Last program we learned that the Sadducees were possibly from the family line of Zadok the priest from the days of king David, and that this line came about because of the wickedness of the family line of Eli the High Priest who was from the line of Aaron.
They were wealthy aristocrats, powerful socially and politically, appointed by Roman governors and procurators, and expected to tow the line and keep their people in line to keep Rome happy. I mentioned that the Pharisees were the conservatives of the day and the Sadducees were the liberal, progressives, more concerned with their social position, political expediency and their bank balances, than they were of remaining faithful to God’s Word.
So what were they responsible for as far as their responsibilities to Rome? Politically, they administered the state in domestic issues and they also represented the state internationally like Ambassadors. I mentioned last time that they held the majority of the seats in the Sanhedrin, of which there were 70, they collected taxes, for the Temple of course and also for certain things within the empire that were outside the purview of other tax collectors, or perhaps the tax collectors around the country collected on behalf of the Sadducees and simply took it to them to then pass on to Rome. They also collected taxes from Jews throughout the Diaspora. How amazing is that…Jews outside Israel were taxed for being Jewish by their own religious leaders.
The Sadducees both equipped and led the army…in the service and submission of Rome of course, they helped regulate relations with the Roman Empire and mediated domestic grievance. So domestically, they had quite a big job, but you can bet your bottom dollar that everything they did had a fee attached and they got very rich this way. They appeased Rome, they kept their people submissive and they pocketed the rewards.
The Temple became a money-making venture, everything had a price ticket. All sacrifices had to be perfect, and this meant that the priesthood established breeding programs that provided pilgrims with the necessary animals that the priests could certify were acceptable, while they couldn’t provide such certification for a pilgrim bringing their own animal to sacrifice. So, the people learned very quickly that if you wanted to make sacrifice for contravening any number of superfluous rules or traditions heaped on them by their religious authorities, they’d have to buy their sacrifices from their corrupt religious authorities or they’d simply be rejected. It became a racket!
Read Malachi, you’ll discover that the rot had well and truly set in by that time, and God rebuked the priests for ripping Him and the people off, keeping the best for themselves and giving God the dregs. Malachi is a severe rebuke of the corrupt priests rather than the people.
What did the Sadducees belief religiously speaking?
The Sadducees didn’t believe that God was involved in our everyday life. As such, they were extremely self-sufficient, doing what was necessary for their own personal benefit.
They didn’t hold to the writings of history, the prophets, or poetic and wisdom books. They held only to the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
They categorically denied the resurrection of the dead and this is one of the reasons they were vehemently opposed to the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection.
They didn’t believe in the afterlife. They believed the soul died along with the body and that of course meant that they didn’t believe in either eternal reward or punishment.
They also didn’t believe in the spirit world, denying the existence of angels and demons and such.
The Sadducees took great glee in their debates with the Pharisees because the latter could so easily get caught up in the inconsequential details and the only time the Pharisees and Sadducees became unified was when they were plotting to murder Jesus. However, Jesus did manage to split them at one time on the matter of the resurrection.
In Matthew 22, the Sadducees asked Jesus about a certain woman who’d been married to seven different men before she eventually died herself. Their supposed clever question was,
“In the resurrection…whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her?” (Matt 22:28)
Jesus really rebuked them, shaming them, because they were supposed to be the most learned and wise men of God, the priests who mediated between the people and God.
Matthew 22:29-32, ‘Jesus answered and said to them, “You’re mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He’s not the God of the dead, but of the living!”
In one response Jesus exposed their ignorance, confirmed the afterlife, confirmed the resurrection of the dead, and confirmed the existence of angelic beings. Not only that, He did it by quoting from the Torah, (Gen 26:24, 28:13, Exo 3:6) the book they claimed to hold fast too. He silenced them and for a short time, got the Pharisees onside as well. What’s more, He exposed their ignorance and lack of understanding in a public forum for all to see and hear, completely undermining their authority.