Are there any Jewish sects which regard the Oral Law, Talmud and other interpretations of Tanach as unlawful addition to the religion? If yes who are they and what are their beliefs?

  • Define innovation.
    – Double AA
    Mar 10, 2013 at 4:39
  • 6
    – Double AA
    Mar 10, 2013 at 4:40
  • @DoubleAA Adding new things to religion which are not mandated by the tanach like adding personal interpretations of verses and clubbing them with the Tanach for practical purposes
    – knowit
    Mar 10, 2013 at 4:43
  • @DoubleAA are u sure there is only one? and please answer the question if you know the answer.
    – knowit
    Mar 10, 2013 at 4:44
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    I'm not interested in arguing about sources of revelation; I am just trying to understand your earlier comment. Mar 10, 2013 at 5:02

2 Answers 2


Currently, there exists a small Karaite community which claims to follow only the written law from teh tanach. On a website purporting to represent them, they give a history which lists other sects which, over history, have mirrored their beliefs (including "Sadducees, Boethusians, Ananites").

It is important to note two other points, though. One is the claim that, institutionally, Karaites and other seemingly strict-text groups have incorporated the practices, understandings and traditions of other groups. See here. The other comes only anecdotally from my conversations with Karaites over the years. They say that they DO have an oral law, but one that is local to each community. When the tanach text refers to unwritten laws of ritual slaughter, the Karaite wise man of each village institutes, based on his own understanding, what those laws are. There is no over-arching sectarian definition of the traditions and unwritten rules, but they exist, group by group.

  • +1 what about samaritans , esseenes etc please mention and explain them too
    – knowit
    Mar 10, 2013 at 13:25
  • the essenes are explained on the linked website. Samaritans may or may not even be Jewish and don't share all the Tanachic(al?) texts, let alone the beliefs that come with them, with the Karaite-type groups. And the Samaritans DO have codified sectarian law based on human interpretation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans
    – rosends
    Mar 10, 2013 at 13:33
  • thanks they do have their Torah called as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan_Pentateuch infact they claim to be original Jews of bni Israel and Based on the Samaritan Torah, Samaritans assert their worship is the true religion of the ancient Israelites prior to the Babylonian Exile, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel, as opposed to Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion, brought back by those returning from exile.
    – knowit
    Mar 10, 2013 at 14:55
  • they do claim all that. They also claim that Jerusalem isn't a holy city. So?
    – rosends
    Mar 10, 2013 at 16:05
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    I don't view this question as asking for a comprehensive review of the theological positions made by other groups (when those facts are readily available elsewhere) -- simply about their existence in order to direct research. If you want to know details, look up the various cited sources and read about them.
    – rosends
    Mar 10, 2013 at 16:09

The Rambam discusses this, and is very severe about someone who does so from his own ideas (in contrast to a child who was raised this way):

Rambam - Shoftim - Mamrim - Chapter 3

Halacha 1

A person who does not acknowledge validity of the Oral Law is not the rebellious elder mentioned in the Torah. Instead, he is one of the heretics and he should be put to death by any person.

Halacha 2

Since it has become known that such a person denies the Oral Law, he may be pushed into a pit and may not be helped out. He is like all the rest of the heretics who say that the Torah is not Divine in origin, those who inform on their fellow Jews, and the apostates. All of these are not considered as members of the Jewish people. There is no need for witnesses, a warning, or judges for them to be executed. Instead, whoever kills them performs a great mitzvah and removes an obstacle from people at large.

Halacha 3

To whom does the above apply? To a person who denied the Oral Law consciously, according to his perception of things. He follows after his frivolous thoughts and his capricious heart and denies the Oral Law first, as did Tzadok and Beitus and those who erred in following them.

The children of these errant people and their grandchildren whose parents led them away and they were born among these Karaities and raised according to their conception, they are considered as a children captured and raised by them. Such a child may not be eager to follow the path of mitzvot, for it is as if he was compelled not to. Even if later, he hears that he is Jewish and saw Jews and their faith, he is still considered as one who was compelled against observance, for he was raised according to their mistaken path. This applies to those who we mentioned who follow the erroneous Karaite path of their ancestors. Therefore it is appropriate to motivate them to repent and draw them to the power of the Torah with words of peace.

  • this answer does not even begin to answer my question.
    – knowit
    Mar 10, 2013 at 7:18
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    @Ali Sure it does. It mentions that such sects exist, and that Judaism is very disapproving of them. There is another Rambam quotes that I'm looking for that favorably compares the Karaites to the Sadducees.
    – Ariel
    Mar 10, 2013 at 7:29
  • @Ali I could not find it. But anyway, those are the two other sects: The Sadducess (who no longer exist), and the Karaites who exist in small numbers.
    – Ariel
    Mar 10, 2013 at 7:42
  • Edit: I still can not find the comparison, but I believe it was actually between Karaites and Samaritans, not Sadducees. Unlike Karaites the Samaritans are considered like non-Jews entirely. A small number of Samaritans exist today.
    – Ariel
    Mar 10, 2013 at 8:18
  • you answered what was not asked and you did not answer what was asked. You should've mentioned about saducess etc in the answer @Ariel
    – knowit
    Mar 10, 2013 at 8:27

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