From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

The Sadducees were a Jewish sect or party best known by their opposition to the Pharisees.

1. Sources. -Our knowledge of the Sadducees, such as it is, is derived from the following sources: (a) Gospels and Acts; (b) Josephus; (c) Rabbinical writings, mainly Mishna, Tosefta, Sifre, Sifra, and Mechilta (these are all of comparatively late date, but their value is unquestionable as embodying earlier traditions. They record various disputes that took place between Pharisees and Sadducees); (d) Zadokite fragments (these are two fragments discovered quite recently in the Cairo Genizah. They deal with the beliefs and practices of a sect that lived in Damascus probably two centuries b.c., and was clearly Sadducean). Some references to Sadducees are found in various Church Fathers, but they have no independent value. It has to be remarked of the evidence of Josephus that it almost seems that part of what he had to say regarding Pharisees and Sadducees has been lost. In Ant. XIII. v. 9, XVIII. i. 2, he refers to Bellum Judaicum (Josephus)ii., but there we find only a scanty reference to Pharisees and Sadducees, while his notice of the Essenes is full. Further, the tendency of Josephus to bring Jewish parties into line with Greek schools of philosophy detracts somewhat from the value of his account.

2. The name. -The explanation of the name ‘Sadducee’ has long been a puzzle. Only two views need to be mentioned. (a) It has long been held that the name is derived from a certain priest Zadok. The difficulty has been to identify the Zadok in question. A linguistic difficulty has also been urged, to account for the form Zaddúkîm from Zadok. This, however, disappears when we find that in the Septuagintand in Josephus the name is spelt Zaddok. (b) The view in Encyclopaedia Biblicasupported by Encyclopaedia Britannica11 (see article‘Sadducees’) is that the word represents the Persian zandik. In modern Persian zandik means a Zoroastrian, hence an infidel. It is argued that, just as the Greek ἐπικοῦρος was used by Jews as = ‘infidel,’ the Persian zandik was probably applied to this sect, who, from the standpoint of the Pharisees were little better than infidels, and who further supported the introduction of foreign customs. Further, in the Arabic NT ‘Sadducee’ is translated zandakiya. It must be admitted that this view is ingenious. Its difficulties are obvious, a chief one being that we cannot argue safely from modern Persian to an ante-Christian usage. Besides, if we are to admit that the Zadokite fragments are Sadducean in character and origin-and this cannot easily be denied-it is beyond doubt that in this case the old and widely held opinion is correct. (For full discussion see W. O. E. Cesterley, The Books of the Apocrypha, their Origin, Teaching, and Contents, London, 1914, p. 132f.)

3. Opposition to the Pharisees. -That the two parties were hostile is known to all. How precisely and concisely the difference is to be defined is a problem of great difficulty. Our knowledge of the Sadducees in particular is not extensive, and a large portion of it comes from sources that certainly were not sympathetic. Geiger’s view that the Sadducees were aristocratic while the Pharisees were democratic is true so far, but does not bring out the fact that their differences were notably theological or give any explanation of those divergences. J. R. Hanne’s view that Pharisees and Sadducees carried on the old conflict of prophetism and priestism is attractive, but according to the NT it is the Pharisees who are blinded and enslaved by that ceremonialism and externalism against which prophetism protested. Wellhausen’s view that the Pharisees were essentially those devoted to the Law on religious grounds while the Sadducees were essentially a political party has really little evidence in its favour, and all our authorities agree in representing the differences between the two parties as to a great extent doctrinal. (For reference to those views see A. Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristentums, Leipzig, 1884, p. 86 f.) Instead of attempting the ambitious task of expressing the differences in any one phrase, we shall do better simply to set down what is known of them as they existed.

(a) Standard of faith and practice.-The fundamental difference between Pharisees and Sadducees was that relating to the supreme arbiter of all disputes. What is the standard? What the final court of appeal? The Sadducees held that it was contained only in the written Law. The Pharisees held that the oral traditions were as authoritative at least as the written Law.

‘The Pharisees have delivered to the people from the tradition of the fathers all manner of ordinances not contained in the laws of Moses; for which reason the sect of the Sadducees reject these ordinances; for they affirm that only such laws ought to be observed as are written, while those which are orally delivered from the tradition of the fathers are not binding. And concerning these things great questionings have arisen among them’ (Jos. Ant. xiii. x. 6).

All other sources fully bear out the accuracy of this statement, which in a sense is the most important that we have. In its light everything else must be read and where necessary corrected. It explains the negations or Agnosticism of the Sadducean creed: no doctrine that was not clearly taught in the written Law possessed for them validity or certainty. It explains why they were more rigid than the Pharisees in enforcing the penal law (Ant. XIV. iv. 2 f.). It would be misleading to call the Sadducees the Protestants of Judaism, but there is some similarity between their divergence from the Pharisees and the divergence of Protestants from Roman Catholics on the question of authority. In both cases we have an appeal to the written Word alone, as against an appeal to the Word plus traditions, precedents, and ecclesiastical judgments. For the latter the Pharisees claimed the same sort of infallibility as the Roman Church attaches to ex cathedra pronouncements by the pope.

How did this conflict eventuate? In reality there was a clear victory for neither. Pharisaism and Sadduceeism in their long discussions affected each other. On the one hand, the complexities of life convinced the Sadducees that cases had to be met for which there was no definite guidance in the written Word, and popular feeling compelled them to fall in with the procedure of the Pharisees (Ant. XVIII. i. 4). Still, we may take it, they strove to make all new regulations in harmony with the Word. On the other hand, their insistence on the supreme authority of the Word led to an intensive study of the Word by the Pharisees, who were concerned to show, just as a Roman Catholic is, that the oral tradition was really based upon the Word. Hence the Pharisees won, but only by doing full justice to the Sadducean position.

‘The Pharisees won the day ultimately, for they were able to show by subtle exegesis that the oral tradition was based upon the written Law. But, and this is the great point, the Sadducaean principle was thus victorious; as a party they went under; but the Pharisees, by adopting the Sadducaean principle that nothing is binding that cannot be shown to be in accordance with the written Law, implicitly acknowledged that the Sadducees had been right all along’ (Cesterley, op. cit., p. 143).

(b) Providence.-According to Josephus, the Sadducees did not believe in Providence.

While the Pharisees, he tells us, hold that some things in the world happen by the will of Providence, and that other things lie in the power of men, ‘the Sadducees take away Providence, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power’ (Ant. XIII. v. 9). ‘The Sadducees take away Providence 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’ (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus)II. viii. 14).

We cannot admit that this is an accurate account of Sadducean belief. Josephus is here straining the position of the Sadducees into correspondence with the Epicureans and sceptical individualists of Greece. If the Sadducees were the stalwart supporters of the written Word, they could not have held such a view of God and the world. Further, if Josephus is accurate here, passages such as  Matthew 3:7;  Matthew 16:1,  Acts 5:39 f. become unintelligible. There it is implied that Sadducees believe in wrath to come, in signs from heaven, in the danger of fighting against God. Again, while Rabbinical writings contain no evidence of any dispute with the Pharisees on this topic-a silence which is very significant-the Zadokite fragments show the Sadducean doctrine of God to be in harmony with OT teaching (see Cesterley, op. cit., p. 145f.). We conclude that on this topic there was no essential difference between Pharisees and Sadducees. It follows that the popular idea of Sadducees as irreligious and rationalist is as baseless as the idea that all Pharisees were whited sepulchres.

(c) The future life.-It is clear that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the body ( Acts 23:8). Did they believe in the immortality of the soul? According to Josephus, they did not.

‘They take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul and the punishments and rewards in Hades’ (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus)II. viii. 14).

