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Yeshua in Context » Background to Gospels, General, Sadducees » Sadducean Scribblings #3

Sadducean Scribblings #3

This series is about pointing accurately to some historical sources and contemporary historical scholars for insight into the Sadducees and chief priests. Understanding the characters in the gospels goes a long way to reading them accurately.

E.P. Sanders (Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE – 66 CE) gives us some helpful and thoroughly researched pointers to the identity and character of the Sadducees. Here is my summary from pg. 318:

(1) There is a “high degree of correspondence” between the aristocracy in Judea/Jerusalem and the Sadducean party.

(2) Not all Jerusalem aristocrats were Sadducees “but it may be that all Sadducees were aristocrats.”

(3) We know very little about the Sadducees specifically but much more about aristocrats at the time.

(4) Josephus (Ant. 18:16f.) says that the secret doctrines of the Sadducees were taught only to a few and these were all males.

(5) Ananus is the only person (in the 63 BCE – 66 CE period) Josephus specifically names as a Sadducee. Ananus or Annas questioned Yeshua at one phase of his trials according to John 18:19-23 and was the father-in-law of Caiphas.

(6) The book of Acts suggests that Caiphas was with the Sadducees (Acts 5:17).

(7) While know one knows the origin of the term Sadducee, it may derive from Zadok, priest in the time of David (2 Sam 20:25) and the one whose line was considered the correct one for the priests to descend from after the exile (Ezek 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11).

(8) Some have suggested another origin for the term Sadducee, from the word for “righteousness” (tzedek).

(9) By the time of the Mishnah, the Sadducees and the Judean aristocracy were insignificant and maybe non-existent.

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3 Responses to "Sadducean Scribblings #3"

  1. Don Young says:

    Unless you can show evidence otherwise, I am skeptical about statement number seven above which implies that the Sadducees were the sons of Zadok. Even though the Sadducees probably held the high priest office, it is unlikely that they were Sons of Zadok. The Sons of Zadok did not served as high priest during Hasmonean Dynasty or in the days of the Messiah because the Selucids and later the Romans appointed men to the high priest office either by bribery or political affiliation.
    I. For example, in 2 Macabees chapter 4, starting in verse 7, you can read the story of how Onias, a righteous high priest, was forced out of office by his wicked brother Jason. Jason offered a total of 590 talents of silver to Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes for the office. Then Jason’s courier Menelaus reopened bidding with a 300 talent bonus and he was placed into the office.

    2 Maccabees Chapter 4
    1 “But Seleucus died, and when Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes succeeded him on the throne, Onias’ brother Jason obtained the high priesthood by corrupt means:
    in an interview, he promised the king three hundred and sixty talents of silver, as well as eighty talents from another source of income.
    2 Besides this he agreed to pay a hundred and fifty more, if he were given authority to establish a gymnasium and a youth club for it and to enroll men in Jerusalem as Antiochians.

    7 Three years later Jason sent Menelaus, brother of the aforementioned Simon, to deliver the money to the king, and to obtain decisions on some important matters.
    When he had been introduced to the king, he flattered him with such an air of authority that he secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver.”

    If you read the first book of Maccabees, you will find out that the high priest office was later given to Judas Maccabees and it was passed down through the leaders of the Hasmonean dynasty. The Hasmoneans were not Sons of Zadok.
    II The second reason I do not think that the Sadducees were of the Sons of Zadok is because the complaints from the Community at Quimran. The Community claimed to be the Sons of Zadok and they protested appointees in the high priest office.
    4QSb 1”This is the Rule for all the congregation of Israel in the last days, when they shall join [the Community to wa]lk according to the law of the sons of Zadok the Priest and of the men of their Covenant who have turned aside [from the] way of the people, the men of His Council who keep His Covenant in the midst of iniquity, offering expiation for the Land.”

  2. yeshuain says:

    Don, you’re absolutely right and so let me clarify: the name could have originated as a claim to Zadokian origin, even if untrue. But it very well may come from tzedaka (righteousness) or another origin.

    Derek Leman

  3. Don Young says:

    Thanks for your reply, I love your website!

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