A Brief overview of the Sadducees


Mar 11:27 ¶ And they (Yeshua and his talmidim), came again into Yerushalayim. And as he (Yeshua) was walking around the Temple, the chief priests (of the Sadducees Heb. Tz’dukim) and the scribes (of the Sadducees – Heb. Tz’dukim) and the elders (Zekanim) (of the Sadducees – Heb. Tz’dukim) came to him,

The Talmud does not specifically identify all the high priests as Sadducees, nor can this be inferred from the disparaging remarks about the high priestly oligarchy.1

However, from a series of passages one can conclude without hesitation that Sadduceism predominant in the high priestly circles. From this viewpoint, special significance attaches to the tradition that it was the practice to have the high priest take an oath that on the Day of Atonement he would not not burn the income outside the Holy of Holies as was the wont of the Sadducean and Boethusian high priests.2 The reason for the oath was that a certain high priest followed the Sadducean practice and met a tragic end as a result.3 Another high priest is mentioned in connection with the burning of the red heifer. The Sadducees, in contrast to the Pharisee, insisted that the ritual must be performed only after sunset.4 The Tosefta mentions an instance in which a Sadducean high priest, hearing waited for sunset after the ritual purification, came to burn the red heifer and met with opposition on the part of Rabbi Johann ben Zakkai.5 There is ground for the assumption that the high priest question belonged to the house of Phiabi.6 If the conjecture is correct, we would have another example of the affiliation of a high priestly family—that of the house of Phiabi with the Sadducees.7

While the Talmud does not directly record that the high priestly offices were predominately Sadducaic we can derive this information from a plethora of passages in the Nazarean Codicil. Therefore, I have noted that the confrontation between Yeshua and the high priests along with their elders as being Sadducaic.

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  1. T. Menahoth 13:21; T.B. Pesahim 57a; T.B. Yoma 9a; T.B. Kerithoth 28 []
  2. J.T. Yoma 1, 39a; T.B. Yoma 19b []
  3. Cf. H. Graetz, Hesschichte der Juden III, 2, pp. 749-52 []
  4. M. Para 3:8 []
  5. T. Parah 3:8 []
  6. Cf. Jerimias, p.229 n. 30. On Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai as a militant Pharisee in the struggle against the Sadducees. See also E. Rivkin, in HUCA 1969-1970, pp. 221-2 []
  7. M. Stern, The Jewish people in the first century: Historical geography, political history, social, cultural and religious life and institutions. Volume 2 p. 611 []