Cesterley tries to show that in this point also Josephus is untrustworthy. Josephus, he holds rightly enough, does not separate the questions of resurrection and immortality, and represents for his Greek readers, to whom resurrection was an unfamiliar idea, the denial of the one as a denial of the other. This is not improbable in itself, but it is difficult to explain away the agreement on this point between Josephus and  Acts 23:8, ‘The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit.’ Cesterley very properly connects this usage of ‘angel’ with  Acts 12:15, ‘It is his angel.’ And he argues that what is meant is that Sadducees did not believe that the departed become angels or spirits (op. cit., p. 147 f.). It is not obvious how he can conclude that probably the Sadducees believed in the immortality of the soul, after admitting that they did not believe in resurrection or in the departed becoming spirits. Probably on this point the Sadducees took Agnostic ground. Their supreme standard being the written Law, it is difficult to see what else they could have done.

(d) Attitude to foreign influences.-In strong contrast to the Pharisees (see articlePharisees), the Sadducees were sympathetic to foreign, especially Hellenistic, culture. This contrast between the two parties is surprising. The Sadducees stood for the old truth against the innovations of the Pharisees. The latter were the party of progress. Yet it was the conservative Sadducee who embraced foreign culture with enthusiasm, and the progressive Pharisee who bitterly opposed it. In the history of the conflicts of political and ecclesiastical parties it is no unusual thing to find the opponents apparently exchanging rôles. Often no better explanation can be given than that suggested by Cesterley in this case, ‘the innate illogic of human nature’ (op. cit., p. 155).

(e) The Messiah.-The Sadducees held that Aaron and his family were the chosen of God from whom Messiah should proceed.

(f) The calendar.-Into this complicated subject we have no occasion to enter. It is sufficient to say that endless disputes were carried on between the two parties as to the correct dates of the feasts, arising from the fact that while the Pharisees reckoned by a lunar year, the Sadducees computed a solar year (see Cesterley, op. cit., p. 150 f.).

4. Position and influence. -In our period the Sadducees were in the position of an aristocracy. ‘This doctrine is received but by a few, yet by those still of the greatest dignity’ (Jos. Ant. XVIII. i. 4). Practically they may be identified with the Temple high-priestly caste, though there were priests who were not Sadducees, and no doubt Sadducees who were not priests. The majority of the Temple officials and their relatives constituted the main portion of the sect of the Sadducees (cf. W. Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, Berlin, 1903, p. 164 f.). The high priest and the whole Temple cultus still possessed considerable influence. But their power was waning. Various movements tended to diminish it. Essenes rejected the Temple rites almost entirely. Several late Jewish works speak deprecatingly of the present Temple compared with the former. The real religious leader was no longer the priest but the scribe. The facts that the Sadducees were harsh in punishing, and that the upkeep of the Temple was so expensive, tended to make the people favour the party who opposed the Sadducees (cf. Bousset, op. cit., p. 87 f.). With the destruction of the Temple Sadduceeism disappeared.

As to the character of the sect our knowledge is too limited to enable any just estimate to be made. According to Josephus, they did not agree too well among themselves.

‘The behaviour of 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’ (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus)II. viii. 14).

Their unpatriotic conduct in Maccabaean times cannot be palliated, and there is reason to fear that worldliness and an eye to the main chance dulled the purity of their devotion to the Law. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the common notion that they were mere politicians and irreligious has absolutely no foundation in the authentic evidence we possess.

5. Attitude to Christianity. -Jesus Himself referred very seldom to the Sadducees; His polemic was directed against the Pharisees. In His protest against their making void the Law by their traditions He was at one with the Sadducees. Yet it was from the Sadducees that the most bitter persecution of Judaea n Christianity arose. We know the part played by the Sadducean Sanhedrin in the trial of Jesus. They continued to persecute His disciples ( Acts 4:1 ff;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 23:1 ff.). Josephus informs us that they were responsible for the death of James, the brother of the Lord (Ant. XX. ix. 1). There can be little doubt as to the reason for this persecution. It began when Jesus interfered with the prerogatives of the Sanhedrin by expelling the money-changers from the Temple-court. Significant also is the stress laid upon His alleged threat to destroy the Temple. In the rise of a party adhering to Jesus they feared political consequences ( John 11:47 ff.). They were in power, and they meant to keep it, and anything that threatened to be a danger to their power or to the Temple cultus with which their power was bound up they strove to destroy. That any Sadducees became Christian we are not told. Many of the priests believed ( Acts 6:7), but that is indecisive, as many priests were not Sadducees. But one of the disciples was ‘known unto the high priest’ ( John 18:15); a considerable degree of intimacy is implied in this statement, and it is very improbable that a friend of the high priest would be anything but a Sadducee. There is a possibility, then, that the author of the Fourth Gospel was once a Sadducee. One would like to think that the two greatest of NT writers were of Pharisee and Sadducee origin respectively. Both sects had their good points, and both their grave errors. Christianity conserved what was good in both, and offered a higher unity in which their differences were transcended.

Literature.-See under Pharisees.

W. D. Niven.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

 Matthew 3:7;  Matthew 16:1;  Matthew 16:6;  Matthew 16:11-12;  Matthew 22:23;  Matthew 22:34;  Mark 12:18;  Luke 20:27;  Acts 4:1;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 23:6-8. Matthew (As Distinguished From Mark) does not usually explain Jewish usages, taking for granted that his readers are familiar with them. His deviating from his wont to explain "the S. say there is no resurrection" is cleared up by what Josephus (Ant. 18:1, section 4) states "the doctrine of the Sadducees is that the soul and body perish together; the law is all that they are concerned to, observe; this doctrine however has not many followers, but those of the highest rank, ... almost nothing of public business falls into their hands." See also his B. J., ii. 8, section 14. Thus the Jews might easily be ill informed as to the dogmas of a sect, small in numbers, raised above those masses to whom Matthew addresses himself, and to whom therefore his information would not have been superfluous.

Another undesigned coincidence, confirming the sacred writers accuracy, is that the opposition to Christ in the Gospels is almost exclusively on the part of the Pharisees ( Matthew 23:29;  Matthew 23:32;  John 11:57;  John 18:3) and His denunciations are mainly against these; but in Acts on the part of the Sadducees ( Acts 4:1;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 23:6;  Acts 23:8). Why so? Because the resurrection of the dead (the doctrine denied by the Sadducees), which was scarcely understood during the Gospels' period ( Mark 9:10), became the leading doctrine of Christianity in connection with the apostles' witness for Christ's resurrection at the time described in  Acts 1:22;  Acts 2:32;  Acts 3:12;  Acts 4:2 (Greek "Preached In The Person Of Jesus The Resurrection From The Dead") ,  Acts 4:10;  Acts 5:31;  Acts 10:40; and was therefore bitterly opposed by the Sadducees.

John never mentions them, and no writing of theirs has come down to us. They denied the oral and upheld the written law. Rabbi Nathan (First Mentioned In The Aruch, A Rabbiical Dictionary, A.D. 1105) states that Antigonus of Socho (Mentioned In The Mishna, Avoth 1, As Having Received The Oral Law From Simon The Just, Last Of The Great Synagogue) . had two disciples, who in turn taught disciples his saying "be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of reward, but serve without view of reward"; and that the disciples reasoned, "if our fathers had known that there is another world, and a resurrection of the dead, they would not have spoken thus"; so they separated themselves from the law (And Denied There Is Another World And A Resurrection) ; "so there arose two sects, the Zadokites from Zadok, and Baithusians from Baithos." But this does not justify the modern notion that Zadok himself misinterpreted Antigonus' saying; still the Sadducees might claim this Zadok as their head.

