The Pharisees and Sadducees

So in Greek Exegesis class we were talking about Granville Sharp’s Rule, and I thought I would post something about what we learned. Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, but maybe it will be interesting, and it will help me learn because Greek is difficult for me.
What is Sharp’s Rule? Well, basically it speaks to the relationship of two substantives (words that function as nouns in a sentence) that are joined by the coordinating conjunction καὶ (sometimes translated as “and” in English).

The part of Sharp’s Rule that we are going to deal with states: When the article only occurs with the first substantive and not with the second, the article links the two as a unit in some closer way that by καὶ alone, but not necessarily or normally as identical.

Here’s the passage we will focus on:
Matthew 16:1
“…οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι…”

You see the article οἱ (nominative, masculine, plural – translated “the”) a noun Φαρισαῖοι (nominative, masculine, plural – translated Pharisees) then the coordinating conjunction καὶ (translated “and”) and finally an anarthrous (without an article) noun Σαδδουκαῖοι (nominative, masculine, plural – translated “Sadducees”).

So what does Sharp’s Rule teach us? Well, if Matthew had placed the article along with Σαδδουκαῖοι (“Sadducees”), he would have been distinguishing the two as separate, not related in a close mannor (This construction in seen in John 2:22 where the words that Jesus spoke and the Scriptures are spoken of as distinguished from each other, because they are not the same thing). But because the article is lacking on the second substantive, Matthew is linking both the Pharisees and Sadducees as very closely related – not as identical groups (this is because nouns in the Sharp construction are almost never identical if they are two pure nouns in plural).

So, Matthew links the Pharisees and Sadducees as being a unit, closely related to each other – what does it mean? Well, it becomes interesting as we look at each of these groups historically:

Josephus says of the Sadducees (there isn’t much information on the Sadducees outside of the Bible): “(“B. J.” ii. 8, § 14). “Haughty men these priests are, saying which woman is fit to be married by us, since our father is high priest, our uncles princes and rulers, and we presiding officers at the Temple”—these words, put into the mouth of Nadab and Abihu (Tan., Aḥare Mot, ed. Buber, 7; Pesiḳ. 172b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. lxxviii. 18), reflect exactly the opinion prevailing among the Pharisees concerning the Sadducean priesthood (comp. a similar remark about the “haughty” aristocracy of Jerusalem in Shab. 62b). The Sadducees, says Josephus, have none but the rich on their side (“Ant.” xiii. 10, § 6).”1

And of the Pharisees (much more is known of the Pharisees): They are the “Party representing the religious views, practises, and hopes of the kernel of the Jewish people in the time of the Second Temple and in opposition to the priestly Sadducees…The Pharisees formed a league or brotherhood of their own (“ḥaburah”), admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to the strict observance of Levitical purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the ‘Am ha-Areẓ (the ignorant and careless boor), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and to a conscientious regard for vows and for other people’s property (Dem. ii. 3; Tosef., Dem. ii. 1).”2

It is seen pretty clearly (as well as in Scripture) that the Pharisees and Sadducees hated each other’s guts. They had starkly different views, both religiously and politically. One could almost (and I do) associate the Pharisees with Fundamentalists and the Sadducees with Liberals. Neither would claim the other as even being slightly related or as having some sort of unity – but rather they would probably condemn each other to hell (or non-existence or something like that because the Saddusees didn’t believe in the afterlife).

Yet here they are linked together in God’s Word. In God’s eyes, and in the mind of Jesus we see that he groups them together as one and actively and publicly opposes them (and we see the link even starker in their joint hatred of Jesus, leading them to conspire together to kill him).

As a conservative I often find myself pointing the finger at “Liberals” and how unbiblical they are. Yet here is the warning – here is the lesson: salvation is not found in being conservative or liberal. It comes through Jesus Christ, and him alone.

I need to seek to learn from Jesus – to learn what he liked, what he disliked, and measure myself according to his word, not by the standards of men. I personally believe that I error on the side of the Pharisees – claiming to set myself aside for “purity”, and in doing so, condemn others as sinners, while failing to see my own wicked, deep sin.

Jesus never condemned those who knew they were sinners – he was called their friend.

Jesus condemned those who thought they were righteous, who claimed to be better than everyone else, who claimed separation for the glory of God – those were the ones who were on the receiving end of the words, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” (John 8:44a)




1“ – SADDUCEES,” (accessed October 12, 2007).


2“ – PHARISEES,” (accessed October 12, 2007).

4 Responses to The Pharisees and Sadducees

  1. Tato says:

    Interesting. I remember talking about Sharp’s rule a lot in reference to trinitarian thought since it can be seen in passages that say, “Our God and Savior Jesus Christ – where both substatives are reflected as terms relating to Jesus Christ”… but the implication for other passages is interesting as well. I also remember that there were a lot of misuses of Sharp’s rule… I forget what they were, I should probably go back and brush up a bit.

  2. Lee says:

    Ah… convicting.

  3. Dog training says:

    Very interesting… as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

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