Are there still Sadducees in Judaism?


The only sources of information available to us about the Sadducees are the secondary reports in Flavius ​​Josephus, in the New Testament, in rabbinical literature and in the Fathers of the Church. Evaluating these sources is even more difficult than in the case of the Pharisees. While the secondary sources report there from different perspectives, the news about the Sadducees is consistently critical to polemical.

The name "Sadducees" (Σαδδουκαῖος / saddukaios) is attested for the first time in Mk 12:18 and can be derived from Zadok, who was high priest in the Davidic-Solomon period (cf. 2 Sam 8:17 and so on). As a party name, however, he no longer describes a member of the priestly dynasty, which can be traced back to Zadok, but a partisan of the Zadokid priestly aristocracy.

The sources are silent about the origin of the Sadducee party. Flavius ​​Josephus mentions them for the first time at the time of the reign of the Maccabees Jonathan (161-143)), but speaks of them as an already established figure in the power structure of the Jewish state. One gets the impression that the Sadducees were a kind of "ruling party" in this early Hasmonean period, which exerted lasting influence as a professional party of the higher Jerusalem temple priesthood. In doing so, they supported the politics of the Hasmoneans with their national particularistic basic attitude.

The further history of the Sadducees is determined by a constant alternation between periods of political influence and periods of opposition. After the Romans deposed Archelaus, the son of Herod (6 AD), they once again gained considerable power. Flavius ​​Josephus counts e.g. the high priest Annas the Younger. to the party of the Sadducees. However, this position of power was limited to temples and temple states by the Roman prefects and procurators. This forced the Sadducees to make a political balancing act between their own interests and those of the Roman occupying power if they wanted to maintain their relative autonomy (cf. Jn 11: 47-50).

For all we know, the Sadducees had a conservative trait that made them advocates of the political and religious status quo. Interestingly, however, this conservatism could be combined with an open-minded attitude towards the cultural influences of Hellenism. The archaeological finds from Jerusalem in the 1st century are eloquent evidence of this.

In contrast to the Pharisees, whose construction of an oral Torah they strictly rejected, the Sadducees only recognized the written Torah as binding. This was related to the fact that they did not share the hope of a future resurrection of the dead and an end-time retribution for the righteous. Rather, they were followers of an inner-worldly doctrine of retribution, i.e. they reckoned that man would receive wages and punishment from God already in earthly life. In this way they inculcated the personal responsibility of people for their actions.

The story of the Sadducees ends with the Jewish defeat and the destruction of the Temple in 70, which destroyed the basis of their power and the point of reference for their religious beliefs.