But the Zadok from whom the Sadducees are named may be rather the famous Zadok who superseded Abiathar under Solomon ( 1 Kings 2:35); "the house of Zadok," "the sons of Zadok," "the seed of Zadok" are named with preeminent honour in  2 Chronicles 31:10;  Ezekiel 40:46;  Ezekiel 42:19;  Ezekiel 44:15;  Ezekiel 48:11; so they became a kind of sacerdotal aristocracy, including the high priests' families; compare Mishna, Sanhed. iv. 2, which ordains that only priests, Levites, and Israelites whose daughters might marry priests, were "clean" so as to be judges in capital trials; also  Acts 5:17, "the high-priest, and all that were with him, which is the sect of the Sadducees." Besides their reasonable denial of an oral law, which the Pharisees maintained was transmitted by Moses, the Sadducees denied the resurrection because it is not explicitly stated in Moses' Pentateuch, the legislator's sanctions of the law being primarily temporal rewards and punishments ( Exodus 20:12;  Exodus 23:25-26;  Deuteronomy 7:12-15;  Deuteronomy 28:1-12;  Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

Christ ( Matthew 22:31-32;  Luke 20:37) however shows that even  Exodus 3:6;  Exodus 3:16 suffices to prove the resurrection; and Hebrew 11 quotes the patriarchs as examples of a faith which looked beyond the present for eternal rewards. Job ( Job 19:26), Isaiah ( Isaiah 26:19), Daniel ( Daniel 12:2), and David (Psalm 16; Psalm 17) express the same faith, the germ of which is in the Pentateuch (See Resurrection .) The Pharisees, though wrong in maintaining oral tradition as obligatory, yet preserved in respect to the resurrection the faith of the fathers. In  Acts 23:8 "the Sadducees" are said to disbelieve in "angel or spirit"; but angels are often introduced in the Pentateuch, which the Sadducees admitted ( Genesis 16:7;  Genesis 19:1;  Genesis 22:11;  Genesis 28:12;  Exodus 23:20;  Numbers 22:23); and Josephus and the Mishna do not mention their disbelief of angels.

Probably it is only their disbelief of angelic communications to men in their time, such as the Pharisees suggested ( Acts 23:9) may have been made to Paul, that the Sadducees denied. Josephus states, "the Pharisees say that some things are the work of fate (He Should Have Said God'S Providence; He Uses The Roman Mode Of Expression) , but others in our own power to be or not to be; the Essenes, that fate rules all things. The Sadducees make all things in the power of ourselves as the causes of our good things, and meeting with evils through our own inconsiderateness" (Ant. 18:1, section 3; B. J. 2:8, section 14).

The Sadducees, though giving paramount authority to Moses' Pentateuch, did not as Epiphanius asserts (Haer. 14) reject the other Scriptures; for Josephus would certainly have mentioned it were it so. After the fall of Jerusalem the Sadducees doctrine disappeared, the afflicted Jews instinctively turning for consolation from the sad present to the bright hope of an eternal future life. The Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Herodians of Jesus' day represent the three schools antagonistic to vital Christianity in our days: infidelity; superstition, spiritualism and spiritual pride; worldly compromise. This "leaven" (see  Leviticus 2:11;  1 Corinthians 5:8) Jesus warns against; called "doctrine" in  Matthew 16:12, "hypocrisy" in  Luke 12:1, "the leaven of Herod"  Mark 8:15; Antichrist's antitrinity, the three frogs out of the mouth of the dragon, the false prophet, and the beast ( Revelation 16:13-14).

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

Jewish group mentioned in three different contexts in the Synoptic Gospels ( Mark 12:18; [=  Matthew 22:23-34;  Luke 20:27 ];  Matthew 3:7;  16:1-12 ) and six in Acts (4:1; 5:17; 23:6-8). They always appear as inquisitors or opponents of John the Baptist, Jesus, or the early Christians.  Acts 23:8 defines the Sadducees theologically, saying that, in contrast to the Pharisees, they hold there "is no resurrection, and neither angels nor spirits." The Sadducean rejection of the resurrection is the point at issue in   Mark 12:18 and parallels. Additional information about them, primarily through the Jewish historian, Josephus, and the rabbinic writings, is scanty and hostile. Rabbinic writings sometimes interchange the term "Sadducee" with "Samaritans" (here meaning "opponents") and "Boethuians." The latter is probably from their connection with the house of Boethus, from which came several high priests during the New Testament period.

It should be noted that the "Herodians" ( Matthew 22:16;  Mark 3:6;  12:13 ) are sometimes assumed to be Sadducees. Their name identifies them as members of household-court of the Herods or supporters of the dynasty. It may be assumed that the Sadducees generally supported Herod and his reigning descendants (although Herod executed forty-five of them at the beginning of his reign), but there is no evidence for equating the Herodians and Sadducees.

The name "Sadducee" is closely associated with attempts to determine the origin of this group. Suggestions include linking it with an Old Testament priestly family (Zadok), the Hebrew word for "just" or "righteous" ( sdq ) or "fiscal officials" (Gk. syndikoi ). There are problems with etymologies and all other attempts to identify their origin.

Josephus lists the Sadducees as one of the three sects/groups of Jewish "philosophy" ( Ant 18.1.2 [11]; cf. 13.5.9 [293]). His first historical reference says John Hyrcanus (135-105 b.c.) came under their influence after his break with the Pharisees. Josephus describes them as argumentative ( Ant 18.1.4 [16]), "boorish" and "rude" to both each other and aliens ( War 2.9.14 [166]), few in number but including "men of the highest standing" ( Ant 18.1.4 [17]). They have "the confidence of the wealthy" but not the populace ( Ant 13.1.4 [298]). When exercising their office the Sadducees were forced by public opinion to follow "the formulas of the Pharisees" ( Ant 18.1.4 [17]). Evidently they were more severe in administering punishments than Pharisees ( Ant 13.10.6 [294]). Like the New Testament, Josephus mentions the Sadducean rejection of the resurrection ( War 2.9.14 [165]); and twice says they rejected "Fate" (predestination) to dissociate God from evil and to assert the human free choice of good or evil ( War 2.9.14 [165]; Ant 18.1.4 [14]).

Josephus says, "The Pharisees had passed on certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Laws of Moses, rejected by the Sadducean group, who hold only those regulations should be considered valid which were written down (in Scripture)" ( Ant 13.10.6 [297]; cf. Ant 18.1.4 [16]). This points toward a major feature of Sadduceanism: rejection of the Pharisaic Oral Law, or "the traditions of the elders." In the centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 b.c.), the Pharisees compiled and transmitted orally a body of traditional interpretations, adaptations, and additions to Scripture that they believed to be of divine origin. These included ways of applying the Law to various situations—expansion and prescriptions regarding a wide range of levitical ceremonies and regulations. These traditions also included certain theological points, such as resurrection and angels and spirits, which, although not particularly emphasized in the Old Testament, were prominent during the intertestamental period. Although the Sadducees rejected the Pharisaic Oral Law they certainly had their own traditions, interpretations, and procedures.

In  Acts 5:17 those with the high priest are identified as "the party of the Sadducees." Josephus depicts the Sadducees as closely associated with the priestly Hasmonean rulers. By the time of the New Testament they appear to be the majority in the Sanhedrin, over which the high priest presided.

Religiously, the Sadducees were literal in handling the Old Testament Law and resisted the "new" ideas and traditions of the Pharisees. Politically and socially, they were open to rapprochement with Hellenistic (Greek) culture and the Roman political system. The Sadducees were essentially secularists, a result of their exclusion of God ("Fate") from human affairs and their conviction that humans can expect nothing beyond this life. In general it seems the Sadducees supported those interpretations and procedures that enhanced the prestige, power, and financial benefit of the priestly temple cult and the aristocracy.

Jesus and the early Christians posed a threat to the Sadducees ( John 11:47-50 ). Jesus' proclamation of the reality of the spiritual realm, his denunciation of the Jewish religion as then practiced, and his wide popular support could have endangered the already precarious position of the Sadducees. Furthermore, Jesus and his followers supported some of the positions of the Pharisees. The Sadducees found particularly objectionable the Christian proclamation that in Jesus the resurrection is a present reality ( Acts 4:2 ).

The Sadducees were inseparably bound to the external political, social, and especially the temple-centered institutions of Judaism. With the destruction of the Jewish state and temple in a.d. 70, they passed into the pages of history.

