Sadducees get a bad rap. If one attended Sunday school, one probably learned that as they didn’t believe in an afterlife, they were “sad you see” (which sounds like Sadducee). We only know about the Sadducees from their critics (or at the very least those who disagreed with them): Josephus is probably the least negative source, then there are the New Testament and Rabbinic literature, both of which are polemical.
It is interesting to note that the Sadducees’ views, as described by Josephus, are similar to those held by the more progressive Christians of our time: a denial of “fate” (i.e. determinism), of supernatural beings such as angels, and the afterlife. It may seem ironic that the most progressive voices today sound like the most conservative from Jesus’ time. But being “progressive” doesn’t mean adopting the newest ideas. If it did, fundamentalism is relatively new, and so we’d all be clamouring to hop on that bandwagon. But in fact, being progressive means being willing to change and listen, even though sometimes that means being willing to return to views one once dismissed out of hand.
Here’s what Josephus tells us:
Sadducees…take away Fate, and say that there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly. [Jewish Antiquities 13.172-173]
They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in the Underworld. [Jewish War 2.162-166]
Josephus also says that Sadducees viewed it as a virtue to dispute with one’s teachers, to question authority, to not simply accept the answers given. Progressive Christians can say “Amen” to that. But do we have the courage to do something akin to what not only Reform but even traditional Rabbinic Judaism has done in arguing with God and with Moses? Do progressive Christians have the courage to point out clearly when they disagree with Jesus?
Although the scenario posed by the Sadducees is somewhat farcical, it raises intelligent questions. Jesus’ response cannot be regarded as entirely satisfactory, can it? Surely it simply raises the question of what the point is of this life if it contains so many aspects that will not be worth preserving for eternity, and the question of in what sense an eternally-existing “me” that does not share my relationships with others that I have now will in any sense be “me”.
Jesus Creed talks about Scripture and reason. Vision has a video clip of Paula Fredriksen speaking about Paul. April DeConick continues her discussion of the diversity of early Christianity (and Mystical Seeker joins in). Loren Rosson talks about politics in Romans 13. Ken Schenck distills out the issues covered in his New Testament survey class. Scotteriology points out that God’s name isn’t “God”. An und fuer sich has some controversial thoughts about Paul, Judaism and Christianity. Conrad Roth has an interesting post about magic and modernism, silence and speech. IO9 mentions a graphic novel about those left behind fighting back against the rapture and its paramilitary angel harbingers.
Keith Miller discusses whether the academic science community is a hostile environment for faith. Experimental Theology begins a series on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Panda’s Thumb discusses creationism’s latest mutation. John Pieret discusses Intelligent Design and the “academic freedom” bills (Science Avenger also covers the latter). ERV points to online Rockerfeller lectures. Undeception talks about limits of science. There are science articles about a fossil of the missing link between salamanders and frogs (a ‘frogamander‘?), whether the sun is fine-tuned for life on Earth, and the recent disappointing statistics about high school biology teachers. Can you believe that Denyse O’Leary is inflicting yet another blog on cyberspace?
Greg Boyd reviews Ehrman’s God’s Problem, while Mystical Seeker also touches on theodicy. Richard Carrier draws attention to a web site connected to his book The Empty Tomb. There’s also a post about Pagan Christianity. De-conversion discusses post-Christian ethics. Jon Birch has some new cartoons: