Sadducees: Wikis


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The Sadducees (or Tzedukim) were a group of Jews opposed to the Pharisees (today's Rabbinical Jews), founded in the second century BC. They ceased to exist sometime after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem (Herod's Temple) in 70AD.



The Hebrew name, Tsdoki, indicates that they are the followers of the teachings of the High Priest Tsadok, often spelled Zadok, who anointed Solomon king at the start of the First Temple Period.


The Sadducees were a priestly group, Aaronites, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sadducees represented the aristocratic group of the Hasmonean High Priests, who replaced the previous High Priestly lineage. The earlier Priestly lineage had been blamed for allowing the Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes to desecrate the Temple of Jerusalem with idolatrous sacrifices and to martyr monotheistic Jews. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the ousting of the Syrian forces, the rededication of the Temple, and the installment of the new Hasmonean priestly line. The Hasmoneans ruled as "priest-kings", claiming the titles of high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the "Apikorsus" אפיקורסות (i.e., Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

The Dead Sea Scrolls community, which is popularly thought to have been Essene, was led by a high priestly leadership[citation needed], who are thought to be the descendents of the "legitimate" high priestly lineage, which the Hasmoneans ousted. The Dead Sea Scrolls bitterly opposed the current high priests of the Temple. Since Hasmoneans constituted a different priestly line, it was in their political interest to emphasize their family's priestly pedigree that descended from their ancestor, the high priest Zadok, who had the authority to anoint the kingship of Solomon, son of David.

The Sadducees rejected the Oral Torah (Talmud), which the Pharisees claimed to be a continuously passed down oral tradition which Moses received on Mount Sinai as a companion and elucidation of the Written Torah (Five Book of Moses). Instead they insisted on strict literal interpretation of the Five books of Moses, the Written Torah.

Most of what is known about the Sadducees comes from Josephus:

For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essenes...the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, and take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil; and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men's own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to every one, that they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades...The Sadducees one towards another is in some degree wild, and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them.[1]

We know something of them from discussions in the Talmud (mainly the Jerusalem), the core work of rabbinic Judaism, which is based on the teachings of Pharisaic Judaism.


Sadducees followed the Hebrew Bible literally. They rejected the Pharisees' notion of an Oral Torah even before it was written (the written Oral Torah, the Talmud consisting of the Mishnah and Gemara which were completed by many Pharisee rabbis by 500 AD) by which the Pentateuch could be explained hermeneutically.

An example of this differing approach is the interpretation of the law of retribution (lex talionis):

And a man, when he maims his fellow, as he has done, so shall be done to him. A fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth—as he gives a wound in a man, so shall be given in him. (Leviticus 24:19-20)

Most Pharisees understood this to mean that the value of an eye was to be sought by the perpetrator rather than actually removing his eye too. In the Sadducees' view the law was to be taken literally.

R' Yitzhak Isaac Halevy Rabinowitz suggests that while there is evidence of a Sadducee sect from the times of Ezra, it emerged as major force only after the Hasmonean rebellion. The reason for this was not, in fact, a matter of religion. He claims that as complete rejection of Judaism would not have been tolerated under the Hasmonean rule, the Hellenists joined the Sadducees maintaining that they were rejecting not Judaism but Rabbinic law. Thus, the Sadducees were for the most part a political party and not a religious sect (Dorot Ha'Rishonim).

Professor Lawrence Schiffman also cites interpretations of the purity regulations in the Dead Sea scroll "MMT" (ca. 150 BC) which closely parallel Sadducean views recorded by the spiritual heirs of the Pharisees, who authored the Talmud (Oral Law). But more importantly, he identifies very detailed Pharisaic (or proto-Pharisaic) views in the MMT scroll. However there is evidence[2] that there was an internal schism among those called "Sadducees"—some who rejected Angels, the Soul, and Resurrection—and some which accepted these teachings and the entirety of the Hebrew Bible.

In regard to criminal jurisdiction they were so rigorous that the day on which their code was abolished by the Pharisaic Sanhedrin under Simeon ben Shetah's leadership, during the reign of Salome Alexandra, was celebrated as a festival. The Sadducees are said to have insisted on the literal execution of the law of retaliation: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth", which pharisaic Judaism, and later rabbinic Judaism, rejected. On the other hand, they would not inflict the death penalty on false witnesses in a case where capital punishment had been wrongfully carried out, unless the accused had been executed solely in consequence of the testimony of such witnesses.

According to the Talmud, they granted the daughter the same right of inheritance as the son in case the son was dead (see chapter Yeish Nochalin of the Babylonain Talmud, tractate Bava Batra). Emet L' Yaakov explains that the focus of their argument was theological. The question was whether there is an afterlife (see above), and if there is, can the dead person be in the line of inheritance as if they were alive.

According to the Talmud, they contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering ("omer") to Shavuot (Pentecost in Christian reference) should, according to Leviticus 23:15-16, be counted from "the day after Sabbath," and, consequently, that Shavuot should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg. Ta'an. i.; Men. 65a). In this they followed a literal reading of the Bible which regards the festival of the firstlings as having no direct connection with Passover, while the Pharisees, connecting the festival of the Exodus with the festival of the giving of the Law, interpreted the "morrow after the Sabbath" to signify the second day of Passover.

In regard to rituals at the temple in Jerusalem:

  • They held that the daily burnt offerings were to be offered by the high priest at his own expense, whereas the Pharisees contended that they were to be furnished as a national sacrifice at the cost of the Temple treasury into which taxes were paid.
  • They held that the meal offering belonged to the priest's portion; whereas the Pharisees claimed it for the altar.
  • They insisted on an especially high degree of purity in those who officiated at the preparation of the ashes of the Red Heifer. The Pharisees, by contrast, opposed such strictness.
  • They declared that the kindling of the incense in the vessel with which the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was to take place outside, so that he might be wrapped in smoke while meeting the Shekhinah within, according to Lev. xvi. 2; whereas the Pharisees, denying the high priest the claim of such supernatural vision, insisted that the incense be kindled within.
  • They opposed the popular festivity of the water libation and the procession preceding it on each night of the Sukkot feast.
  • They opposed the Pharisaic assertion that the scrolls of the Holy Scriptures have, like any holy vessel, the power to render ritually unclean the hands that touch them.
  • They opposed the Pharisaic idea of the eruv, the merging of several private precincts into one in order to admit of the carrying of food and vessels from one house to another on the Sabbath.
  • In dating all civil documents they used the phrase "after the high priest of the Most High," and they opposed the formula introduced by the Pharisees in divorce documents, "According to the law of Moses and Israel".
  • Sirach, one of the Deuterocanonical books by Ben Sira, is believed by many scholars to have been authored by a Sadducee[citation needed] (note, the Talmud says clearly it was rejected by the Sadducees).[citation needed]

Reliability of claims

None of the writings we have about Sadducees present their own side of these controversies, and it is possible that positions attributed to "Sadducees" in later literature such as Josephus are meant as rhetorical foils for whatever opinion the author wishes to present, and do not in fact represent the teachings of the sect.[3]

Legendary origin

Josephus relates nothing concerning the origin of the Sadducees; he knows only that the three "sects" — the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees — dated back to "very ancient times" (Ant. xviii. 1, § 2), which point to a time prior to John Hyrcanus (ib. xiii. 8, § 6) or the Maccabean war (ib. xiii. 5, § 9).

Among the rabbis of the second century the following legend circulated: Antigonus of Soko, successor of Simeon the Just, the last of the Men of the Great Assembly, taught the maxim, "Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of a reward, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving a reward" (Avot 1:3); whereupon two of his disciples, Zadok and Boethus, mistaking the high ethical purport of the maxim, arrived at the conclusion that there was no future retribution, saying, "What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?" Instantly they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using many silver and gold vessels at their banquets; and they established schools which declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These two schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees and Boethusians.

New Testament/Greek Scriptures

The Sadducees are mentioned in the New Testament/Greek Scriptures of the Christian Bible. The Gospel of Matthew indicates that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Matthew 22:29, 31-32 says:

29 In reply Jesus said to them: “You are mistaken, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God ... [30] ... 31 As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.”

The Acts of the Apostles likewise indicates that Sadducees did not share the Pharisees’ belief in a resurrection; Paul starts a conflict during his trial, by claiming that his accusers were motivated by his advocacy of the doctrine of the resurrection (in an aside, Acts 23:8 asserts that “The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three”).

The End of the Sadducees

Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD the Sadducees vanish from history as a group. There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times, which may have been the origins of Karaite Judaism. In refutations of Sadducean beliefs, Karaite Sages such as Ya'akov al-Qirqisani quoted one of their texts, which was called Sefer Zadok. Translations into English of some of these quotes can be found in Zvi Cahn's "Rise of the Karaite sect".

