Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Who were the Sadducees and are they still around?

Around the time the Pharisees became important players in Jewish history, the Sadducees (Tseduqim) also emerged. They held that only the Torah was authentic revelation, repudiating the Pharisaic emphasis on the full Bible as well as all subsequent oral tradition. They also denied the Pharisees’ teaching of the soul’s immortality and bodily resurrection. As the Pharisees presented themselves as the heirs of Moses and of his authority as lawgiver, the Sadducees anchored their authority in that of Moses’ priestly brother Aaron. More specifically, the Sadducees may have gotten their name because of their claim to be directly descended from Zadok, the High Priest in Solomon’s temple. The Sadducees had struck a compromise with the Hasmoneans, agreeing to support the rulers if they would officially nullify the Pharisaic teaching on the validity of the Oral Law. In exchange, the Sadducees would tolerate the Hasmonean claim to priestly authority—a stunning accommodation indicative of the enmity between Pharisees and Sadducees. When the Pharisees were restored to favor under the ruler Alexandra (76-67 B.C.E.), they in turn struck a deal by which they would sanction the priesthood of the Sadducees in exchange for the Sadducees’ acceptance of the binding force of Oral Torah. During the time of Jesus, the High Priest named Caiaphas was a Sadducee, but the sect disappeared along with the Temple, which was destroyed in 70 C.E.


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