J. Julius Scott, Jr.

See also Pharisees

Bibliography . E. E. Ellis, NTS 10 (1963-64): 274ff.; L. L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian  ; A. J. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society  ; E. Schrer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ  ; M. Simon, The Jewish Sects at the Time of Jesus  ; S. Zeitlin, The Sadducees and the Pharisees .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Sad'ducees. (Followers Of Zadok).  Matthew 3:7;  Matthew 16:1;  Matthew 16:,6;  Matthew 16:11-12;  Matthew 22:23;  Matthew 22:31;  Mark 12:18;  Luke 20:27;  Acts 4:1;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 23:6-8. A religious party, or school, among the Jews, at the time of Christ , who denied that the oral law was a revelation of God to the Israelites. And who deemed the written law alone, to be obligatory on the nation, as of divine authority. Except on one occasion.  Matthew 16:1;  Matthew 16:4;  Matthew 16:6, Christ never assailed the Sadducees with the same bitter denunciations, which he uttered against the Pharisees.

The origin of their name is involved in great difficulties, but the most satisfactory conjecture is that the Sadducees, or Zadokites, were originally identical with the sons of Zadok, and constituted what may be termed a kind of sacerdotal aristocracy, this Zadok being the priest who declared in favor of Solomon, when Abiathar took the part of Adonijah.  1 Kings 1:32-45. To these sons of Zadok were, afterward, attached all who, for any reason, reckoned themselves as belonging to the aristocrats; such, for example, as the families of the high priest, who had obtained consideration under the dynasty of Herod. These were for the most part judges, and individuals of the official and governing class.

This explanation elucidates at once,  Acts 5:17, the leading tenet of the Sadducees was the negation of the leading tenet of their opponents. As the Pharisees asserted, so the Sadducees denied, that the Israelites were in possession of an oral law transmitted to them by Moses, See Pharisees . In opposition to the Pharisees, they maintained that the written law alone was obligatory on the nation, as of divine authority.

The second distinguishing doctrine of the Sadducees was The Denial Of Man'S Resurrection After Death. In connection with the disbelief of a resurrection by the Sadducees, they likewise, denied there was "angel or spirit,"  Acts 23:8, and also the doctrines of future punishment and future rewards. Josephus states that the Sadducees believed in The Freedom Of The Will, which the Pharisees denied. They pushed this doctrine so far as almost to exclude God, from the government of the world. Some of the early Christian writers attribute to the Sadducees, The Rejection Of All The Sacred Scriptures Except The Pentateuch; a statement, however, that is now generally admitted to have been founded on a misconception of the truth, and it seems to have arisen from a confusion of the Sadducees with the Samaritans.

An important fact in the history of the Sadducees is their rapid disappearance from history, after the first century, and the subsequent predominance among the Jews of the opinions of the Pharisees. Two circumstances contributed, indirectly but powerfully, to produce this result:

first. The state of the Jews after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus; and

second. The growth of the Christian religion.

As to the first point, it is difficult to overestimate the consternation and dismay, which the destruction of Jerusalem occasioned in the minds of sincerely religious Jews. In their hour of darkness and anguish, they naturally turned to the consolations, and hopes of a future state; and the doctrine of the Sadducees, that there was nothing beyond the present life, would have appeared to them, cold, heartless and hateful.

Again, while they were sunk in the lowest depths of depression, a new religion, which they despised as a heresy and a superstition, was gradually making its way among the subjects of their detested conquerors, the Romans.

One of the causes of its success was, undoubtedly, the vivid belief in the resurrection of Jesus , and a consequent resurrection of all mankind, which was accepted by its heathen converts, with a passionate earnestness of which those, who, at the present day, are familiar from infancy, with the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, can form only a faint idea.

To attempt to chock the progress of this new religion, among the Jews, by an appeal to the temporary rewards and punishments of the Pentateuch, would have been as idle an endeavor, as to check an explosive power by ordinary mechanical restraints. Consciously, therefore, or unconsciously, many circumstances combined to induce the Jews who were not Pharisees, but who resisted the new heresy, to rally round the standard of the oral law, and to assert that their holy legislator, Moses, had transmitted to his faithful people by word of mouth, although not in writing, the revelation of a future state of rewards and punishments.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

In New Testament times the two main parties within the Jewish religion were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The beginnings of these two parties can be traced back to the second century BC, when Greek influence was having its effect on the Jewish people.


The influence of Greek ideas in Jewish affairs produced tension between those Jews who favoured it and those who resisted it. When conflict broke out between the two groups, the Greek ruler in Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, used it as an excuse to invade Jerusalem and try to destroy the Jewish religion. (For details of this period of Jewish history see Greece .) Under the leadership of a priestly family known as the Maccabees (or Hasmoneans) the Jews rebelled against Antiochus, and after three years of fighting regained religious freedom (165 BC).

When the Maccabees wanted to keep fighting and regain political freedom as well, the religiously strict Jews objected. They opposed the Maccabees’ political ambitions just as they had opposed the interference of Greek politics in Jewish affairs. These two factions were the forerunners of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The former favoured political as well as religious freedom, whereas the latter were satisfied with religious freedom. The Maccabees carried on the war in spite of internal opposition, and after twenty years they won political independence (143 BC).

A clear division now existed among the Jews. The pro-political group consisted of powerful priests and wealthy leaders who were favoured by the Hasmonean rulers. The other group consisted largely of commoners who were politically powerless but favoured by most of the people. Later, a dispute concerning the Hasmonean ruler’s right to be high priest led to the open formation of the Sadducee and Pharisee parties. (The name ‘Sadducee’ possibly comes from Zadok, the priest of Solomon’s time whose descendants came to be regarded as the only legitimate priestly line;  1 Kings 1:38-39;  Ezekiel 44:15-16;  Ezekiel 48:11; see Zadok .)

Religious power

Some of the Sadducees’ religious beliefs further emphasized the differences between the two parties. The Pharisees followed strictly the traditions handed down from their forefathers, but the Sadducees had little interest in the traditions. They were concerned only with the commandments actually written in the law of Moses. Also, they did not believe in the continued existence of the soul after death, the bodily resurrection of the dead, the directing will of God in the events of life, or the existence of angelic beings. These were all important beliefs for the Pharisees ( Matthew 22:23;  Acts 4:1-2;  Acts 23:7-8).

In spite of their dislike for the Pharisees, the Sadducees readily joined with them to oppose Jesus ( Matthew 16:1-4;  Matthew 22:15;  Matthew 22:23;  Matthew 22:34). Jesus condemned them, along with the Pharisees, for their hypocrisy ( Matthew 16:6;  Matthew 16:12).

Most of the leading priests of New Testament times were Sadducees, and they enjoyed the support of the upper class Jews. The high priest, who was president of the Sanhedrin, was a Sadducee, and through him and his close associates the Sadducees exercised much power in the Sanhedrin ( Acts 4:1-3;  Acts 5:17-21; see Sanhedrin ).

The Sadducees were particularly hostile to the early Christians. This was chiefly for two reasons. Firstly, the apostles’ accusation of injustice on the part of the Sanhedrin was really an accusation against the ruling Sadducees ( Acts 4:5-10;  Acts 5:27-28). Secondly, the church’s rapid growth was based on the truth of the resurrection, which the Sadducees denied ( Acts 4:1-2;  Acts 4:10;  Acts 4:17). The Sadducees had little following among the common people, and in fact were afraid of violence from them if they treated the Christians too harshly ( Acts 4:2;  Acts 4:17;  Acts 4:21;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 5:26). Only when the Pharisees turned against the Christians were the Sadducees able to use the full power of the Sanhedrin against the Christians ( Acts 6:12-15;  Acts 7:58;  Acts 8:1; cf.  Philippians 3:5-6).

