Pharisees and Sadducees

November 24, 2021

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her" (Matthew 22:23-28).

The Sadducees were wealthy, aristocratic Jewish priests. Their sect was smaller, yet more powerful than that of the Pharisees. The Sanhedrin (the ‘Supreme Court’ of Jewish life) was composed mainly of Sadducees, as were the High Priests and Chief Priests. They controlled the Temple and the priesthood. They were very political and pro-Roman. They had little to do with the Jewish public. They believed the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) was the only authoritative Word of God and interpreted it literally. They ignored the rest of the Old Testament. They didn’t believe in the supernatural (angels, demons, Satan, heaven, hell, miracles, resurrection). They were out of touch with the common Jew, which is why the people had little regard for them.

The Pharisees were more religious than political. They were ‘middle-class’ priests who held to the external customs and practices of Mosaic Law. They were extremely legalistic, believing the rabbinical writings, customs, ceremonies, and traditions were more authoritative than the Word of God. They believed the entire Old Testament to be authoritative, but interpreted it in light of the rabbinic writings, making them conservative biblically but moderate to liberal theologically. They believed in the supernatural, including resurrection. They were the priests of the people, making them very popular among the Jews. It goes without saying that the Sadducees and Pharisees hated each other, yet they were all priests of Israel.

There were other sects in Israel. The Scribes were biblical ‘lawyers’ who knew Scripture better than anyone. The Zealots were more political than religious. The Essenes were more religious than all the Jewish religious sects, much like Catholic monks during the monastic period.

What’s the point? Judaism was meant to prepare Israel for the coming of Jesus Christ. The influence of the priests over the people was such that when they rejected Jesus and demanded His execution, so did the rest of Israel except the few who did believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is the responsibility of every Christian minister to actually be Christian, to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior, and to influence others to embrace Him as well. It is the responsibility of those under the leadership of Christian ministers to keep them focused on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in their preaching, teaching, and ministry in the church and community. In a religiously pluralistic culture that’s extremely difficult but vitally necessary.

“Holy Spirit, I ask that You convict those who call themselves ‘ministers’ in churches and religious organizations of the truth concerning Jesus Christ; that they will preach, teach, and minister the Gospel to those who need to hear and be saved. To the honor and glory of Jesus I ask, Amen.” 


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