Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

2. The blindness of Israel exposed, 12:13-44

ii] The question concerning the resurrection


Jesus is still in the temple complex and is approached by a delegation of Sadducees with a question. The question concerns the resurrection of the dead, an issue of debate between Sadducees and Pharisees. The Pharisees believe in the resurrection of the dead, but the Sadducees don't. The question looks like a debating ploy used by the Sadducees to confound those who believe in the resurrection of the dead and so they thought they would try it out on with Jesus.


"Quod Deo non perit, sibi non perit", Augustine; When God loves once, he loves for ever, cf., Rom.8:38-39.


i] Context: See 11:27-33.


ii] Background: The Sadducees were a priestly party in Israel, drawn from the upper class of Jewish society and responsible for the administration of the temple. They were conservative in theology and so resisted the growing trend to look beyond this world for a day of recompense. For the Sadducees, divine justice was administered in this age, not in an age to come. So, they rejected a doctrine of resurrection.

As for the Pharisees, their view of resurrection is likely influenced by Greek philosophy. Meyer argues that this influence was pervasive and still evident in later rabbinic sayings, eg., "the soul remains near the grave after death."

It is interesting to note how Christianity is still influenced by Platonic thought, the idea that the soul departs the body at the point of death, ascending to heaven. The New Testament teaches that body and soul, the whole self, is raised on the day of resurrection. Of course, given that the heavenly realm stands outside of time, there is actually no waiting for those asleep in Jesus.

The Sadducees' question concerning levirate marriage is based on the Mosaic regulation found in Deuteronomy 25:5. This law serves to protect inheritance rights and at the same time provide for the widow.


iii Structure: The question concerning the resurrection:

the Sadducees' question, v18-23;

Jesus' answer, v24-27.


iv] Interpretation:

Although the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, their question related its manner. Jesus first addresses the manner and then the fact.

The question posed by the Sadducees takes an extreme example of a woman whose husband dies, and who, following Jewish law, is then married to a series of brothers who intern die. So, "whose wife will she be" at the resurrection?

Jesus responds by pointing out that they have failed to observe two substantial truths: First, they have failed to note that the scriptures assume life beyond death; and second, they have underestimated the power of God to create such a life. Jesus then gives a glimpse of this life, noting that, being of a different order to life on earth, the structures of this age do not necessarily apply there, eg., marriage. In the age to come we will be like the angels, living in harmony with God. Jesus then gives the Sadducees a sample text from scripture which teaches that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, ie., the scriptures imply life beyond death.

Note that Jesus does not relate his words to his own resurrection.


The substance of Jesus' argument: The Old Testament generally teaches that a person, their soul and body, their whole being, perishes at their death. Jesus does not deny this truth, but comes at the issue from a different angle. Jesus makes the point that mere mortality cannot terminate a relationship with the God who gives life. Moses calls God the God of Abraham after Abraham was dead, but God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Jesus is not implying that Abraham is alive now in heaven, raised spiritually from the dead; Jesus is not Plato. Jesus answers Job's question, "if a man dies, will he live again?" The answer is "yes", because a loving God in a covenant relationship with his people necessitates a life beyond death for that people.


v] Synoptics:

Matt.22:23-33, Lk.20:27-40. Re Mark's statement that resurrected believers "will be like the angels in heaven", note Luke 20:36.

Text - 12:18

The question on the resurrection of the dead, v18-27: i] The Sadducees ask their question, v18-23.

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "there is" - [and sadducees, who say = affirm] to be [no resurrection]. The infinitive of the verb to-be introduces a dependent statement of indirect speech; "who say that there is no resurrection", ESV. Referring to the eschatological resurrection of the dead in the last day.

ercontai (ercomai) pres. "come [to him]" - are coming [toward him]. Historic / narrative present, indicating narrative transition, ie., a new paragraph.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "with a question" - [and they were asking, questioning him] saying. The participle may be classified as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "to ask", "they came asking and said", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their "asking", "they asked him a question, saying", ESV. Note that the verb ephrwtwn, "to ask", is imperfect. It is probably not durative, "pestering", but rather follows the form of using an imperfect with speech.


hJmin dat. pro. "for us" - [teacher, moses wrote] to us. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage. "Us Jews", not just "us Sadducees."

oJti "that" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the Sadducees account of what Moses wrote.

ean + subj. "if" - if. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true, "if, as may be the case, ....... then ......"

tinoV pro. "a man's [brother]" - [a brother] of a certain person [should die]. The pronoun serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, relational, as NIV.

kai .... kai "and ..... and" - and [leave behind a wife] and [not leave a child]. The first kai is coordinative, but the second is best taken as adversative; "but leaves no child", ESV.

