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The Oxford History of the Biblical World An in-depth chaptered work by leading scholars providing a chronological overview of the history of biblical times.

Sadducees

Although the Temple was the most important and influential institution of the second commonwealth, contemporary comments on its priests and the party most closely connected with them, the Sadducees, are—not unexpectedly—scant. The Sadducees lost power with the onset of the revolt against Rome. All sources describing their beliefs and practices both postdate their fall and are composed by individuals who define themselves in opposition to Sadducaic practice: Josephus, the early Christians, and the rabbis.

The origin of their name is not clear. Perhaps it derived from Zadok, the high priest appointed by King David. Yet the Sadducees are also associated with the Boethusians, a high-priestly family from Alexandria in Egypt, who gained ascendancy under Herod the Great, perhaps because Herod needed them as a counter to the high-priestly claims of the Hasmonean household.

The various sources provide a composite view of the Sadducees: they were predominantly wealthy and aristocratic; their social interests were therefore not surprisingly in preserving the status quo. Such a conservative agenda also extended to their religious preferences. They apparently did not accept such theological innovations as resurrection or angels (see Acts 23.8 ), and they believed strongly in free will. While many were priests, not all were.

As Temple officials, the Sadducees in the first century CE also dominated the Sanhedrin. The high priest was its president, and its senior leaders were members of the Sadducaic party. Pharisees also served in the Sanhedrin, but not infrequently the two groups disagreed.

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