The Sadducee-Pharisee split probably began around 150 B.C.E and disappeared after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. As a result, the Karaites (9th-century) adopted many Sadducee-ideas including the notion that the Shabbat beings in Saturday morning and ends on Sunday morning. The Pharisees couldn't disagree more. Shabbat begins on Friday evening (18 minutes in advance for women to light the candles) and ends on Saturday evening (sometimes 42 minutes after sunset). Tradition has it that the Pharisees follow both the Written and Oral Law as received from Moshe at Sinai. The Pharisees claim that the Sadducees, and thus, Karaites opted to reform Judaism by removing the Oral Torah, opting to only follow a literal reading of the Torah. They [the Sadducees] rejected, for example, the prophets and Talmud(s).[1] They also claim that the Sadducees (tzidukim) were named after its founder Tzadok. But the Sadducees held that it was they who followed the Torah, which, in their opinion, did not contain the Oral law; that the Oral Law was a later development by the Pharisees (and the rabbis).[2] They argue that their name tzedek means “the righteous ones,” and that the name for the Pharisees was derived from the root p-r-sh, which means “separated.” In other words, “those who separated themselves from the Torah.”[3]


What, if any, of the Sadducees and Karaites position is correct, regarding these matters?

Sources, please.

PS I agree with the pharisaic position but the question is thought-provoking.

[1] Avot d’Rabbi Natan I, chapter 5, and Avot d’Rabbi Natan II, chapter 10.

[2] This is also the position of Louis Finkelstein in “The Pharisees.”

[3] In the New Testament, the Christian claim the term Pharisee means “hypocrite,” but this is not true.

  • 1
    They got one thing right - we received the Torah from G-d at Mt. Sinai at the hands of Moses.
    – ezra
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 20:18
  • VTC as unclear what you're asking. Clearly, the Sadducees thought they were right, the Karaites thought they were right, and the Pharisees are right. What do you mean by 'what... Sadducee and Karaite position is correct'? Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 20:31
  • Coming from a Pharisaic position, I'm wondering if the Pharisees thought the Sadducees or Karaites were right in a few points. As @ezra mentioned, they agreed that the Torah was from Siani, unlike the Samaritans.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 20:40
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    the Christian claim the term Pharisee means “hypocrite". Not quite true. The NT scriptures contain a line "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" criticising them for ignoring the spirit of the Law. It's not Christians in general, but those ignorant of the actual scriptures, that have changed the meaning of the word. The same thing happened to the word "prodigal", which actually means "wastefully extravagant". Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 22:04
  • @RayButterworth good point. I think you are correct.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 1:48

1 Answer 1


Since both (all) groups you mentioned accept the written Torah as divine (to say nothing of other shared social/cultural similarities) there are certainly many many items of agreement. I would presume all would generally prohibit eating pork, adultery, or worshiping idols and so forth. Nevertheless, as these groups mutually identified themselves as distinct from each other the emphasis is going to be on contrasting with their opponents positions. I am confident you will not find many Rabbinic writings cataloging points of agreement with competing ideologies, and to do so doesn't seem too practical.

If you mean to ask if there are any areas where the Pharisaic/Rabbinic parties adopted the position or accepted the arguments of the Sadducees or Karaites, the ideology of fidelity to tradition/oral law would make this very difficult to transpire consciously and even harder to state frankly that this had been done (even if it had) .

  • The Pharisaic rabbis adopting ideas from Sadducees or Karaites is an interesting thought. We know that the Talmud adopted names of the months from Babylonia. Some Christian concepts and pagan concepts, such as original sin or the evil eye was adopted in the Talmud and later Jewish writings. The rabbis have done their best to dismiss these concepts, including other talmudic rabbis. I'm wondering if the same could be applied to the Sadducees.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 0:24
  • I don't think it is a stretch to call it inaccurate to say the "Talmud adopted names of the months from Babylon" since several months were identified using Babylonian names in later biblical books, approaching a thousand years before the Talmud was committed to writing. Questions of cultural diffusion,the flow of ideas and practices between cultures are social/historical and not usually well suited to be addressed here.
    – Yirmeyahu
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 0:44
  • They are thought-provoking, tough.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 1:42
  • @Jonathan I don't believe the concept of "original sin" exists in Judaism, at least not in the same way it does in Christianity. As for the evil eye, I don't think that comes from Christianity as much as it comes from other Middle Eastern faiths and cultures such as Babylon and Persia. Christianity, if anything, has borrowed more ideas FROM Judaism, not the other way around.
    – ezra
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 11:39
  • @ezra I agree with you that Christianity adopted many concepts from Judaism. The evil eye is a pagan notion. But Judaism did borrow the Christian notion of original sin. Some Christian thought crept into Judaism but many rabbis dismissed them or rationalized them. For example, in the past, some mystical Kabbalistic/Zohardic works depict G-d as a man! This, of course is an affront to G-d’s oneness.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:38

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