See also


  1. ^ Flavius Josephus 'The Wars of the Jews'.
  2. ^ Cf., for one example of a sect that could have represented a Sadducee schism and did believe in Angels, the Afterlife, etc.: Lawrence H. Schiffman, 'The Sadducean Origins of the Dead Sea Scroll Sect', in Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. H. Shanks, New York: Random House, 1993, pp. 35-49. It is widely known that the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls never recognizably refer to themselves as "Essenes"—possibly due to the fact that they wrote mainly in Hebrew and Aramaic, whereas we have the term "Essenes" from Greek—but they do refer to themselves in various places as the "Zadokites"/"Sons of Zadok", which term is apparently identical to that by which the Sadducees identified themselves. Among other arguments for a Sadducean Essene origin, Schiffman also cites interpretations of the purity regulations which closely parallel Sadducean views recorded by the spiritual heirs of the Pharisees, who authored the Talmud.
  3. ^ Meyer Waxman - History of Jewish Literature Vol.1- in reference to Josephus

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SADDUCEES, a sect or party of the Jews mentioned in the historical books of the New Testament (with the exception of the fourth Gospel), by Josephus, and in the Talmud. According to all the authorities, the essential qualification for the title is the denial of certain beliefs which the Pharisees held to be implicitly contained in Scripture, and therefore necessarily part of Judaism as soon as they were formulated. From their own point of view they were orthodox conservatives, so far as they really cared to remain - for whatever reason - within the pale of Jewry and to justify their presence there. From the standpoint of the Pharisees who championed the hope of everlasting life and believed in the existence of angels, through whom God could communicate with men, they were infidels. As the Pharisees accumulated the oral tradition which was afterwards codified and elaborated or preserved by fragments, which served some useful purpose, in the Talmud and other Rabbinic writings, the Sadducees acquired concrete regulations to oppose so long as they dared. The Pharisees even improved upon the Temple ritual, and their popularity enabled them to force the Pharisees into adopting the improvements.

But though some of those who bore the title may be reckoned at their best as orthodox conservatives, their position was, as far as our mainly Pharisaic authorities permit us to learn, merely negative; and all the information we possess, whether it rests on facts or on prejudice, points to their close affinity with the Jews who renounced their faith altogether and advertised the fact - say by habitual and unwarranted breach of the Sabbath, for example. In fact, broadly speaking, the Sadducees for the period during which they are reported to exist, represent and embody the tendency to conformity with neighbouring Gentiles, which is deplored and denounced by Jewish writers from Moses to Philo. And there is this to be said that idolatry may be an outward symbol of a real indebtedness to idolaters which is not necessarily wiped out when the tangible idols are smashed. Idolatry is plainly incompatible with the law of Moses: so were Greek caps; but the Jews who conformed to Hellenism in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes acquired much that was conserved and utilized in that great attempt to convert the Greek world to Judaism, whose best monument is the works of Philo. The process is normal: first, there is an unqualified adoption of a foreign culture by the Sadducees of the time being: then, after unqualified opposition, the Pharisees of the time admit whatever is admissible within the four corners of the Law and are confronted by other Sadducees who have not followed the first into temporary or permanent separation from the existing Jewish way of life and absorption in the immediate foreign environment, and who, therefore, will have none of the current innovations which the Pharisees have in course of time selected as capable of assimilation and reconciliation with the existing body of growing doctrine and practice. The Jews spoiled the Egyptians: some made a golden calf and worshipped it: others destroyed it and turned the spoils into vessels for the sanctuary: some again sighed for the fleshpots of Egypt, if they did not actually return thither.

The controversies of the Pharisees and Sadducees afford a typical example of this process. With the approval of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Sadducean section embraced the outward forms of Hellenism, and out of the persecution of the orthodox which followed was born the hope of a future life which was in the circumstances the necessary corollary of God's righteousness and was discovered to be latent in Scripture. Later Sadducees, who actually bore the name, resisted this and all the characteristics of the Pharisees and continued to flatter the predominant foreigner - Greek or Roman - by imitating him with less reckless bravado than the first Hellenizers and with growing assurance. They were men of the world, and men of this world, and, so far as they still professed and practised Judaism, they preferred to repudiate the additions for which they felt no need, but which had entered into the faith of their fathers. The Pharisees, who pruned and fed the tree of Judaism so that it might bear fruit for the healing of the Nation - and the nations in the latter days - gave them the opportunity of posing as the champions of the primitive standards. But, though the reformers thus played into the hands of the Sadducees, the people were not deceived by the badge which Sadducean priests adopted and paraded to save their faces: they loved the Pharisees and were ready to go to death at their bidding. The Sadducees were the hypocrites of the Jewish world, just as the Epicureans were the hypocrites of the Greek world. The rest of the Jews rated the Sadducees as atheists, just as the rest of the Greeks rated the Epicureans as atheists and discerned, as Plutarch said, the sardonic grin behind the mask of their obsequious devotion to the ceremonies at which the force of public opinion compelled their attendance. The Sadducee was a Jew outwardly so long as he so retained place, power and profit. The destruction of Jerusalem, long before it was consummated in A.D. 70, robbed them of the place and nation which alone compensated them for the inconveniences of their nominal allegiance. They knew well enough the power of invincible Rome; and her advance warned them to take themselves and their talents to the market of the wide world, to which in heart and mind they had always belonged.

