of the work begun at Jamnia.
With the growing weakness and corruption of the Hasmonaean princes, and the alienation of a large part of the nation from their cause, the hope of a better kingship begins to appear in Judaea also; at first darkly shadowed forth in the Book of Enoch (chap. xc.), where the white steer, the future leader of God's herd after the deliverance from the heathen, stands in a certain contrast to the actual dynasty (the horned lambs); and then much more clearly, and for the first time with use of the name Messiah, in the Psalter of Solomon, the chief document of the protest of Pharisaism against its enemies the later Hasmonaeans.
In a word, the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah marks the fusion of Pharisaism with the national religious feeling of the Maccabean revival.
While in his zeal for legalism he virtually adopts the standpoint of Pharisaism, he is at one with Jewish Hellenism in substituting belief in the soul's immortality for the doctrine of a bodily resurrection.
Most authorities believe that he was a Gnostic; but while it is certain that he was not a Christian, it is possible that he was simply a Sadducee, and thus an opponent not of Judaism but of Pharisaism.