With the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, the Sadducees lost the priestly base that had maintained them. The party soon died out.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [6]

SADDUCEES . Probably the name ‘Sadducee’ is derived from the name Zadok , a notable priest in the time of David and Solomon (  2 Samuel 8:17;   2 Samuel 15:24 ,   1 Kings 1:34 ). His descendants long played the leading part among the priests, so that Ezekiel regarded them as the only legitimate priests (  Ezekiel 40:46;   Ezekiel 43:19;   Ezekiel 44:15;   Ezekiel 48:11 ). The name indicates the fact that is most decisive for the right understanding of the Sadducees. About the year 200 b.c., when party lines were beginning to be drawn, the name was chosen to point out the party of the priests. That is not saying that no priest could be a Pharisee or a Scribe. Neither is it saying that all the priests were Sadducees. In our Lord’s time many of the poor priests were Pharisees. But the higher priestly families and the priests as a body were Sadducees. With them were joined the majority of the aristocratic lay families of Judæa and Jerusalem. This fact gives us the key to their career. It is wrapped up in the history of the high priesthood. For two centuries after the Exile the high priesthood earned the right to the leadership of the Jewish nation. But in our Lord’s time its leadership lay far back in the past. Its moral greatness had been undermined on two sides. On one side it had lost touch with what was deepest in the being of the Jews. For the most part this was due to its aristocratic bias. The Levitical priesthood was a close corporation. No man not born a priest could become a priest. More and more, as the interests of the nation widened and deepened, the high priesthood failed to keep pace. Its alliance with the aristocratic families made things worse. The high priesthood and the people drifted apart. No great institution can do that and remain great.

From another side also the political the high priesthood was undermined. Owing to the mixture of Church and State the high priests were necessarily in politics all the time. Consequently the historical process, which ended by incorporating Palestine in the Roman Empire, sucked out of the high priesthood all the moralizing influences involved in the handling of large affairs. So, undermined on two sides, the high priesthood lost the right to lead. And the party built up around it the Sadducees became the party of those who cared more for their own well-being and for the maintenance of things as they were than for the Kingdom of God.

When we turn to the tenets of the Sadducees, it is still the contrast with the Pharisees that puts them in an Intelligible light. Pharisaism, with all its faults, was the heart and soul of the nation, the steward of its treasures the Holy Scriptures the trustee of its vitalizing hope. The Sadducees stood for the tenaciously conservative tendencies in the nation. They lay under the curse which rests upon all aristocracies, the inability to realize that the best things must grow. They denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection of the body (  Mark 12:18 ,   Matthew 22:23 ,   Luke 20:27 ,   Acts 23:8 ). The NT is a better guide in this field than Josephus, who affirms ( BJ II. viii. 14, Ant. XVIII. i. 4) that they denied the immortality of the soul. Josephus overstated things in his desire to make the Jewish parties look like the philosophical schools of Greece. The Sadducees did not deny the immortality of the soul. But they lingered in the past, the period when the belief in Immortality was vague, shadowy, and had not yet become a working motive for goodness. They did not accept the developed faith in immortality which was part and parcel of the Pharisaic teaching regarding the Kingdom of God. And this meant that their nation had outgrown them. The Sadducees also denied the Pharisaic doctrine regarding angels and ministering spirits (  Acts 23:8 ). Thereby they maintained a certain sobriety. They even emancipated themselves from a considerable amount of superstition hound up with Pharisaism. But they paid for it by a wholly disproportionate sacrifice of vital piety.

From this sketch we can see why our Lord had almost no dealings with the Sadducees during His ministry. His interests were with the common people. This brought Him into continual conflict with the Pharisees. It was not until His popularity seemed to threaten the peace of Jerusalem that the high priest, with the Sadducees at his back, was moved to decisive action. We can also see why the Apostolic Church, in her first years, had most to fear from the Sadducees ( Acts 4:1-37;   Acts 5:1-42 ). See also artt. Pharisees, Scribes.

Henry S. Nash.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

a sect among the Jews. It is said that the principles of the Sadducees were derived from Antigonus Sochaeus, president of the sanhedrim, about B.C. 250, who, rejecting the traditionary doctrines of the scribes, taught that man ought to serve God out of pure love, and not from hope of reward, or fear of punishment; and that they derived their name from Sadoc, one of his followers, who, mistaking or perverting this doctrine, maintained that there was no future state of rewards and punishments. Whatever foundation there may be for this account of the origin of the sect, it is certain, that in the time of our Saviour the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead,  Acts 23:8 , and the existence of angels and spirits, or souls of departed men; though, as Mr. Hume observes, it is not easy to comprehend how they could at the same time admit the authority of the law of Moses. They carried their ideas of human freedom so far as to assert that men were absolutely masters of their own actions, and at full liberty to do either good or evil. Josephus even says that they denied the essential difference between good and evil; and, though they believed that God created and preserved the world, they seem to have denied his particular providence. These tenets, which resemble the Epicurean philosophy, led, as might be expected, to great profligacy of life; and we find the licentious wickedness of the Sadducees frequently condemned in the New Testament; yet they professed themselves obliged to observe the Mosaic law, because of the temporal rewards and punishments annexed to such observance; and hence they were always severe in their punishment of any crimes which tended to disturb the public tranquillity. The Sadducees rejected all tradition, and some authors have contended that they admitted only the books of Moses; but there seems no ground for that opinion, either in the Scriptures or in any ancient writer. Even Josephus, who was himself a Pharisee, and took every opportunity of reproaching the Sadducees, does not mention that they rejected any part of the Scriptures; he only says that "The Pharisees have delivered to the people many institutions as received from the fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses. For this reason the Sadducees reject these things, asserting that those things are binding which are written, but that the things received by tradition from the fathers are not to be observed." Beside, it is generally believed that the Sadducees expected the Messiah with great impatience, which seems to imply their belief in the prophecies, though they misinterpreted their meaning. Confining all their hopes to this present world, enjoying its riches, and devoting themselves to its pleasures, they might well be particularly anxious that their lot of life should be cast in the splendid reign of this expected temporal king, with the hope of sharing in his conquests and glory; but this expectation was so contrary to the lowly appearance of our Saviour, that they joined their inveterate enemies, the Pharisees, in persecuting him and his religion. Josephus says, that the Sadducees were able to draw over to them the rich only, the people not following them; and he elsewhere mentions that this sect spread chiefly among the young. The Sadducees were far less numerous than the Pharisees, but they were in general persons of greater opulence and dignity. The council before whom our Saviour and St. Paul were carried consisted partly of Pharisees and partly of Sadducees.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Sadducees ( Săd'Du-Seez ). One of the Jewish sects of which we read in the New Testament. They were in sharp opposition to the Pharisees, but ready to work with them against the person and teaching of Jesus. Their origin is involved in some obscurity; probably sprung from Zadok. See Bissell's Biblical Antiquities. The tenets of the Sadducees may be gathered from the notices we have of them in the New Testament, illustrated by the account given by Josephus, Antiq. lib. xiii. 5, 19, 10, § 6, lib. xviii. 1, § 4. They disregarded the traditions and unwritten laws which the Pharisees prized so highly, and professed to take the Scriptures as the sole authoritative guide of religion. They denied the existence of angels and spirits, and maintained that there was no resurrection,  Matthew 22:23;  Acts 23:8, the soul according to them dying with the body; hence they denied a future state of reward or punishment. It was their maxim therefore that actions to be virtuous must not be done in hope of recompense. Another principle of their belief was the absolute freedom of man's will, so that he had full power of himself to do good or evil as he chose; and then only could his actions have a moral value. But this view was pushed so far as almost entirely to exclude the divine interposition in the government of the world. The Sadducees were not so numerous as the Pharisees; nor were their tenets so acceptable to the people. Yet many of their body were men of wealth and influence. They were found in the supreme council; and in the time of Christ and the apostles a Sadducee filled the office of high priest.  Acts 4:1;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 23:6. Their party had, moreover, a political complexion: they were austere, it may be added, in their habits, and severe in the administration of justice. After the first century of the Christian era they disappear from history.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

