Resurrection or Immortality of the Soul?

In the synoptic Gospels, we read of an encounter between our Lord and the Sadducees in which the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, create a little scenario that was designed to reveal the absurdity of the doctrine of resurrection. This encounter was one of a series in which the Jewish leaders attempted to trap Jesus in his words, “So as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.” They wanted him dead.

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.

There are probably a number of legal reasons for why such a scenario would create problems; however, the most obvious one is that all individuals involved are now risen and alive at the same time — so which husband gets to claim her as wife? How would 7 men decide whose wife she will be? Would all 7 men have her as wife? After all, as the Levirate law stated, “if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’”

When Onan failed to do his duty for his deceased brother Er by wasting his semen on the ground, his failure was ”wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.”

The force of their trick question lies in the fact that the law of God, combined with a resurrection, would appear to create an absurd scenario in which either the woman ends up with seven husbands or the woman ends up with one, with the other six men disobeying the law. It is not the law that is the problem, for the Sadducees. It is how the law would be applied in a scenario where everyone is raised back to life. In essence, the Sadducees were forcing Jesus to either choose the law of God or deny it in light of this silly, proposed reality of resurrection.

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Mt) The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” (Mk)

Our Lord, of course, nails them with his answer so that “they no longer dared to ask him any question.”

Jesus got it. They got it. But i wonder…do we get it? “What do you mean, Jason?” Glad you asked; let me explain.

Jesus’ answer has always bugged me. And apparently, it has bugged not a few commentators. It isn’t so much the first part of his answer, as much as it is the last part that has me scratching my head.

To the point: How in the world did Jesus get “resurrection of the dead” out of the “passage about the bush”?

If you are not familiar with the “passage about the bush”, let me quote it for you:

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Where, oh where, does this story say anything about people rising from the dead? Now, you may be one of those “higher critical” or “historical Jesus” scholars that poo poo all this away by simply declaring that Jesus was mistaken or stretching it a bit. Well, that is certainly an easy answer. And a cop out, i might add. So much for being a ‘scholar’.

I, on the other hand, have been humbled by the Lord enough times to approach the text with more respect and honor than that. Nevertheless, this still bugs me. This bugged me before i became a full preterist. It bugged me as a full pret (though i thought i had an answer). And it still bugs me now. I just happened to be reading this story about three weeks ago – studying resurrection passages – and i was reminded of this dilemma and it has consumed my thoughts ever since. I have literally, no joke, woke up a number of times with Lk 20 immediately on the mind.

Some scholars, operating with the same assumptions i have about the integrity of our Lord, have wrestled with this as well and attempted to offer an honest solution. However, i have not been satisfied with any of it.

At the most, they believe that Jesus was primarily proving the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all still alive at the time when God met with Moses. No doubt, this was certainly one of Jesus’ points. After quoting the passage, Jesus states, “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” The point is simple: though Abraham had been physically dead for some time, he only died physically. Abraham continued living, in some sort of disembodied, soulish existence after his physical death. Abraham IS alive.

But the problem still remains: how is this teaching RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD?

As a full preterist, i used to argue, “see that?! The final resurrection has nothing to do with bodies being raised out of tombs. Jesus ‘proved’ resurrection by demonstrating the immortality of Abraham’s soul!” And guess what? I had enough “orthodox scholars” to help strengthen my argument. The fact that they couldn’t figure out either how Jesus got resurrection of the body out of Exodus 3 left the door wide open for me.

Now, if you are a full preterist, you are probably thinking, “well, isn’t the answer obvious then? Jesus is clearly defining resurrection in such a way that doesn’t involve corpses coming out of tombs. Your problem, Jason, is that you are trying to force a nonbiblical view of corpse-resurrection into Jesus’ words, in order to maintain ‘orthodoxy’ or something.”

Actually, that doesn’t work either for a couple of reasons.

1. Immortality of the soul cannot in any shape, form, or fashion be construed as a “resurrection from death”. If at Abraham’s death he CONTINUED LIVING, only to merely get loose from his decaying body, then how in the world could that be understood as something “dead” being “raised”? Nothing was raised. Immortality of the soul is just that…the soul doesn’t die. Well, if the soul doesn’t die, then what “dead” thing is being “raised” if it isn’t the body?

2. The Sadducees were clearly contending with the belief in bodily resurrection. Notice their story…7 men DIE. The wife DIES. This isn’t “soul death” or “covenantal death” or “spiritual death” or whatever other spin full preterists want to make. These were living, breathing people who all PHYSICALLY died and are then RESURRECTED. Now, since that is the case, why would Jesus then respond with, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed…” if what he meant by “the dead are raised” was not what the Sadducees meant by “the dead are raised”? Why would Jesus answer a bodily resurrection problem story with an immortality of the soul and/or a soul rising out of Sheol answer? Would it not have been more to the point for Jesus to simply answer, “You guys got me all wrong. I don’t teach that these 7 men and wife will one day be bodily resurrected. I’m not going to answer your question because i never taught that to begin with”? It would be like someone trying to trap me with a question designed to reveal the absurdity of free will when i don’t even believe in free will, but then i go on to answer, “but that God teaches free will, Moses said….” It just doesn’t make any sense.

Some scholars have argued that proving immortality of the soul would have sufficed with a group that did not even believe in immortality of the soul. Somehow, the Sadducees were supposed to infer from the fact that Abraham was still alive, that he would be bodily resurrected as well. I fail to see that as a convincing answer either. Since immortality of the soul does not, in and of itself, require resurrection of the body, that would seem to leave a door open for more questioning. However, when Jesus was done with them, they dared not to ask him any more questions. Jesus didn’t leave any doors open. He slammed it shut.

So, if you are convinced with me that Jesus wasn’t “stretching” the “bush” passage or failed altogether to prove resurrection; or that he wasn’t arguing that immortality of the soul was sufficient to prove resurrection of the body; or that he wasn’t teaching a bodily resurrection at all, and thus equivocating on the terms – then we have to dig deeper and look for a solution.

