views updated May 17 2018


SADDUCEES . The Sadducees were one of the main Jewish political and religious groups (usually termed "sects") of the Second Temple period. By about the reign of John Hyrcanus I (135104 bce), they were a recognizable aristocratic group. Most of them were apparently priests or members of the families that had intermarried with the high priestly families. They tended to be moderate Hellenizers whose primary loyalty was to the religion of Israel but whose culture was greatly influenced by Hellenism. The Sadducees derived their name, Greek Saddoukaioi, Hebrew āddūqim, from that of Zadok, the high priest of the Jerusalem Temple in the time of Solomon. In Ezekiel 4048, the priestly duties were assigned exclusively to this clan. This family of high priests served throughout First and Second Temple times, except when foreign worship was brought into the Temple and when the Hasmoneans took control of the high priesthood. Sources mentioning the Sadducees are Josephus, the New Testament, rabbinic literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls; there are no primary sources written by the Sadducees themselves.

The Sadducees rejected the "tradition of the fathers" that the Pharisees considered as law. For this reason the later rabbinic sources picture them as rejecting the oral law. The notion of some Church Fathers that the Sadducees accepted only the Torah as authoritative, rejecting the prophets and the emerging corpus of writings, is unsubstantiated by any earlier sources. The New Testament maintains that Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. Josephus writes that they rejected personal immortality, reward and punishment after death, and determinism, but that they believed strongly in absolute free will.

The Sadducees differed in matters of Jewish law from the Pharisees, according to rabbinic sources. The Sadducees required compensation for injuries done by a person's servant, whereas the Pharisees required it only in the case of one's animals, according to their interpretation of Exodus 21:32, 3536. The Sadducees required that false witnesses be executed only when the accused had already been put to death because of their testimony (Dt. 19:1921). The Pharisees imposed this penalty only when the accused had not been executed. The Sadducees criticized the inconsistencies in Pharisaic interpretations of the purity laws, and the Pharisees regarded Sadducean women as menstrually impure. In general, the Sadducees saw the purity laws as referring to the Temple and its priests, and saw no reason for the extension of these laws into the daily life of all Israel, a basic pillar of the Pharisaic approach.

A fundamental question is why the Sadducees disagreed so extensively with the Pharisaic tradition. Later Jewish tradition claimed that all differences revolved around the Sadducean rejection of the oral law. Based on this assumption, modern scholars argued that the Sadducees were strict literalists who followed the plain meaning of the words of the Torah only. Yet such an approach would not explain most of the views regarding legal matters attributed to the Sadducees.

Recent discoveries from the Dead Sea caves have illuminated Sadducean law. One particular text (4QMMT), written in the form of a letter purporting to be from the founders of the Dead Sea sect (who were apparently closely related to the Sadducees) to the leaders of the Jerusalem establishment, lists some twenty-two matters of legal disagreement. Comparison of these matters with the Pharisee-Sadducee disputes recorded in rabbinic literature has led to the conclusion that the writers of this "letter" took the view attributed to the Sadducees while their opponents in the Jerusalem priestly establishment held the views attributed later to the Pharisees. Examination of this document and related materials leads to the conclusion that Sadducees had their own methods of biblical exegesis and accordingly derived laws that were different from those of the Pharisees and their supporters.

The Sadducean party cannot be said to have come into being at any particular point. The priestly aristocracy, which traced its roots to First Temple times, had increased greatly in power in the Persian and Hellenistic periods, since the temporal as well as spiritual rule of the nation was in their hands. Some of these priests had been involved in the extreme Hellenization leading up to the Maccabean revolt, but most of the Sadducean lower clergy had remained loyal to the Torah and the ancestral Jewish way of life.

In the aftermath of the revolt, a small and devoted group of these Sadducean priests probably formed the group that eventually became the Dead Sea sect. They were unwilling to tolerate the replacement of the Zadokite high priest with a Hasmonean in 153152 bce, and they disagreed with the Jerusalem priesthood regarding matters of Jewish law. Soon after the Hasmonean takeover of the high priesthood, this group repaired to Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea Scrolls refer to the early leaders of the sect as "sons of Zadok," testifying to some connection with the Sadducean tradition. Other moderately Hellenized Sadducees remained in Jerusalem, and it was they who were termed Sadducees in the strict sense of the term by Josephus in his descriptions of the Hasmonean period and by the later rabbinic traditions. They continued to be a key element in the Hasmonean aristocracy, supporting the priest-kings and joining, with the Pharisees, in the gerousia. After dominating this body for most of the reign of John Hyrcanus I and that of Alexander Janneus, the Sadducees suffered a major political setback when Queen Salome Alexandra (r. 7667 bce) turned thoroughly to support the Pharisees. Thereafter the Sadducees returned to greater power in the Herodian era, when they made common cause with the Herodian dynasty. In the end, it would be a group of lower Sadducean priests whose decision to reject the sacrifice offered for the Roman emperor set off the full-scale revolt of the Jews against Rome in 66 ce.

