The Sadducees (Matthew 22)

The Sadducees were a religious and political sect during the Second Temple period, drawn primarily from the ruling priestly and aristocratic elements in Jewish society. This party controlled the temple worship, and many of its adherents were also members of the supreme Jewish legal council, called the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:6). Two seperate accounts of the Sadducees’ origin link the name of the sect to two different historical figures, both named Zadok.

  • The name Sadducee may be derived from Zadok, the high priest in the days of David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17, 1 Kings 1:34). In Ezekiel’s vision of restoration, the descendants of this Zadok are entrusted with oversight of the temple worship (Ezekiel 40:46, 43:19, 44:15). Zadok’s descendants did in fact constitute the temple hierarchy down to the second century B.C.
  • According to rabbinic tradition, however, the sect of the Sadducees was founded by a disciple of Antigonus of Sokho (ca. 200 B.C.) also named Zadok.

The Sadducees’ major opponents were the Pharisees. Contrary to this rival faction, the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23-33, Acts 4:1-2, 23:6-8), the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of reward and punishment and the validity of the oral law (regulations passed down by rabbinic tradition). They accepted as binding only those laws based directly upon the written text of the Pentateuch. It is for this reason that Jesus defended the doctrine of the resurrection to them from the standpoint of Exodus 3:6 rather than from the prophets (Matthew 22:32). The influence of the Sadducees virtually ceased with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, leaving postbiblical Judaism to develop along Pharisaic lines. Later rabbinic teaching contains numerous examples and anti-Sadducee propeganda.

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