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Catholic Dictionary




A small group in Jewish society, contemporaneous with Christ, who attracted to their ranks rich, educated, and conservative Jews. In religion, they supported only doctrines that they found in written law. The Pharisees indulged in constant controversy with them over oral and unwritten tradition. The Sadducees were well treated by the Roman government because they supported the established order. Because they had substantial representation in the Sanhedrin, they exercised an influence out of proportion to their numbers in Temple affairs and ceremonies. In one significant activity the Sadducees and the Pharisees were united: ridiculing and denouncing Jesus and his teaching. Frequently they challenged or baited him in his public appearances. John the Baptist called them "a brood of vipers" (Matthew 3:7). Jesus denounced both groups, warning his followers against their false teachings (Matthew 16:12). The Sadducees persisted in their anti-Christian persecution; for instance, they had Peter and John arrested for spreading word of Jesus' resurrection (Acts 4). Their numbers and influence waned as the first century moved along. Little was heard of them after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70. (Etym. Greek saddukaioi, popular meaning "righteous.")