11. Old is out; new is in, 21:1-23:39

vii] The issue of marriage in the resurrection


Matthew continues his record of the debates between Jesus and Israel's religious authorities in the temple courts during the week before his arrest and trial. This, the second debate, is between Jesus and the Sadducees. The Sadducees pose the case of seven brothers having married the one woman and ask "whose wife of the seven will she be" in the resurrection. Jesus gives a two part answer. First, marriage is for this life, not eternity. Second, stepping aside from the Greek idea of the immortal soul, Jesus points out that God is the God of the living, not the dead. Physical death is no barrier to a God who never abandons his faithful servants.


The indignity of death may terminate the fleeting moment we call life, but it does not terminate a relationship with the God who never abandons those who trust him.


i] Context: See 22:15-22.


ii] Structure: The issue of the resurrection:

Setting, v23;

The Sadducees tricky question, v24-28:

"whose wife will she be?"

Jesus' two-part answer, v29-32:

Explanation, v29-30:

"at the resurrection people will neither marry

nor be given in marriage."

Scriptural support, v31-32:

Exodus 3:6;

"he is not God of the dead, but of the living."

Response, v33:

"they were astonished at his teaching."


iii] Interpretation:

The Sadducees were a conservative priestly party who rejected the Pharisees' dependence on the tradition of the elders. For the Sadducees, scripture, particularly the books of Moses, was the prime source of God's word. They therefore rejected the Pharisees' innovative idea of a spiritual resurrection of the dead, an idea shaped by Greek philosophy. It is in this context that they put their tricky question to Jesus based on Levirate marriage, where the brother of a deceased man is expected to marry the wife of the deceased brother, cf., Deut. 25:5-10.

Again we have an issue, here theological, which stands in its own right, but which fits in with Matthew's wider context of the coming of the Son of Man, both to bless and to curse. Jesus' condemnation of the Sadducees, for neither understanding the scriptures nor the power of God, provides further cause for the curse now standing over the religious life of the old Israel. The new Israel / Christian community must, by necessity, remind itself that there by the grace of God go I.

On the issue of the resurrection itself, the Sadducees have rightly opposed the Pharisees platonic / Greek notion of the soul possessing existence beyond the demise of the fleshly body. "The Sadducees hold that the soul perishes along with the body", Josephus. What the Sadducees fail to understand is that life beyond death is a reality and this because of the very nature of God himself; he is a God who may be relied on to never abandon those who trust him, a God who is capable of overcoming the physical limitations of the flesh. The holiness of God, his all powerful, all righteous and all loving nature, reveals that he is the God of the living, not of the dead.

On the issue of the resurrection of the body, Jesus provides some tantalizing clues as to its form. The one flesh union of marriage, expressed physically in sex, is incompatible with the resurrection body. The resurrection form, says Jesus, is like the angels. Paul will fill this out somewhat, but even so, we do ask for more information please!


iv] Synoptics:

Minor changes can be noted between Mark's account, Mk.22:23-33, and Luke's account, Lk.20:27-40. Most commentators argue for the priority of Mark.

Text - 22:23

The question about resurrection and marriage, v23-33: i] The sadducees line up for their turn, v23.

en "[that same day]" - on [that day]. Temporal use of the preposition.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "who say" - [sadducees came to him] saying. The participle is best taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "Sadducees", "who say ....." "Who claim that there is no resurrection of the dead."

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "there is [no resurrection]" - [not] to be [a resurrection]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the Sadducees say = believe, namely "that there is no resurrection of the dead."

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - [came to] him. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to come to."

ephrwthsan (eperwtaw) aor. "with a question" - [and] questioned, inquired of [him]. Daube in The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, 1956, classifies the question as a "vulgarity", ie., a question asked to ridicule a rabbi.


ii] The argument run by the Sadducees, v24-28. Their argument does not necessarily imply that they understood the new (innovative) doctrine of resurrection in terms of reanimation. It is likely that they are opposed to a platonic view of the world, a view which has influenced the thinking of the Pharisees. Their argument here is likely flippant, disparaging Jesus by promoting the idea of life beyond the grave - a house of cards they have little respect for. Rightly, as part of religious old Israel, they stand under a divine curse.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to question", v24; "questioned him and said ...."

ean + subj. "if" - [teacher, moses said] if [a certain person dies]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, a certain person dies not having children then the brother of him will marry the wife of him" = "Moses said that if a man dies childless, his brother must marry his wife", Barclay. "The law of Moses teaches that ....."

ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "[without] having [children]" - [not] having [children]. The participle is best taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting tiV, "a certain man", "who does not have children."

epigambreusei (epigambreuw) fut. "must marry" - [the brother of him] will marry [the wife of him]. The word means "to become related by marriage", with the particular sense, as here, "marry as next of kin." The future is treated as an imperative.

tw/ adelfw/ (oV) dat. "for him" - [will raise up seed] to the brother [of him]. Dative of interest, advantage; will raise up offspring for = "on the brother's behalf", Cassirer.


par (para) + dat. "among us" - [and there were seven brothers] beside [us]. Here expressing association, "with us"; "Now, we have the case of seven brothers", Phillips. Phillips is probably right taking the story as fictional for the sake of argument.

oJ prwtoV adj. "the first one" - The adjective serves as a substantive.

ghmaV (gamew) aor. part. "married" - having married [died]. The participle could be adjectival, attributive, limiting "the first one", "the first one who married died", although being anarthrous (without an article) it is probably adverbial, temporal, "the first, after he married, died.

ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "since he had [no children]" - [and not] having [he left the wife of him]. The participle is adverbial, best taken as causal; "because he did not have children."

tw/ adelfw/ (oV) dat. "to [his] brother" - to the brother [of him]. Dative of indirect object. "The oldest brother married and died without children", TH.


oJmoiwV "the same thing happened" - likewise, in the same way [the second and the third]. Comparative adverb.

eJwV + gen. "right on down to [the seventh]" - up to, as far as [the seventh]. Here expressing the last in order in a series; "and in the end all seven", Cassirer.


uJsteron adv. "finally" - [and] last. Superlative adverb.

pantwn gen. adj. "-" - of them all [the woman died]. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive / wholative.


oun "now then" - therefore. Inferential / drawing a logical conclusion.

en + dat. "at [the resurrection]" - in [the resurrection]. Temporal use of the preposition. Whose wife will she be "on the day when the dead rise to life"? TEV.

tinoV gen. pro. "whose" - of which. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

twn eJpta gen. "of the seven" - of the seven [will she be wife]? The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

gar "since" - for [all had her]. Here more reason than cause, explaining the problem posed by the question as to whose wife she is, "for she was married to all of them."


iii] Jesus' two-part answer, v29-32. The question posed by the Sadducees demonstrates a poor understanding of scripture and an inclination to limit the power of God.

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

planasqe (planaw) pres. mid./pas. "you are in error" - you are deceived, misled, wrong. Lenski suggests a middle voice, "you are deceiving yourselves." Their argument, based on the Biblical instruction of Levirate marriage, does not address the issue of the resurrection - they're having themselves on."You are on the wrong track altogether", Barclay.

mh eidoteV (oida) perf. part. "because you do not know [the scriptures]" - not having known [the scriptures]. The participle is adverbial, causal, as NIV. "You are in error because of your failing to have a proper comprehension of either the scriptures or the power of God", Cassirer. The "scriptures", in their case, consists of the five books of Moses.

mhde "or" - nor.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the power] of God" - [the power] of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or idiomatic, or ablative, source / origin; "the power that flows from God." On the basis of a scriptural text which does not even address the issue at hand, the Sadducees are willing to deny "the ability of God to raise the dead in a final, eschatological resurrection", Hagner. Is not God capable of raising the dead? The question is, does the scriptures indicate that he will do so?


The question posed by the Sadducees assumes that an eschatological resurrection entails a reanimation of the human body and thus the continuation of sexual relationships. Jesus makes the point that the resurrected state is "like the angels in heaven" rather than people on earth.

gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal so best left untranslated, as NIV. The explanatory information provided by Jesus expresses a knowledge of the future; the verb gamousin, pres., "to marry", as with "to give in marriage", stands for a future tense, as NIV.

en + dat. "at [the resurrection]" - in [the resurrection]. Usually taken as a temporal use of the preposition, "at the time of the resurrection", although D&A suggest a local sense, "in the resurrected condition (of the just)."