iJna "-" - that. The placement of hina between the protasis (the if clause) and the apodosis (the then clause) of the conditional clause, serves to introduce the apodosis as an imperatival dependent statement standing in its own right; "Moses wrote to us, 'if anyone's brother should die and leave behind a wife but not leave a child then [he wrote] that his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring for his brother'", Gundry.

exanasthsh/ (exanisthmi) aor. subj. "raise up [offspring]" - [the brother may take wife of him and] may raise up [seed]. The sense is not of raring a child, but of bearing a child; "his brother is obligated to marry his widow and have children", Peterson.

tw/ adelfw/ (oV) dat. "for [his] brother" - to the brother [of him]. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.


oJ prowtoV adj. "the first" - [seven brothers there were and] the first one [took a wife]. The adjective serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to take." "The first" does not necessarily mean the eldest, but in a story like this the eldest would probably be intended; "Let's say there were seven brothers. The eldest married a woman of his choice, then died", Junkins.

apoqnhskwn (apoqnhskw) pres. part. "died" - [and] dying [did not leave a descendant]. The participle may be treated as attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verbal phrase "to take a wife / marry", as NIV, but also adverbial, temporal; "and when he died he left no offspring", ESV.


mh katalipwn (kataleipw) aor. part. "leaving no [child]" - [and the second took her] not having left [a seed = descendent, offspring, family]. An attendant circumstance participle seems likely; "he also died and left no children."

wJsautwV adv. "it was the same with [the third]" - [and] similarly, likewise, in the same way [the third one]. Adverb of manner.


kai "in fact" - and [the seven did not leave a seed]. Here the conjunction is likely to introduce a concluding thought / summary; "and so it was that the seven brothers married the woman but left no descendent."

escaton pantwn "last of all" - last of all. The adverb escaton is the adverbial form of the neuter adjective "last". The genitive pantwn, "of all", is partitive. This not uncommon construction is adverbial, temporal, "finally, lastly"; "Finally the wife died", Peterson.

kai "[died] too" - [the woman] also [died]. Adjunctive.


en + dat. "at [the resurrection]" - in [the resurrection, when they are raised]. Here the preposition is adverbial, temporal; "When God raises people from death", CEV. The following tautological variant reading oJtan + subj., "when [they are raised]", is Semitic idiom. "On the day of resurrection."

tvinoV gen. pro. "whose" - of whom, which. Interrogative pronoun, the genitive being possessive / relational.

autwn gen. pro. "-" - of them. The genitive is partitive.

gunh (h) "wife [will she be]" - [will she be] wife. Predicate nominative.

gar "since" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why there is a question as to husband; "for she was married in succession to the whole seven", Barclay.

escon (ecw) aor. "were married to [her]" - [the seven] had [her]. "Had" in the sense of possessed - a cultural / idiomatic usage.

gunaika (h) acc. "-" - a wife. Accusative complement of the direct object authn, "her", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the direct object "her"; "seven had her as a wife."


ii] Jesus responds, v24-27. "You are way off the mark and the reason for this is because, first of all, you don't know your Bibles, and second, you limit the power of God." This is probably Mark's intended meaning, but the Greek of v24 is somewhat awkward due to dia touto.

Jesus first addresses their limited understanding of God's life-giving power to overcome death and bestow life, v25. "Resurrection is not a matter of human potential but of divine power; their rejection of it is the product of a secular perspective", France. Jesus then examines the scriptures, making the point that their knowledge of it is inadequate, v26-27. "The Law itself, if its implications are weighed, demands belief in the resurrection", Nineham.

autoiV dat. pro. "[Jesus replied]" - [jesus said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

ou ... planasqe (planaw) pres. mid./pas. "are you not in error" - are you not mistaken, deceived, led astray, misled. The negation ou in a question expects the answer "yes". The Sadducees are mistaken both in their understanding of scripture and the nature of the resurrection life.

dia touto "-" - because of this. This causal construction usually refers back and is inferential; "therefore, for this reason." Here dia touto is usually taken as causal, standing in for oJti or iJna; "you are mistaken because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God", as NIV. "Isn't this the reason you are so screwed up on the issue of the resurrection, namely that you do not know ......?", so Taylor.

mh eidoteV (oida) perf. part. "because you do not know" - having not known. The participle is usually treated adverbial, causal, as NIV, "Isn't this the reason that you are mistaken because you have no proper comprehension of the scriptures."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the power] of God" - [the scriptures, nor the power] of god. The genitive is adjectival, usually taken as verbal, subjective / idiomatic, "the power exercised by God", but adjectival, possessive is possible. "You don't know how God works", Peterson.


gar "for" - Here probably a stitching device and so left untranslated, as NIV.

