Matthew: Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees?

The Pharisees were the largest of the Judaic sects. The social and political view of the Pharisees was derived from the concept that all life must be lived under the control of God’s law. As a result, their interpretation of the written law was strict, and they also developed additional traditions, based on man-made interpretations of the scripture, known as the “oral law”.  The Pharisees believed in both fate and human will, and also believed in the spiritual realm, including immortality of the soul and the bodily resurrection. While the sanctity and reverence in which the Pharisees held the law is admirable, it abandoned the need for a pure heart before God. The focus on the correct practice or external demonstration was at the cost of a true love for God and your neighbor. The law in a sense became an idol, rather than a directive from God.

The Sadducees were a politically brazen, priestly party. They were smaller in number, but contained men of high social standing. While the Pharisees appeared to have the support of the common people, the Sadducees appealed only to the wealthier of the classes. However, in official positions, they would conform to Pharisaical practice.  Unlike the Pharisees, they rejected the idea of fate, and embraced free will. They rejected immortality of the soul, denied there was a spiritual realm, and denied the resurrection. As far as the law was concerned, they held the Torah in high regard above all other scripture, and rejected the traditions of the Pharisees, though they did have their own set of traditions regarding rituals, and did accept traditions that enhanced the power of the priesthood. The Sadducees accepted the political government of Rome, and had the best relations with the empire, and also controlled the temple. By assuming there was no immortality of the souls, and therefore no judgment from God, and excluding God from human life by denying sovereignty of God, the Sadducees resembled a secular society that is still present today.

Conflict between Jesus and both these sects was inevitable.


2 thoughts on “Matthew: Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees?

  1. Aug19Michael I’m not certain that tall’s an adtqauee descriptor. I still ponder in silence for long stretches the simple fact that Jesus was a son, one in a line (and not a distinguished line when you take into account the lives of the women, at least, who are mentioned in the genealogy). How sweet that God would choose a path even more profoundly unlikely at its beginning than its end to capture our attention and our selves. That something as small as a man can fill a role as large as this gives us hope and motivation: go, get going, live God’s life in your tiny corner of the world.

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