Josephus (Ant. xiii. 5.9, §§ 171-173, Niese) introduces the Sadducees along with the Pharisees and Essenes in his account of Jonathan's reign (161-143 B.C.) as the third of the sects of the Jews, and defines their tenets thus: "They deny the existence of God (Josephus says ` Fate,' as he is speaking to pagans) and the Divine government of human affairs; and they assert that everything lies in our power, so that we are responsible for our good or bad fortune." Similarly, in the earlier history of the Jewish War (ii. 8.14, §§ 164-166, Niese) to which he refers, he says: "The Sadducees do away with Destiny altogether and set God beyond the possibility of punishing or supervising men. They assert that man is free to choose good or evil since both are set before him, and that he receives good or evil according to his choice. They deny the immortality of the soul and the punishments and rewards of Hades. In contrast with the mutual friendliness and loyalty of the Pharisees, their behaviour towards one another is lacking in courtesy, and when they mix with their fellow-countrymen, they are as offhanded as if their fellows were aliens." Josephus might have added that they were disposed to treat aliens as they should have treated their friends.

In the New Testament there is already a tendency to ignore the Sadducees and to transfer to the surviving and active sect of the Pharisees denunciations addressed to hypocrites. The feud which set Pharisee and Sadducee against one another is ignored, and generally the condign oblivion which overtook this sect of the Jews is already beginning. The Christian Fathers seem to confound them with the Samaritans, and the confusion is natural enough. The Sadducees were as little loyal to the Judaism of Jerusalem as the Samaritans - and they were less sincere and less interested in religion.

The Talmud reports ancient controversies on points of law; and gives the Sadducees a founder, Zadok the disciple of Antigonus the man of Soco who prohibited the hope of reward for service done to God. But this explanation of the name is as worthless as the rest of the Talmudic accounts of the Sadducees who were already dead and gone. For the present the explanation put forward by A. E. Cowley (Ency. Bib. 4236) holds the field: a Persian word Zindik meaning Zoroastrian, and therefore infidel in the mouths of those who did not hold with Zoroaster, was applied to them by their opponents, and gradually altered so as to mean something in Hebrew - i.e. Zadokite or Righteous. Its acquired significance could be varied by the inflexion of the voice or the suggestion of inverted commas.

Scharer (Geschichte des jiidischen Volkes, ii., 4th ed., pp. 447-456, 475-4 8 9) gives the evidence of the ancient authorities and references to modern studies of the subject. See also JEWS. (J. H. A. H.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Possibly from Hebrew Tsdoki צדוקי [sˤə.ðo.'qi], whence Zadokites or other variants.


Sadducees pl.

  1. Plural form of Sadducee. The sect of the Sadducees (săj'ʊsēz, săd'yʊ–), sect of Jews formed in Palestine around the time of the Hasmonean revolt (c.200 BCE), and ceased to exist sometime after the 1st century CE.

Coordinate terms

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

The origin of this Jewish sect cannot definitely be traced. It was probably the outcome of the influence of Grecian customs and philosophy during the period of Greek domination. The first time they are met with is in connection with John the Baptist's ministry. They came out to him when on the banks of the Jordan, and he said to them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mt 3:7.) The next time they are spoken of they are represented as coming to our Lord tempting him. He calls them "hypocrites" and "a wicked and adulterous generation" (Mt 16:1-4; 22:23). The only reference to them in the Gospels of Mark (12:18-27) and Luke (20:27-38) is their attempting to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, as they also denied the existence of angels. They are never mentioned in John's Gospel.

There were many Sadducees among the "elders" of the Sanhedrin. They seem, indeed, to have been as numerous as the Pharisees (Acts 23:6). They showed their hatred of Jesus in taking part in his condemnation (Mt 16:21; 26:1-3, 59; Mk 8:31; 15:1; Lk 9:22; 22:66). They endeavoured to prohibit the apostles from preaching the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:24, 31, 32; 4:1, 2; 5:17, 24-28). They were the deists or sceptics of that age. They do not appear as a separate sect after the destruction of Jerusalem.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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