The Sadducees: Their Origin and Beliefs

The Sadducees: Their Origin and Beliefs
James Scott Trimm

It has become necessary to set the story straight from the anachronistic historic revisionism of the Gordonites, to set the story straight that the Sadducees were not early Karaites, and that Yeshua and his original followers were neither Karaites nor Sadducees.

In a recent blog, I documented the origin of the Karaites in the 8th Century CE.

In this blog I want to share the origin of the Sadducees and their beliefs, so as to make it clear that they were not Karaites (which did not yet exist) and that neither Yeshua or his original followers were Sadducees.

The Sadducees (Tzadokim) were founded by a certain Zadok. Zadok was a talmid (disciple) of Antigonus of Soko who misunderstood his teaching. Antigonus taught:

“Be not like servants who serve their master
for the sake of wages, but be like servants who serve their
master with no thought of a wage – and let the fear
of Heaven be upon you.”
(m.Avot 1:3)

The Mishna Avot of Rabbi Natan tells us how Zadok misunderstood the teachings of Antigonos:

Antigonos of Soko had two students. They would con his teachings by rote and then teach the other students… They started to question the meaning of this teaching. They asked themselves why our teachers taught this way. Is it possible that a worker could function faithfully all day long and not receive his just wage at the end of the day? [They reasoned that] if our teachers were sure that there is another world and a resurrection of the dead they would not have worded their teaching in this way. They seceded from Torah and two schismatic schools derived from them: Sadducees and Boethusians. The Sadducees were named for Zadok and the Boethusians for Boethos…
(Mishna Avot of Rabbi Natan 1:3)

Zadok misunderstood Antigonos’ teaching. He wrongly concluded that since we should no keep Torah to gain a reward, that there must not be any reward. Zadok concluded that there is no reward to be obtained in the afterlife, nor any punishment to be avoided. The Sadducees believed that there is no afterlife and no resurrection. As Josephus writes:

But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls
die with the bodies….
(Josephus; Antiquities 18:2:4)

Matthew writes:

…the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection…
(Matt. 22:23)

And as we read here in Acts:

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection,
neither angel, nor spirit…
(Acts 23:8)

Now it was hard enough to square these doctrines with the written Torah, but it was absolutely impossible to square them with the Oral Torah, because this was a complete departure from prior Jewish tradition. Thus the Sadducees were forced to reject Jewish tradition (Oral Law) so that they could concentrate only on squaring their strange new doctrine with the Written Torah only.

The first century writer Josephus writes:

“…the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; 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 delivered from the tradition of our forefathers…”
(Josephus; Ant. 13:11:6)

The Sadducees had to reject the Oral Law. They did not believe in a resurrection or an afterlife. They had rejected the things that Judaism has always held to. It was hard enough to make their views compatible with the Written Torah, it was easier for them to simply reject the Oral Torah out of hand. In fact they had to reject the Oral Law if they wanted to reject any understanding of the written Torah that included a resurrection and an afterlife!

The Sadducees were definitely not Karaites, which did not yet exist, because the Karaites do believe in angels and an afterlife.

Yeshua and his original followers were not Sadducees, but appear to have been an unlikely union of School of Hillel Pharisees (Paul even stated “I am a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6)) and “Sons of Light” Essenes. Neither of these groups rejected the concept of Oral Law.

The Gordonites have engaged in an anachronistic voyage into historical revisionism in trying to transform Yeshua and his original followers into Kartaites.

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