The sect of the Sadducees - possibly from Hebrew Tsdoki צדוקי [sˤə.ðo.'qi], whence Zadokites or other variants - was founded in the 2nd century BCE, possibly as a political party, and ceased to exist sometime after the 1st century. Modern Sadducees have usurped the identity of the Karaite Jews though they do not hold the same beliefs.
The Hebrew language name, Tsdoki, indicates their claim that they are the followers of the teachings of the High Priest Tsadok, often spelled Zadok (High Priest), who anointed Solomon king at the start of the Solomon's Temple. However, Rabbinic tradition suggests that they were not named after the High Priest Zadok, but rather another Zadok (who may still have been a priest), who rebelled against the teachings of Antigonus of Soko, a government official of Judea in the 3rd century BC and a predecessor of the Rabbinic tradition.
While little or none of their own writings have been preserved, the Sadducees seem to have indeed been a priestly group, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Possibly, Sadducees represent the aristocratic clan of the Hasmonean kohen, who replaced the previous high priestly lineage that had allowed the Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes to desecrate the Temple of Jerusalem with idolatrous sacrifices and to martyr monotheistic Jews. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the ousting of the Syrian forces, the rededication of the Temple, and the installment of the new Hasmonean priestly line. The Hasmoneans ruled as "priest-kings", claiming both titles high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism if the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the "Apikorsus" אפיקורסוס (i.e., Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.
The Dead Sea Scrolls community, who are probably Essenes, were led by a high priestly leadership, who are thought to be the descendents of the "legitimate" high priestly lineage, which the Hasmoneans ousted. The Dead Sea Scrolls bitterly opposed the current high priests of the Temple. Since Hasmoneans constituted a different priestly line, it was in their political interest to emphasize their family's priestly pedigree that descended from their ancestor, the high priest Zadok, who had the authority to anoint the kingship of Solomon, son of David.
Most of what is known about the Sadducees comes from Josephus, who wrote that they were a quarrelsome group whose followers were wealthy and powerful, and that he considered them boorish in social interactions (see Josephus's Wars of the Jews, Book II, Chapter VIII, Paragraph 14). We know something of them from discussions in the Talmud (mainly the Jerusalem), the core work of Rabbinic literature Judaism, which is based on the teachings of Pharisee Judaism.
Sadducees rejected certain beliefs of the Pharisaic interpretation of the Torah. They rejected the Pharisaic tenet of an oral Torah, and interpreted the verses literally. In their personal lives this often meant a more stringent lifestyle, as they did away with the ability to interpret.
R' Yitchak Isaac Halevi suggests that while there is evidence of a Sadducee sect from the times of Ezra, It emerged as major force only after the Hashmenite rebellion. The reason for this was not, in fact, a matter of religion. He claims that as complete rejection of Judaism would not have been tolerated under the Hasmonean rule, the Hellenists joined the Sadducees maintaining that they were rejecting not Judaism but Rabbinic law. Thus, the Sadducees were for the most part a political party not a religious sect (Dorot Ha'Rishonim).
However there is evidence that there was an internal schism among those called "Sadducees" - some who rejected Angels, the Soul, and Resurrection - and some which accepted these teachings and the entirety of the Hebrew Bible.
In regard to criminal jurisdiction they were so rigorous that the day on which their code was abolished by the Pharisaic Sanhedrin under Simeon ben Shetah's leadership, during the reign of Salome Alexandra, was celebrated as a festival. The Sadducees are said to have insisted on the literal execution of the law of retaliation: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth", which pharisaic Judaism, and later rabbinic Judaism, rejected. On the other hand, they would not inflict the death penalty on false witnesses in a case where capital punishment had been wrongfully carried out, unless the accused had been executed solely in consequence of the testimony of such witnesses.
According to the Talmud, they granted the daughter the same right of inheritance as the son in case the son was dead.(see chapter Yeish Nochalin of the Babylonain Talmud, tractate Bava Batra) See however Emet L' Yaakov over there who explains that the focus of their argument was theological. The question was whether there is an "Afterlife" (see above) and thus the dead person can act as a chain on the line of inheritance as if he was alive.
According to the Talmud, they contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering ("omer") to Shavuot (Pentecost in Christian reference) should, according to Leviticus 23:15-16, be counted from "the day after Sabbath," and, consequently, that Shavuot should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg. Ta'an. i.; Men. 65a). In this they followed a literal reading of the Bible which regards the festival of the firstlings as having no direct connection with Passover, while the Pharisees, connecting the festival of the Exodus with the festival of the giving of the Law, interpreted the "morrow after the Sabbath" to signify the second day of Passover.
