Sadducees. This name comes from ‘Zadok’, or ‘Sadoc’, the promised line of priests in Israel who descended through Phinehas. In the gospel narratives, the Sadducees are more closely connected with the chief priests (Acts 5:17), although the office of High Priest moved between the Pharisees and Sadducees at times. During the time of Jesus’ trials, the Sadducees held the office of high priest. The Pharisees and the Sadducees together composed the Sanhedrin. A third sect called the Essenes excluded themselves from the council. Second only to the Pharisees, the Sadducees were the next most prominent sect of the Jews. Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees were composed of mostly the upper class. They were more exclusive, and therefore fewer in number. The Sadducees were influenced by Hellenistic or Greek culture and thinking, which is evident in some of their beliefs. There were huge doctrinal differences between the two groups as well. The Sadducees denied the resurrection, the existence of angels, and the possibility of the spirit to subsist outside the body (Acts 23:8; Matt. 22:23). These beliefs are in open contradiction to the Word of God. The Sadducees believed in strict observance of the written law of Moses, and they discounted psalms and the writings of the prophets. Hence, they tempted Lord on the basis of, “Moses said…” (Matt. 22:24). They also rejected the traditions of the elders which the Pharisees held so highly. At the same time they denied or twisted parts of scripture to fit their doctrines. The chief evil of the Sadducees was the denial of the resurrection. They believed that God’s government was over a person in their lifetime, but that the soul would perish with death. They held that when the body dies, the soul is annihilated. Therefore, in their view, there is no rewards or punishments; no judgment to come in heaven or hell. For that reason, they could live without fear of eternal consequences. On the other hand, they could never know the joy of living for eternity. Paul reasoned with the Corinthians about this error, stating that “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). That is why they were Sad-you-see? The Lord warned His disciples against their doctrine. On account of the resurrection, the Sadducees really came forward as the leading enemy of Christ after the cross, while the Pharisees were the leading enemy before the cross.
Ritualism and Rationalism. The Pharisees and Sadducees are not unique to the time period in which they lived. The class of Pharisees stood for the religious right; conservatism at the expense of truth. We can see today in Christendom a legal, ritualistic influence that would take the traditions of Church Fathers and elevate them to the level of scripture. They were liberal in the sense that they went beyond scripture, but legal in the sense that they made traditions into laws. They would emphasize works – an outward form – without the inward reality. The class of Sadducees stood for the religious left; liberalism at the expense of truth. We can see a similar evil today in Christendom in the form of rationalistic theology which denies the inerrancy of the Word of God, and teaches men to live as they want without regard for eternity. If the Pharisees were adding to the Word, the Sadducees were subtracting from the Word. If the Pharisees were guilty of superstition, than then Sadducees were guilty of skepticism.
|Added to scripture||Subtracted from scripture|
|Represented common-folk||Represented ruling class|
One important difference between the two is how the Lord dealt with them. He warned His disciples of the “leaven” (or, evil doctrine) of both the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yet He would occasionally dine with a Pharisee for the purpose of exhorting him, but He never set a foot into the house of a Sadducee. Why is skepticism darker and more dangerous than superstition? Because once the authority of the Word of God has been set aside, there is no recourse for the Spirit of God to set right a person’s course. We might at least have something in common with a legal minded Christian because we agree that the Bible is the Word of God. But where is the ground of common fellowship with a skeptic? We can never come to agreement if his only standard is that which is right in his own eyes. However, both are dangerous, and we must be warned of them. The flesh in each of us is a little of the Pharisee, and a little of the Sadducee. At one point both joined together to tempt the Lord (Matt. 16:1) and both joined together as one Sanhedrin to crucify the Lord.