Closely allied to the Sadducees were the Boethusians. Most scholars ascribe the origin of the Boethusians to Simeon ben Boethus, appointed high priest by Herod in 24 bce so that he would have sufficient status for Herod to marry his daughter Mariamne (II). This theory is completely unproven, and certain parallels between Boethusian rulings and material in the Dead Sea Scrolls argue for a considerably earlier date. There certainly were some differences between the Sadducees and the Boethusians, but the latter appear to have been a subgroup or an offshoot of the Sadducean group.

The most central of the disputes recorded in rabbinic literature as having separated the Boethusians from the Pharisees was that of the calendar. The Boethusians held that the first offering of the Omer (Lv. 23:914) had to take place on a Sunday, rather than on the second day of Passover. Such a calendar, similar to that known from the Dead Sea sect and the Book of Jubilees, was based on both solar months and solar years. If so, the Sunday in question would be that after the seventh day of Passover (most interpreters have taken it as referring to the intermediate Sunday of the festival). Following this calendar, the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) would always fall on a Sunday. While this approach seemed to accord better with the literal interpretation of the words "on the morrow of the Sabbath" (Lv. 23:11), the Pharisees could accept neither this innovative calendar (the biblical calendar was based on lunar months) nor the interpretation on which it was based. To them, "Sabbath" here meant festival. (Attribution of this Boethusian calendric view to the Sadducees by some scholars results from confusion in the manuscripts of rabbinic texts.)

The approach of the Sadducees certainly had a major impact on the political and religious developments in Judaism of the Second Temple period, including the formation of the Dead Sea sect. There is evidence that some Sadducean traditions remained in circulation long enough to influence the medieval literalist sect of the Karaites that arose in the eighth century ce. Yet otherwise, with the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, the Sadducees ceased to be a factor in Jewish history. The sacrificial system in which they played so leading a role was no longer practiced. Their power base, the Jerusalem Temple, was gone, and their strict constructionism augured poorly for the adaptation of Judaism to its new circumstances.

See Also

Dead Sea Scrolls; Jerusalem, overview article.


LeMoyne, Jean. Les Sadducéens. Paris, 1972.

Schiffman, Lawrence W. Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: The History of Judaism, the Background of Christianity, the Lost Library of Qumran. Philadelphia, 1994. See pages 8389.

Schürer, Emil. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 bcad 135). Edinburgh, 1979. See pages 404414.

Lawrence H. Schiffman (2005)


views updated Jun 27 2018


SADDUCEES (Heb. צְדוּקִים, Ẓedukim), sect of the latter half of the Second Temple period, formed about 200 b.c.e. Active in political and economic life, the Sadducean party was composed largely of the wealthier elements of the population – priests, merchants, and aristocrats. They dominated the Temple worship and its rites and many of them were members of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish council and tribunal of the Second Temple period).

Origin of the Name

According to a talmudic tradition (arn15), the name derives from Zadok, a disciple of Antigonus of *Sokho who, misunderstanding his teacher's maxim, denied afterlife and resurrection and formed a sect in accordance with those views (see *Boethusians). The most probable explanation of the name, however, is that it is derived from Zadok, the high priest in the days of David (ii Sam. 8:17 and 15:24) and Solomon (cf. i Kings 1:34ff. and i Chron. 12:29). Ezekiel (40:46, 43:19 and 44:10–15) selected this family as worthy of being entrusted with the control of the Temple. Descendants of this family constituted the Temple hierarchy down to the second century b.c.e., though not all priests were Sadducees. Hence the name "Sadducees" may best be taken to mean anyone who was a sympathizer with the Zadokites, the priestly descendants of Zadok. In the talmudic literature, the designations Boethusians and Sadducees are used interchangeably to designate the same party or sect. Some scholars believe, however, that the Boethusians were a branch of the Sadducees, deriving their name from their leader Boethus. (See L. Ginzberg, in: je, 3 (1902), 284–5, and Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 478–9.)

Beliefs and Doctrines

The Sadducees were the conservative priestly group, holding to the older doctrines, and cherishing the highest regard for the sacrificial cult of the Temple. The party was opposed to the *Pharisees down to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 c.e. The main difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees concerned their attitudes toward the Torah. The supremacy of the Torah was acknowledged by both parties. However, the Pharisees assigned to the Oral Law a place of authority side by side with the written Torah, and determined its interpretation accordingly, whereas the Sadducees refused to accept any precept as binding unless it was based directly on the Torah. The theological struggle between the two parties, as J.Z. Lauterbach puts it (Rabbinic Essays, 23–162), was actually a struggle between two concepts of God. The Sadducees sought to bring God down to man. Their God was anthropomorphic and the worship offered him was like homage paid a human king or ruler. The Pharisees, on the other hand, sought to raise man to divine heights and to bring him nearer to a spiritual and transcendent God.