While i am by no means a scholar, i would like to propose a solution. This is not my “final answer” nor would i take a bullet for it…yet. I haven’t even worked out all the kinks. But the more i think about it, the more i am convinced that i am heading in the right direction. I also recently found a ‘scholar’ who noted the same problems i have and offers the same solution, with a lot more beef to his answer. I’m going to include his article below, but before i do, let me give you my quick, non-scholarly, beef tip.

One of the first thoughts i had was remembering something Gordon Clark wrote in his textbook on Logic. He pointed out how many arguments in Scripture, as well as in ordinary life in general, are enthymemes. An enthymeme is an argument in which “something is omitted” or “taken for granted.” It is our job then to dig up the hidden premise. So, i thought, perhaps the reason this text is so difficult is because we are assuming that Jesus strictly deduced “resurrection of the dead” from the statement “the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” when in reality that statement was only one of the premises. Perhaps there is a hidden, shared premise that, combined with the Exodus story, formed Jesus’ argument. Or perhaps that statement by Jesus was meant to not only draw our attention to the statement itself, but to the entire context of Exodus 2 and 3.

So i went back and read Exodus, looking for hints to a resurrection, and a couple of things jumped out at me. I’ll share my thoughts with you in the order they came to me:

What triggered the Exodus? “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

And what was the purpose of the Exodus? “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Two things: Covenant and Land.

Then the things that i learned in my study and recent teaching of GK Beale’s book The Temple and the Church’s Mission started coming to the forefront. In the consummation, according to Beale, the whole earth becomes a temple to the Lord. Heaven and Earth merge. The earth (land) isn’t done away with. It becomes our inheritance. Did not Jesus say that the “meek shall inherit the earth”?

What was one of the promises in God’s covenant with Abraham, which extended to Isaac and Jacob? The answer is right there in our “passage about the bush”:

“I will bring you {Moses/Israel} into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”

Then i thought, “wait a second. Did Abraham ever inherit the land?” Nope. But don’t take my word for it:

“Stephen said: ‘Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child.”

Ok, now we have a problem. God PROMISED Abraham something that he never received. And now he’s dead. How then will God fulfill his promises, especially that of earth-inheritance, to a man who is dead? hmmm…then it hit me.


I found out a day or two later that first century Jews made the same connection, including Paul’s teacher:

It has been taught: R. Simai said: Whence do we learn resurrection from the Torah?— From the verse, And I also have established my covenant with them, [sc. the Patriarchs] to give them the land of Canaan [Exod 6:4]: ‘[to give] you’ is not said, but ‘[to give] them’ [personally]; thus resurrection is proved from the Torah. . . .
Sectarians [minim] asked Rabban Gamaliel: Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead?… [Rabban Gamaliel did not satisfy them] until he quoted this verse, which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give to them [Deut 11:21]; not to you, but to them is said; hence resurrection is derived from the Torah.
{Sanhedrin (trans. H. Freedman [chps. 7-11]; vol. 3 of The Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nezikin in Four Volumes, ed. I. Epstein; London: Soncino, 1935) 604-605}

To put it plainly: Abraham was expected to believe, upon God’s own promise, that he would inherit and dwell within the land. Yet, he died. Well how do you get a dead man living in the land? You raise him from the dead. The very Exodus itself was triggered by a remembrance of the “covenant” in which “land” was promised. And while some may point to the fact that the promise was fulfilled for Israel (Joshua 21:43-45), it certainly wasn’t “perpetual” and it didn’t include “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.  Was Abraham supposed to just scratch it off his list once Israel got it later?

Once the “land” and “resurrection” connection started floating around in my mind, some other ‘clues’ started to come to mind. For example, has it ever struck you as odd that Joseph instructed that his bones be transported to the promise land? Why, especially if what full preterists say is true and Joseph saw his physical body as merely a temporary vessel that had no significance whatsoever once dead? What difference did it make where those useless bones were? Did Joseph have this “land” and “resurrection of the body” connection in mind? I think so.

This may seem like a “trap” for some of you, but i would simply ask: Ok, what then is your answer? No matter who you are or what your eschatological view is, you still have to figure out how Jesus got “that the dead are raised” from the “passage about the bush” without redefining resurrection or leaving the door open by stopping short with immortality of the soul. I am open to suggestions and/or corrections, but thus far, this appears to be the best route.

With that solution in mind, i began Googling for “land, resurrection, exodus” material and stumbled upon an article by Dr. Bradley R. Trick entitled, “Death, Covenants, and the Proof of Resurrection in Mark 12:18-27.” He ends up making the same argument i do, but goes into more depth as to how all that specifically ties into the Sadducees’ resurrection trap. I think this is some great stuff and worthy of chewing on. And needless to say, if this is the solution, this drops another huge bomb on full preterism on two levels: 1) Resurrection of the body and 2) future inheritance that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. I leave you with Dr Trick:

Death, Covenants, and the Proof of Resurrection in Mark 12:18-27

Bradley R. Trick
Durham, North Carolina


Interpretations of the resurrection proof in Mark 12:26-27a must explain the relevance of Jesus’ Exod. 3:6 citation and indicate how his conclusion points to resurrection rather than immortality. Current scholarly proposals often render the proof unconvincing in its logic and incompatible with / irrelevant to other NT presentations of resurrection. This article argues instead that Jesus’ proof rests on the premise — derived from the Sadducees’ example of marriage — that death annuls a covenant. Since the death of the patriarchs would therefore have released God from his covenantal obligations, God’s faithfulness to those obligations in the Exodus must imply the patriarchs’ continuing existence and eventual resurrection. This interpretation not only shows Jesus’ response to the Sadducees to be a well-reasoned, coherent whole, it also accords well with the presentation of resurrection elsewhere in the NT.

resurrection, covenants, marriage, Sadducees, OT in the NT

I. Introduction

In arguing for the basic historicity of Jesus’ dispute with the Sadducees over resurrection in Mark 12:18-27 parr.,1 John Meier emphasizes the criterion of discontinuity.2 He points to such factors as the lack of a realistic Sitz im Leben that could explain the story’s invention by the early church and the complete absence in both Jewish and early Christian literature of other appeals to Exod. 3:6 as a proof for resurrection. The main force of his argu- ment from discontinuity, however, falls on his observation that Jesus’ manner of arguing for a general resurrection in this passage differs mark- edly from the manner in which the early Christians argued for a general resurrection:

In the debate in Mk 12.18-27, Jesus handles both the how (manner) and the that (fact) of the resurrection quite differently from the early Christians. Jesus answers the how by a comparison to the angels and the that by an appeal to Exod. 3.6. The early Chris- tians, instead, handle both the how (see Phil. 3.21) and the that (1 Cor. 15.12-20) simply by pointing to the risen Jesus.3

In short, Meier argues for the pericope’s historicity by suggesting that early Christians who wanted to prove a general resurrection would have appealed to Jesus’ resurrection rather than invent a story that sought to achieve this polemical task simply by citing a single scripture passage whose relevance to the discussion was far from established.