In regard to rituals at the Temple in Jerusalem:
- They held that the daily burnt offerings were to be offered by the high priest at his own expense, whereas the Pharisees contended that they were to be furnished as a national sacrifice at the cost of the Temple treasury into which taxes were paid.
- They held that the meal offering belonged to the priest's portion; whereas the Pharisees claimed it for the altar.
- They insisted on an especially high degree of purity in those who officiated at the preparation of the ashes of the Red Heifer. The Pharisees, by contrast, opposed such strictness.
- They declared that the kindling of the incense in the vessel with which the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement was to take place outside, so that he might be wrapped in smoke while meeting the Shekhinah within, according to Lev. xvi. 2; whereas the Pharisees, denying the high priest the claim of such supernatural vision, insisted that the incense be kindled within.
- They opposed the popular festivity of the water libation and the procession preceding it on each night of the Sukkot feast.
- They opposed the Pharisaic assertion that the scrolls of the Holy Scriptures have, like any holy vessel, the power to render ritually unclean the hands that touch them.
- They opposed the Pharisaic idea of the eruv, the merging of several private precincts into one in order to admit of the carrying of food and vessels from one house to another on the Sabbath.
- In dating all civil documents they used the phrase "after the high priest of the Most High," and they opposed the formula introduced by the Pharisees in divorce documents, "According to the law of Moses and Israel".
- Ben Sira, one of the Deuterocanonical books, is believed by many scholars to have been by a Sadducee  . (Note, the Talmud says clearly he was rejected by the Sadducees.)
Reliability of claims
None of the writings we have about Sadducees present their own side of these controversies, and it is possible that positions attributed to "Sadducees" in later literature are meant as rhetorical foils for whatever opinion the author wishes to present, and do not in fact represent the teachings of the sect. Yet, although these texts were written long after these periods, many scholars have said that they are a fairly reliable account of history during the Second Temple era.
Josephus relates nothing concerning the origin of the Sadducees; he knows only that the three "sects" — the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees — dated back to "very ancient times" (Ant. xviii. 1, § 2), which point to a time prior to John Hyrcanus (ib. xiii. 8, § 6) or the Maccabean war (ib. xiii. 5, § 9).
Among the rabbis of the second century the following legend circulated: Antigonus of Soko, successor of Simeon the Just, the last of the Men of the Great Assembly, and consequently living at the time of the influx of Hellenistic ideas, taught the maxim, "Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of a reward, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving a reward" (Avot 1:3); whereupon two of his disciples, Zadok and Boethusians, mistaking the high ethical purport of the maxim, arrived at the conclusion that there was no future retribution, saying, "What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?" Instantly they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using many silver and gold vessels at their banquets; and they established schools which declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These two schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees and Boethusians.
Many scholars are skeptical of the historicity of this tradition.
New Testament/Greek Scriptures
The Sadducees are mentioned in the New Testament/Greek Scriptures of the Christian Bible. The Gospel of Matthew indicates that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Template:Bibleref, 31-32 says:
- 29 In reply Jesus said to them: “You are mistaken, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God ...  ... 31 As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.”
The Acts of the Apostles likewise indicates that Sadducees did not share the Pharisees’ belief in a resurrection; Paul starts a conflict during his trial, by claiming that his accusers were motivated by his advocacy of the doctrine of the resurrection (in an aside, Acts 23:8 asserts that “The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three”).
The End of the Sadducees
Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 the Sadducees vanish from history as a group. There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times. In refutations of Sadducean beliefs, Karaite Jewish Sages such as Ya'akov al-Qirqisani quoted one of their texts, which was called Sefer Zadok. Translations into English of some of these quotes can be found in Zvi Cahn's "Rise of the Karaite sect".
- Cf., for one example of a sect that could have represented a Sadducee schism and did believe in Angels, the Afterlife, etc.: Lawrence H. Schiffman, 'The Sadducean Origins of the Dead Sea Scroll Sect', in Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. H. Shanks, New York: Random House, 1993, pp. 35-49. It is widely known that the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls never recognizably refer to themselves as "Essenes"—possibly due to the fact that they wrote mainly in Hebrew and Aramaic, whereas we have the term "Essenes" from Greek—but they do refer to themselves in various places as the "Zadokites"/"Sons of Zadok", which term is apparently identical to that by which the Sadducees identified themselves. Among other arguments for a Sadducean Essene origin, Schiffman also cites interpretations of the purity regulations which closely parallel Sadducean views recorded by the spiritual heirs of the Pharisees, who authored the Talmud.