I understand that Sadducees were upper-class wealthy men who made up the Jewish aristocracy. Pharisees came from all economic classes but were distinguished by their rigid adherence to behaviour as interpreted from the Torah.

They were prominent during the time of Jesus, but when did these two groups first arise, and which came first? Perhaps the Old Testament can shed light on this; for example do they go back to the time of Moses, or perhaps to the time of Zadok the priest?

What is the origin of the Pharisees and Sadducees?

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    This might be better asked at our Mi Yodeya site. Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


Finding information on the origins of the Pharisees and the Sadducees has proved difficult. There are claims from the Pharisees that their origins stem from the time of Moses and the establishment of the Levitical priesthood. There are claims from the Sadducees that their origins stem from the time of Zadok the high priest who served during the reigns of King David and King Solomon. They were named Tzedukim after its founder Tzadok. Pharisees also claim that the Sadducees are a rebellious offshoot who split from Pharisaic traditions, but there is very little information on Sadducee sources.

I have searched online for additional information and found a helpful (albeit simplistic) article that gives an overview of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, who emerged under Hasmonean rule. Part of it says this:

The most important of the three were the Pharisees because they are the spiritual fathers of modern Judaism. Their main distinguishing characteristic was a belief in an Oral Law that God gave to Moses at Sinai along with the Torah. The Pharisees believed that God also gave Moses the knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be applied. This oral tradition was codified and written down roughly three centuries later in what is known as the Talmud.
The Sadducees were elitists who wanted to maintain the priestly caste, but they were also liberal in their willingness to incorporate Hellenism into their lives, something the Pharisees opposed. The Sadducees rejected the idea of the Oral Law and insisted on a literal interpretation of the Written Law; consequently, they did not believe in an afterlife, since it is not mentioned in the Torah. The focus of Sadducee life was rituals associated with the Temple.

The Sadducees disappeared around 70 A.D., after the destruction of the Second Temple. None of the writings of the Sadducees has survived, so the little we know about them comes from their Pharisaic opponents. These two “parties” served in the Great Sanhedrin, a kind of Jewish Supreme Court made up of 71 members whose responsibility was to interpret civil and religious laws.
(Source: Ancient Jewish History: Pharisees, Sadducees & Essenes)

The last quoted paragraph confirms that none of the writings of the Sadducees have survived, which perhaps explains the degree of difficulty in attempting to answer this question!


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