Meier’s cogent observations naturally raise the question of whether this difference in theological reasoning between Jesus and the NT authors implies a corresponding difference in their underlying theologies of resurrec- tion. That is to say, are the NT authors’ christological justifications of resur- rection ultimately grounded in the same scriptural understanding that Jesus’ answer here presupposes? Or, to put the matter in yet another way, how well does the understanding of resurrection expressed in Mark 12:26-27a cohere with the wider NT portrayal of a general resurrection?

Given the proposed historicity of Mark 12:18-27,4 the threefold inclu- sion of this pericope in the NT, and the foundational significance of both Jesus and resurrection in early Christian theology, one might expect the portrayal of resurrection in this passage to have a fairly integral and reso- nant relationship to other NT discussions of resurrection. Scholarship, however, has often argued otherwise, frequently interpreting Mark 12:26-27a in a way that renders its theology of resurrection essentially incompatible with and/or irrelevant to the understanding of resurrection expressed else- where in the NT. This state of affairs can be traced directly to two related exegetical difficulties in the passage.

First, it is not immediately clear how Jesus’ citation of Exod. 3:6—“I [am] the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob”5—concerns resurrection at all, let alone how the verse could pos- sibly prove that the dead will be raised. Second, Jesus’ seeming inference from this citation that “[God] is not a god of dead people but of living” (Mark 12:27a) sounds as if it would be more appropriate concluding an argument for some kind of immortality rather than an argument for resur- rection. A twofold quandary thus faces the interpreter: Jesus’ argument does not actually seem to prove anything, but if it does prove anything, it seems to prove immortality, not resurrection.

The latter of these difficulties has led some scholars to conclude that Jesus here defines resurrection in terms of immortality. John Donahue, for instance, argues that the

view of resurrection [in Mark 12:26-27] is… different from… [the view in] 1 Cor 15:35-41 since in Mark there is virtually no hint of the resurrection and/or transfor- mation of the body, but rather a way of speaking closer to a doctrine of immortality. . . . [For the Markan Jesus,] [r]esurrection is not return from the grave, but enduring life hidden in the power of God.6

In other words, Jesus here describes a non-physical form of resurrection that stands in stark contrast to the emphasis on the physical resurrection of both Christ and believers elsewhere in the NT (and, it must be added, in stark contrast to the usual meaning of the word ἀνάστασις, “resurrection”).7 The NT’s later christological justifications that tie a general resurrection of believers to the physical resurrection of Christ would thus oppose the view of resurrection implied by this reading of Jesus’ scriptural proof.8

Even for scholars who contend that the passage does concern physical resurrection, the former of the exegetical difficulties listed above often gives rise to an interpretation that renders Jesus’ theology of resurrection irrelevant to the rest of the NT witnesses. One of the most common expla- nations of the function of Exod. 3:6—that the assumed present tense of the implied verb suggests that the patriarchs are still living—essentially interprets Jesus as arguing based on the fact of the patriarchs’ continuing existence rather than on the reason for that existence. This interpretive move means that the later appeals to Christ’s resurrection would have effectively replaced this scriptural argument: rather than pointing to the patriarchs, whose continuing existence presumably ensures their eventual resurrection, Christians could simply point to an already resurrected Jesus. (The resulting irrelevance of Jesus’ argument has an added theological benefit for many Christian scholars: it frees them to dismiss his, in this reading, less-than-compelling logic without having to surrender their own belief in resurrection.)

Is Jesus’ justification of resurrection in Mark 12:26-27a truly as theolo- gically dissonant with the witness of the later NT authors as these inter- pretations indicate? I suggest that it is not, and that the perceived dissonance arises from a misunderstanding of Jesus’ argument. Of course, to prove this claim thoroughly would require that I analyze the theology of resurrection in Mark 12:26-27a and then compare the resulting picture with the theol- ogy indicated by the rest of the resurrection-related passages in the NT. Such comprehensive analysis lies well beyond the scope of this article. Instead, the article will focus primarily on the first (and more manageable) part of this project, namely, the analysis of resurrection in Mark 12:26- 27a: how, exactly, does Jesus’ argument work?

I will argue that God’s faithfulness to his continuing covenant with Abraham provides the key to understanding Jesus’ line of reasoning. There is a sense in which this suggestion is not new. An increasing number of scholars have, after all, claimed that God’s covenantal faithfulness forms an important part of Jesus’ argument.9 Yet even these interpreters seem to have overlooked what I regard as the crucial step of Jesus’ logic: God’s faithfulness to his covenant implies the patriarchs’ continuing existence since the patriarchs’ death would have released God from his covenantal obligations.

In order to make its case, this article will consider the context of the larger pericope, seeking to understand both the Sadducees’ question and the cohesiveness of Jesus’ answer as a response to that question. As part of this analysis, I will examine the two exegetical cruxes in 12:26-27a (and their proposed resolutions) in greater detail. Finally, lest the prompting question of theological coherence be forgotten, I will briefly discuss how this interpretation resolves the theological difficulties identified above.

II. Mark 12:18-27

Appearing as the second of three vignettes in which religious leaders ques- tion Jesus, Mark 12:18-27 describes a dispute between Jesus and the Sad- ducees over resurrection. The pericope itself constitutes a self-contained unit composed of two main parts: the Sadducees’ rather involved question (12:18-23) and Jesus’ response (12:24-27). I will discuss each of these components in turn.

