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Historic Jesus

Although often linked in popular thinking with the Pharisees, the Sadducees were in many ways their direct opposites. áLittle is known of their origin. Someáscholars have linked their name with Zadok, the man who was high priest when David was king; others think the name is derived from a Hebrew wordáthat means "righteous." What is known of the Sadducces is found either in the New Testament or in the writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian, both hostile sources. Therefore, an understanding from their own viewpoint is not available.

Compared with the Pharisces, the Sadducees were few in number. They came from landed aristocratic families. Although not every priest was a Sadducce, every Sadducee was a priest. The Hasmonean family line of rulers was generally allied with the Sadducees, who also dominated the Sanhedrin during the rule of both Herods. With the destruction of the temple in A. D. 70, the Sadducean party vanished from history.

The Sadducces, like most landed aristocracy, were politically and religiously conservative. The common people had little regard for them, but favored instead the more populist Pharisees. Confident of their social and political position, the Sadducees were well known for their arrogance and rudeness to others. They were argumentative with all religious teachers, and harsh in their judgments about other Jews. By contrast to the Pharisees, who in practice equated the traditions of the elders with the Mosaic Law, the Sadducees denied the validity of all religious authorities other than the written Pentateuch. Believing that people had complete free will, they actively engaged in politics, whereas the Pharisees were content to be left alone, provided that they could practice their religion without interference. The Sadducees denied the existence of the soul, the afterlife, final rewards and punishments, and angels and demons-all teachings held dear by the Pharisees.

The Baptist included the Sadducees in his denunciations. Jesus warned his followers to avoid the "leaven" both of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees sent some of their members to question Jesus in Galilee. Later they participated in the Sanhedrin trial that condemned Jesus.