The religious leaders of the time included chief priests, elders and Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. All were religious leaders. Chief priests were Levites and part of the Aaronic priesthood. Pharisees were very strictly religious people not necessarily of the Levitical tribe (e.g. Paul was a Benjamite) who were attempting to follow the Scriptures literally. The Sadducees were more religiously liberal, and tended to view the requirements of Scripture less literally. The Herodians were aligned with Herod and the government.
Pharisees were typically self-righteous and legalistic, flaunting their own "good works" before others to make themselves appear superior. Jesus referred to them many times as hypocrites.
In Luke 14:8-11, we read the story of the Pharisee who prayed a prayer filled with self-righteousness and pride. He apparently prayed to himself more to impress others than to talk to God. He did not recognize that he needed God`s forgiveness because he, like all mankind, was a sinner. Read that account here.
When Jesus ate with Simon the Pharisee, a prostitute entered the house and Jesus showed grace and mercy to her when we recognized that He was holy. The Pharisees greatly judged Jesus` attitude of grace and mercy. Read that account here.
However, not all Pharisees were religious hypocrites. Nicodemus, who we see in John`s biography of Jesus chapter 3, was a humble man who recognized Jesus for Who He was-God`s Son.
Read more accounts about Pharisees in the biographies of Jesus here.
Category: What is a Pharisee?