oJtan + subj. "when" - when. Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause, as NIV. Jesus is referring to the resurrection of the righteous dead. Having been judged and found innocent in Christ, they will end up possessing heavenly life. It was popularly held that the unrighteous also rise, but having been found guilty, are confined to hell. Other than parabolic allusions, Jesus doesn't really develop this idea. So, we are unsure whether the unrighteous face eternal punishment, or eternal annihilation. Either way, this end is to be avoided!

ek + gen. "-" - from [dead they rise]. Expressing source / origin; "when they rise from among the dead" = "when the dead rise (impersonal verb)."

gamousin (gamew) pres. "they will [neither] marry" - [neither] do they marry [nor are they given in marriage.] The present tense for this verb, as for "given in marriage", does not imply that they are in heaven already. The present tense here is usually taken as futuristic, as NIV, or gnomic, expressing action that always exists, as NRSV, "they neither marry nor are given in marriage." Theories abound as to the details of this non-conjugal resurrected state. Most agree that there will be no procreation, nor sexual relations (For Milton, sex is Satan's downfall, driven by jealousy at the coupling of Adam and Eve. Milton portrays the angels involved in a spiritual form of sex - an interesting theory, but that's all!). Are the resurrected sexless, all males, or males and females, ..... ? And so the speculation goes on! The exaltation, even ecstasy of the last canto of Dante's Divine Comedy may help dispel such speculation. The speculation ended for me when David Matombo, an African student at my theological college, a person with very limited English, interrupted our student-inspired speculation with "in heaven there will be just you and Jesus." I got the point!

all (alla) "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "neither ...... nor (negated coordinate construction) ......, but ......" "neither do they marry, nor are they given in marriage, but ......" A male / female construct "neither do the men marry or are the women given in marriage; again cultural, so "after the dead are raised we are past the marriage business", Peterson.

wJV "like" - [they are] like [angels]. Comparative. Resurrected people will not live in heaven like the angels live in heaven, but "they will have a life such as the heavenly angels have", Cranfield. In Luke's tradition there are the added thoughts: "they cannot die anymore", and "are children of God, being children of the resurrection", Lk.20:36. Note also Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:35f.

en "in [heaven]" - in [the heavens]. Local; expressing space; "like the angels who reside in heaven."


Jesus now addresses the fact of the resurrection of the righteous dead. The text establishes that God is the God of the living. The text does not the Platonic idea of the soul existing beyond death, but the idea that a covenant relationship with God, must, by its very nature, require life, a life that somehow extends beyond death, a life that is ultimately immortal.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

peri + gen. "about" - concerning [the dead]. Reference; "about, concerning, with reference to."

oJti "-" - that. Here serving as an epexegetic iJna, specifying the issue concerning the dead, namely, that they are raised.

egeirontai (egeirw) pres. mid./pas. "rising" - they are being raised. The present tense is gnomic or futuristic; "as for the dead being raised to life", Cassirer.

ouk "not" - [have you] not [read]. Used in a question expecting a positive answer; "yes". The question itself "is not a request for information, but is meant as an accusation", TH.

en + dat. "in" - in. Local; expressing space.

MwusewV (hV ewV) gen. "[the book] of Moses" - [the scroll, papyrus, book] of moses. The genitive is adjectival, of content / idiomatic; "the book containing the words of Moses." The "book of Moses", the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. For the Sadducees, these books were given a higher status than the rest of scripture, which is probably why Jesus uses Exodus 3:2-6 to clinch his argument.

epi + gen. "in the account of" - upon [the bush, thorn-bush]. Reference; "with reference to the passage which relates the story of the burning bush / thorn-bush." "In the passage relating the story of ("concerning", Marcus) the burning bush", Cranfield.

pwV "how" - how, in what way. In this instant the interrogative particle is being used to introduce a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus has noted in the Book of Moses; "have you not read in the book of Moses ...... how / that God spoke to him ...."

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - [god spoke] to him. Dative of indirect object.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

egw pro. "I am" - i am [the god of abraham, and god of isaac and god of jacob]? Emphatic by use and position. The present tense of the verb to-be is assumed, so "I the God ...." = "I am the God ....." = "I am the God of the present." Is the point of the text "I am the God with whom they now stand in relationship", or "I am the God of those I once stood in relationship"? If the latter, then by extension, "once such a relationship is established it cannot be terminated merely by death." He is not the God of the dead, but living. Marcus suggests that the idea of life beyond the grave is not an extension of the text, but is established by a literal reading of the text, "I am [presently] the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." God would not call himself their God unless he intended to raise them to life again.


nekrwn gen. adj. "of the dead" - [he is not the god] of dead people [but of living people. you are mistaken much]. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, idiomatic / of subordination; "The living God rules over the living, not the dead." The participle zwntwn, "the living ones", similarly serves as a substantive. The clause presents as a counterpoint construction; "not......., but ......"


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