Historical setting: 563 CE, on the Bay of Contabria (Biscay)
“Please hear me out Nic. The Sadducees were once the sect of the priests of the Temple. Caiaphas was the High Priest that year. Caiaphas was a Sadducee.”
“They were The Jews.”
“Yes, Nic, that’s what the Roman’s called the Sadducees: ‘The Jews.’ But then, while the Temple was standing we were all Jews — me and my sisters, Jesus and the disciples, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Scribes, the Levites, even Nicodemus – all Jews.
The Romans sacked and burned the Temple in 70 AD. Jews and Jewish Christians alike were dispersed in groups, many leaving Jerusalem, seeking refuge from the Roman persecutions and wars. Everything changed for Jews and Christian Jews after the Temple was gone.
John’s gospel was edited after 70 AD after the Temple was gone and the Sadducees were gone with it. There were still Pharisees but no more Sadducees. My younger sister and some others of us who remembered all those forty years since Jesus’ rising from death were retelling our own experiences with Jesus. My little sister Mary thought calling them Sadducees would seem out of date and maybe even too Jewish when we Jewish Christians, Ebionites, were already being called heretics among other Christians. So in telling the story it was soon after edited with a Roman gloss. The Sadducees were changed to the Roman catch phrase, ‘The Jews’ and all the other references to the Jewish community were left the way they were originally and always were told in John. [Footnote] So the gospel says, ‘The Jews killed Jesus.’ But there are two different things. One was ‘The Jews’ who were really the Sadducees who did send Jesus on to be sentenced by Pilate, and the other was everybody else — all of us in the Jewish community.
I know my little sister and others of our group really wanted the blame for the execution on the betrayers of our own tribe – the High Priest and all those of that traitor sect of Sadducees. But I myself heard the declaration of the death sentence from the Roman lips of Pilate. And I saw the Roman soldiers pound the nails into his hands. Our anger at the High Priest’s sect is long forgotten now. But in these times the Romans are calling themselves Christian and little-by-little shaping the pacifism and the lessons of reconciliation taught by Jesus into nothing but more wars. And apparently the Romans have made the ancestry of Jesus into the horned effigy of an enemy. No Jews, not even the Sadducees ever had horns.”
[Footnote] Time and again for two millennia Christians have used the Gospel of John to excuse and even condone anti-Semitism with horrific results. It is apparently a propaganda gloss leftover from an early century in Christianity when other Gentile propaganda also promoted anti-Semitism and washed Roman hands of the killing of Jesus. But the scrutiny of methodology of scholarly study can only assume it is a gloss and has yet to decode the ancient original documents of John to prove it.
So, this blogger seeks out the obvious answer using only the lesser resources of scholarship — all available in English: the concordance listing bible words in alphabetical order, and a basic Dictionary of the Bible, defining terms. (Here is used the Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible Vol. R-Z published 1962 by Abingdon Press referring to an article on “Sadducees” by A.C. Sundberg pages 160-163.)
First find — Sadducees in the concordance listing Sadducees aplenty in Matthew, Mark and Luke but none in John. Why is that?
Sundberg offers a documented perspective of Sadducees using an array of sources, including the accounts of ancient Jewish historian Josephus. Briefly, the Sadducees were the sect of Jews in the period of the Second Temple from whom the High Priest was appointed. They oversaw the function of the Temple. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and that ended the Sadducees. That is one reason they are missing from the Fourth Gospel that was compiled into a single work after the destruction of the Temple.
In the Gospel of John are eighteen references to “the Jews” used to describe the community of Jewish people as a group of worshippers, followers and basically the community of Jesus and the people that the story in this gospel was about. Ref. John 2:13, 3:01, 4:09, 4:22, 5:01, 6:04,11:36, 11:45, 11:54, 11:55, 12:09, (Here the Chief Priests and the Pharisees were separated out.) 18:20, 19:03, 19:19, 19:20, 19:21 (two times in this verse), 19:03, 19:40. “Jew” singular is also used to describe individuals in this Gospel, even including Jesus and particular members of his following.
But in John (and not in the synoptic gospels) there is another usage for the words “The Jews” and this is to replace “the Sadducees” as a party in power who oversaw the priestly order of the temple.
“The Jews” contextually meaning the temple authorities who would have been the Sadducees at the time are ref: John 1:19, 2:18, 2:20, 5:15, 5:16, 5:18, 6:41, 6:52, 7:01, 7:11, 7:13, 7:15, 7:35, 8:22, 8:31, 8:48, 8:52, 8:57, 9:18, 9:22, (twice in this verse) 10:19, 10:24, 10:31, 10:33, 11:08, (Throughout Chapter 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus “the Jews seem to be the community who gather with Martha and Mary. When there is a reference to Pharisees and other Temple authorities in 11:47 it is Pharisees and Chief Priests (which would be the Sadducees by a name other than “the Jews.”) 13:33, 18:12 (officers of the Jews), 18:14, 18:39, 19:07, 19:12, 19:14, 19:31, 19:38, 20:19.
The obvious “find and replace edit” using “The Jews” to replace “Sadducees” has the hallmarks of some of this gospel’s contemporary apocryphal writings, which clearly exonerate Romans as Jesus killers, and implicate “The Jews” as Christianity is becoming less Jewish and also struggling with the universality of God’s love.