To better understand Pharisees, it is important to examine their name and cultural background. Various scholars give the following description of this religious group.
The name seems clearly related to the word paras, “to divide, separate.” This would yield two possible interpretations: “separated ones” and “interpreters” (those who would divide Scripture and thus interpret) … But from whom did they separate? The general consensus is that they separated from the “people of the land,” the ‘am ha’ares. This was a designation of the illiterate and the unrefined people of the land, the peasants, whose illiteracy impeded any careful fidelity to the religious duties such as concerned tithes and cleanness.
Others have described them as an overly zealous religious political party who were threatened by society and sought to cut themselves off from everyone else, especially those they deemed “unholy.” Whatever the historical reality was, Jesus did not paint them in a favorable light.