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The Sadducees, who arose from the faction of the priestly sons of Zadok that aligned themselves with the Hasmoneans, became the sect of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17 NKJV) or the party of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17 RSV). The Sadducees, drawing from the upper classes—mainly priestly families and lay families with whom the priests had intermarried—constituted the pro-Roman and pro-Greek establishment of Roman Judea, with reactionary leanings bent on maintaining their control of the vassal Jewish state. The Pharisees were constantly at odds with this priestly aristocratic establishment power group.

Politically right-wing reactionaries, the Sadducees were seen by the Pharisees as decadent. In turn, the Sadducees rejected many of the Pharisees’ doctrines which they saw as unjustified innovations. Josephus, who was more than a little biased, wrote:

What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, 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. (Josephus Antiquities 13.10.6; Whiston 1957:397.)

The Sadducees were politically astute realists. They not only held control over the priesthood, but indulged the Romans and the Greeks, and resisted any change that would threaten their privileged status. Josephus would have his readers believe that the Sadducees would defer often to the Pharisees for otherwise the public would not put up with them (Josephus Antiquities 18.1.4; Whiston 1957:531). 

This priestly aristocratic party, who were pragmatic Hellenized Jews held in contempt and resisted by the Pharisees, readily aligned themselves with their Roman masters—for the Sadducees comprised a classic collaborating elite. The priests, who were largely Sadducees, were Hellenistic and assumed Greek names. In fact, in the writings of Josephus not a single one of the first-century high priests bore a Hebrew name. Of the Sadducees, the Herodians comprised a group of supporters of the ruling family of Herod and constituted the pro-Herodian party.

Page last edited: 02/02/06 08:36 PM

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