Sects During Biblical Times — Sadducees (Ia)

Sects During Biblical Times — Sadducees

Draft Ia

Who were the Sadducees?

Image result for sadducees picsThe Sadducees (sedûqîm or “Ẓadduḳim”) were one of the three main Jewish political and religious movements in the years between 350 BC and 70 AD. (The other movements were the Essenes and the Pharisees.) They claimed to have a “conservative” outlook and accepted only the written Law of Moses.

Many wealthy Jews in Jerusalem were Sadducees or were sympathized with them. And the sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society.

“…while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side.” (Antiquities; xiii.10, § 6).

According to Abraham Geiger, the Sadducaic sect of Judaism drew their name from Zadok, the first High Priest of ancient Israel to serve in the First Temple, with the leaders of the sect proposed as the Kohanim, or priests, hence their claim (or synthepathers who claimed for them) that they were the “sons of Zadok”, descendants of Eleazar, son of Aaron.

No Sadducee texts are known; their ideas and opinions are only known from their enemies (the Pharisees, the Essenes, Josephus, Gospel writers). The Sadducees were usually vehemently opposed to the Pharisees and as a consequence, the few passages in the rabbinical literature that refer to the Sadducees almost always portray them as hostile and heretics. The fundamental difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees is the interpretation of the Law of Moses, the Torah. The Sadducees maintained that the only way for truly pious behavior was to live according to the commandments in the written Law.

See the source imageThe Pharisees, on the other hand, taught that the written Law had been given to the Jews and that they were given the responsibility to interpret the Law as per “….according to the word they tell you… according to all they instruct you. According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left” Deuteronomy 17:10-12. After all, the world had changed since the days of Moses. As a consequence, the Pharisees said that the Written Torah was to be supplemented with the Oral Torah, the case law, the interpretation of the Written Law by learned Levites, the rabbis and appointed judges as in Deuteronomy 1:16-17; 17:18. The Sadducees considered the Oral Law an almost blasphemous act, because it seemed to deny the majesty of the Law of Moses.

Throughout the Second Temple Period, Jerusalem saw several shifts in rule. Alexander’s conquest of the Mediterranean world brought an end to Persian control of Jerusalem (539 BC–334/333 BC) and ushered in the Hellenistic period. The Hellenistic period, which extended from 334/333 BC to 63 BC, is known today for the spread of Hellenistic influence. This included an expansion of culture, including an appreciation of Greek theater, and Greek philosophy. After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, his generals divided the empire among themselves and for the next 30 years, they fought for control of the empire. Judea was first controlled by the Ptolemies of Egypt (r. 301–200 BC) and later by the Seleucids of Syria (r. 200–167). King Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria, a Seleucid, disrupted whatever peace there had been in Judea when he desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and forced Jews to violate the Torah.

Wikipedia says:
“It was also during this time that the high priesthood—the members of which often identified as Sadducees—was developing a reputation for corruption” (Sadducees).

Josephus indicates that the Sadducees were aristocratic monarchists, and represented an aristocratic, wealthy, and traditional elite within the hierarchy. The Pharisaic position is exemplified by the assertion that “A learned mamzer takes precedence over an ignorant High Priest.” (A mamzer, according to the Pharisaic definition, is an outcast child born of a forbidden relationship, such as adultery or incest, in which marriage of the parents could not lawfully occur. The word is often, but incorrectly, translated as “illegitimate”.)

In practice, the Law of Moses is not always very clear and eventually the Sadducees had interpretative traditions of their own, which were written down in a book of jurisprudence known as the Book of Decrees. The existence of this penal code is known from a rabbinical source, the Megilla Ta’anit, a calendar like text that states that the Book of Decrees was revoked on the fourth of Tammuz (no year is given).

The Sadducee code is described as very harsh: the author of the Megilla Ta’anit states that the Sadducees had taken the famous line Exodus 21.24, ‘an eye for an eye’, literally. In the Sadducees’ view the words were given a more literal interpretation. But the Pharisaic understanding was that the value of an eye was to be paid by the perpetrator. From the point of view of the Sadducees, they charged that the Pharisees wished to change the understanding of the written Torah. The Sadducees would die out during the inferno in 70 AD, and the Pharisees would become the foundation of Rabbinic Judaism, where they would preserve the Oral law in the form of the Talmud.

But what were the true origin of the Sadducees? The answer is that it could have started much earlier, with the Samaritan Sanballat and Tobiah when the Jews were returning from Babylonia and trying to resettle in Jerusalem.