1. The Sadducees’ Question

The Sadducees present Jesus with a hypothetical scenario: seven brothers successively marry the same woman in accordance with the Mosaic law of levirate marriage. Nevertheless, the woman, who outlives all seven of her husbands, eventually dies childless. The Sadducees then want to know whose wife she will be in the resurrection.

The inquiry, of course, is not sincere; as Mark informs us at the outset of the episode, the Sadducees did not actually believe in resurrection (12:18).10 Accordingly, their constructed scenario appears to have been specifically designed to bring out the absurdity of a belief in resurrection. At its most basic level, the story highlights a perceived logistical problem with such a belief: a woman who had outlived several spouses would suddenly find them all simultaneously alive again. On what basis could one man’s claim to be her husband be legitimated over the others’ claims?

The Sadducees’ presentation, however, significantly strengthens the force of this basic question. As their introductory citation of Deut. 25:5 indicates, the Mosaic law itself requires the woman to have taken these seven husbands. In other words, it is precisely her obedience to God’s com- mand that would have created this absurd situation in the resurrection.11 Nor would this problem arise only in inconsequential cases: the Sadducees’ additional allusion to the fulfillment of this law in the lives of Judah and Tamar (“raise up seed for your brother,” Gen. 38:8; cf. Mark 12:19) implies that the resolution of this issue affects even the patriarchs, the founders of the faith.12 Viewed in this light, a belief in resurrection threatens to make a mockery of both the Mosaic law (scripture) and the patriarchs by impli- cating them in this absurd scenario. That is to say, it threatens to make a mockery of the very foundations of Jewish belief.

In addition to this overt attack, a wordplay involving the concept of “raising up” (ἐξανίστημι, 12:19 / ἀνάστασις, ἀνίστημι, 12:23) suggests that the scenario also levels a subtler critique against resurrection. The levi- rate marriage law provides for the preservation of a man’s place in Israel through the “raising up” of offspring in his name. In the Sadducees’ story, however, none of the seven brothers are able to “raise up” such a child. J. Gerald Janzen therefore argues that the scenario implies the following critique:

If God by the very means divinely provided in the Torah—the Levirate law—cannot or will not raise up children to a dead man (not even after an ideal number of oppor- tunities), on what basis is one entitled to hope that God either will or can raise up that dead man himself—something for which the Mosaic Torah makes no provision at all?13

The suggested lesser-to-greater logic of this implied argument follows a common first-century Jewish exegetical principle (qal vahomer)14 and essentially critiques resurrection on two fronts: 1) if the natural “raising up” of childbirth has failed, how much more so will the more difficult “raising up” of resurrection, and 2) if the means for “raising up” provided by the Torah have failed, how much more so will a “raising up” that is not ordained by Torah.15

Granting for the moment the presence of this implied critique, the Sad- ducees’ argument against resurrection operates on two levels. On a surface level, they have constructed a scenario in which the application of the scriptural levirate marriage law seems to render a belief in resurrection problematic on logistical grounds. Lurking behind this seemingly innocent request for logistical resolution, however, lies the more sinister suggestion that the very existence of a scenario in which the levirate law could fail to raise up offspring implicitly rules out the possibility of resurrection. The question therefore functions as a trap: Jesus must address the proposed logistical objection to resurrection, but any resolution he could give would presumably entail an acceptance of the basic scenario that in and of itself renders resurrection problematic.

Does such an analysis—based, as it is, on a proposed implied argument—read too much into the text? Two factors in addition to the word- play suggest that it does not. First, the literary context leads a reader to expect that the Sadducees’ question will have some hidden twist. The pas- sage comes as part of an escalating conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders in the Temple courts. In Mark 11:27-33, Jesus traps the chief priests, scribes, and elders with an unanswerable question of his own: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (11:29). He then further infuriates them by speaking the parable of the vineyard against them (12:1-11). As a result, these leaders desire to seize him, yet they cannot do so because they fear the reactions of the crowd (12:12). They accordingly withdraw from the scene and send people to question Jesus “so that they might trap [ἀγρεύσωσιν] him in a statement” (12:13). In the ensuing series of vignettes, representatives of various Jewish groups approach Jesus and question him: the Pharisees and Herodians in 12:13-17, the Sadducees in 12:18-27, and a scribe in 12:28-34. Jesus responds masterfully to each question, with the result that, after the third episode, “no one any longer dared to ask him [anything]” (12:34). The proposal of an implicit trap in the Sadducees’ question fits perfectly into such a framework.16

Three potential objections to this analysis of the literary context need to be addressed. It is true, for instance, that the Jewish leaders are only explicitly said to send the Pharisees and Herodians to trap Jesus with their ques- tion about paying taxes to Caesar (12:13). Nevertheless, the arrival of the Sadducees with an equally hypocritical question immediately after the first group’s failure to ensnare Jesus suggests that they also form a part of the leaders’ plot,17 especially since the Sadducees—who can be linked to the high priests of 11:18 on socio-political grounds as well18—appear nowhere else in Mark’s gospel. The suggested trap in the Sadducees’ question is also admittedly subtler than the Pharisees’ trap, but such escalation should be expected after Jesus had so cunningly discerned and avoided the first attempt. Finally, the scribe’s question about the greatest commandment in 12:28-34—the third and final question in the series—does not seem to function as a trap, thereby seeming to break the proposed pattern. The text explicitly states, however, that he asks his question after being drawn to the group by the earlier arguments (12:28), i.e., he is clearly not involved in the leaders’ plot. Significantly, he is also the only questioner whom Jesus praises instead of rebuking (12:34).19

In addition to the wordplay and the literary context, Jesus’ response itself argues for the presence of this implicit trap in the Sadducees’ ques- tion. As the following section of this article will contend, Jesus not only solves the Sadducees’ logistical problem, he also addresses and refutes their implied critique that denies resurrection on the grounds that it 1) repre- sents a more difficult “raising up” than the natural reproduction that has failed and 2) is not prescribed in Torah. While Jesus could theoretically have discerned a deeper theological issue of which his questioners were unaware, his harsh rebuke and the other indications of a hidden trap imply the Sadducees’ duplicity.

