Who Are The Saducees?

We talk a lot about Pharasaicalism within Christianity. We don’t want to seem cold and legalistic in our faith. We don’t want to be judgmental… but what ever happened to the Sadducees?

Does they (or their ethic) still exist—and if so, what do they look like?

J.C. Ryle offers this insight:

We have . . . a school of men who, wittingly or unwittingly, appear to pave the way to Socianism*—a school which holds strange views about the plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture—strange views about the doctrine of sacrifice, and the Atonement of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—strange views about the eternity of punishment, and God’s love to man—a school strong in negatives but very weak in positives—skilful in raising doubts, but impotent in laying them—clever in unsettling and unscrewing men’s faith, but powerless to offer any firm rest for the sole of our foot . . . on them has fallen the mantle of the Sadducees…

I consider the most dangerous champion of the Sadducee school is not the man who tells you openly that he wants you . . . to become a free-thinker and a skeptic. It is the man who begins with quietly insinuating doubts . . . whether we ought to be so positive in saying “This is the truth, and that falsehood,” doubts whether we ought to think men wrong who differ from us on religious opinions, since they may after all be as much right as we are. . . . It is the man who always begins talking in a vague way about God being a God of love, and hints that we ought to believe perhaps that all men, whatever doctrine they profess, will be saved.

J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied, as quoted in Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, pp. 38-39

*Socianism was a form of unitarian teaching that denied original sin, the immortality of man, the divinity of Jesus and the significance of his death as a penal sacrifice for sin.

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  • http://mrben.jedimoose.org/ mrben

     Wow. Seems like quite a timely word. I shall add JC Ryle’s name to my “list of 19th century Christians worth knowing about” (alongside people like CH Spurgeon and CT Studd – I wonder if the double-initial thing was mandatory?)

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

       It might be, Ben. Ryle is definitely someone to get to know. A great site to check out is J.C. Ryle Quotes if you want to get a sense of where he’s coming from.

  • http://twitter.com/MelaSie Melanie Siewert

    Quick question, Aaron.  I’ve wondered for a while why people would call each other “Pharisees” when Paul himself was a Pharisee, and son of a Pharisee.  I understand the whole “rules and regulations” bit, but to go so far as to call modern Christians “pharisees” I think is going a bit too far (not speaking to you – I’ve seen many tweets calling people in the church that label).  I have my own thoughts but I want to get your take.  Should anyone today be comparing people to biblical Pharisees?  Are people truly using “Pharisee” in the right context?  Just curious.  Thanks.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      @twitter-76695859:disqus Great question! My thinking on it is a lot of folks don’t properly understand what it means historically or otherwise. Generally, I think it’s unwise to directly apply the term unless you can qualify it. It’s the same with saying that someone is being legalistic or a “fundamentalist” though; sometimes all it takes to be a fundamentalist in the eyes of some is simply to take your faith seriously.Interestingly enough, in the same chunk of his book, Ryle also discusses those who in his day would have carried on the ethos of the Pharisees; he describes them as being basically “Jesus plus.” So they’d agree with you on basically all the big things, but then say, “you need this, too.”

      Not sure if all that answers your questions, though…

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