The Sadducees therefore rejected the Pharisaic supernatural beliefs, claiming that they had no basis in Mosaic Law. They denied the doctrine of the resurrection of the body (Matt. 22:23; Mark 22:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8), denied the immortality of the soul (Jos., Wars, 2:162f. and Ant., 18:16), and rejected the Pharisaic doctrine regarding the existence of angels and ministering spirits (Acts 23:8). Because of the strict adherence to the letter of the law, the Sadducees acted severely in cases involving the death penalty. The Mosaic principle of Lex talionis, for instance (Ex. 21:24), was interpreted literally rather than construed as monetary compensation – the view adopted by the Pharisees. They were opposed to changes and innovations and refused to accept the oral traditions with which the Pharisees supplemented the Written Law. It was never a question of whether certain laws were derived from tradition, but whether those laws that were admittedly derived from tradition were obligatory. Apart from differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees as to the oral tradition and supernatural beliefs, there were numerous legal ritualistic details upon which these two parties differed, especially those connected with the Temple. On the whole, it can be said that while the Pharisees claimed the authority of piety and learning, the Sadducees claimed that of genealogy and position.

The rivalry between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was, in a sense, the renewal of a conflict between the prophets and priests of pre-Exilic times. Following the restoration of the Temple and its sacrificial cult, the priests were also restored to their former position as religious leaders. Priestly authority was, however, weakened by two factors: the rise of laymen and "scribes" who possessed a knowledge of the law; and the advent of Greek rule – since among the Greeks themselves priests were the servants not the leaders of the community.

Attitude Toward Prayer and Sacrifice

Josephus and the Talmud say little about the Sadducean position on prayer, but the Sadducees would naturally not favor a religious service consisting of prayer and study alone, as would the Pharisees. This would tend to lessen the importance of the sacrificial cult and thereby weaken their own position as priests.


On the problem of human conduct and activities, the Sadducees seemed to have believed that God is not concerned with man's affairs. As Josephus puts it: "As for the Sadducees they take away fate 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, so that we ourselves are the cause of what is good and receive what is evil from our own folly" (Ant., 13:173). Unfortunately no statement has survived from the Sadducean side on their beliefs and principles. There are controversial references in rabbinical literature with regard to the Sadducean interpretation of the law. The Sadducees have been represented as lax and worldly-minded aristocrats, primarily interested in maintaining their own privileged position, and favoring Greco-Roman culture.

The Sadducees and the New Testament

In the New Testament, John the Baptist jointly condemned the Pharisees and the Sadducees, calling them a "generation of vipers" and challenging them both to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance" (Matt. 3:7ff.). In his denunciation of their doctrines, Jesus, too, grouped Sadducees and Pharisees together (Matt. 16:6ff.) and both parties were said to have posed questions designed to perplex Jesus (Matt. 15:1). According to Acts (4:1ff., 5:17), Peter and John were imprisoned by them. Since many Christian doctrines have more in common with those of the Pharisees than with those of the Sadducees, it is clear why the Apostolic Church, in the first years of its existence, had most to fear from the Sadducees (Acts 4 and 5).

Historically the Sadducees came under the influence of Hellenism and later were in good standing with the Roman rulers, though unpopular with the common people, from whom they kept aloof. The Sadducean hierarchy had its stronghold in the Temple, and it was only during the last two decades of the Temple's existence that the Pharisees finally gained control. Since the whole power and raison d'être of the Sadducees were bound up with the Temple cult, the group ceased to exist after the destruction of the Temple in 70 c.e.


E. Baneth, in: mwj, 9 (1882), 1–37, 61–95; V. Eppstein, in: jbl, 85 (1966), 213–24. For further bibliography see *Pharisees.

[Menahem Mansoor]


views updated May 23 2018


Members of a Jewish sect of the priestly class that flourished prior to and at the time of Christ. The name most likely derived ultimately from Zadok, the high priest under Solomon (2 Sm 8.17; 1 Kgs 1.8;1 Chr 24.3).

Origin and History. The sect was formed, according to the most probable opinion, during the Maccabean period, after the pharisees had separated from the priestly Hasmonaean dynasty during the reign of John Hyrcanus. Many priests formed a party to maintain the priestly powers and to preserve the older Israelite views in opposition to the more liberal-minded Pharisees, and they took as their patron the great high priest Sadoc of Solomon's time, from whom they claimed descent. During the Roman occupation the Sadducees had control of the Temple and its worship. Exercising great power in the government, they were never popular with the common people. They were swept away by the catastrophe of a.d. 70, when Titus and the Roman Legions destroyed Jerusalem.

