The Sadducees descended from the line of Zadok, the priest, during the anointing of Solomon to become king. Zadok was loyal to King David and Solomon, and stood against Adonijah’s rebellion. He, and his descendants were therefore rewarded, by being placed as high priests of the Sanhedrin. (1 Kings 2:35) They became people of the ruling class and part of the wealthy aristocracy in Jerusalem. The Sadducees in Jesus’ day often bribed the Roman authorities so that they would be assured to maintain their important roles, including the Temple high priest. This is how kept their control of the Sanhedrin and continued to be part of the wealthy aristocracy in Jerusalem. They would be similar to the Speakers of the House and the Senate in the US congress.
What did the Sadducees believe?
The Sanhedrin was made up primarily of Sadducees, although there were also Pharisees who were members. The principle doctrine of the Pharisees was “separation” from anything that was not holy. They adhered strictly to the Laws of Moses and added to them in order to protect themselves from inadvertently breaking any of the laws.
The Sadducees were in the majority in the Sanhedrin but were a minority in Judea. Like the Pharisees, they also strictly adhered to the laws of Moses but they rejected the additional laws the Pharisees added. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, in angels, nor in the spirit world. Since they did not believe in an after life, they believed there was no future punishment for the evil, nor was there a reward for the righteous. For all intents and purposes, they were secularists.
They believed that people had a free will, which the Pharisees denied. They pushed this doctrine so much that they even excluded God from having any influence in governing of the world. They did not believe in the Messiah nor that he was coming, but the Pharisees believed both. (Acts 23:8)
Why were the Sadducees so threatened by Jesus and his followers?
Sadducees were part of the wealthy aristocracy and lived in mansions, where the Sanhedrin would often meet if the matter was urgent. “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,” (Matt 26:3) These are the people who Jesus spoke of when John the Baptist was in prison and they said nothing of that injustice. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.” (Mt 11:8)
Caiaphas’ palace overlooking Jerusalem
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, his popularity skyrocketed. His resurrection quickly got the attention of the Sadducees. They knew they had to silence His influence or their doctrine would be threatened and along with it, their life style. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” (Jn 11:48)
If they lost their place, they would also lose their well-respected and comfortable life styles. They became desperate and the chief priests consulted together how they might not only put Jesus to death but put Lazarus to death also! (John 12:10)