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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






17 May 2005

Who were the Pharisees and the Sadducees?


Q: Who were the Pharisees and the Sadducees?

A: The Pharisees and Sadducees both were political and religious parties in Judea. The Sadducees apparently came from upper class priestly families. Often rude and antagonistic, they controlled much of the nation’s wealth, were likely to accommodate foreign rule, and tended to disregard Scripture outside the five Books of Moses. They seemed to disregard the possibility of supernatural influence, angels, and bodily resurrection. They died out with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

The Pharisees seem to have grown out of the conditions of the Babylonian Exile. Since temple worship was impossible, their forerunners emphasized Scripture study and close adherence to God’s Law. These traits continued following the return to the Promised Land. The Pharisees tended to appeal more to the general public, accepted more of the Hebrew Scriptures as doctrinally normative, and believed in the immortality of the soul. Some believed in a subsequent resurrection of the dead while others taught reincarnation.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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