Second Temple Sadducees

I was told I had wrong info about Second Temple sects - what do you know about the Sadducees?

They were a sect within Judaism and were strong, both politically and religiously, during Jesus’ day, though not as strong as their rival Pharisees. They were followers of a teacher named Zadok, who taught that only the Pentatauch was holy scripture, and they also did not believe in angels or the resurrection of the dead (as the Pharisees die). They were described as Theologically Conservative and Politically Liberal, meaning that they were willing to appease Rome and not “rock the boat,” as opposed to the zealous hatred that the Pharisees had for Rome.

They were somewhat quiet during the Gospels but then they give Jesus’ disciples quite a bit of grief in the book of Acts.

Well, there were serious doctrinal differences between them, but they probably don’t rate separate threads (wait until we get to Bet Shammai vs. Bet Hillel!).
Anyway, “Sadducee” derives from Sadduqi, notionally a follower of Zadok, appointed High Priest by David and founder of the priestly dynasty that endured until the second century BCE.
The Sadducees denied the authority of the Oral Law (both those Halakhot (laws) said to have been given to Moses at Sinai, but not written down, and the mass of tradition that had grown up around the Torah). They acknowledged the authority as divinely inspired only of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, traditionally ascribed to Moses), and generally rejected any doctrine not explicitly found in the Pentateuch – most famously, the resurrection of the dead (pretty much their only appearance in the “New Testament” is where they try to trap Jesus on this point).
“Pharisee” derives from Aramaic perishayya, “separated (ones)”. They accepted and elaborated on the Oral Law, and emphasized strict observance of it. The name signifies that they considered themselves “separated” from the ignorant mass of people (ammei ha’aretz, “people of the land”), neither Sadducee or Pharisee.
Some have interpreted the Sadducee/Pharisee division as a split between priestly and rabbinic forms of Judaism. Others have pointed out that Sadducee practices were less isolating, and see it as a difference between Hellenizers and Judaizers. It does appear that Sadducees were mostly upper-crust types (who had the nost opportunity, and greatest likelihood, of interfacing with the Romans), whilst Pharisees appeared to have been of middle-class (such as it was in those days) origin.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, Sadduceeism died out, having no focus (modern-day Karaite Jews, although they also deny the efficacy of the Oral Law, neither have nor claim direct philosophical descdent from the Sadducees). Pharisaim, on the other hand, blossomed into modern rabbinic Judaism (in, of course, a long, drawn-out process).

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

Akat has got it pretty well. I’m adding a few other thoughts.

The Sadducces were the a political/religious party in late Second Temple times. We actually know very little about them, except for Josephus (who can be unreliable on politics, to say the least) and the New Testament (which also has its biases.)

Basically, what we know about the Sadduccees is that they were generally aristocratic, and did not believe in any sort of life after death. Most scholars suppose that many of the high priests during Roman times were Sadduccees.

The Pharisaic party seems to have originated fairly early in the Hasmonean period (before 135 BC), largely but not entirely non-priests. Theologically, the Pharisees shared common Jewish orthodoxy (one God, Israel as the chosen people, divine origin of the law, and repentence/forgiveness.) They also believed in some form of existence after death, an idea that is hard to find in the Hebrew Bible (excluding Daniel 12:2.)

The Pharisees developed a substanital body of non-biblical traditions about how to observe the law. Some were more restrictive, some were less restrictive; often, their interpretations applied to themselves only, and not to everyone (at least, not by the Herodian period.)

They were known for the precision with which they interpreted the law and the strictness with which they kept it.

The Essenes were another political/religious party in the first century, mentioned by both Josephus and Philo. Although many scholars believe the Dead Sea scrolls were written by an Essene sect, this is not universally accepted.

When the Hasmoneans came to power in 142 BC (after the Chanukah revolt), they deposed the previous family of high priests (Zadokites); some of the displaced aristocrats joined what became the Essene group. Both priests and laymen among the Essenes studied the Bible and the special rules of the party.

If the Essenes are indeed the Dead Sea Scroll sect, then they were far stricter than the Pharisees in almost every way conceivable.

Essene a Saducee for a while but I stopped, she kept falling or all the guys lines. Fara sees a saducee still though, just don’t take her out much. Dang! I lost my ‘ask a rabbi’ link in the great crash but i’ll bite bet shammai and bet hillel…?

“Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”-Marx

In the New Testament, the group of Jews that oppose Jesus the most are the Pharisees. This makes it sound like it’s some kind of club, but really it’s just a classification of what kind of Jew you were.

I’ve seen the Jewish sects listed as:
Pharisees = believed in resurrection, disliked Roman rule
Saducees = didn’t believe in resurrection, liked Roman rule
Essenes = believed in resurrection, didn’t acknowledge Roman rule (they lived in the wilderness)
Zealots = believed in resurrection, actively fought against Roman rule

So. . .

Gamaliel = Pharisee (the only one I could find)
Josephus = Saducee
John the Baptist = Essene (right?)
Simon the Zealot = Zealot (obviously)
Jesus = ???

Which sect did Jesus fit into? It looks like the closet classification would be as a Pharisee. It seems odd that the NT draws such a picture of explicit opposition between Jesus and the Pharisees. What’s the deal?

