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§ 25. The Sadducees.

The spirit of the Sadducees presents a still more rugged contrast to the spirit of Christ. Their schools agreed in nothing but denying; their only bond of union was opposition to the Pharisees, against 36whom they strove to re-establish the original Hebraism, freed from the foreign elements which the Pharisaic statutes had mixed up with it. But an agreement in negation can be only an apparent one, if the negation rests upon an opposite positive principle. Thus certain negative doctrines, that agree with Protestantism in rejecting the authority and traditions of the Romish Church, separate themselves further from Protestantism than the Romish doctrine itself, by the affirmative principle on which they rest their denial, and by carrying that denial too far. The single positive principle of Sadduceeism was the one-sided prominence given by them to morality, which they separated from its necessary inward union with religion. But Christ’s combat with the Pharisees arose out of the fullest interpenetration of the moral and religious elements. The Sadducees wished to cut off the progressive developement of Hebraism at an arbitrary point. They refused to recognize the growing consciousness of God, which, derived from the Mosaic institute, formed a substantial feature of Judaism, and hence could not comprehend the higher religious element from which, as a germ, under successive Divine revelations, the spiritual life of Judaism was to be gradually developed.7070   See below for the way in which Christ illustrated this to the Sadducees. As to the Canon, it cannot be actually proved that the Sadducees held it differently from other Jews. It is true, Josephus says (Archaeol., xiii., x., 6) that they rejected every thing but the Mosaic law—ἅπερ οὐκ ἀναγέγραπται ἐν τοῖς Μωϋσέως νόμοις. But the Mosaic law is not here opposed to the rest of the Canon, but to oral traditions; and the only question was whether the Mosaic law alone, or in connexion with oral tradition, was to be held as authority for religious usages. The remaining books of the Old Testament were not in dispute, as no religious usages at all were derived from them. Still, it is not unlikely that the Sadducees went so far, in their opposition to Pharisaism, as to reject all doctrines that could not be shown to have a Mosaic origin, and to consider the Pentateuch as the sole, or, at least, the chief, source of religious truth. As we find such views of the Canon among the Jewish-Christian sects (Cf. the Clementines), we may infer that they previously existed among the Jews. They would hardly have denied Immortality and the Resurrection, if they had held the Prophets to be law in the same sense as the Pentateuch; although it is possible that they interpreted such passages of the Prophets in another way. The general terms in which Josephus speaks of the recognition of the Canon among the Jews (i., c. Apion, § 8) do not suffice to prove that there were no differences in this respect in the different sects. Rejecting all such growth as foreign and false, they held a subordinate and isolated point to be absolute and perpetual; adhering to the letter rather than the spirit. To the forced allegorizing of the Pharisees in interpreting the Scripture, they opposed a slavishly literal and narrow exegesis. But Christ, on the other hand, while he rejected the Pharisaic traditions, received into his doctrine all the riches of Divine knowledge which the progressive growth of Theism, up to the time of John the Baptist, had brought forth. His agreement, then, with the Sadducees, consisting, as it did, solely in opposition to Pharisaism, was merely negative and apparent.

Some have detected an affinity between the moral teaching of Christ and the Anti-Eudaemonism of the Sadducees, the principle, 37namely, that man must do good for its own sake, without the hope of future recompense.7171   No reliance is to be placed in the Talmudic tradition in Pirke Aboth, i., 3, according to which the principle thus perverted to the denial of a future life came from Antigonus Ish Socho, or Simeon the Just. The prevalent orthodoxy was always inclined to ascribe error to the perversion of some orthodox doctrine. But here, again, Christianity agrees with Sadduceeisnm only in what it denies, not in what it affirms. The divine life of Christianity has no more affinity for that selfish Eudaemonism which seeks the good as means to an end, than for the spirit of Sadduceeism which denies the higher aims of moral action, and makes it altogether “of the earth, earthly.” These opposite errors sprang from one common source, namely, the debasement of the spiritual life into worldliness, and therefore Christianity is alike antagonistic to them both, whether seen in the worldly admission of a future life by the Pharisees, or in its worldly rejection by the Sadducees. Yet in the doctrine of the former, it must be admitted, lay a germ of truth which only needed to be freed from selfish and sensual tendencies to show itself in its full spiritual import.7272   Dr. von Cölln arrives at the conclusion that “the moral philosophy of the Sadducees was better than that of the Pharisees, because the New Testament does not attack their moral principles, but only their denial of the Resurrection.”—(Bibl. Theol., i., 450.) We do not admit the inference. This silence of the New Testament can be readily accounted for on the ground that Sadduceeism had few points in common with Christianity; and while it was necessary to guard men frequently against Pharisaic abuses of great truths (e. g., of the truth that morality and religion are inseparable), the open contrast of Sadduceeism made such special controversy with its teachers unnecessary.


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