Who were the “Sadducees?”

WHO WERE THE “SADDUCEES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “Sadducees.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

HISTORIANS SPEAK

While the Pharisees numbered around 6,000, the Sadducees were an even smaller group during Christ’s earthly ministry. Sadducees were the second most influential group in Judaism (Jewish religion) in the nation Israel, but were equally corrupt. The origin of the name “Sadducee” is debated. It may be related to Zadok (Greek, “Sadok”), the priest who served under Kings David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24-29; 1 Kings 1:32; 1 Kings 2:35). Sadducees disappeared in A.D. 70, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, about four decades after Christ’s earthly ministry.

Now, we can move on to God’s Word.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

The Sadducees—along with the Pharisees—are first found in God’s Word in Matthew 3:7. John the Baptist addresses them as “vipers,” for they resemble their spiritual father Satan (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). According to the Bible study principle of “the law of first mention,” this first instance of the word sets the tone of the Scriptures as touching them. They are some of the bitterest opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will for the nation Israel, especially in the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John) and the Acts period.

Sadducees appear by name a mere 14 times in the King James Bible. However, many Jewish priests, including the high priest, were Sadducees. Thus, Scripture may indirectly refer to them when it mentions priests, chief priests, high priests, and so on. Sadducees were aristocratic, wealthy and exclusive. Hence, they are rarely seen mixing with the common Jewish people: this explains their few verses in Scripture. In contrast, the Pharisees involved men of all social statuses, as Pharisees engaged in proselytizing.

Jesus warned His disciples of the doctrine (teaching) of the Sadducees (verses 11-12). The Sadducees were noteworthy for two positions. Firstly, they did not believe in bodily resurrection (they were “sad, you see!” hahaha). Secondly, they did not believe in angels or spirits.

  • Matthew 22:23: “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,….”
  • Mark 12:18: “Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,….”
  • Luke 20:27: “Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,….”
  • Acts 4:1-2: “[1] And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, [2] Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
  • Acts 23:8: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”

If you read Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, and Luke 20:27-38; you will see the Sadducees posing a complex and ridiculous question about resurrection so as to make Jesus look foolish. (They did not believe in resurrection, so they were not interested in learning the truth. It was nothing but a pointless argument to embarrass Christ. He answered them—and put them to silence!)

Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees rejected oral tradition, contending that the written Law of Moses (Scripture) alone was the source of Divine revelation. Sadducees accepted only Moses’ writings, however; Jesus skillfully used Moses to answer the “resurrection dilemma” they posed to Him. They were materialistic, far more involved in politics than religion. Yet, they agreed with the Pharisees challenging and murdering Jesus Christ, and opposing Him and His followers as much as possible. “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1). They persecuted the Little Flock of believers in Acts 4:1-3 because they preached Jesus’ resurrection. Notice Acts 5:17-18: “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”

In closing, the Sadducees are modern rationalists, skeptics, and liberals in that they outright questioned, denied, and refuted Bible truth. They do not believe in the supernatural, only the material or physical world.

SUPPLEMENTAL: FROM WHERE DID THE SADDUCEES’ STRANGE POSITIONS COME?

How could the Sadducees not believe in resurrection, when their Old Testament clearly taught it (Exodus 3:6; Job 19:25-27; Daniel 12:2; et cetera)? How could they not believe in angels and spirits, when their Old Testament abounds with these creatures (Genesis 19:1,15; Genesis 32:1; Job 4:18; Psalm 68:17; et al.)(Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6,27; Deuteronomy 18:11; et al.)?

Remember, the Sadducees only accepted Moses’ five Books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now, why did they not listen to Moses concerning resurrection, spirits, and angels? The most likely answer is they developed their anti-spirit, anti-angel, and anti-resurrection attitude during the time between Malachi and John the Baptist. For 400 years—between the writing of Malachi and the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist—God was not speaking to Israel. The Jews had rejected His words for centuries, so now He was being quiet (Amos 8:11-12). He would send no angels or prophets to talk to them, perform no miracles in their midst, and so on. Once Malachi’s ministry terminated, Israel did not hear from God until John the Baptist four centuries later (cf. Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:13-17). That interim of God’s silence probably led to the surfacing of the Sadducees.

Also see:
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “scribes?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

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