The Sadducees and Pharisees are frequently mentioned in the Gospels because Jesus had a near-constant disagreement with them.

Matthew 22:15-22 NKJV

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

Matthew 22:23-46 NKJV

23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24 saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

I understand these people to be separate groups with separate beliefs. A couple questions that I'd like to know are:

  • What beliefs separated these groups?
  • Who held more power?
  • What separated these two groups politically?
  • How did the Pharisees and Sadducees relate to the Temple and its priesthood?

2 Answers 2


The Sadducees were a movement mainly of priests, while the Pharisees were a rabbinical movement that emphasized righteousness among the populace.

  • Beliefs: Sadducees denied the resurrection (Matthew 22:23), angels and demons, while the Pharisees generally believed in these things. Sadducees did not see the need for a messiah, while the Pharisees did (Matthew 22:41-43). Sadducees emphasized the Torah (meaning the five Books of Moses), while the Pharisees gave equal weight to the prophets and other biblical books. Sadducees focused on the Temple (Acts 4:1-2); Pharisees focused on how the Law and social justice should be practiced in everyday life (Matthew 19:3, Luke 14:3 etc.). Pharisees believed in a kind of continuing revelation known as Oral Torah, which Jesus also affirmed (Matthew 23:2-3); Sadducees rejected this. Many of the question that the Pharisees put to Jesus tried to draw him out on his position on controversial issues related to Oral Torah, such as divorce, Sabbath observance, etc.

  • Who held more power? This ebbed and flowed. After the Maccabean Revolt, the Sadducees gained power during the Hasmonean dynasty, and the Pharisees are thought to have emerged in opposition to their opulence and alleged corruption. The Pharisees were favored under the Jewish queen Salome Alexandra (76–67 b.c.e.) but under Roman rule, the Sadducees regained strength. So at the time of Jesus, the Sadducees were more powerful, especially in Jerusalem. The Pharisees were more influential elsewhere, their base of power being the synagogues rather than the Temple.

  • Politics. The Sadducees were more pro-Roman and conservative. The Pharisees were less Hellenistic and often hoped for a messiah to restore the independent throne of David. Herod I was ruthless toward both groups but his son Archelaus reportedly put 3000 Pharisees to death for tearing down Roman eagles that had been installed at the entrance to the Temple. (This may have something to do with Joseph's decision to bypass Jerusalem and settle in Nazareth as reported in Matthew 2:22.) After Jesus' death, many Pharisees coalesced with the Zealots and supported the Jewish Revolt of 66-70 c.e. The Sadducees and the Christians did not join the rebellion.

  • The Temple. The Sadducees of Jesus' day and beyond controlled the high priesthood and their families formed the elites of the Temple culture. Jesus meets Sadducees primarily (only?) in Jerusalem, while he meets Pharisees in various locations. The Pharisees were generally not priests but teachers. They were at the core of the synagogue movement that emphasized holiness and worship in everyday life, not only through Temple observances. After the destruction of the Temple, the Sadducees became irrelevant and disappeared, while the Pharisees came to the fore in rabbinical Judaism. However, the Pharisees were never a monolithic group; their internal debates are preserved in the Talmud. The Sadducees, on the other hand, did not leave writings of their own.

  • There is very little substantiation in this. I am not suggesting it is wrong ; just that it is expressed as opinion without sufficient citation of references.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 26 at 19:27
  • Let me recommend a scholarly book on the subject by Dr. Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. For example, page 231 has a discussion on Sadducean Theology in comparison with those of the Pharisees (and Essenes) and he goes into heavily documented references, including those from Josephus. Pages 246-267 is and appendix devoted to the Pharisees. This was an extremely complex and polarized society!
    – Dieter
    Feb 26 at 22:30
  • Thank you Dan! I personally love this answer. It's very clear while being comprehensive. +1
    – Jason_
    Feb 26 at 23:03
  • 1
    @NigelJ this is a subject on which I've done a lot of research over the decades so admittedly I answered mostly off the top of my head, except that I backed some of it up with biblical references. I did work I did on these topics for the New World Encyclopedia a decade or two ago. Feb 29 at 4:03
  • @DanFefferman Are you referring to the publication which is connected to Korea and which expects certain events to occur there in the future ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 29 at 8:37

You are told what the main difference is. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Yeshua would have been considered a Pharisee as was Paul.

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