A prominent religious sect of Judaism associated with the priesthood. (Acts 5:17) The precise time for the emergence of the Sadducees as a religious sect is not known. First historical mention of them by name appears in the writings of Josephus, which indicate that they opposed the Pharisees in the latter half of the second century B.C.E. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, chap. X, par. 6) Josephus also provides information about their teachings. However, there is a question as to whether his presentation is completely factual. Unlike the Pharisees, says Josephus, the Sadducees denied the workings of fate, maintaining that an individual, by his own actions, was solely responsible for what befell him. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, chap. V, par. 9) They rejected the many oral traditions observed by the Pharisees and also Pharisaic belief in the immortality of the soul and in future punishments or rewards in Hades. In their dealings with one another the Sadducees were somewhat rough. They were said to be disputatious. According to Josephus, their teachings appealed ‘to the rich.’—Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, chap. X, par. 6; Book XVIII, chap. I, par. 4; Wars of the Jews, Book II, chap. VIII, par. 14.
As pointed out by John the Baptist, the Sadducees needed to produce fruits befitting repentance. This was because they, like the Pharisees, had failed to keep God’s law. (Matt. 3:7, 8) Christ Jesus himself compared their corrupting teaching to leaven.—Matt. 16:6, 11, 12.
With reference to their religious beliefs, Acts 23:8 states: “Sadducees say there is neither resurrection nor angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees publicly declare them all.” It was in connection with the resurrection and brother-in-law marriage that a group of Sadducees attempted to stump Christ Jesus. But he silenced them. By referring to the Law, which the Sadducees professed to accept, Jesus disproved their contention that there is no resurrection. (Matt. 22:23-34; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40) Later, the apostle Paul, when before the Sanhedrin, divided that highest Jewish court by playing the Pharisees against the Sadducees. This was possible because of the religious differences existing between them.—Acts 23:6-10.
Although religiously divided, Sadducees joined Pharisees in trying to tempt Jesus by asking him for a sign (Matt. 16:1), and both groups were united in their opposition to him. Biblical evidence indicates that the Sadducees took a leading part in seeking Jesus’ death. Sadducees were members of the Sanhedrin, which court plotted against and, later, condemned Jesus to death. Included in the court were the Sadducee and high priest, Caiaphas, and evidently also other prominent priests. (Matt. 26:59-66; John 11:47-53; Acts 5:17, 21) Therefore, whenever the Christian Greek Scriptures speak of certain action as being taken by the chief priests, Sadducees were evidently involved. (Matt. 21:45, 46; 26:3, 4, 62-64; 28:11, 12; John 7:32) Sadducees appear to have taken the lead in trying to stop the spread of Christianity after Jesus’ death and resurrection.—Acts 4:1-23; 5:17-42; 9:14.