Sadducees

Who Were the Sadducees in the Bible?

Sadducees in the Bible
The Pharisees and Sadducees Come to Tempt Jesus by James Tissot (1836-1902). SuperStock / Getty Images

The Sadducees in the Bible were political opportunists, members of a religious party who felt threatened by Jesus Christ.

Following the Jews' return to Israel from exile in Babylon, the high priests gained more power.  After the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Sadducees collaborated with the Hellenization, or Greek influence, on Israel.

Later, the Sadducees' cooperation with the Roman empire gained their party a majority in the Sanhedrin, Israel's high court.

They also controlled the high priest's and chief priests' positions. In Jesus' time, the high priest was appointed by the Roman governor.

However, the Sadducees were not popular with the common people. They tended to be wealthy aristocrats, out of touch and unconcerned with the suffering of the peasants.

While the Pharisees put great importance on oral tradition, the Sadducees said only the written law, specifically the Pentateuch or five books of Moses, were from God. Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead as well as an afterlife, saying the soul ceased to exist after death. They did not believe in angels or demons.

Jesus and the Sadducees

Like the Pharisees, Jesus called the Sadducees "sons of snakes" (Matthew 3:7) and warned his disciples about the evil influence of their teachings (Matthew 16:12).

It's likely that when Jesus cleansed the temple of moneychangers and profiteers, the Sadducees suffered financially.

They probably got a kickback from the moneychangers and animal sellers for the right to operate in the temple courts.

When Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, both religious parties feared him:

"If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." (John 11:49-50, NIV)

Joseph Caiaphas, a Sadducee, unknowingly prophesied that Jesus would die for the salvation of the world.

Following Jesus' resurrection, the Pharisees were less hostile to the apostles, but the Sadducees stepped up the persecution of Christians. Although Paul was a Pharisee, he went with letters from the Sadducean high priest to arrest Christians in Damascus. Annas the high priest, another Sadducee, ordered the death of James, the brother of the Lord.

Because of their involvement in the Sanhedrin and the temple, the Sadducees were snuffed out as a party in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and leveled the temple.  In contrast, influences of the Pharisees still exist in Judaism today.

References to Sadducees in the Bibles

Sadducees are mentioned 14 times in the New Testament (in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as the book of Acts).

Example:

The Sadducees in the Bible conspired in the death of Jesus.

(Sources: Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor; jewishroots.net, gotquestions.org)

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Zavada, Jack. "Sadducees." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/who-were-the-sadducees-700708. Zavada, Jack. (2017, February 28). Sadducees. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-were-the-sadducees-700708 Zavada, Jack. "Sadducees." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-were-the-sadducees-700708 (accessed January 19, 2018).