In the year 445 BC, Eliashib was the high priest when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 1:1, 2:1). Josephus puts Eliashib as a contemporary of Ezra during the reign of Xerxes. He also dates his reign as high priest through the reign of Cyrus the Younger, who Josephus mentions is “also called by the Greeks, Artaxerxes”. Josephus outlines this story in Antiq. 11:185- Antiq 11:297. The last quotation of this story states, “When Eliasib the high priest was dead, his son Judas succeeded in the high priesthood.”(Antiq 11:297).

See the source image

Eliashib’s grandson was married to the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Neh 13:28) and, while Nehemiah was absent in Babylon, Eliashib had leased the storerooms of the Second Temple to Sanballat’s associate Tobiah the Ammonite. When Nehemiah returned he threw Tobiah’s furniture out of the Temple and drove out Eliashib’s grandson (Neh 13:4-9).

Had Sanballat infiltrated the Jewish priesthood with his Samaritan beliefs? “We shall know them by their fruits,” and by this principle the link is probable, even strong. In order to unite Samaria and its populations, Sanballat thought a sacred site was necessary. The Levite priesthood had migrated from Babylon to Judea, and the priests of Baal were idolatrous, and Sanballat, having failed to convince Nehemiah and Ezra to work with them, choose from tradition Mount Gerizim, over whose site he offered his daughter to Manasseh, the grandson of the Jewish high priest to officiate in his temple at Mount Gerizim. Thus Sanballat had succeeded in appointing a high priest from a noble family from Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 13:28 And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son-in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. — His name was Manasseh.

Manasseh was rewarded and made the high priest officialing the temple at Mount Gerizim in the north, but in the south, in Jerusalem, the battle continued. Tobiah was an Ammonite official who attempted to hinder Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, and took over the storerooms of the Temple for his own use. He, along with Sanballat, resorted to a stratagem, by pretending to wish a conference with Nehemiah, invited him to meet them at Ono, Benjamin. Four times they made the request, and every time Nehemiah refused to come. Their object was to frighten him from completing the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls and to do him some kind of harm. Failing in their scheme, they resort to penetrating the Jewish settlers like they did at Mount Gerizim, and again through marriage:

See the source imageFrom Wikipedia
“Tobiah also had married a daughter of Shecaniah, a Judahite leader, and had given his son, Jehohanan, in marriage to the daughter of Meshullam, another Judahite leader, for ostensibly political purposes. Because of this, he somehow gained enough of a Judahite coalition to use the Judahites themselves to send letters to Nehemiah, telling him of Tobiah’s “good deeds” in an apparent attempt to weaken Nehemiah’s resolve to keep Tobiah out of the rebuilding effort. Tobiah meanwhile sent intimidating letters directly to Nehemiah” (Tobiah).

According to Deuteronomy 7:3 Intermarriage with the inhabitants of the land is forbidden, and Ezra felt that the Jewish settlers were destroying themselves because they were not living up to God’s laws. Consequently, he was determined to avoid a similar fate of another destruction:

Ezra 9:1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me (Ezra), saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations . . .2 For they have taken their daughters for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands; yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.”
Ezra 9:3 And when I heard this, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down stunned.
The laws of the Torah had to become the blueprint for the new society. Ezra convinced the people to begin a process of separating from non-Israelite wives, but the process was much harder than expected; and it was doubtful if the process was ever completed.

Ezra went on and asked some sobering questions if they didn’t obey:

Ezra 9:13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this,
14 should we again break Thy commandments and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? Wouldest not Thou be angry with us until Thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?

So there were many testimonies of the young Jewish nation being contaminated with pagan beliefs from the surrounding land, especially from the Samaritans. And here are the details from the Jewish Encyclopedia:

“With the destruction of the Temple and the state the Sadducees as a party no longer had an object for which to live. They disappear from history, though their views are partly maintained and echoed by the Samaritans, with whom they are frequently identified (see Hippolytus, “Refutatio Hæresium,” ix. 29; Epiphanius, l.c. xiv.; and other Church Fathers, who ascribe to the Sadducees the rejection of the Prophets and the Hagiographa; comp. also Sanh. 90b, where “Ẓadduḳim” stands for “Kutim” [Samaritans]; Sifre, Num. 112; Geiger, l.c. pp. 128-129), and by the Karaites (see Maimonides, commentary on Ab. i. 3; Geiger, “Gesammelte Schriften,” iii. 283-321; also Anan ben David; Karaites).” — (Sadducees)

Additionally, Tobiah exploited his relationship with High Priest Eliashib. He persuaded Eliashib to lease the storerooms of the temple to him, so that he could conduct business in the newly constructed temple. These storerooms had been intended for the Israelites’ grain offerings, incense, temple articles, and the tithes of grain, new wine and oil meant for the work of the temple and the temple workers themselves. Upon hearing this, Nehemiah, who was then in Babylon serving Artaxerxes I of Persia, requested permission to return to Judah. After returning, he promptly threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the temple room, purified the room, and put back all that had originally been there.