2. Jesus’ Response

Jesus’ response consists of three parts: a frame asserting that the Sadducees are mistaken (12:24, 27b), a statement that there will be no marrying in the resurrection (12:25), and a proof that the dead will be raised (12:26- 27a). As I intend to show below, the three components function as a cohe- sive whole that effectively addresses both aspects of the Sadducees’ challenge. The analysis will begin with the frame.

a. They Understand Neither the Scriptures nor God’s Power: The Frame (12:24, 27b)

Jesus’ charge that the Sadducees are mistaken (12:24, 27b) appears some- what curious, at least initially. After all, the Sadducees have simply pre- sented a possible scenario and asked a question; they have not made any overt claims. As we saw above, however, their “question” actually implies two claims: 1) the surface claim that the scriptures (and the levirate mar- riage law in particular) render a belief in resurrection problematic and 2) the underlying claim that God’s failure to act in the simpler “raising up” of offspring precludes the possibility of his “raising up” the dead. Jesus accordingly asserts through his opening rhetorical question that the Saddu- cees are mistaken because they understand neither the scriptures (claim #1) nor the power of God (claim #2). In other words, Jesus’ opening remark reveals that he has discerned the Sadducees’ trap.

The twofold nature of this opening critique naturally suggests a pro- grammatic correspondence to the two internal segments of Jesus’ response. I accordingly propose that the two internal components (12:25 and 12:26- 27a) demonstrate how the Sadducees have misunderstood the scriptures and the power of God respectively. That is to say, I will argue that the state- ment in 12:25 regarding the lack of marrying in the resurrection refutes the Sadducees’ actual question about the woman and her seven husbands (claim #1) by revealing their misunderstanding of the very scripture to which they have appealed. The resurrection proof in 12:26-27a then refutes the underlying challenge posed by the scenario as a whole (claim #2) by showing that such a critique essentially questions God’s power.

This suggestion reverses the typical scholarly conclusion. Having rightly sensed the programmatic nature of Jesus’ opening remark, many scholars identify the explicit appeal to scripture in 12:26-27a as evidence that this latter segment corresponds to the initial charge of misunderstanding the scriptures. Such an association then leaves 12:25 to complete the chiasm as the explanation of God’s power.20 I will illustrate the difficulties with this interpretation—which characteristically argues that the Sadducees have misunderstood both the manner (12:25) and the fact (12:26-27a) of the resurrection21—as I proceed through the analysis of the internal compo- nents of Jesus’ response.

b. Understanding the Scriptures: No Marrying in the Resurrection (12:25)

Jesus begins his actual rebuttal of the Sadducees’ question in 12:25 with a statement about the lack of marrying in the resurrection:

For when they rise from among the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like angels in the heavens.

As part of the chiastic analysis of Jesus’ response, many scholars interpret this statement to mean that God’s power will so transform the body in the resurrection—“they are like angels”—that the marriage state will be transcended.22 Jesus thus refutes the Sadducees by highlighting the new state of resurrection existence that God’s power will bring about.

The chief problem with the chiastic explanation of Jesus’ answer lies in this analysis of 12:25: this reading assumes that it is the nature of the resurrection that renders the Sadducees’ argument irrelevant. In fact, this assumption appears even in interpretations that do not tie this verse to God’s power. Craig Evans, for instance, finds Jesus here to be making a point about scripture, namely, that scripture nowhere suggests that “the marriage state continues after the resurrection” (italics added).23 Although he understands Jesus’ logic differently, Evans still identifies resurrection as the event that enables a transcending of the marital bond.

While this scholarly emphasis on resurrection is understandable given the pericope’s topic, it does not adequately account for the sole emphasis on the process of marrying in Jesus’ response.24 This emphasis is all the more curious since it at first seems to form a non sequitur to the preceding ques- tion. The Sadducees, after all, had not asked, “Which of the seven will she marry?” No, their question—“Whose wife will she be?”—presumes that the woman’s marital relationship with at least one of the brothers would continue into the resurrected state.25 Indeed, the absurdity that their ques- tion is intended to imply with regard to resurrection depends upon this assumption: the scenario presents a conundrum only if the resurrected woman would suddenly find herself with seven living husbands. As a cri- tique of resurrection, then, the Sadducees’ question becomes moot if the woman would have to re-marry one of the brothers.26

Contrary to the Sadducees’ assumption, Jesus’ reply effectively implies that for this hypothetical woman to be the wife of one of the brothers, she would have to re-marry. This implication then leads to the question of when her previous marriages would have ended, the answer to which helps explain why Jesus phrases his response solely in terms of re-marriage. I sug- gest that Jesus does not refer to the dissolution of the woman’s marital bonds at the resurrection because those bonds would already have been annulled. That is to say, I suggest that he refers only to re-marriage because it is death—not, as the commentators all suggest, resurrection—that ter- minates the marriage covenant.27

This conclusion should not be surprising; even modern couples pledge to love one another “’til death do us part.” Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Corinthians establish this principle as the prevalent first-century under- standing of marriage:

Or do you not know brothers (for I speak to those who know the law) that the law rules over a person [only] as long as that person lives? For the married woman is bound by law to a living husband. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of the husband. So then, while her husband lives, she will be called an adulteress if she is joined to another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress even though she is joined to another man. (Rom. 7:1-3)

A woman is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to be married to whomever she desires, only in the Lord. (1 Cor. 7:39)

The Romans passage is especially significant since there Paul cites the prin- ciple that death annuls a marriage bond as the shared premise from which he then proceeds to argue his case. In other words, it is a premise with which “those who know the law” could be assumed to agree.28

We need not look to modern wedding ceremonies or to the letters of Paul, however, in order to establish death as the moment when a marriage ceases. The very levirate law that the Sadducees have cited depends upon this fact. Otherwise, the woman marrying her late husband’s brother(s) would be an adulteress (cf. Rom. 7:3). The Sadducees have therefore mis- understood, not God’s power to transform the resurrected body, but the nature of the marriage covenant implied by the very scripture passage on which they have based their attack. Death breaks the marriage covenant, releasing the surviving party from further obligation. Once Jesus exposes this mistake, the absurdity of the Sadducees’ scenario (and its accompany- ing critique of resurrection) disappears.

c. Understanding God’s Power: The Proof of Resurrection (12:26-27a)

Having thus refuted the Sadducees’ explicit critique of resurrection, Jesus then addresses their implied critique with his proof of resurrection in 12:26-27a:

But concerning the dead, that they are raised, have you not read in the book of Moses [in the passage] about the bush how God spoke to him saying, “I [am] the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” He is not a god of dead people but of living.