This name was applied in the time of Jesus to a portion or sect of the Jews, who were usually at variance with the other leading sect, namely, the Pharisees, but united with them in opposing Jesus and accomplishing his death,  Matthew 16:1-12;  Luke 20:27 . The name would seem to be derived from a Hebrew word signifying the just; but the Talmudists affirm that it comes from a certain Sadoc, or Sadducus, who was the founder of the sect, and lived about three centuries before the Christian era. The Sadducees disregarded all the traditions and unwritten laws which the Pharisees prized so highly, and professed to consider the Scriptures as the only source and rule of the Jewish religion. They rejected the demonology of the Pharisees; denied the existence of angles and spirits; considered the soul as dying with the body, and of course admitted no future state of rewards and punishments,  Matthew 22:23 . While, moreover, the Pharisees believed that all events and actions were directed by an overruling providence or fate, the Sadducees considered them all as depending on the will and agency of man. The tenets of these freethinking philosophers were not, in general, so acceptable to the people as those of the Pharisees; yet many of the highest rank adopted them, and practiced great severity of manners and of life. Many members of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees,  Acts 23:6-9; and so was the high priest in the time of Christ seems to have added bitterness to their hatred of Christianity,  Acts 4:1;  5:17 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Matthew 3:7 Matthew 16:1-4 22:23 Mark 12:18-27 Luke 20:27-38

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 ( Matthew 16:21;  26:1-3,59;  Mark 8:31;  15:1;  Luke 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.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [11]

A famous sect among the Jews; so called, it is said, from their founder, Sadoc. It began in the time of Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and teacher of the law in the principal divinity school of that city. Antigonus having often, in his lectures, inculcated to his scholars that they ought not to serve God in a servile manner, but only out of filial love and fear, two of his scholars, Sadoc, and Baithus, thence inferred that there were no rewards at all after this life; and, therefore, separating from the school of their master, they thought there was no resurrection nor future state, neither angel nor spirit.  Matthew 22:23 .  Acts 23:8 . They seem to agree greatly with the Epicureans; differing however in this, that, though they denied a future state, yet they allowed the power of God to create the world; whereas the followers of Epicurus denied it. It is said also, that they rejected the Bible, except the Pentateuch; denied predestination; and taught, thet God had made man absolute master of all his actions, without assistance to good, or restraint from evil.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

These were a sect among the Jews, but possessing nothing of the principles of Abraham, but rather a class of Epicureans: They were rigid to a degree for the law, because, denying any future state of reward or punishment, angel or spirit, they made the chief good to consist in an attention to the observance of order in this life.

It is worthy remark, and indeed it is the only reason for noticing characters of this kind at all in a work of this nature, how our blessed Lord was opposed off the one hand and on the other by those fashionable sects which abounded in his day. The "Scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees and Samaritans," all arose in opposition to the cross. This should be remembered by the faithful and humble follower of the Lord Jesus in the present day, when at any time the privileges of his faith and conversation in Jesus is opposed or called in question. Sweetly the Holy Ghost persuades to this when he saith, "Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." ( Hebrews 12:3)

Morrish Bible Dictionary [13]

Next to the Pharisees, the Sadducees were the most prominent sect of the Jews. The Pharisees made proselytes, but the Sadducees were much more exclusive, and therefore remained fewer in number. They did not believe in the resurrection, nor in angels, nor in spirits: they held that the soul perished with the body.  Matthew 22:23;  Acts 4:1,2;  Acts 23:8 . Though strict in regard to the written law of Moses, they repudiated the traditions of the elders, or what is called the oral law. They believed that God punished a man's sins duringhis life, and that man's will was free, and he had power to restrain his passions. In consequence of this they were severe judges. The Lord Jesus warned His disciples against their doctrines, and denounced them as the 'offspring of vipers.' The tenets of the modern rationalists have much in common with the Sadducees.

Holman Bible Dictionary [14]

Mike Mitchell

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

sad´ū́ - sēz ( צדּוּקים , caddūḳı̄m  ; Εαδδουκαῖοι , Saddoukaı́oi ):

I. Introductory

1. Name: Rival Etymologies. Probably from Zadok the High Priest

2. Authorities: New Testament, Josephus, Talmud (primary), Church Fathers (secondary)

II. Origin And History

1. Early Notices in Josephus: Alleged Relation to Differences between Prophets and Priests

2. Tendencies of Sadducees toward Hellenism as Causing Rise of Hasidhim

3. Favored by Alexander Janneus: Put in the Background by Alexandra Salome

4. From a Political Party, but also Became a Religious Party

5. Fear Roman Interference if Jesus' Messianic Claims Are Recognized

6. Sadducees Antagonistic to the Apostles: Pharisees More Favorable

7. Fall of Sadducean Party at Outbreak of Jewish War

III. Doctrines Of The Sadducees

1. Laid Stress on Ceremonial Exactness

2. Disbelief in the Spiritual World, in a Resurrection, and in Providence: Their Materialism

3. Alleged Belief in Canonicity of the Pentateuch Alone

4. Relation to Epicureanism

IV. Character Of Sadducees

1. Characterized as Rough and Boorish

2. Talmudic Account of the Sadducees

3. Relation to Temple and Worship was a Heathenish One

4. Sadducean Literature

V. Relation Of Sadducees To Jesus

1. Less Denounced by Jesus than the Pharisees

2. Attitude of Sadducees to Jesus

This prominent Jewish sect, though not so numerous as their opponents, the Pharisees, by their wealth and the priestly descent of many of them had an influence which fully balanced that of their more popular rivals. They were a political party, of priestly and aristocratic tendency, as against the more religious and democratic Pharisees.

I. Introductory.

1. Name: Rival Etymologies. Probably from Zadok the High Priest:

The Talmud form suggests derivation from the name of their founder, but the form in New Testament and Josephus would imply connection with the verb "to be righteous." The probability is, that the name is derived from some person named "Zadok." The most prominent Zadok in history was the Davidic high priest ( 2 Samuel 8:17;  2 Samuel 15:24;  1 Kings 1:35 ), from whom all succeeding high priests claimed to descend. It is in harmony with this, that in the New Testament the Sadducees are the party to whom the high priests belonged. On the authority of 'Ābhōth de - Rabbı̄ Nathān (circa 1000 AD) another Zadok is asserted to be he from whom the Sadducees received their name. He was a disciple of Antigonus of Socho (circa 250 BC) who taught that love to God should be absolutely disinterested ( Pirḳē 'Ābhōth , i. 3). 'Ābhōth de - Rabbı̄ Nathān ' s account of the derivation of the Sadduceanism from this teaching is purely an imaginary deduction (Charles Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers2 , 112). The majority of authoritative writers prefer to derive the name from Zadok, the colleague of Abiathar, the contemporary of David.

2. Authorities: New Testament, Josephus, Talmud (Primary), Church Fathers

Our main authorities for the teaching of the Sadducees are the New Testament and Josephus. According to the former, the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the body, and did not believe in angels or spirits ( Matthew 22:23;  Acts 23:8 ). More can be learned from Josephus, but his evidence is to be received with caution, as he was a Pharisee and, moreover, had the idea that the Sadducees were to be paralleled with the Epicureans. The Talmud is late. Before even the Mishna was committed to writing (circa 200 AD) the Sadducees had ceased to exist; before the Gemara was completed (circa 700 AD) every valid tradition of their opinions must have vanished. Further, the Talmud is Pharisaic. The Fathers, Origen, Hippolytus, Epiphanius and Jerome, have derived their information from late Pharisaic sources.

