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Sadducee

Sadduccees were members of a sect of Judaism that existed from around the second century BC to the first century AD.

Their name in Hebrew was tsedduqim, indicating that they were followers of the teachings of the High Priest Zadok of the Second Temple period. While little of their own writings have been preserved today, they seem to have indeed been a priestly group, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Most of what we know about the Sadducees comes from Josephus, who wrote that they were a quarrelsome group whose followers were wealthy and powerful, and that he considered them boorish in social interactions. We know something of them from discussions in the Talmud, the core work of rabbinic Judaism, which is based on the teachings of Pharisaic Judaism. However, historians find the Talmud's historical statements on many issues to be suspect.

Table of contents
1 Beliefs
2 Reliability of claims
3 Legendary Origin

Beliefs

The Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, and are discussed in this light in the New Testament debating the matter with Jesus.

They denied the existence of spirits or angels.

They dispute the rabbis' interpretation of the Torah, and are presented as denying that any of the Hebrew Bible, apart from the Torah, is authoritative. As to the Torah itself, the Sadducees are presented as interpreting it literally and rigorously on subjects it directly covers, while rejecting the traditions that mitigate the harsher penalties or aim at preventing unintentional rule-breaking.

According to the Talmud, in regard to criminal jurisdiction they were so rigorous that the day on which their code was abolished by the Pharisaic Sanhedrin under Simeon ben Shetah's leadership, during the reign of Salome Alexandra, was celebrated as a festival. The Sadducees are said to have insisted on the literal execution of the law of retaliation: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth", which pharisaic Judaism, and later rabbinic Judaism, rejected. On the other hand, they would not inflict the death penalty on false witnesses in a case where capital punishment had been wrongfully carried out, unless the accused had been executed solely in consequence of the testimony of such witnesses.

According to the Talmud, they granted the daughter the same right of inheritance as the son's daughter in case the son was dead.

According to the Talmud, they contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering ("omer") to Pentecost (The Feast of Weeks, Shavuot) should, according to Lev. 23:15-16, 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). In this they followed the old Biblical view which regards the festival of the firstlings as having no connection with Passover, while thePharisees, connecting the festival of the Exodus with the festival of the giving of the Law, interpreted the "morrow after the Sabbath" to signify the second day of Passover.

In regards to rituals at the Temple in Jerusalem:

Reliability of claims

None of the writings we have about Sadducees present their own side of these controversies, and it is possible that positions attributed to "Sadducees" in later literature are meant as rhetorical foils for whatever opinion the author wishes to present, and do not in fact represent the teachings of the sect. Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. the Sadducees vanish from history as a group.

There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times. A handful of scholars have attempted to trace the roots of the Karaite schism to surviving Saduccee ideas.

Legendary Origin

Josephus relates nothing concerning the origin of the Sadducees; he knows only that the three "sects" - the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees dated back to "very ancient times" (Ant. xviii. 1, 2), which point to a time prior to John Hyrcanus (ib. xiii. 8, 6) or the Maccabean war (ib. xiii. 5, 9).

Among the rabbis of the second century the following legend circulated: Antigonus of Soko, successor of Simon the Just, the last of the "Men of the Great Synagogue," and consequently living at the time of the influx of Hellenistic ideas, taught the maxim, "Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving wages" (Avot I: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 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.

This legend is considered to be non-historical.