Justice and Judaism, by Albert Vorspan and Eugene J. Lipman
One always suspects that behind a religious orthodoxy’s zealous defense of even the minutiae of its past there lies a refusal, admitted or unconscious, to face new challenges. This would seem to have been one of the factors making for the division between Pharisees and Sadducees in ancient days. (See my article, “The Pharisaic Tradition Today,” in February 1956 Commentary.)
By their very fundamentalism in Scriptural interpretation the Sadducees excluded many areas of life from religious influence; the “letter of the Law,” which alone they considered binding, had reference to a society long since left behind by the movement of history. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were able to take all of life for their province precisely because their doctrine of the “Oral Law” freed them from the kind of literalism that must have passed for “orthodoxy” prior to the ultimate victory of their movement. That later generations took it for granted that the Pharisees were “orthodox” and the Sadducees “schismatic” is one of those ironies of which history is made.
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