I will argue below that this proof is grounded in the same principle as the first part of Jesus’ response, namely, that death ends a person’s covenantal obligations. Before explaining my interpretation, however, it will first be helpful to survey and critique briefly the various other interpretations of this passage. Explanations of Jesus’ proof tend to ground the argument in one of three factors: 1) lexical-grammatical issues, 2) God’s nature as a “god of the living,” or 3) the literary context of the Exodus citation. More- over, although mixtures and slight variations occur, scholars have essentially proposed two distinct ways of construing Jesus’ logic for each of these three factors, leading to six main proposals. I will discuss each of these in turn.

Beginning with the lexical-grammatical solutions, Frédéric Manns sug- gests that Jesus’ logic here depends on an instance of al tiqra, a method of exegeting Hebrew texts by reading the consonants with a different vowel pointing. Basically, Manns argues that the phrase “[Moses calls] the Lord the God of Abraham” (κύριον τὸν θεὸν Ἀβραάμ) in Luke 20:37 reflects the μhrba . . . yhla hwhy of Exod. 3:15. He then suggests that the initial hw …hy ] (“Lord”) behind Luke’s κύριον could, with a different vowel pointing, be understood as a hiphil of hyh (“to be”) or even (by Jesus’ listeners) as a hiphil of hyj (“to live”), yielding the meaning in Hebrew, “God causes Abraham to be/live.”29 Although creative, this analysis makes Jesus’ argu- ment hinge on a Hebrew word play that is only recoverable through a deconstruction of Luke’s version. If correct, it would render Jesus’ argu- ment unintelligible in Matthew and Mark, not to mention in the surface reading of Luke.

While Manns’s interpretation has garnered little scholarly support, a second grammatical explanation has long been one of the more influential interpretations. In this widely held construal, the tense of the implied verb provides the key to Jesus’ case: the Lord says that he is the God of Abra- ham, Isaac, and Jacob, not that he was their God. Thus, the argument goes, Jesus takes the implied present tense of the reference to the patriarchs as evidence that they must have still been alive in some sense.30

Despite its widespread appeal, this proposal is problematic on several grounds, foremost of which is that the all-important present-tense verb does not even appear in Mark, Luke, or the MT of Exod. 3:6. In other words, the single element on which, in this reading, the whole argument depends is omitted, an odd circumstance to say the least.31 Second, even assuming the implied present tense of the verb, Exod. 3:6 is primarily a statement about God (for whom the present tense would be appropriate), not about the patri- archs: he is the God whom they worshipped. This observation then leads to a third objection, namely that this reading of the citation violates the origi- nal meaning of the verse in its Exodus context, transforming the passage into a rather awkward proof-text.

Not surprisingly considering these difficulties, few scholars who advocate this explanation find it a very convincing proof of resurrection. They there- fore often qualify their analyses with statements to the effect that, although such arguments might not be convincing today, a first-century audience would have found Jesus’ reasoning compelling, a claim often buttressed by vague appeals to rabbinic methods of exegesis.32 Rabbi D.M. Cohn-Sherbok, however, has argued that this type of reasoning does not bear any resemblance to known Tannaitic exegetical practices, raising the question of whether this argument would actually have been convincing even in the first century.33

Turning to the two modes of interpretation that focus on God’s nature, they both suggest that Jesus ultimately grounds his proof in the principle that God cannot be in relationship with the dead, a principle that finds expression in 12:27a. Nevertheless, they differ in their analyses of Jesus’ logic. They differ, that is, in their understanding of how 12:27a functions in the flow of Jesus’ argument.

One interpretation regards 12:27a as the second of two parallel prem-ises: God is 1) God of the patriarchs (12:26) and 2) a god of the living (12:27a). As Otto Schwankl suggests, the juxtaposition of these two prem- ises then implies, in typical rabbinic fashion, the desired-but-unstated con- clusion (that the patriarchs are alive and therefore) that there is a resurrection of the dead.34 The strength of this view lies in its recognition that Jesus’ argument must have some type of implied conclusion; 12:27a, after all, does not state the point that Jesus is purportedly proving, namely, that God raises the dead. Yet even granting the cultural validity of 12:27a as an independent premise,35 this line of reasoning still has a major difficulty: as the parentheses indicate, the logical combination of these two premises yields only the result that the patriarchs are alive.36 How this result might imply resurrection will be considered below. For now I simply note that this suggestion awkwardly requires Jesus’ argument to have not one but two implied conclusions.37

In the second type of interpretive appeal to God’s nature, 12:27a pro- vides the key to resolving a temporal or philosophical conundrum per- ceived to be inherent in the citation of Exod. 3:6. Unfortunately, such proposals often depend on problematic assertions about first-century Jew- ish thought.38 F. Gerald Downing, however, provides a more nuanced version. Noting Philo’s embarrassment in De Abr. 50-55 that the immor- tal God would define himself in Exod. 3:15 in relation to mortal men, Downing suggests that God’s identification of himself as the God of the patriarchs was perhaps more widely perceived as “rais[ing] awkward and inescapable questions about mortality.”39 While the platonist Philo could resolve the immortal/mortal tension simply by allegorizing the three patri- archs, Jesus instead reasons that God’s relatedness to the patriarchs requires that they still be alive. According to Downing, this particular case can then be expanded by implication to include all who respond to God, perhaps even indicating that “relatedness to God constitutes a life that death can- not disrupt.”40

Downing’s proposal for the flow of Jesus’ logic seems basically correct; I will similarly argue that the citation of Exod. 3:6 raises a question about mortality that Mark 12:27a resolves. I also agree with his conclusion that Jesus is here describing “a life that death cannot disrupt.” Nevertheless, there seems to be little evidence for grounding these observations in the perceived philosophical difficulty that arises from relating the immortal to the mortal.41 As Downing himself admits, even the evidence from Philo is ambiguous as to whether or not this relationship represents a true difficulty.42