A few centuries later, the New Testaments tell of Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple, which occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament. In this account, Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where Jesus expels the merchants and money changers from the Temple, accusing them of turning the Temple into “a den of thieves” through their commercial activities.

While there is no consensus among scholars as to how the Samaritans had infiltrated Judaism, partly because the evidence is scanty, it is noteworthy to study a more detailed view from the Essenes, suggesting that, perhaps, the Sadducees were seen as a corrupt sect, hence the Essenes were seen to have arose out as renegade Zadokites:

See the source image“The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are often attributed to the Essenes, suggest clashing ideologies and social positions between the Essenes and the Sadducees. In fact, some scholars suggest that the Essenes began as a group of renegade Zadokites, which would indicate that the group itself had priestly, and thus Sadducaic origins. Within the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Sadducees are often referred to as Manasseh. . . which states, “They [Manasseh] are the wicked ones … whose reign over Israel will be brought down … his wives, his children, and his infant will go into captivity. His warriors and his honored ones [will perish] by the sword.” . . . Furthermore, it suggests that the Essenes challenged the authenticity of the rule of the Sadducees, blaming the downfall of ancient Israel and the siege of Jerusalem on their impiety. The Dead Sea Scrolls brand the Sadducaic elite as those who broke the covenant with God in their rule of the Judean state, and thus became targets of divine revenge” (Sadducees, Wikipedia).

Their predictions were proven true, that the Sadducees were “the wicked ones … whose reign over Israel will be brought down … his wives, his children, and his infant will go into captivity” when in 70 AD, Jerusalem went through a fire inferno and all Sadducees disappeared from history.

Like the Samaritans, the Sadducees rejected not only the Oral Torah and the Pharisaic understanding of the Torah, they accepted Hellenistic influence but rejected the Prophets and the Writings. In place of the Sacred Text, they have replaced them with Hellenization; but where did they get their Hellenistic ideas from?

Among the rabbis of the second century the following legend circulated: Antigonus of Soko, successor of Simeon the Just, the last of the Men of the Great Assembly, and consequently living at the time of the influx of Hellenistic ideas (i.e., Hellenization), taught the maxim, “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of a reward, but rather like those who serve without thought of receiving a reward” (Avot 1:3); whereupon two of his disciples, Zadok and Boethus, mistaking the high ethical purport of the maxim, arrived at the conclusion that there was no future retribution, saying:

“What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?” Instantly they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using many silver and gold vessels at their banquets; and they established schools that declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These two schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees and Boethusians.”

Thus, the Sadducees were, for the most part, a political party rather than a religious sect. It is also an elitist society, associated closely with the Herodians and the Boethusians. There is more evidence from Wikipedia (under Pharisees)

— A fourth point of conflict, specifically religious, involved different interpretations of the Torah and how to apply it to current Jewish life, with Sadducees recognizing only the Written Torah (with Greek philosophy) and rejecting doctrines such as the Oral Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and the resurrection of the dead.

See the source imageSadducees rejects the Orah Torah, reject the Prophets and Writings—this sounds exactly like they have taken their reliefs from the Samaritans, who have identical beliefs. And here are more similarities with the Samaritans from the Jewish Encyclopedia, under Sadducees:

— (9) They contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering (“‘omer”) to Pentecost should, according to Lev. xxiii. 15-16, be counted from “the day after Sabbath,” and, consequently, that Pentecost should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg. Ta’an. i.; Men. 65a).

— With the destruction of the Temple and the state the Sadducees as a party no longer had an object for which to live. They disappear from history, though their views are partly maintained and echoed by the Samaritans, with whom they are frequently identified . . . who ascribe to the Sadducees the rejection of the Prophets and the Hagiographa (Writings).

— In the New Testament the Sadducees are mentioned in Matt. iii. 7 and xvi. 1, 6, 11, where they are identical with the Herodians (Mark xii. 13), that is, the Boethusians (Matt. xxii. 23, 34; Mark xii. 18; Acts iv. 1, v. 17, xxiii. 6-8). In John’s Gospel they simply figure as “the chief priests” (vii. 23, 45; xi. 47, 57; xviii. 3).

