{Jewish Sects and Orders}

THE SADDUCEES.
The Sadducees of Jesus' day were a group of Jewish leaders who represented the conservative attitude towards the Jewish law, and at the same time the liberal attitude towards the Greek influences which the outside military powers tried to introduce among the customs of the Jews. It was because this group was more favorable to the customs of foreign nations that they were kept in power in the office of high priest, since the high priest was appointed by the dominating military power.

In their attitude towards the law of Moses they were very conservative. They opposed the acceptance of the oral law as authoritative and strongly maintained that only the written law was valid and binding. They opposed the more popular and liberal beliefs of the Pharisees, as (1) The resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33; Acts 23:8). (2) The existence of angels and spirits (Acts 23:8). The popular doctrines which were believed by the multitudes and taught by the Pharisees, but which were not supported by the Mosaic law, were opposed by the Sadducees. They are mentioned several times in the New Testament. John the Baptist condemned them as a "brood of vipers" (Matthew 3:7); they came with the Pharisees tempting Jesus (Matthew 16:1); Jesus warned his followers against their teaching (Matthew 16:6); the Sadducees came asking about the resurrection (Matthew 22:23); the Pharisees heard that Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence (Matthew 22:34). They opposed the disciples in their early preaching and secured the imprisonment of the disciples (Acts 4:1; 5:17). When Paul was being tried he perceived that there were both Pharisees and Sadducees in the group and he created a division among them on questions of doctrine (Acts 23:6-8).

The revolt of the Jews in A.D. 66 which finally resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 seems to have been directed against the Sadducees as well as against the Romans.

The antagonism between the Sadducees and the Pharisees in New Testament times was so pronounced as to suggest that the former sect originated in a reaction from the strictness of the latter. More probably, however, as already observed, both arose from the desire on the part of the most faithful among the Jews to preserve the purity of the national religion when threatened by heathen oppressors. The likeliest explanation of the origin of Sadducees is to be found in etymology, and the word "Tsaddik," righteous, there can be little doubt, explains the name. From the Chasidim there was gradually evolved a class of men who insisted chiefly upon morality, as the Pharisees did upon exact observance; and in course of time the "Moralists" and "Separatists" grew into distinct and antagonistic classes.

The origin of the Sadducees is the key to much of their history. Schools of morality are sure to decline from the simplicity of their primitive principles. The Sadducees began with the supreme obligation of morality, and ended as mere rationalistic moralists; while from their rejection of oral supplements to the Mosaic law, they proceeded to the denial of any doctrine not there plainly and literally taught, as that of a life after death. Possibly also, as above intimated, their scepticism on this last point was but an exaggeration of the view that God was not to be served for the sake of the reward of eternity. The disbelief in a future state led to the inference that there were "neither angels nor spirits," although it is difficult to see how this tenet could be reconciled with the literal interpretation of the Pentateuch. It is possible that by "angel" the Sadducees intended only the disembodied human soul (Acts 12:15; cf. Matthew 14:26; Luke 24:37). The ethical philosophy of the Sadducees was founded upon a belief in the absolute freedom of man's will. Here, too, they were in conflict with the Pharisees, who maintained the doctrine of divine influence as ever acting upon the soul. "The Pharisees," says Josephus, "ascribe all things to fate and to God." As this doctrine may be exaggerated into fatalism, so the assertion of human freedom may be so far pushed as to exclude the thought of divine government altogether, and into this extreme many Sadducees appear to have fallen.

The opinions of the Sadducees seem to have prevailed chiefly or solely among the upper classes. In the days of the apostles the very high priest and his party were of "the sect of the Sadducees" (Acts 4:1; 5:17). Herod Antipas professed concurrence in their tenets, although conscience proved mightier than scepticism when he feared that, in Jesus, John the Baptist had risen from the dead (Mark 6:14-16). The Sadducees, as the wealthier party in the state, became naturally acquiescent in the established order of things, and having besides lost much of the fervor of their ancestral faith, were only too easily reconciled to the existing government. (See Herodians).

The Baptist had included the Sadducees with the Pharisees as a "brood of vipers" (Matthew 3:7), a poisonous and dangerous race. Sadducees as well as Pharisees sought to entrap Jesus by captious questionings (Matthew 16:1; 22:23), and Jesus warned His disciples against the "leaven" of pervasive mischievous principles of both (Matthew 16:6, 11). Generally, indeed, wherever the religious formalist appears, the religious sceptic is not far off. Still, on the whole, the Sadducees were less prominent that the Pharisees in their antagonism to Christ, nor do they appear, like the latter, to have taken active measures against his life. (See John 7:32; 11:47). They are not once mentioned by John. Perhaps, holding the opinions they did, the question of the Messiahship did not interest them; and it was rather with superciliousness than with anger that they regarded Jesus's divine claims. But when the resurrection was proclaimed, they were roused to anger; and accordingly their only recorded persecuting measures were directed against the apostles who preached that Christ had risen (Acts 4:1-3). This fact is a striking example of the "undersigned coincidence" between the Acts and the Gospel history. It may be added, that no writings of the Sadducees have come down to our times. After the destruction of Jerusalem they are heard of no more, and by the 7th century their very origin was forgotten.

Sad"du*cee (?), n. [L. Sadducaei, p., Gr. , Heb. Tsadd&umac;kim; -- so called from Tsad&omac;k, the founder of the sect.]

One of a sect among the ancient Jews, who denied the resurrection, a future state, and the existence of angels.

-- Sad`du*ce"an (#), a.

 

© Webster 1913.

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