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8 Things to Know about the Sadducees in the Bible

8 Things to Know about the Sadducees in the Bible

“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” Acts 5:17-18 NIV

The resistance to the gospel as Jesus came on the scene is not far off what Christians today still experience. Though it may not happen as drastically in the corner of the globe we live in, it’s a reality for Christians and missionaries throughout the world. The Sadducees were a prominent group of Jews who held power and authority over others by exploiting the people that came to the temple to worship God. Jesus flipped those tables on more than one occasion. Even though the Sadducees pretty much disappeared without a trace after the second destruction of the temple, we live in a world saturated with people who share their lack of belief in the supernatural world, resurrection, angels, heaven, hell, or Christ Jesus as their Savior.

The work we have to do as Christ-followers is immense. There are a lot of tables to flip. Learning about who this sect of people was is important and equipping as we grow in our faith and follow the Lord Jesus.

Who Are the Sadducees?

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Matthew 3:7 NIV

John the Baptist’s insult to the Sadducees was offensive, to say the least! His comment alluded to the fact they were akin to a brood of vipers, who kill their mothers as they are born! John wasn’t afraid to call them out for their backward and incorrect beliefs, even when it put his life in danger. The Sadducees were a “first-century Jewish sect that stressed the power of our free will.”

The Sadducees knew the Old Testament and followed the laws given to Moses so they could maintain the positions which provided for their wealthy lifestyles. “They were a group that adhered strictly to the laws found in the Torah. They consisted of elite and wealthy folks that were high priests, chief priests, and merchants,” Pamela Palmer explains, “The Sadducees were devoted to the temple and at odds with the Pharisees, Jesus, and the apostles. They were also a part of the Sanhedrin.” They did not believe in resurrection, angels, heaven, hell, or any of the supernatural world. To them, when life on earth was over, that was it. Wealth was their main pursuit on earth.

The Sadducees lived in luxury and opposed the Pharisees, and Jesus and His apostles, doing what they could to stand in the way of the spreading of the gospel. “They were known as much for their wealth and corruption as for their religious devotion,” Mike Nappa explains, “They believed in unrestrained free will- meaning God had no role in the personal lives of humans. Everyone was the master of their own destiny.” The were mostly likely involved in the plot to arrest and crucify Jesus.

Here Are 8 Things to Know about the Sadducees

1. Where did they get their name from?

“The king put Benaiah son of Jehoiada over the army in Joab’s position and replaced Abiathar with Zadok the priest.”1 Kings 2:35 NIV

The Sadducees were a prominent group of Jewish men who used their position at the temple to become extremely wealthy. They differed from the Pharisees, in that they proclaimed the written word of the Torah was the authoritative law over all else, including oral law passed down through generations. According to Christianity.com, "A common belief is that it was derived from the name of prominent Old Testament High Priest, Zadok (2 Samuel 15:23-29; 1 Kings 2:35) Their name was well recognized among the people, because of the authority they held over them."

2. What was the role of a Sadducee?

“Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family.” Acts 4:6 NIV

The Sadducees were dedicated to the Temple and held power and control over it and the Sanhedrin. “The Sanhedrin was the governing body for both religious and legal issues of the Jews,”  Mike Nappa explains. “The leader of the Sanhedrin was a High Priest given king-like authority- and was almost always a Sadducee.” The role of the Sadducees was to enforce the laws of temple worship. It was a very legalistic, oppressive process. They abused their prominence to oppress the people of their own country.

3. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection.

“(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.”) Acts 23:8 NIV

The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection or angels. They believed with death, our souls died with our bodies, thus discounting any theology about heaven or hell. In their eyes, the supernatural world did not exist. Jesus said:

“‘How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:11-12 NIV

The reason they followed all of the laws of Moses was so they could become wealthy from the position of leadership in the temple. Breaking the laws would unqualify them from those positions. “The Sadducees put much less stock in the prophets than they did the five books of Moses,” Pastor John Piper explains, “The Sadducees preferred the sturdy, down-to-earth Moses. He never said anything about resurrection.”

4. The Sadducees had more power and influence than the Pharisees

The main difference between Sadducees and Pharisees was their belief in no higher authority over the written word of Scripture (our Old Testament), while the Pharisees believed in the power and authority of Scripture passed down orally. When they demanded a sign from Jesus, Matthew recorded His response:

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,” and in the morning, “Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ Jesus then left them and went away.” Matthew 16:1-4 NIV

Though they were lumped together in their challenge of Jesus, the Sadducees were more powerful, authoritative, and wealthier than the Pharisees.

5. Jesus confronted the Sadducees concerning their erroneous beliefs.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.” Matthew 22:34

Mark 12:27 says, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken.” (NIV) Jesus flipped their tables over in the temple on more than one occasion. They were stealing from people who were attempting to come and worship at the temple wholeheartedly. It infuriated Jesus, as it should us today when we see others being exploited, especially on account of their faith in Christ Jesus. “Christ showed that the five books of Moses teach the resurrection when the Sadducees asked Him a question while He ministered in Jerusalem toward the end of His earthly ministry.,” Ligonier Ministries explains, “The Sadducees hoped to prove that the resurrection of the dead was impossible.”

6. The Sadducees likely plotted to have Jesus arrested

“So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.” John 18:3

Jesus flipping Sadducee tables in the temple interfered with their income. They intensely pursued Jesus, in order to stop Him from disrupting their affluent way of attaining wealth and power. Matthew wrote, But Jesus answered them, You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29) They tended to have good relationships with the Roman Empire, as well, so would have been likely candidates to turn the heads of Roman officials in Jesus’ case. Matthew recorded:

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.” Matthew 26:3-4

7. The Sadducees opposed the apostles after the resurrection

“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.” Acts 4:1-3

The apostles faced a resistance that is still pressing in on Christ-followers today. The Sadducees were only one group of many who would and will come against the growth and establishment of God’s church on earth. But no matter how much power and authority groups like this flex on earth, none is greater than God! Acts records the apostles' response upon Peter and John’s release:

“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4:23-24 NIV)

8. Do Sadducees still exist today?

“‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard agains the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:11b-12

“Given their dedication to the temple,” Pamela Palmer explains, “they are believed to have disappeared after the destruction of the second temple around 70 AD.” When Jesus was confronting the Sadducees on their questions in Matthew 22, His explanation is applicable to our lives today. “Jesus suggests we should read our Bibles as a present tense, personal address,” Thabiti Anyabwile explains, “Second, Jesus suggests we should read our Bibles as a conversation with the living God.”

The Sadducees, themselves, are no longer present today. But, the same oppressive principles and false precepts still run rampant in our world. Many times, Scripture warns us to be alert, aware, to turn to God through Christ, guard our hearts, and put on the full armor of God.

A Prayer of Awareness

Father,

Praise You, Abba, for taking such good care of our hearts and minds through the Truth of Your Word. Today, we pray for awareness for the modern-day Sadducees in our lives. Help us to carve out time for You, Father, so that You can be quick to thwart lies in our lives and clear our hearts of confusion. Let the Gospel Truth ring clear in our ears and reign in our hearts and lives in such a powerful way that everyone around us catches a glimpse of Your glory, God. Let all those who border our lives know of the powerful love of Christ Jesus, Father.

In Jesus Name,

Amen.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/tomertu

Meg Bucher 2022 headshotMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as a freelance writer, blogger at Sunny&80, and author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” and “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” and “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ.” She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University, but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her passion to write. A member of Faith Church in Sandusky, OH, she serves as Communications Director, and leads Bible studies for women and teen girls. Meg is a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, living by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters and golden doodle.



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