II. Origin and History.

1. Early Notices in Josephus: Alleged Relation to Differences Between Prophets and Priests:

Josephus describes the Sadducees along with the contemporary sects, the Pharisees and the Essenes (Josephus, Ant. , Xiii , v, 9; X, 6 2; Xviii , i, 4,5; Bj , II, viii, 14). His earliest notice of them is after his account of the treaties of Jonathan with the Romans and the Lacedemonians. He indicates his belief that the parties were ancient; but if so, they must have formerly had other names. It has been suggested that the earlier form of the conflict between the Sadducees and Pharisees was opposition between the priests and the prophets. This, however, is not tenable; in the Southern Kingdom there was no such opposition; whatever the state of matters in the Northern Kingdom, it could have had no influence on opinion in Judea and Galilee in the time of our Lord. By others the rivalry is supposed to be inherited from that between the scribes and the priests, but Ezra, the earliest scribe, in the later sense of the term, was a priest with strong sacerdotal sympathies.

2. Tendencies of Sadducees Toward Hellenism as Causing Rise of Hasidhim:

Probably the priestly party only gradually crystallized into the sect of the Sadducees. After the return from the exile, the high priest drew to himself all powers, civil and religious. To the Persian authorities he was as the king of the Jews. The high priest and those about him were the persons who had to do with the heathen supreme government and the heathen nationalities around; this association would tend to lessen their religious fervor, and, by reaction, this roused the zeal of a section of the people for the law. With the Greek domination the power of the high priests at home was increased, but they became still more subservient to their heathen masters, and were the leaders in the Hellenizing movement. They took no part in the Maccabean struggle, which was mainly supported by their opponents the ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m , as they were called (the Hasideans of   1 Maccabees 2:42 , etc.). When the ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m , having lost sympathy with the Maccabeans, sought to reconcile themselves to the priestly party, Alcimus, the legitimate high priest, by his treachery and cruelty soon renewed the breach. The Hasmoneans then were confirmed in the high-priesthood, but were only lukewarmly supported by the ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m .

3. Favored by Janneus: Put in the Background by Alexandra Salome:

The division between the Hasmoneans and the ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m , or, as they were now called, Pharisees, culminated in the insult offered by Eleazar to John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean high priest (Josephus, Ant. , Xiii , x, 5). Alexander Janneus, the son of Hyrcanus, became a violent partisan of the Sadducees, and crucified large numbers of the Pharisees. Toward the end of his life he fell out of sympathy with the Sadducees, and on his deathbed recommended his wife Alexandra Salome, who as guardian to his sons succeeded him, to favor the Pharisees, which she did. In the conflict between her two sons, John Hyrcanus 2 and Aristobulus II, the Sadducees took the side of Aristobulus, the younger and abler brother. So long as the contest was between Jews, the Sadducean candidate prevailed. When the Romans were called in, they gave the advantage to Hyrcanus.

4. From a Political, Become also a Religious Party:

Thrown into the background by the overthrow of their candidate for the high-priesthood, they soon regained their influence. They allied themselves with the Herodiana who had supported Hyrcanus, but were subservient to Rome. Though they were not theological at first, they became so, to defend their policy against the attacks of the Pharisees. A historic parallel may be found in the Cavaliers of the reign of Charles I, as over against the Puritans.

5. Fear Roman Interference if Jesus' Messianic Claims Are Recognized:

The Sadducees at first regarded the struggle between our Lord and the Pharisees as a matter with which they had no concern. It was not until our Lord claimed to be the Messiah, and the excitement of the people consequent on this proved likely to draw the attention of the Roman authorities, that they intervened. Should Tiberius learn that there was widespread among the Jews the belief in the coming of a Jewish king who was to rule the world, and that one had appeared who claimed to be this Messiah, very soon would the quasi-independence enjoyed by the Jews be taken from them, and with this the influence of the Sadducees would depart. An oligarchy is proverbially sensitive to anything that threatens its stability; a priesthood is unmeasured in its vindictiveness; and the Sadducees were a priestly oligarchy. Hence, it is not wonderful that only the death of Jesus would satisfy them.

6. Sadducees Antagonistic to the Apostles: Pharisees More Favorable:

After the resurrection, the Pharisees became less hostile to the followers of Christ; but the Sadducees maintained their attitude of suspicion and hatred ( Acts 4:1 ). Although a Pharisee, it was as agent of the Sadducean high priest that Paul persecuted the believers. The Sadducees gained complete ascendancy in the Sanhedrin, and later, under the leadership of Annas, or as he is sometimes called by Josephus, Ananus, the high priest, they put James the brother of our Lord to death (Josephus, Ant. , XX, ix, 1) with many others, presumably Christians. The Pharisees were against these proceedings; and even sent messengers to meet Albinus who was coming to succeed Festus as governor to entreat him to remove Annas from the highpriesthood.

7. The Fall of Sadducean Party at Outbreak of Jewish War:

With the outbreak of the Jewish war, the Sadducees with their allies the Herodians were driven into the background by the Zealots, John of Gischala and Simon ben Gioras. Annas and Joshua, also called high priest by Josephus, were both put to death by the Zealots and their Idumean allies (Josephus, Bj , IV, v, 2). With the destruction of the temple and the fall of the Jewish state the Sadducean party disappeared.

III. Doctrines of the Sadducees.

1. Laid Stress on Ceremonial Exactness:

As the sacerdotal party, the Sadducees laid great stress on the ceremonial of sacrifice, and rejected the changes introduced by their opponents unless these found support in the words of the Law.

2. Disbelief in the Spiritual World, in a Resurrection, and in Providence: Their Materialism:

The most prominent doctrine of the Sadducees was the denial of the immortality of the soul and of the resurrection of the body. The Pharisees believed that Moses had delivered these doctrines to the elders, and that they had in turn handed them on to their successors. The Sadducees rejected all these traditions. From Acts ( Acts 23:8 ) we learn that they believed in neither "angel or spirit." As appearances of angels are mentioned in the Law, it is difficult to harmonize their reverence for the Law with this denial. They may have regarded these angelophanies as theophanies. Josephus distinctly asserts ( Ant. , Xviii , i, 4) that the Sadducees believe that the soul dies with the body. They deny, he says, divine providence ( BJ , II, viii, 14). Their theology might be called "religion within the limits of mere sensation."

3. Alleged Belief in Canonicity of the Pentateuch Alone:

The Fathers, Hippolytus, Origen and Jerome, credit the Sadducees with regarding the Pentateuch as alone canonical (Hipp., Haer. , ix.24; Orig., Contra Celsum , i. 49; on   Matthew 22:24-31; Jerome on  Matthew 22:31 ,  Matthew 22:32 ). This idea may be due to a false identification of the views of the Sadducees with those of the Samaritans. Had they rejected all the rest of Scripture, it is hardly possible that Josephus would have failed to notice this. The Talmud does not mention this among their errors. It is certain that they gave more importance to the Pentateuch than to any other of the books of Scripture. Hence, our Lord, in the passage commented on by Origen and Jerome, appeals to the Law rather than to the Prophets or the Psalms. It follows from the little value they put upon the Prophets that they had no sympathy with the Messianic hopes of the Pharisees.

4. Relation to Epicureanism:

It need hardly be said that there was no real connection between Sadduceanism and the doctrines of Epicurus. There was a superficial resemblance which was purely accidental. Their favor for Hellenism would give a color to this identification.

IV. Character of Sadducees.

1. Characterized as Rough and Boorish:

Josephus says that while the Pharisees have amiable manners and cultivate concord among all, the Sadducees are "very boorish" ( Bj , II, viii, 14). This want of manners is not a characteristic usually associated with an aristocracy, or with supple diplomats, yet it suits what we find in the New Testament. The cruel horseplay indulged in when our Lord was tried before the irregular meeting of the Sanhedrin ( Matthew 26:67 ,  Matthew 26:68 ), the shout of Ananias at the trial of Paul before the same tribunal to "smite him on the mouth," show them to be rough and overbearing. What Josephus relates of the conduct of Annas (or Ananus) in regard to James, above referred to, agrees with this. Josephus, however, does not always speak in such condemnatory terms of Ananus - in Josephus, Jewish Wars (IV, v, 2) he calls him "a man venerable and most just." Only the violence which, as Josephus relates in the chapter immediately preceding that from which we have quoted, Ananus resorted to against the Zealots better suits the earlier verdict of Josephus than the later. As to their general character Josephus mentions that when the Sadducees became magistrates they conformed their judgments to Pharisaic opinion, otherwise they would not have been tolerated ( Ant. , Xviii , i, 4).