F. Dreyfus offers a more promising approach for understanding Jesus’ reasoning by contextualizing the citation, an approach whose aptness is suggested by the fact that Jesus himself points to the context (“[in the pas- sage] about the bush”). Based on a survey of contemporary Jewish litera- ture, Dreyfus argues that the phrase “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob” usually emphasizes God’s role rather than the role of the patri- archs. That is to say, the phrase most often signifies, not the God whom the patriarchs worshipped, but the God who protected them.43 The literature typically invokes this name (and its equivalents) as an appeal for similar protection (e.g., T. Mos. 3.9). Dreyfus finds the revelation of the name to have this same significance in Exod. 3-4: as God protected the patriarchs, so he will now protect Israel through the Exodus.44

How does this understanding of Exod. 3:6 relate to resurrection? Accord-ing to Dreyfus, Jesus here adds a new dimension to the traditional under- standing of God’s sovereign protection by implying that for God to allow his people to die—even after a long life—would make a mockery of his claim to protect. God’s protection must therefore ultimately entail resur- rection.45 Dreyfus then suggests that Jesus’ conclusion represents the natu- ral outworking for the individual of God’s covenantal promises to restore the nation of Israel (e.g., Ezek. 16:60; 37:1-28; Lev. 26:42; Ps. 106:45).46

While Janzen applauds Dreyfus’s sensitivity to the original Exodus con- text of the citation, he suggests that the Markan context of the citation further sharpens our understanding of Jesus’ argument: “Jesus is not just invoking in a general way the tradition of God’s protection and power; he is countering [the Sadducees’ ] story [of hopeless sterility and death] with a reminder of the ancestors’ story.”47 For Janzen, the reference to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob recalls the repeated bouts of sterility in the patriarchal families and, more importantly, God’s subsequent miracu- lous provision of heirs. Similarly, in the Exodus story from which the cita- tion comes, God arises to preserve his now-numerous people miraculously from a new “sterility” imposed by the murderous decrees of Pharaoh. In this reading, then, Jesus argues for resurrection by taking this foundational Jewish tradition of God as the one who overcomes sterility and death and applying it to the fate of the individual after death.48

Dreyfus and Janzen both helpfully advance the discussion by pointing to the interpretive significance of the OT and NT contexts. Yet both also con- clude that Jesus’ argument ultimately hinges on the principle of situational analogy, a form of argument that, by its very nature, cannot be conclusive. Indeed, Dreyfus and Janzen both admit that the inferences they attribute to Jesus stand in some tension with the very biblical texts that, in their view, gave rise to those inferences in the first place. For Dreyfus, Jesus’ grounding of resurrection in God’s saving power goes beyond the Pentateuchal por- trayal of God’s salvation as resulting simply in a long, fulfilled life.49 For Jan- zen, God’s character as the one who overcomes sterility leads Jesus to infer resurrection in spite of the fact that the levirate marriage law itself essentially attests to the reality that God does not always overcome even sterility.50 While it is true that ways can be found to resolve these tensions—e.g., Janzen notes that “[r]etrospectively,” the levirate marriage law could be viewed as a promissory sign of God’s ultimate plan to overcome sterility and death51—it remains to be seen how Jesus could have expected the Sad- ducees to draw the correct analogies and inferences from these texts. To put the matter another way, why does Jesus rebuke them so harshly if his own argument is less than decisive?

It could, of course, be argued that the desire for a reasoned proof unjustly imposes modern concerns onto an ancient text. Richard Hays, e.g., suggests that Jesus offers here not so much a logical proof as a reminder of God’s power designed to serve as “a stimulus to the theological imagina- tion.”52 It is always possible, too, that Jesus’ criticism is simply unjustified, or that his critique depends on some unmentioned factor such as his knowl- edge of the Sadducees’ hardened hearts or the need for the Spirit’s guidance in interpretation. Such proposals, however, should only come into consid- eration if a more logical explanation of Jesus’ argument cannot be dis- cerned.53 I suggest that paying greater attention to the idea of covenant in Jesus’ argument both makes sense of his critique of the Sadducees and reveals his citation of Exod. 3:6 to be a reasoned proof of resurrection—a proof, that is, as long as one grants God the power to resurrect the dead.

As Dreyfus and Janzen suggest, the key to understanding Jesus’ proof seems to lie in the OT and NT contexts of the Exodus citation. In its original context, Exod. 3:6 introduces God’s plan to deliver his people from their slavery in Egypt through Moses and the Exodus. Significantly, this burning bush episode is immediately preceded by the observation that God heard the groaning of his people and “remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exod. 2:24). By invoking the three names again in 3:6, the text indicates that the Exodus to which God is calling Moses arises out of God’s faithfulness to his covenantal obligations to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is at this point that the NT context becomes significant. In the discus- sion of the first part of Jesus’ response (12:25) above, I argued that Jesus criticizes the Sadducees for not inferring from the levirate marriage law that death ends a marriage covenant.54 The same principle appears to ground this segment of his response, only in reverse. That is to say, if the death of a covenantal party effectively annuls the covenant, then the fact that the Exodus represents an act of God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must imply that the three patriarchs are in some sense still alive to God. Otherwise their deaths would have annulled the covenant.55 Just to be clear, it is not God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that pre- serves their lives beyond physical death but their life beyond physical death that preserves the covenant. Jesus draws this implied conclusion: “He is not a god of dead people but of living” (12:27a). Luke makes the reasoning even more explicit by adding “for all live to him” (20:38).56 With respect to God, human life extends beyond the death of the physical body.57

This argument, of course, only proves some kind of post-mortem existence, not resurrection. The proof therefore requires the presence of an implied conclusion, as Schwankl correctly observes.58 In other words, the “conclu- sion” given in 12:27a functions only as a preliminary conclusion, a pre- liminary conclusion that then implies resurrection so clearly that, as often occurs in the rabbinic literature, the remainder of the argument goes unstated. How does the rest of the argument go?

