During Jesus’ ministry, there were three main sects of the Jews that influenced Jewish politics and culture. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.
Interestingly, the Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament writings. Perhaps their tendencies toward asceticism and monasticism separated them from the common Jew, and limited their influence upon Jewish culture. (Note: It is believed that it was an Essene community, Qumran, that was responsible for the penning of the Dead Sea Scrolls).
The Sadducees were characteristically liberal and secular in their outlook. They were political animals, often affluent, and held the highest political offices among the Jews. “They were a political party, of priestly and aristocratic tendency, as against the more religious and democratic Pharisees” (ISBE, Vol. IV, pg. 2659).