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Sadducee

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Sadduccees were members of a sect of Judaism that existed from around the second century BC to the first century AD.

Their name in Hebrew was tsedduqim, a variant of the word for "righteous." This may be meant as their self-description; or it may indicate that they were followers of the teachings of Zadok, high priest under King David. In any case, while little of their own writings have been preserved today, they seem to have indeed been a priestly group, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Most of what we know 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.

The Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul, and are discussed in this light in the New Testament debating the matter with Jesus. They denied the existence of spirits or angels. The Sadducees are also discussed in the Talmud, whose rabbinical teachings stem from their opponents in Judaism, the Pharisees. Here they dispute the rabbis' interpretation of the Torah, and are presented as denying that any of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) apart from the Torah is authoritative. As to the Torah itself, the Sadducees are presented as interpreting it literally and rigorously on subjects it directly covers, while rejecting the traditions that mitigate the harsher penalties or aim at preventing unintentional rule-breaking.

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. Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. 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. A handful of scholars have attempted to trace the roots of the Karaite schism to surviving Saduccee ideas.



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