The Sadducees were entrenched in conservatism. They rejected all dogmatic developments based upon oral traditions, preserving the older Israelite doctrines. Accordingly, they denied the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the existence of angels (see Acts 4.12; 23.69). Their moral teaching was one of strict legalism, according to the written Law without the mitigations of the oral interpretations. Their chief concern was with the maintenance of external worship.

Politically they accommodated themselves to Herod the Great and later to the Roman domination. Under the leadership of the house of Annas, which maintained itself in the high priesthood for many years, they preferred to preserve the status quo rather than venture into unknown areas of insurrection and revolt.

The qumran community was not allied to the Sadducees' party, despite the fact that its leaders were known as b enê ādōq (sons of Sadoc). There was little in common between the two, except that both were priestly movements.

In the New Testament. There are but a few direct references to the Sadducees in the NT. The synoptic gospels agree in assigning them to the role of protagonist in the dispute over the resurrection of the body (Mk 12.18; Lk 20.27; Mt 22.23). Matthew joins them to the Pharisees as participants in another controversy (Mt 16.110). John does not mention them specifically.

St. Luke gives more information about them in Acts4.12; 5.1733; 23.69. He writes that they denied the resurrection of the body, belonged to the party of the chief priests, and were the most opposed to the Christian movement. Ordinarily the Sadducees were opposed to the Pharisees, but in the case of Jesus and His followers the two sects came to some agreement to cooperate in crushing the movement. The Sadducean high priests, under Annas especially, feared that Jesus and his followers would upset their domination. The statement of caiphas (Jn 11.4951) makes this clear.

While a man of Annas's ill repute could well have been motivated by selfish political gains, it would be unfair to conclude that all Sadducees were inspired by similar base motives in their opposition to Jesus. From what is known of their religious views it appears that many Sadducees were opposed to Jesus' teaching, which must have appeared to them to be more revolutionary and heretical than that of the Pharisees. Some Sadducees, therefore, opposed Jesus and His followers sincerely because of their religious views.

Bibliography: m. simon, Les Sectes juives au temps de Jésus (Paris 1960). g. stemberger, Jewish Contemporaries of Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes (Minneapolis 1995). a. j. saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach, new ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich. 2001). j. wellhausen, The Pharisees and the Sadducees: An Examination of Internal Jewish History (Macon, Ga. 2001).

[r. mercurio/eds.]


views updated May 09 2018

Sadducees. Jewish sect of the second Temple period. The Sadducees were made up of the more affluent members of the population. As Temple priests, they dominated Temple worship and formed a large proportion of Sanhedrin members. The name Sadducee is perhaps derived from King Solomon's high priest Zadok. They stood in opposition to the Pharisees in that they rejected the oral law and only accepted the supreme authority of the written Torah. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Sadducees ceased to exist.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Sadducee a member of a Jewish sect or party of the time of Christ that denied the resurrection of the dead, the existence of spirits, and the obligation of oral tradition, emphasizing acceptance of the written Law alone. The name is occasionally used allusively for someone of a sceptical and materialist temperament.

Recorded from Old English, the word comes via late Latin and Greek from Hebrew ṣĕḏōqī in the sense ‘descendant of Zadok’ (2 Samuel 8:17). The prevailing modern view is that the Zadok referred to is the high-priest of David's time, from whom the priesthood of the Captivity and later periods claimed to be descended, and the late Jewish notion of a post-exilian Zadok as the founder of the sect is regarded as baseless.


views updated May 21 2018

Sad·du·cee / ˈsajəˌsē; ˈsadyə-/ • n. a member of a Jewish sect or party of the time of Jesus Christ that denied the resurrection of the dead, the existence of spirits, and the obligation of oral tradition, emphasizing acceptance of the written Law alone. Compare with Pharisee.DERIVATIVES: Sad·du·ce·an / ˌsajəˈsēən; ˌsadyə-/ adj.


views updated May 17 2018

Sadducee member of one of the three Jewish sects (the others being Pharisees and Essenes) of the time of Christ. OE. sad(d)ucēas, ME. saduceis, saduce(e)s, later Sadduces, pl.; — late L. Saddūcæus — late Gr. Saddoukaîos. f. late Heb. ṣaddūkī, prob. f. personal name ṣaddūk, ṣādhôḳ Zadok (2 Sam. 8: 17 etc.), the high priest of David's time from whom the priesthood of the Captivity and later periods claimed to be descended.


views updated Jun 11 2018

Sadducees Jewish sect active in Judaea from c.200 bc until the fall of Jerusalem in ad 70. By the time of Jesus, the main difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was the former's refusal to recognize the oral traditions surrounding the Scriptures as part of Hebrew Law.