My question is: How did Chazal attain its authority? More specifically, how did the Pharisees who evolved into Chazal beat out the Sadducees who would later become practically extinct (some say that the Karaite Jews evolved from the Saducees because they share similar thoughts regarding the Oral Torah)? The Sadducees were highly opposed to the Oral Torah which at the time ( second century BCE to 70CE) was still not written down. How did the Pharisees eventually win in this matter (by win i mean attain the strongest following and continue to live on as a Jewish sect) while Sadduccess died out? Also, How did the Halachot and discussions of Chazal in the Gamara become the governing laws of most Jews whereas the Karaite traditions and interpretations of the Torah became almost extinct?

  • I've adjusted your title to better (IMO) match the question. If you disagree, please revert or re-edit.
    – msh210
    Jul 7, 2016 at 0:24
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    The Pharisees continued in the tradition of their predecessors, whereas the Sadducees created a new sect that pioneered the notion of rejecting the Oral Law. And although the Sadducees included some wealthy and important people, the majority of the populace continued in the tradition of their forebears and followed the teachings of the Pharisees (see Sukka 4:9 and Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 8:10:5,6 and 13:5).
    – Fred
    Jul 7, 2016 at 0:51
  • Is this on topic. Questions about history of the Jewish people, but not about Judaism itself are off topic. The line in between is sometimes gray.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 7, 2016 at 1:59
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    I think that Sadducees and Karaite was phenomens of intent to abandon ancestral judaism, and as this they abandonned and assimilate. see here
    – kouty
    Jul 7, 2016 at 15:29
  • @kouty according to Rambam only tzadok and baytus believed in no Torah shebiksav, while their students still believed in it, they probably did attract anarchist students who eventually removed every yolk from upon themselves.
    – user6591
    Jul 7, 2016 at 20:26

2 Answers 2


Simply - this is the sign that the Pharisees were the ones with the correct tradition of the Torah. HaShem promised in our precious Torah that he would maintain the covenant he made with the forefathers with those that would listen to his laws, observing them and performing them. The Pharisees and their adherents did so, so they were preserved. The others deserted or abrogated the law of HaShem, so they no longer exist identifying themselves as Jews.

In other words, that's the covenant - those that would devote themselves to HaShem's true teachings are guaranteed preservation by HaShem. The very act of adherence to the true message of HaShem is the effort of preservation. That is the system HaShem designed. We do ours, an He promises He will do His.

Where does the Torah make this statement? For one, at the beginning of Parashas Eikev (Deut 7:12):

And it shall be, on account that you will listen to/accept these laws and you will observe them and perform them, HaShem your G-d will preserve for you the covenant and the kindliness which He swore to your forefathers.

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    Independent of the symbolism of the result, how did they do it?
    – Double AA
    Jul 29, 2016 at 5:33
  • I updated my answer to clarify. Thanks for your comment!
    – Talmid
    Jul 29, 2016 at 11:03

It's difficult to know, since there are few historical sources on the topic. However, it's possible that the answer lies to some extent on the dependence of the Sadducees on the temple, and their popularity primarily among the upper classes. This would mean that after the Roman destruction of the temple, those involved with the temple as well as the formerly rich would lose much of their influence.

Josephus writes:

While the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side.

And that:

But this doctrine is received but by a few, yet by those still of the greatest dignity. But they are able to do almost nothing of themselves; for when they become magistrates, as they are unwillingly and by force sometimes obliged to be, they addict themselves to the notions of the Pharisees, because the multitude would not otherwise bear them.

  • Some kohanim were Sadducees, but many if not most were Pharisees. Temple procedures discussed in tractate Yoma suggest that the rabbinic Pharisees generally had more control over the priests' Temple service than did Sadducees, though the Mishna recognizes the presence of Sadducees among the Temple priests and sometimes High Priests. Granted, Sadducees were probably disproportionately represented among the priesthood relative to their share of the general population.
    – Fred
    Jul 29, 2016 at 6:57
  • @Fred - keep in mind that the Mishnah and the talmud were compiled ~150 years after the fact, so I'm not sure I'd take that as historically authoritative. Jul 29, 2016 at 7:01
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    The Mishna was edited at a later date, but it includes teachings transmitted from Tannaim tracing back a number of centuries. The oath adjuring the High Priest to follow the Pharisee regimen for the Yom Kippur service, and the weeping subsequent to the oath (Yoma 1:5), is part of an intricate narrative that details elements of the Temple service and displays a familiarity that suggests those teachings were originally transmitted from - and practiced in - Temple times.
    – Fred
    Jul 29, 2016 at 7:18

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