By and large, we today have a largely negative connotation of the Pharisees of the first century. The Pharisees were a group of self-righteous religious leaders who were often the objects of scorn by Jesus.
Jesus said of the sect of the Pharisees as a whole, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Hypocrisy seemed to be the central issue of the Pharisees. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees face to face, he even spoke in much harsher terms than he did when merely speaking to someone else about them.
Once, when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees directly, he told them this: “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” Jesus also called them such things as “unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it,”  as well as “fools” and “hypocrites.”
Even John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, showed no deference to these men who always looked for the most important seats at gatherings and who loved to be honored by others. “You brood of vipers” John bluntly called them. These are the same words that were repeated later by Jesus when he spoke to the Pharisees.
Notwithstanding these comments by Jesus and by John, in the Jewish society at large, the Pharisees actually were largely respected as the religious leaders of the day. They, along with the Scribes (who also were often of the sect of the Pharisees), were the ones who studied and knew the Scriptures.