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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a sect among the Jews. It is said that the principles of the Sadducees were derived from Antigonus Sochaeus, president of the sanhedrim, about B.C. 250, who, rejecting the traditionary doctrines of the scribes, taught that man ought to serve God out of pure love, and not from hope of reward, or fear of punishment; and that they derived their name from Sadoc, one of his followers, who, mistaking or perverting this doctrine, maintained that there was no future state of rewards and punishments. Whatever foundation there may be for this account of the origin of the sect, it is certain, that in the time of our Saviour the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead, Acts 23:8 , and the existence of angels and spirits, or souls of departed men; though, as Mr. Hume observes, it is not easy to comprehend how they could at the same time admit the authority of the law of Moses. They carried their ideas of human freedom so far as to assert that men were absolutely masters of their own actions, and at full liberty to do either good or evil. Josephus even says that they denied the essential difference between good and evil; and, though they believed that God created and preserved the world, they seem to have denied his particular providence. These tenets, which resemble the Epicurean philosophy, led, as might be expected, to great profligacy of life; and we find the licentious wickedness of the Sadducees frequently condemned in the New Testament; yet they professed themselves obliged to observe the Mosaic law, because of the temporal rewards and punishments annexed to such observance; and hence they were always severe in their punishment of any crimes which tended to disturb the public tranquillity. The Sadducees rejected all tradition, and some authors have contended that they admitted only the books of Moses; but there seems no ground for that opinion, either in the Scriptures or in any ancient writer. Even Josephus, who was himself a Pharisee, and took every opportunity of reproaching the Sadducees, does not mention that they rejected any part of the Scriptures; he only says that "The Pharisees have delivered to the people many institutions as received from the fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses. For this reason the Sadducees reject these things, asserting that those things are binding which are written, but that the things received by tradition from the fathers are not to be observed." Beside, it is generally believed that the Sadducees expected the Messiah with great impatience, which seems to imply their belief in the prophecies, though they misinterpreted their meaning. Confining all their hopes to this present world, enjoying its riches, and devoting themselves to its pleasures, they might well be particularly anxious that their lot of life should be cast in the splendid reign of this expected temporal king, with the hope of sharing in his conquests and glory; but this expectation was so contrary to the lowly appearance of our Saviour, that they joined their inveterate enemies, the Pharisees, in persecuting him and his religion. Josephus says, that the Sadducees were able to draw over to them the rich only, the people not following them; and he elsewhere mentions that this sect spread chiefly among the young. The Sadducees were far less numerous than the Pharisees, but they were in general persons of greater opulence and dignity. The council before whom our Saviour and St. Paul were carried consisted partly of Pharisees and partly of Sadducees.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Sadducees'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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