The elders or older men of a community who formed the ruling elite and were often members of official councils.
The word translated as elder or elders in Matthew 15:2, 16:21, etc. is presbuteros (Strong’s Concordance Number #G4245), which generally is used to refer to older men respected by others as leaders and role models.
The Gospels usually portray the elders (often with scribes and/or priests) as opponents of Jesus who conspired to have him killed.
The New Testament also mentions elders as leaders of early Christian communities (1Timothy 5:17-20; 1Peter 5:15).
The Book of Revelation gives a prominent role to the twenty-four elders who surround God’s throne (Revelation 4:4-11).
The High Priest, etc. were members of the tribe of Levi who were responsible for the temple and its sacrifices, and thus were the religious and social leaders of the Jewish people.
Priests and Levites in ancient Israel had to be men from the tribe of Levi. Any man from the eleven other tribes could not be priests (Joshua 18:7; 2 Chronicles 13:9-10).
Priests, descendants of Aaron, offered the sacrifices and took care of other offering of sacrifices and ritual concerns in the temple (Mark 1:44; Matthew 12:4-5; Luke 1:5-23; etc.).
Levites (members of the tribe of Levi who were not priests) assisted in the practical operation of the temple as guards, musicians, etc. (Luke 10:32; John 1:19; Acts 4:36; see also Numbers 3, 8; etc.).
The chief priests were in charge of the Temple in Jerusalem and thus were some of the most important religious leaders in ancient Israel at least prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.
The Gospels portray the chief priests (often with the scribes and elders) as members of the ruling authorities who opposed Jesus and who long sought to arrest and kill Him, and eventually condemned Him to death (in cooperation with the Roman governor).
The Pharisees were a group of influential Jews active in Palestine from the second century B.C. through the first century A.D.. They advocated and adhered to strict observance of the Sabbath rest, purity rituals, tithing, and food restrictions based on the Hebrew Scriptures and on later traditions.
The word Pharisees means "separated ones" in Hebrew, referring to their strict observance of laws and traditions (Luke 18:10-12).
Longtime political and religious rivals of the Sadducees, vying for influence among the rulers and the people. Mostly laymen, but possibly also some priests (from the tribe of Levi) or even members of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34).
Followed not only the laws of the Torah, but also the "traditions of the elders." (Mark 7:1-13; Matthew 15:1-20). Leaders were called "rabbis" or "teachers", such as Nicodemus (John 3:1-10; 7:50; 19:39) and Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Also had trained "scribes" (Mark 2:16; Acts 23:9) and "disciples" (Mark 2:18; Matthew 22:16; Luke 5:33).
The Gospels portray them mainly as opponents of Jesus (Mark 8:11; 10:2), who conspire with the Herodians to kill Jesus (Mark 3:6). Some of Jesus’ harshest polemics are directed against the hypocrisy and blindness of the Pharisees (Matthew 23; John 9).
Paul himself was a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5; Acts 23:6; 26:5), as were some other early Christians (Acts 15:5).
The Sadducees were another prominent religious group of Jews in Palestine from the second century B.C. through the first century A.D. They were probably a smaller "elite" group, but even more influential than the Pharisees. They also followed the laws of the Torah, but denied that the oral law was a revelation of God to His people and deemed the written law alone as the divine authority to be obligatory on the nation.
The word Sadducees comes from the Hebrew tsaddiqim (meaning 'righteous ones'), which may refer to the way they wished to live their lives.
Longtime political and religious rivals of the Pharisees, although their influence was more with the wealthy ruling elites. The Sadducees rejected the teachings of the Pharisees, especially their oral traditions and newer innovations.
Closely associated with the Jerusalem Temple and with the ruling council (Sanhedrin) of the Jews (Acts 4:1; 5:17; 23:6).
The Gospels portray them (often together with the Pharisees) mainly as opponents of Jesus (Matthew 16:1-12; Mark 18:12-27).
The scribes were men specially trained in writing, and thus influential as interpreters and teachers of the Law, and agents of the rulers.
Most of their duties involved writing, for example, producing legal documents, recording deeds, copying scriptures, teaching people, etc. Since they specialized in the interpretation of the Law (Torah), scribes are sometimes translated and regarded as lawyers.
Only Luke uses the technical Greek term for lawyer (nomikos, Strong's Concordance Number #G3544, as found in Luke 7:30; 10:25; etc.) in referring to the scribes.
The Gospels usually portray scribes (along with chief priests, elders and Pharisees) as opponents of Jesus who actively sought his death (Mark 11:27). The book of Acts also portrays them as opponents of the early Christians (Acts 4:5; 6:12).