Jewish Literature in New Testament Times

The Sadducees


Who were the Sadducees and When was their Origin?

Jerusalem Temple CoinThe sect of the Sadducees was thought to have originated about the same time as the Pharisees. They were heavily influenced by the secular world around them, and were in favor of adopting Greek customs. The Sadducees took no part in the Maccabean struggle for the Jewish nation's independence. They were a priestly sect, and although they were the authoritative religious officials of their nation, they were not very religious. The Sadducees were not very numerous, and they were very wealthy and influential. To a great extent the Sadducees controlled the Sanhedrin, even though they were rationalistic and worldly minded.  (See Bible History Online - The Sadducees for a more detailed study.)

The Pharisees and Sadducees by james Tissot 
The Pharisees and Sadducees in the Time of Jesus - by Tissot


The Sadducees were so named because they claimed to be descended from Zadok, the high priest at the time of King David and King Solomon. They consisted of the wealthy aristocratic families who controlled the office of high priest. They rejected belief in angels and the resurrection, but they were not liberal rationalists. Rather, they were staunch conservatives, who observed the Law of the Books of Moses (Pentateuch) and who rejected later interpretations of the law, the 'oral law'.

The Sadducees were angered at Jesus' cleansing the temple and at his teaching on the resurrection. It was Sadducean chief priests who condemned Jesus at a night-time trial and handed him over to Pilate. The Sadducees were primarily responsible for trying to suppress the preaching of Peter and the other apostles when they proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. As the destruction of the temple in AD 70 destroyed their reason for existence, the Sadducees did not survive this period.


In the time of Jesus there was much hostility between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In many ways these two groups conflicted with each other. The Sadducees represented the privileged, conservative, traditional elite of Judaism. The Pharisees were the democratic, progressive new party of the common man. The Sadducees controlled the temple and its rituals, but the Pharisees controlled the synagogues.

The Pharisees openly challenged the privileged status of the Sadducees and criticized their easy tolerance of foreign rule. For the most part, the Pharisees opposed Roman rule, refused to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor and more than once participated in short revolts against Rome. (In 66 AD they led the nation in the great rebellion against Roman rule.) Though the Pharisees were represented on the Sanhedrin by the scribal members, the power there still rested with the Sadducees. The Pharisees were mostly influential in the realm of religious devotion and daily ritual.

But both parties united against Jesus. He brought about an uneasy alliance between these two groups. By threatening the privileged position of the Sadducees and at the same time challenging the basic scribal and Pharisaic precepts, he caused them to unite against Him. For their own very separate reasons, both parties saw this self-styled, unlearned Prophet from Galilee as a dangerous enemy, and together they concluded that he must be brought to trial and condemned to death.

THE SADDUCEES according to Josephus

During the life-time of Jesus, there were probably not more than about 5,000 of the Sadducees in Palestine, but they represented the rulers and the official order, and wore mostly resident in Jerusalem. The name of the sect is usually traced back to the priest Zadok, from whom they were all supposed to be descended. That is why they were more of a family than a religious sect. Josephus also tells us that the Sadducees often refused to take public office (" Antiquities " 18: 1, 4) and were sometimes compelled to do so by force.

All our real information about their beliefs and customs is derived directly from the New Testament and from Josephus (who himself was a Pharisee). Josephus is very clear in saying that the Sadducees believed that the souls of men "die with their bodies." They had no doctrine of the resurrection, an issue which they raised on one occasion with Christ (Mk 12:18-) and of this Paul took advantage at a later date (Acts 23:6). Josephus adds that they would not recognize anything in addition to what the Law commanded (they rejected the "tradition of the elders" (Mk 7:2-.).

In other passages (" The Jewish Wars " 1: 8, 14) Josephus adds further details which show their attachment with Epicurean philosophy: they deny providence, and declare that God is not concerned about our individual choice of right or wrong, a view which removes the idea of having a vital relationship with God, and leads towards skepticism. According to the New Testament, they were very skeptical about miracles and any unusual experience, and they did not believe in angels or spirits (Acts 23:8).

Wikipedia. The Sadducees (Hebrew: צְדוּקִים Ṣĕdqm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70CE. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society.[1] As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

Also see The Scribes, and The Sadducees


Jewish Literature

Esther Scroll

John 10:34 "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law.."

Rabbinical Literature and Second Temple Judaism

Jerusalem Temple CoinThe Rabbinic Writings, The Mishnah, and the Talmud. During the first century A.D. the Pharisaic rabbis created many commentaries on the Torah. When Jesus began his ministry He attacked the Pharisees for putting their traditions above the word of God. All the writings and commentaries of the first two centuries A.D. were compiled and organized into a collection by a man named Judah Hanasi around 200 A.D. forming a collection called the Mishnah. The Pharisaic rabbis were known as the "Tannaim" which in Hebrew is translated teachers, and these men were the teachers who regulated the law. There was another collection of their commentary which was much smaller, it was known as the Tosefta which in Hebrew means "enlargement". The later commentaries on the Mishnah were made by "expositors".

Brief Historical Background

The Jews and Torah
The Holy Scriptures
The Apocrypha
The Apocryphal Literature
The Oral Law
The Mishnah
The Gemara
The Halakah
The Haggadah
The Midrash
The Zugoth
The Tannaim
The Amoraim
The Tosefta
The Baraitha
The Talmud
The Tractates of the Mishnah
The Palestinian Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud

The Purpose and Heart of the Law - A Heart Message
Rabbinical Writings Chart

Historical Timeline

The Persian Period 430-332 B.C.
The Greek Period 331-167 B.C.
The Period of Independence 167-63 B.C.
The Roman Period 63 B.C. to the time of Christ
The Old Testament Canon
The Apocrypha
Other Writings
The Septuagint
The Text of the Old Testament
The Aramaic Language
The Targums
The Talmud
The Great Synagogue
The Sanhedrin
The Dispersion
Preparation for Christ




Related Content