Yes, Jesus was more or less a Pharisee. If you read the NT closely, and knowing who the Pharisees were, you will see that their opposition is not by any means as strong as the vague impression that most Xtians have gotten, partly by mixing a sort of Pharisees-‘n’-Sadducees stew in their heads. Jesus did, however, tend to come down hard on individual Pharisees that he thought Just Didn’t Get It.

Observe the appearance of Gamaliel – a real person, well known in Jewish lore – in “Acts”.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

JAlan states:

How about that notorious apostate, Saul of Tarsus, who stated to the Sanhedrin: “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of a Pharisee; with respect to the hope and resurrection of the dead I am trial.” (Acts 23:6; RSV)

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

According to traditional (i.e., Orthodox) Judaic history, the Zadok who founded the Sadducees was not the same as, or necessarily related to, the one from the time of King David.

According to my commentary on tractate Avos (“Ethics of the Fathers”), they (Zadok and another, names Baisos) were students of Antiganos of Socho, a Rabbi who was the Jewish leader shortly after the time of Alexander the Great. Antiganos taught “Do not be like a servant who serves his master in order to receive a reward, but rather, serve him without thought of reward.” While traditionally, this is meant to be merely a lesson in attitude toward G-d’s service, two students of his, Zadok and Baisos, took it (in the eyes of the Pharisees, and thus, all of today’s Orthodox Jews, wrongly) to mean that there actually was no reward, and no afterlife. This led to their movement’s split with the rest of Judaism.

They were not specifically a priestly sect, but rather, they found Greek control over the priesthood a convenient avenue to power.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

Other Pharisees:

  • Simon (Luke 7:40)
  • Nicodemus (John 3:1)
  • probably Joseph of Arimethea (Luke 23:50-51)

Which shows that there were some sympathetic, if not downright supporters of Jesus among the Jewish leadership. Let that be a slap in the face to the sin and evil of Christian anti-Semitism.


Hey, Akatsukami, if it succeeds, none dare call it apostasy. You got something bad to say about Mother Thersa and the Pope, too? How come with a nice Japanese name like Akatsukami you know so much about the jewish culture?

While the origin of Akatsukami’s screen name is a question which people might ponder, I see no reason to get hostile over his gentle jabs at Paul and Christianity.

As a life-long Christian, in discussions with Jews, I generally refer to our “heretical sect.” It shows that after several hundred years of persecuting them, we can still laugh at ourselves.


you know, tomndebb, if it were the jews laughing at you after several hundred years of your persecution, that would be one thing. for you to laugh at yourself after several hundred years of persecution makes it sound like it is miller time for you. personally, the longest i have ever persecuted anybody has been 3 months. you have a very, very sensitive gauge for detecting hostility. i am thinking that i could easily go way off your scale if i tried.

I will plead guilty to being oversensitive on the issue. In the last couple of years we’ve been trolled by several fairly vicious anti-semites (too often, clueless Christians) and I do tend react pretty quickly on this.

(I am glad that my irony was not missed, of course.)


Lighten up, mipsmam. It was a civil discussion all along. Until now.


My own two shekels worth: whilst there have been some rabid anti-semites on this board (usually so-called “Christians”), and some rabid anti-Christians (usually atheists)… generally the tone has been one of the free exchange of ideas. That means an occasional light-hearted comment about ourselves or about each other.

Often those little jabs allow a deeper insight into a different perspective: as with “notorious apostate.” Akat’s statement is true, it’s only the word choice that adds a little barb of humour.

The only harm done is when someone takes a holier-than-thou attitude, and can’t take a joke.

There is also a question of considering the source. Tom (for instance) had demonstrated deep insight and tolerance, and I would take a joke from him in the spirit of comradery. There are other posters who have demonstrated self-righteousness and a high degree of intolerance, and a joke from them would be examined carefully to see whether it was meant good-naturedly.

moriah, technically it is/was not a “civil” discussion, it is a religous discussion.

I want to ressurect this thread (no pun there, is it :wink: ) for a minute, even though it had gotten a little uncivil for a while.

I’m a Christian who’s attending a Reform Synagogue (long story), and one of the things that I find to be a comfortable fit for me is Reform’s stance of personal interpretation, given my Protestant background. I’ve always had problems with Talmudic and tradition-driven observances, I generally want to know if where the mitzvot is in the Tanahk (sp?). It’s possible to be a Torah-thumping (well, not literally) Jew in Reform.

When I learned here that the Saducees took a similar stance, I found that very interesting. I’m wondering: Is there a sect today that holds that only the Torah (or the Tanakh as a whole) has authority? If there is, could they be considered derived from Saducee-ism (I guess that’s what you would call it)?


First of all, I should point out that every law in the Talmud is traced back to the relevant verse in Tanakh. Now much of this is derivation from nuances of words, etc., but it wasn’t devised out of thin air by the Talmudic sages.

As for present-day Sadducees…I believe the Karaites, founded during the seventh or eighth century, had a similar point of view, and that there might still be a few pockets of them around. Where they are, I’m not sure, but I’ll bet you can find them over the Internet, like everything else these days.

Chaim Mattis Keller


Of course the Talmud is derived from a relevant verse of the Tanakh, I wasn’t implying that there was any question of that. It’s just that I think the rabbis sometimes split hairs a little too finely, or were a little too rabid in trying to guarantee that someone didn’t violate the mitzvot. So I’m saying that while I honor and respect the rabbis, I believe some of their interpretations to be questionable.