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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Sad´ducees, one of the three sects of Jewish philosophers, of which the Pharisees and the Essenes were the others, who had reached their highest state of prosperity about the commencement of the Christian era.

The peculiar doctrines of the Sadducees naturally sprung out of Pharisaic errors; but the time when this sect came into existence history does not define. There can be no doubt, however, that they were posterior to the Pharisees. And although so soon as the Pharisaic elements began to become excessive, there existed in Judaism itself a sufficient source for Sadduceeism, yet, as a fact, we have no doubt that Grecian philosophy lent its aid to the development of Sadduceeism. Whence we are referred for the rise of the latter to the period when the conquests and the kingdoms which ensued from the expedition of Alexander had diffused a very large portion of Grecian civilization over the soil of the East, and especially over Western Asia.

As may be inferred from what has been advanced, the Sadducees stood in direct opposition to the Pharisees. So they are described by Josephus, and so they appear in the New Testament. Hostile, however, as these two sects were, they united for the common purpose of opposing our Lord (;;; , sq.; 22:23, 34;; ). In opposing the Pharisees the Sadducees were led to impeach the principal doctrines, and so to deny all the 'traditions of the elders,' holding that the law alone was the written source of religious truth. By more than one consideration, however, it might be shown that they are in error who so understand the fact now stated, as if the Sadducees received no other parts of the Jewish canon than the Pentateuch; for in truth they appear to have held the common opinion regarding the sacred books. The Sadducees taught that the soul of man perished together with his body, and that of course there was neither reward nor punishment after death (Josephus, De Bell. Jud. ii. 8, 14; comp. ). Indeed they appear to have disowned the moral philosophy which obtrudes the idea of recompense.

They held that the Scriptures did not contain the doctrine of a future life. They were thus naturally led also to deny the existence of angels and spirits (). They taught the absolute freedom of the human mind, and according to Josephus, while 'the Pharisees ascribe all to fate and to God, the Sadducees take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing evil; and they say that to act what is good or what is evil is in man's own choice; and that all things depend on our own selves.' An inference injurious to them has been deduced from this position, as if they denied divine providence altogether; but their reception of the canonical books, and their known observance of the usages for divine worship therein prescribed, are incompatible with such a denial.

As might be expected from the nature of their system, their doctrines held sway over but comparatively few persons, and those mostly men distinguished by wealth or station. What Josephus says of the repulsiveness of their manners is in keeping with their general principles. A skeptical materialism is generally accompanied by an undue share of self-confidence and self-esteem, which are among the least sociable of human qualities.

The Sadducees, equally with the Pharisees, were not only a religious but a political party. Indeed as long as the Mosaic polity retained an influence, social policy could not be sundered from religion; for religion was everything. Accordingly the Sadducees formed a part of the Jewish parliament, the Sanhedrim (), and sometimes enjoyed the dignity of supreme power in the high-priesthood. Their possession of power, however, seems to have been owing mainly to their individual personal influence, as men of superior minds or eminent position, since the general current of favor ran adversely to them, and their enemies, the Pharisees, spared no means to keep them and their opinions in the background.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Sadducees'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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