We take a look at the origins of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Thursday, 6/12/14

In the first reading St. Paul egged the Pharisees into arguing with the Sadducees. Let’s look at who those Pharisees and Sadducees were.

We will need to take a little time, going back to  970 B.C. , From there we will skip down to 445 B.C., and lastly we will arrive at 153 B.C. when both the Pharisees and Sadducees got started. So, we begin our search In 970 B.C..

That was when King David was dying. He had promised the crown to his mild mannered son Solomon, but another son had raised a private army, and he was acting like he was the new king. That was Adonijah who had the same mother as the rebel Absalom.

King David, on his death bed, hearing of Adonijah’s criminal ambition, summoned the priest Zadoc. He commanding Zadoc to immediately anoint Solomon king.

With Adonijah’s henchmen watching every move, Zadoc was sure he would be cut down if he anointed Solomon; but he obeyed the king, anointing Solomon king at the spring of Gihon.  To everyone’s surprise, the whole nation rose up, acclaiming, “Long live King Solomon!” And, Adonijah had to run for his life.

From that time on, for over 800 years, the Israelites considered it to be a sacred tradition that only a blood descendant of Zadoc could hold the office of their High Priest. I mentioned a stopover in 445 B.C.. What happened then was that Jerusalem had fallen into civil and moral decay, and the populace decided on reversing that downward trend by adopting the original Law of Moses as their civil and religious code.

After unanimously deciding on doing that, but  before imposing it on themselves, they agreed to  regularly adopt amendments to the Law of Moses. By their first three amendments they pledged not to marry foreigners, to give a silver shekel to the temple every year, and to not buy produce brought to town on the Sabbath.

That was fine, but over the next two hundred years they added thousands of new amendments restricting the types of activities they could engage in on the Sabbath, and restricting the types of foods that could be considered kosher. They ended up with such a burden of restrictions that only a Hasidic minority honored the world of amendments as part of the Mosaic Law. That split the nation between Hasidic Jews and moderates.

Then, in 153 B.C. a crisis arose. The only surviving descendant of Zadoc was wholly unworthy of the office of High Priest. Now, the nation at that time was mourning the death of their great hero Judas Maccabeus, so all the moderate Jews decided on giving the office of High Priest to Jonathan, the brother of Judas.

The Hasidic Jews refused to recognize anyone but a descendant of Zadoc. Half of them packed up, becoming the Essenes who lived in caves above the Dead Sea, leaving us the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Hasidic protesters who remained in Jerusalem separated themselves from the moderates, becoming the Pharisees, a name which in their language meant “The separated ones.”

Finally, as to the Sadducees. Then were the businessmen who aligned themselves with the new High Priest Jonathan. Jokingly they were saying, by virtue of Jonathan’s possessing the office first help by Zadoc he is a new Zadoc; and we, his friends, are the Zadoc-ites, or the Sadducees.     

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