Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach

Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach

Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach

Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach

Synopsis

An authoritative and unrivalled work on these three important groups which played such a vital role in the ministry of Jesus and in Jewish life.

Excerpt

The paperback reprint of Anthony J. Saldarini’s important monograph, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: a Sociological Approach, provides an opportunity to revisit the book, to glance at reactions to it, and to sketch what has happened in the field since the hardback version appeared in 1988. It is widely cited and has had a considerable impact on the field.

As the subtitle indicates. Saldarini set himself the task of assessing three groups from a sociological perspective: the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. He was not the first scholar to approach ancient Jewish groups with sociological questions in mind; the work of Louis Finkelstein (The Pharisees: the Sociological Background of Their Faith [2 vols.; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1938]), for example, may be noted as an early predecessor in the sociological study of Pharisaism. But Saldarini’s was certainly one of the first and surely one of the most disciplined efforts at understanding the evidence in the writings of Josephus, the New Testament, and the rabbinic literature through the categories used by contemporary sociologists. the overall tendency in scholarship has been to present the Pharisees and Sadducees as groups that were distinguished by their different teachings; this is quite understandable because the ancient sources do stress their conflicting views and supply little information for separating them in sociological terms. We do not, for example, know how the Pharisees made a living.

There have been many modern attempts to understand what sorts of groups the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees were, but these attempts have had their shortcomings. As Saldarini put it: “In most historical reconstructions of Jewish society the categories used to describe these groups, such as sect, school, upper

I wish to thank my colleagues John Meier, David Aune, and Jerome Neyrey for the assistance they gave as I was writing this foreword.

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