2. Talmudic Account of the Sadducees:

As noted above, the Talmud account is untrustworthy, late and Pharisaic. The Gemara from which most of the references are taken was not committed to writing till 7 centuries after Christ - when the traditions concerning the Sadducees, such as had survived, had filtered through 20 generations of Pharisaism. Despite this lengthened time and suspicious medium, there may be some truth in the representations of the Talmudic rabbin. In Peṣāḥı̄m 57a it is said, "Woe's me on account of the house of Boothus, woe's me on account of their spears; woe's me on account of the house of Hanun (Annas), woe's me on account of their serpent brood; woe's me on account of the house of Kathros, woe's me on account of their pen; woe's me on account of the house of Ishmael ben Phabi; woe's me on account of their fists. They are high priests and their sons are treasurers of the temple, and their sons-in-law, assistant treasurers; and their servants beat the people with sticks." As these are Sadducean names, this passage exhibits Pharisaic tradition as to the habits of the Sadducees.

3. Relation to Temple and Worship a Heathenish One:

The Sadducean high priests made Hophni and Phinehas too much their models. Annas and his sons had booths in the courts of the temple for the sale of sacrificial requisites, tables for money-changers, as ordinary coins had to be changed into the shekels of the sanctuary. From all these the priests of the high-priestly caste derived profit at the expense of desecrating the temple (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus , I, 371 ff). They did not, as did the Pharisees, pay spiritual religion the homage of hypocrisy; they were frankly irreligious. While officials of religion, they were devoid of its spirit. This, however, represents their last stage.

4. Sadducean Literature:

The favor for the memory of John Hyrcanus shown by the writer of 1 Maccabees (16:23,14) renders probable Geiger's opinion that the author was a Sadducee. He shows the party in its best form: his outlook on life is eminently sane, and his history is trustworthy. He has sympathy with the patriotism of the Hasideans, but none with the religious scruples which led them to desert Judas Maccabeus. That the writer of Ecclesiasticus from his silence as to the national expectation of a Messiah and the hope of a future life was also a Sadducee, is almost certain.

V. Relation of Sadducees to Jesus.

1. Less Denounced by Jesus than the Pharisees:

As the doctrines and practices of the Sadducees were quite alien from the teaching of our Lord and the conduct He enjoined, it is a problem why He did not denounce them more frequently than He did. Indeed He never denounces the Sadducees except along with their opponents the Pharisees; whereas He frequently denounces the Pharisees alone. As His position, both doctrinal and practical, was much nearer that of the Pharisees, it was necessary that He should clearly mark Himself off from them. There was not the same danger of His position being confused with that of the Sadducees. Josephus informs us that the Sadducees had influence with the rich; Jesus drew His adherents chiefly from the poor, from whom also the Pharisees drew. The latter opposed Him all the more that He was sapping their source of strength; hence, He had to defend Himself against them. Further, the Gospels mainly recount our Lord's ministry in Galilee, whereas the Sadducees were chiefly to be found in Jerusalem and its neighborhood; hence, there may have been severe denunciations of the Sadducees that have not come down to us.

2. Attitude of Sadducees to Jesus:

The Sadducees probably regarded Jesus as harmless fanatic who by His denunciations was weakening the influence of the Pharisees. Only when His claim to be the Messiah brought Him within the sphere of practical politics did they desire to intervene. When they did determine to come into conflict with Jesus, they promptly decreed His arrest and death; only the arrest was to be secret, "lest a tumult arise among the people" ( Matthew 26:5 ). In their direct encounter with our Lord in regard to the resurrection ( Matthew 22:25 ff;   Mark 12:20 ff;   Luke 20:29 ff), there is an element of contempt implied in the illustration which they bring, as if till almost the end they failed to take Him seriously. For Literature see Pharisees .

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

Sad´ducees, one of the three sects of Jewish philosophers, of which the Pharisees and the Essenes were the others, who had reached their highest state of prosperity about the commencement of the Christian era.

The peculiar doctrines of the Sadducees naturally sprung out of Pharisaic errors; but the time when this sect came into existence history does not define. There can be no doubt, however, that they were posterior to the Pharisees. And although so soon as the Pharisaic elements began to become excessive, there existed in Judaism itself a sufficient source for Sadduceeism, yet, as a fact, we have no doubt that Grecian philosophy lent its aid to the development of Sadduceeism. Whence we are referred for the rise of the latter to the period when the conquests and the kingdoms which ensued from the expedition of Alexander had diffused a very large portion of Grecian civilization over the soil of the East, and especially over Western Asia.

As may be inferred from what has been advanced, the Sadducees stood in direct opposition to the Pharisees. So they are described by Josephus, and so they appear in the New Testament. Hostile, however, as these two sects were, they united for the common purpose of opposing our Lord (;;; , sq.; 22:23, 34;; ). In opposing the Pharisees the Sadducees were led to impeach the principal doctrines, and so to deny all the 'traditions of the elders,' holding that the law alone was the written source of religious truth. By more than one consideration, however, it might be shown that they are in error who so understand the fact now stated, as if the Sadducees received no other parts of the Jewish canon than the Pentateuch; for in truth they appear to have held the common opinion regarding the sacred books. The Sadducees taught that the soul of man perished together with his body, and that of course there was neither reward nor punishment after death (Josephus, De Bell. Jud. ii. 8, 14; comp. ). Indeed they appear to have disowned the moral philosophy which obtrudes the idea of recompense.

They held that the Scriptures did not contain the doctrine of a future life. They were thus naturally led also to deny the existence of angels and spirits . They taught the absolute freedom of the human mind, and according to Josephus, while 'the Pharisees ascribe all to fate and to God, the Sadducees take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing evil; and they say that to act what is good or what is evil is in man's own choice; and that all things depend on our own selves.' An inference injurious to them has been deduced from this position, as if they denied divine providence altogether; but their reception of the canonical books, and their known observance of the usages for divine worship therein prescribed, are incompatible with such a denial.

As might be expected from the nature of their system, their doctrines held sway over but comparatively few persons, and those mostly men distinguished by wealth or station. What Josephus says of the repulsiveness of their manners is in keeping with their general principles. A skeptical materialism is generally accompanied by an undue share of self-confidence and self-esteem, which are among the least sociable of human qualities.

The Sadducees, equally with the Pharisees, were not only a religious but a political party. Indeed as long as the Mosaic polity retained an influence, social policy could not be sundered from religion; for religion was everything. Accordingly the Sadducees formed a part of the Jewish parliament, the Sanhedrim , and sometimes enjoyed the dignity of supreme power in the high-priesthood. Their possession of power, however, seems to have been owing mainly to their individual personal influence, as men of superior minds or eminent position, since the general current of favor ran adversely to them, and their enemies, the Pharisees, spared no means to keep them and their opinions in the background.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [17]

A sect of the Jews of high priestly origin that first came into prominence by their opposition to the Pharisees, being the party in power when Pharisaism arose in protestation against their policy as tending to the secularisation of the Jewish faith, or the prostitution of it to mere secular ends. They represented the Tory or Conservative party among the Jews, as the Pharisees did the High Church party among us. The antagonism which thus arose on political grounds gradually extended to religious matters. In regard to religion they were the old orthodox party, and acknowledged the obligation of only the written law, and refused to accept tradition at the hands of the Scribes. They denied the immortality of the soul, the separate existence of spirits, and this they did on strictly Old Testament grounds, but this not from any real respect for the authority of Scripture, only as in accord with the main article of their creed, which attached importance only to what bears upon this present life, and which in modern times goes under the name of secularism. They were at bottom a purely political party, and they went out of sight and disappeared from Jewish history with the fall of the Jewish State, only the Pharisaic party surviving in witness of what Judaism is.