There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife” (ESV, Luke 20:27-33).
In the Jewish world of Jesus’ day, the Sadducees were the most skeptical. Their understanding of the Old Testament focused on the “literal” or normal meaning of the words and prioritized the first five books as more authoritative then the rest of the Old Testament.
Their method of interpreting the Bible led them to “deny that there is a resurrection” (Luke 20:27, ESV) and reject angels and spirits (Acts 23:8). We are informed by the Pharisee and Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37-c. 100) that they rejected the “belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades,” and the sovereignty of God (The Wars of the Jews, 2.8.14).
In our day, we would identify Christians holding these views as liberal. The Sadducees were obviously skeptical of the more fantastic claims of the Bible, and they leaned heavily towards the materialism of Epicureanism (Acts 17:18). And in this tendency, they are similar to moderate evangelicals and liberal Christians. Their normal or “literal” is dependent on an understanding of God’s word and world that does not match God’s revelation. Read more about All Things Continue As They Were?