Who were the Sadducees?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Sadducees

The Sadducees were a sect of Jews active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC. Their sect became extinct after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The name “Sadducees” is related to the Hebrew verbal form sadaq (tsahdak), “to be righteous.” The Sadducees were described by Josephus, in Antiquities, as opposed to the Pharisees and the Essenes. These groups differed in their beliefs, social statuses, and sacred texts.

During the time of Christ and the New Testament era, this group were the aristocrats. They occupied the majority of the 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. Although they held more of the leadership positions, they submitted to the demands of the Pharisees. For the people trusted the Pharisees because of their zeal to the law.

This sect did not relate well to the common individual because they were accommodating to Rome and were the wealthy upper class. According to the historian Josephus, many priests belonged to the Sadducees but not all priests were Sadducees. Their religious responsibilities included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple. Their high social status got strengthened by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah. In their work, they rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. Rather, they saw the Torah as the sole source of divine authority.

The Sadducees were more concerned with politics than religion. And they were unconcerned with Jesus until they feared He might bring unwanted Roman interference. So, the Sadducees joined forces with the Pharisees and planned to put Jesus to death (John 11:48-50; Mark 14:53; 15:1).

Theology

The Sadducees asserted a literal interpretation of the text of Scripture whereas the Pharisees, treated their own traditions as having equal authority as the Scriptures (Matthew 9:14; Mark 7:1-23; Luke 11:42). They let their zeal for the law to overpower their love for the Lord and for their fellow men. Finally, they rejected the Messiah and became His most bitter and deadly opponents (Matthew 27:20-22; Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21).

The Sadducees held the following beliefs: there is no Resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8), there is no after life, no rewards or penalties after death and there is no existence of a spiritual world including angels and demons (Acts 23:8). And they relied on their own self-righteousness for salvation. Clearly, these beliefs contradict the scriptures and for that Jesus rebuked them saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Additional reference to this sect is found in Acts 4:1 and Acts 5:17. The Saducees were involved in the death of James as referred by Josephus (Acts 12:1-2). They produced no literary works themselves. However, their attributes can be seen in other texts, as the New Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mishnah and Talmud.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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