oute .... oute "neither ...... nor ..." - neither [they marry] nor [are given in marriage]. Negated coordinate construction. The wording reflects Jewish custom where men "marry" and women "are given in marriage." It is interesting how the custom is still found, even in secular marriages, despite its sexist overtones - the father escorts the daughter to the groom and gives her away. "Men and women do not marry", NEB.

all (alla) "-" - but. Adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "neither ...., nor ....., but ....."

wJV "like" - [they are] as, like [angels in heaven]. Serving to introduce a comparative clause. Variant "of God." Mark adds "and they are children of God being children of the resurrection." The resurrected body is like an angels body in that angels are immortal creatures who do not marry - usually classed as sexless creatures, male in gender, with prorogation unnecessary given that they are immortals. Being angel-like is the pattern for the resurrection body. "Resurrection involves progress into a new mode of being that transcends present limitations", Nolland ex. Mell.


de "but" - but, and. The NIV opts for an adversative sense, but coordinative may be better, "and as for the resurrection of the dead", ESV, although primarily the conjunction is simply indicating a step in the argument.

peri + gen. "about [the resurrection]" - Expressing reference / respect, "about, concerning, with regard to"; "And as for the matter of the resurrection of the dead", Phillips.

twn nekrwn adj. "of the dead" - The adjective serves as a substantive, with the genitive usually taken as verbal, objective, but possibly adjectival, idiomatic / temporal, limiting "resurrection"; "the resurrection when the saints are raised from the dead." "Regarding your speculation on whether the dead are raised, or not", Peterson

ouk "[have you] not [read]" - This negation in a question expects the answer "yes".

to rJhqen (legw) aor. pas. part. "what [God] said" - the thing having been spoken [to you]. The participle serves as a substantive.

uJpo + gen. "-" - by [god]. Expressing agency. D&A, "genitive of divine source"; "from God."

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "-" - saying. The participle, being genitive in agreement with God, is best treated as adjectival, attributive, "have you not read what was said by God who said to you" = "have you never read what God himself said to you", REB. Probably not adverbial, temporal, although it reads well, "have you never read what God said to you when he said", Barclay.


This verse serves as an example of how to conclude an argument with a zinger. The Sadducees regard the text as scripture, they have read it thousands of times, noting their status under the sovereign grace of God, but they have never before this time observed that their status is eternal, given that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. It is interesting to note that it is the crowd that is "astonished at his teaching", confirming the cursed state of the Sadducees. The text posited by Jesus doesn't actually prove the resurrection of the dead, but rather the continuation of life after death. Given the context, Jesus is using the verse to support the resurrection of the dead, rather than the existence of an interim state. The assumption that God, and the dead in Christ, are subject to earthy time has prompted the idea of an interim state prior to the eschatalogical resurrection of the dead, but such a view limits God's power - God is the time Lord, not Dr. Who!!

eimi pre. "I am" - Matthew's use of the present tense of the verb to be, reinforcing "I am" as opposed to Mark's "Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob", indicates that Matthew sees Jesus' argument as follows: "I am ......", rather than "I was .....", even though Abraham etc., were dead at the time, indicates that "they therefore cannot have ceased to be", D&A. D&A suggest the argument put by Dreyfus is worth considering, namely that the text is covenantal, of the protector / deliverer God caring for his people, and thus asserts "that God cannot but deliver his people completely."

nekrwn gen. adj. "of the dead" - [the god of abraham and the god of isaac and the god of jacob; he is not the god] of dead. The adjective serves as a substantive, "the dead ones", the genitive being adjectival, idiomatic / of subordination, "over / who is over the dead ones." So also the proper genitives, "Abraham, "Isaac" and "Jacob", but possibly with the idiomatic sense "I am the God whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob worship", TH.

allla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ......, but ......"

zwntwn (zaw) gen. pres. part. "of the living" - The participle serves as a substantive, "the living ones", the genitive being adjectival, idiomatic / of subordination, "over / who rules over the living ones."


iv] The response of the crowd, v33.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when [the crowds] heard this" - [the crowds] having heard. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal, as NIV.

epi + dat. "at" - [were amazed] at. The preposition here probably expresses cause / ground, basis; "because of / on the basis of."

autou gen. pro. "his [teaching]" - [the teaching] of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or subjective, "the teaching effected by him."


Matthew Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]