The Sadducees are an Ancient Jewish religious and philosophical school (along with the Pharisees and Essenes).
It appeared during the reign of the Maccabean dynasty in 150 BC, and disappeared during the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman troops in 70 AD. The difference between the Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees is in the severity of the latter when applying religious rules and legal laws.
These and many other differences in teachings determined key changes in the development of Judaism and influenced the fate of the religion in general.
In the Panarion, published around 378, the Sadducees rank fourteenth among the eighty heresies of Christians, and are considered the first of the seven sects of Jewish heretics. Fragments of their teachings can be found in the reports of the Hebrew historian and military commander Flavius Josephus as well as the Talmud. The facts contained there are consistent with each other and do not contradict the New Testament.
According to one of the Talmudic sources, the name of the school came from the name of its ancestor—Sadok. The famous sage and legislator Antigonus of Sokho was his teacher (the 4th-3rd centuries BC). Sadok, repeating the words of his mentor, spread the idea that a person should not deny himself or herself anything during lifetime, since no reward awaits after death.
The followers of Sadok believed that a person should only worry about his well-being on Earth, this was why their way of life was rich and luxurious.
The main feature of the teachings of the Sadducees is that they, unlike the Pharisees, considered the written Law of Moses the only true and just regulator of spiritual and social life. They denied the customs of the Jewish people and the bills of jurists, whose purpose was to isolate Jews and protect them from the influence of foreigners.
The Sadducees tried to facilitate Jewish law, but the people did not trust them for objective reasons.
First, the rulers, who shared the doctrine of Sadok, severely punished others for minor violations of the law, but they also crossed its line, often even without hiding it and referring to the authority of their power.
Secondly, the people could not live in full accordance with the rules of the Bible, because their usual rituals did not fit into the changed conditions.
Third, there was a significant contradiction between Moses’ scriptures on criminal punishment, which included corporal suffering and the death penalty, and the ethical views of people who believed that religion should teach and persuade, not punish. According to the Mosaic Law, such punishments were applied not only for trying to take a life or deteriorate the welfare of an individual, but also for violating exclusively religious precepts.
In the main aspects of law, there were also serious contradictions between the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were experienced interpreters, who used skillful techniques and introduced various false stories, which led to a distortion of meanings. In their version, laws ceased to contradict the vital and ethical foundations.
On the contrary, The Sadducees, being conservatives, rejected such interpretations and believed that in this way the Pharisees belittled their power and desired to make them submissive to their will. There were also disagreements between schools over religious customs. The Sadducees denied all traditions not confirmed by the Bible.
In criminal proceedings, the Sadducees were stricter than the Pharisees. They used the death penalty for many crimes, considering this to be in line with biblical law. The criminal law of the Pharisees was aimed at eliminating this type of punishment using a peculiar interpretation of the law and the granting of broad rights of the defense as opposed to the prosecution.
Despite the six-year war between the two schools, representatives of both recognized that the sacred laws are not subject to repeal and everything must be done to adapt them to real life.
Surviving sources indicate that the Sadducees believed that:
Each of the three schools had its own opinion on the issue of predestination. The Essenes thought that the actions of people depend upon it. The Pharisees believed that man’s free will plays only a secondary role. The Sadducees claimed that God does not influence evil or good deeds because an individual chooses one or another path him/herself. Perhaps, for this reason, the Sadducees were excessively strict in criminal trials and practiced the death penalty and other punishments against the guilty who had independently decided to commit a crime.
Although the Sadducees denied fate as a predestination of human actions, they did not reject the idea of God’s Providence, which is a constituent of the teachings of Moses and the prophets.
Evidence of the Sadducees’ denial of the eternity of the soul is found in II, 7, 4, The Jewish War by Flavius, and the idea of the resurrection of the dead in the New Testament (Matthew 22:23, Acts 23:8). The Sadducees did not depart from the biblical word in these matters, which did not directly speak anywhere about the afterlife retribution, except for the idea of the unity and incorporeality of God. For the same reason, supporters of the teachings of Sadok rejected the existence of spirits and angels.
Some ancient Jews shared the idea of the afterlife, but the Sadducees, who stood their ground, recognized the authority of only the Mosaic scriptures and rejected the teachings of the prophets.
The rule of the Sadducees lasted until the beginning of the final defeat of Jerusalem.
Under the influence of the troubled times and popular uprisings, the supporters of a more democratic school gained power and the high priests of Sadok admitted defeat before the Pharisees. A list of laws aimed at every possible weakening of the Sadducees was also issued.
With the disappearance of Jerusalem, the Sadducees lost their political power and spiritual authority overnight. Some representatives of the doctrine joined the Pharisees, while others continued to secretly believe in their philosophy, not daring to openly protest against Talmudism.
Only in the 8th century AD, fragments of Sadducism found a new life when the school of the Crimean Karaites was founded, whose teachings were a synthesis of Sadducism and Phariseeism.
Sadducism is the ancient teaching of Jews. Its supporters zealously defended the idea of the responsibility of each person for his/her life, well-being and happiness. Such spiritual views were characteristic of people with a high level of wealth and authority. The fall of the school was a natural result of its doctrine’s rejection of any indulgences that the people needed.