Furthermore, Josephus mentions in Antiquities of the Jews that in the time of Boethus: “…one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt…”. Paul L. Maier notes, “It seems not improbable to me that this Sadduc, the Pharisee, was the very same man of whom the rabbis speak, as the unhappy but undesigning occasion of the impiety or infidelity of the Sadducees; nor perhaps had the men this name of the Sadducees till this very time, though they were a distinct sect long before. The similarity of Sadduc to the Zadok above, varying largely in transliteration, lends credence to that account. The contextual inclusion of Boethus and Sadduc implies they were most likely contemporaries.

from Jewish Encyclopedia
— Name given to the party representing views and practises of the Law and interests of Temple and priesthood directly opposite to those of the Pharisees. The singular form, “Ẓadduḳi” (Greek, Σαδδουκαῖος), is an adjective denoting “an adherent of the Bene Ẓadoḳ,” the descendants of Zadok, the high priests who, tracing their pedigree back to Zadok, the chief of the priesthood in the days of David and Solomon (I Kings i. 34, ii. 35; I Chron. xxix. 22), formed the Temple hierarchy all through the time of the First and Second Temples down to the days of Ben Sira (II Chron. xxxi. 10; Ezek. xl. 46, xliv. 15, xlviii. 11; Ecclus. [Sirach] li. 12 [9], Hebr.), but who degenerated under the influence of Hellenism, especially during the rule of the Seleucidæ, when to be a follower of the priestly aristocracy was tantamount to being a worldly-minded Epicurean. The name, probably coined by the Ḥasidim as opponents of the Hellenists, became in the course of time a party name applied to all the aristocratic circles connected with the high priests by marriage and other social relations, as only the highest patrician families intermarried with the priests officiating at the Temple in Jerusalem (Ḳid. iv. 5; Sanh. iv. 2; comp. Josephus, “B. J.” ii. 8, § 14). “Haughty men these priests are, saying which woman is fit to be married by us, since our father is high priest, our uncles princes and rulers, and we presiding officers at the Temple”—these words, put into the mouth of Nadab and Abihu (Tan., Aḥare Mot, ed. Buber, 7; Pesiḳ. 172b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. lxxviii. 18), reflect exactly the opinion prevailing among the Pharisees concerning the Sadducean priesthood (comp. a similar remark about the “haughty” aristocracy of Jerusalem in Shab. 62b). The Sadducees, says Josephus, have none but the rich on their side (“Ant.” xiii. 10, § 6). The party name was retained long after the Zadokite high priests had made way for the Hasmonean house and the very origin of the name had been forgotten. Nor is anything definite known about the political and religious views of the Sadducees except what is recorded by their opponents in the works of Josephus, in the Talmudic literature, and in the New Testament writings.

— Zadok and Boethus, mistaking the high ethical purport of the maxim, arrived at the conclusion that there was no future retribution, saying, “What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?” Instantly they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using many silver and gold vessels at their banquets; and they established schools which declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These two schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees and Boethusians.

— They contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering (“‘omer”) to Pentecost should, according to Lev. xxiii. 15-16, be counted from “the day after Sabbath,” and, consequently, that Pentecost should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg. Ta’an. i.; Men. 65a).

— With the destruction of the Temple and the state the Sadducees as a party no longer had an object for which to live. They disappear from history, though their views are partly maintained and echoed by the Samaritans, with whom they are frequently identified (see Hippolytus, “Refutatio Hæresium,” ix. 29; Epiphanius, l.c. xiv.; and other Church Fathers, who ascribe to the Sadducees the rejection of the Prophets and the Hagiographa (the Writings); comp. also Sanh. 90b, where “Ẓadduḳim” stands for “Kutim” [Samaritans]; Sifre, Num. 112; Geiger, l.c. pp. 128-129), and by the Karaites (see Maimonides, commentary on Ab. i. 3; Geiger, “Gesammelte Schriften,” iii. 283-321; also Anan ben David; Karaites).

— In the New Testament the Sadducees are mentioned in Matt. iii. 7 and xvi. 1, 6, 11, where they are identical with the Herodians (Mark xii. 13), that is, the Boethusians (Matt. xxii. 23, 34; Mark xii. 18; Acts iv. 1, v. 17, xxiii. 6-8). In John’s Gospel they simply figure as “the chief priests” (vii. 23, 45; xi. 47, 57; xviii. 3).

While there is no hard evidence as to how the Samaritans had infiltrated the Sadducees their linkage are rather close, their fruits were proven to be very similar; hence it is noteworthy to study this subject more closely. Perhaps their close associates, the Herodians and the Boethusians, could provide a clue.

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~ by Joel Huan on August 30, 2019.

One Response to “Sects During Biblical Times — Sadducees (Ia)”

  1. […] More about the Sadducees HERE […]

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