Who Were The Sadducees?

A watercolor illustration of a sarduccee.
A watercolor illustration of a sarduccee.

The Sadducees was a sect in the Jewish community who were active around the second temple period in Judea, which was the time beginning from the second century BC up to the period when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The Sadducees sect is compared to other groups of the time like the Pharisees and the Essenes, but sect became extinct in 70 AD in Jerusalem. However, the Karaites sect, which emerged after 70 AD, is believed to have some of its people with Sadducaic roots.


The Sadducees played a significant role in taking care of the temple. Abraham Geiger believes that the sect drew their name from Zadok who was the first high priest in ancient Israel who served in the first temple. The name Zadok has its origin from the name sadaq and therefore the reason for their aristocratic position they occupied in the Jewish community. Their name means righteous, and for this reason, they were tasked with taking care of the temple even though they were the smallest group compared to the Pharisees and other sects of that time.

Beliefs Of The Sadducees

Unlike other Jews, the Sadducees did not believe in angels, the coming of the Messiah, or the afterlife. They only believed that they had comfort where they were and as such, no other life was expected. They only believed that God was only worshipped in the temple and nowhere else, but this could have been an attempt to keep control of the temple. They also believed that human beings are the ones who control their fates and destinies. They did not also believe in change and acceptance of new ideas. The first five books of the Pentateuch are the only ones, which they recognized, but they also rejected any writings, which were from the prophets. They did not believe there was resurrection after death even though they believed in a Jewish practice known as Sheol for the dead. They also believed that after death there was no punishment for any wrongdoings. They rejected any oral law and believed only in the written law or Torah as the divine authority.

Roles Of The Sadducees

One of the religious roles of the Sadducees was to take care of the temple in the city of Jerusalem. The reason why they had a very high status is because their priests were the ones mandated to perform sacrifices in the temple and sacrifices were a major method of worshipping in Israel during the ancient times. However, other priests were also involved in performing sacrifices, which were not necessarily affiliated with any group while others were Pharisees. The Sadducees did also have some political roles, and they were in charge of overseeing numerous state affairs. The members of the Sadducees sect were in charge of leading the army and even represented the state in international matters. They were in charge of the collection of taxes and mediating over any domestic rows that couples would bring before them.


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