It is remarkable to see how Webster 1913 allows itself to be swept by misconceptions and ignorance and present a completely twisted image of historical facts based on shallow christiano-centrism.

To describe the Pharisee as elitists who sought to separate themselves from other Jews by "pretensions to superior sanctity" shows nothing but debilitating ignorance or perhaps malicious libel.

The Pharisee were one of the two major parties in the jewish Sanhedrin, the high religious court that constituted during the days of the Maccabaei kings a sort of parliament. The other major party (the Sadducee party) represented mainly the nobility, the priests and levites of the temple, whereas the Pharisee party were mostly of humble upbringing, and much of the social edicts of the Mishnah and the Talmud were passed thanks to the Pharisee.

Anyone who's ever read anything written by a Pharisee should be able to see how there was nothing farther from their minds than being separated from anything, or to consider themselves holier than most.

The Pharisee were the ones who disregarded ritual as such, and were most lenient in their interpretations of halachic laws, starting with Old Rabbi Hillel (earlier, really) and ending with Rabbi Akiva.

The Pharisee resisted adamantly most of the expansionist tendencies of the Maccabaei kings, Alexander-Yanai in particular, and demanded the sumpremecy of the Sanhedrin and its law over the kings.

They resisted the forcible conversion to Judaism that Alexander-Yanai performed in Edom, and were the main jewish opposition movement to Herod.

They were also among the sternest opponents to early Christianity (and for that, probably, they owe their disrepute), considering any religion whose god can be human and can die, pagan, and any religion that does not admit the absolute unity and oneness of god (and faith in the Holy Trinity was not considered so), polytheist, and therefore they considered Christians heretics, (this is largely still the perspective of many Orthodox jews in regard to christianity).

The name 'Pharisee' itself ('Prushim' in Hebrew) was almost never used by them. Rather they usually refered to themselves as The Brothers ('HaAkhim') or The Brotherhood ('HaAkhvah'). Another common name for them was 'The Writers' (HaSofrim).

One might also note that Pharisean Judaism evolved in later time to Rabbinical Judaism, which is the most important (almost exclusive) form of Judaism today.