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  • Dr. David Neiman

History of the Sadducees Part 14

In the course of time the Sadducees developed a political-religious philosophy of Judaism which was rooted in the statements in the books of Deuteronomy and Ezekiel which legitimized their claims to supremacy over the people of Israel. From these roots their ideas branched out further, presenting interpretations of biblical passages which, they felt, strengthened their positions. It seems, from the descriptions in Josephus that they were associated with the aristocracy of Israel, representing the elite of wealth and privilege.

In contrast to them, the Pharisees seemed to have developed a philosophy of government that had greater empathy with the masses of the people and were ultimately identified as those who represented or favored the underprivileged classes. But the major concern of the Pharisees was to preserve the traditions which had developed over the course of many centuries.

All branches of Judaism throughout the ages, whether centered on the ancient tradition or considered deviant and sectarian, base themselves on the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures; the Torah, the Prophets and the other Holy Writings, which include the Psalms, the Proverbs and the other books. The sectarian divisions begin with interpretation of these sacred writings. Thus, in their disputations, each of the opposing groups will quote the Biblical writings to support its interpretation of its true meaning. So, in their arguments, the Sadducees and the Pharisees relied on their quotations from the Torah and the Prophets to prove their contentions and to disprove those who opposed them.

The Sadducees based their claims to legitimacy on the words of the Torah and the Prophets. They were also the direct descendants of the High Priest Tzadok, which claim the Pharisees could not challenge. But the leaders of the Maccabean rebellion were also priests and eligible to serve as High Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. After Judah Maccabee's victory the Hellenizing priests were ousted and the Hasmonean priestly family replaced them. The Sadducees no doubt resented the fact that they were no longer in control of the Temple and its rituals. But all recognized the fact that the sins of the Sadducees who served under Antiochus IV Epiphanes could not be expiated, so they kept their resentment and expressed it in opposition to the Pharisees.

The Hellenizing priests who served the emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes were the forerunners of the Sadducees. Even after they had been ousted from power and from their positions in the Temple, they still clung to their basic claim that the biblical statements recorded in the Torah and in the prophecies of Ezekiel, testifed to their faith that the People of Israel are to be governed by the priests and that they and only they are to be the supreme rulers of the People of Israel.

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