(followers of Zadok), (Matthew 3:7; 16:1,6,11,12; 22:23,31; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 4:1; 5:17; 23:6,7,8) a religious party or school among the Jews at the time of Christ, who denied that the oral law was a revelation of God to the Israelites. and who deemed the written law alone to be obligatory on the nation, as of divine authority. Except on one occasion. (Matthew 16:1,4,6) Christ never assailed the Sadducees with the same bitter denunciations which he uttered against the Pharisees. The origin of their name is involved in great difficulties, but the most satisfactory conjecture is that the Sadducees or Zadokites were originally identical with the sons of Zadok, and constituted what may be termed a kind of sacerdotal aristocracy, this Zadok being the priest who declared in favor of Solomon when Abiathar took the part of Adonijah. (1 Kings 1:32-45) To these sons of Zadok were afterward attached all who for any reason reckoned themselves as belonging to the aristocrats; such, for example, as the families of the high priest, who had obtained consideration under the dynasty of Herod. These were for the most part judges, and individuals of the official and governing class. This explanation elucidates at once (Acts 5:17) The leading tenet of the Sadducees was the negation of the leading tenet of their opponents. As the Pharisees asserted so the Sadducees denied, that the Israelites were in possession of an oral law transmitted to them by Moses, In opposition to the Pharisees, they maintained that the written law alone was obligatory on the nation, as of divine authority. The second distinguishing doctrine of the Sadducees was the denial of man's resurrection after death. In connection with the disbelief of a resurrection by the Sadducees, they likewise denied there was "angel or spirit," (Acts 23:8) and also the doctrines of future punishment and future rewards. Josephus states that the Sadducees believed in the freedom of the will, which the Pharisees denied. They pushed this doctrine so far as almost to exclude God from the government of the world. Some of the early Christian writers attribute to the Sadducees the rejection of all the sacred Scriptures except the Pentateuch ; a statement, however, that is now generally admitted to have been founded on a misconception of the truth, and it seems to have arisen from a confusion of the Sadducees with the Samaritans, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. An important fact in the history of the Sadducees is their rapid disappearance from history after the first century, and the subsequent predominance among the Jews of the opinions of the Pharisees. Two circumstances contributed, indirectly but powerfully, to produce this result: 1st. The state of the Jews after the capture of Jerusalem by Titus; and 2d. The growth of the Christian religion. As to the first point, it is difficult to overestimate the consternation and dismay which the destruction of Jerusalem occasioned in the minds of sincerely-religious Jews. In their hour of darkness and anguish they naturally turned to the consolations and hopes of a future state; and the doctrine of the Sadducees, that there was nothing beyond the present life, would have appeared to them cold, heartless and hateful. Again, while they were sunk in the lowest depths of depression, a new religion, which they despised as a heresy and a superstition, was gradually making its way among the subjects of their detested conquerors, the Romans. One of the causes of its success was undoubtedly the vivid belief in the resurrection of Jesus and a consequent resurrection of all mankind, which was accepted by its heathen converts with a passionate earnestness of which those who at the present day are familiar from infancy with the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead call form only a faint idea. To attempt to chock the progress of this new religion among the Jews by an appeal to the temporary rewards and punishments of the Pentateuch would have been as idle as an endeavor to check an explosive power by ordinary mechanical restraints. Consciously, therefore, or unconsciously, many circumstances combined to induce the Jews who were not Pharisees, but who resisted the new heresy, to rally round the standard of the oral law, and to assert that their holy legislator, Moses, had transmitted to his faithful people by word of mouth, although not in writing, the revelation of a future state of rewards and punishments.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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