Interpreters used to justify the jump from immortality to resurrection by appealing to the unity of human nature. H.B. Swete, for instance, argues that “God would not leave men with whom He maintained relations in an imperfect condition.”59 The continuing presence of these immortal souls apart from their physical bodies undermines this suggestion.

Alternatively, N.T. Wright contends that the patriarchs’ immortality necessarily implies a general resurrection because the two main Jewish understandings of the afterlife were 1) the Pharisaic, two-stage view in which an intermediate state was followed by bodily resurrection and 2) the Sadducean, no-stage view in which physical death marked the end of a person. Proving the existence of an interim state would therefore prove the Pharisaic two-stage view.60 More promising because it does not require the prior assumption of a Pharisaic view of the afterlife is E. Earle Ellis’s suggestion that “God’s [covenantal] relationship to the dead presupposes that the relationship will be actualized by their deliverance from Sheol.”61 Although Ellis leaves his suggestion at this fairly vague level, the basic thrust seems correct.

I propose that Jesus’ argument runs as follows. Because it is based on God’s faithfulness to his covenant with the patriarchs, the Exodus out of Egypt proves that the patriarchs are in some sense still alive to God, the conclusion drawn in 12:27a. But if they are still alive, then God remains obligated to fulfill all of his covenantal promises, one of which is to give the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to the patriarchs (e.g., Gen. 17:8; Exod. 6:4; Num. 14:23; Deut. 11:21) and their descendants.62 Indeed, the Exodus context of the verse that Jesus cites evokes this very promise: almost immediately after revealing himself as the God of Abra- ham, Isaac, and Jacob, Yahweh goes on to identify the giving of this prom- ised land as part of the motivation for the Exodus itself (Exod. 3:8, 17; cf. Gen. 15:13-16). For the patriarchs to receive the land personally as an everlasting possession, however, would presumably require their eventual resurrection.63

The purportedly Tannaitic proofs of resurrection in San. 90b provide parallels to this suggested logic:64

It has been taught: R. Simai said: Whence do we learn resurrection from the Torah?— From the verse, And I also have established my covenant with them, [sc. the Patriarchs] to give them the land of Canaan [Exod 6:4]: ‘[to give] you’ is not said, but ‘[to give] them’ [personally]; thus resurrection is proved from the Torah. . . .
Sectarians [minim] asked Rabban Gamaliel: Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead?… [Rabban Gamaliel did not satisfy them] until he quoted this verse, which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give to them [Deut 11:21]; not to you, but to them is said; hence resurrection is derived from the Torah.65

Although little is known of R. Simai, Rabban Gamaliel was a prominent rabbi who lived at the end of the first century.66 According to Cohn-Sherbok, his reasoning here exemplifies Hillel’s seventh exegetical principle, “the expla- nation derived from the context.”67 Of course, the attribution of this proof to Gamaliel could be apocryphal. Even if the attribution represents a later development, however, the type of reasoning nevertheless seems consistent with first-century Jewish exegetical practices.68 The above interpretation of Jesus’ argument thus places him squarely in his first-century context.

I argued above that the Sadducees’ basic scenario of a woman who is unable to bear children despite having seven lawful husbands essentially attacks resurrection on two fronts since resurrection is 1) more difficult than natural childbearing and 2) not prescribed in the Torah. Jesus responds by referring to God’s fulfillment of his covenantal obligations in the Exodus (Exod. 3:6). By alluding to this event, he implies that the Torah does pre- scribe resurrection:69 while God never promises that he will provide chil- dren through the levirate marriage law, he does promise to give the land of Canaan to the patriarchs and their descendants. This promise saw an initial fulfillment in the Exodus out of Egypt; its complete fulfillment will require the eventual resurrection of the patriarchs and their (deceased) descendants.

If the Torah thus establishes resurrection as a component of God’s intended plan, then the Sadducees’ critique effectively amounts to little more than a questioning of God’s power. The Exodus story itself, however, is the story of God’s miraculous ability to overcome the seemingly insur- mountable obstacles that threaten the fulfillment of his promises. As the Lord explains in Exod. 6:6-8,

I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians . . . and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. And I will take you for my people, and I will be your God, and you will know that I am the Lord your God who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a posses- sion. I am the Lord.

Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt demonstrates the lengths to which God is both able and willing to go in order to fulfill his covenantal promises. The God who sustains life beyond physical death, the God who delivered his people from the mighty Pharaoh through miraculous judgments and pro- vision, this God is surely capable of resurrecting the dead. The Sadducees are thus mistaken because they do not understand God’s power.

3. Summary

I began this examination of Mark 12:18-27 by arguing that the Sadducees’ proposed scenario functions as a trap. On a surface level, it points to a seeming conflict between the scriptural levirate marriage law and a belief in resurrection. On a deeper level, however, the very scenario itself, a sce- nario in which a woman and her multiple husbands are unable to “raise up” children despite the provisions of the Torah, represents an implicit denial of the more difficult “raising up” of resurrection. Any attempt to resolve the logistical difficulties of the presenting problem would presum- ably involve an acceptance of the scenario itself and, thus, its implicit cri- tique of resurrection.

Jesus, however, manages to refute the Sadducees’ critiques while also avoiding their trap. He first demonstrates that their perceived conflict between resurrection and the levirate marriage law rests on the Sadducees’ misunderstanding of the very scripture that they cite: since the levirate marriage law requires that death annuls the covenantal bond of marriage, none of the woman’s prior marital relationships would continue into the resurrected state. Jesus then addresses the implied critique, proving resur- rection through a citation of Exod. 3:6. If, as he has just demonstrated, death annuls a covenantal bond, then the fact that God initiates the Exo- dus out of Egypt on the basis of his covenant with the patriarchs must imply that they are still alive to God. In fact, the Exodus story itself dem- onstrates God’s desire and power to fulfill his promise to give the land of Canaan to the patriarchs and their descendants, a promise whose fulfillment will ultimately require resurrection. The Sadducees have therefore also mis- understood God’s power.

III. Theological Implications of Jesus’ Argument

Not only does this reading interpret Jesus’ answer as a coherent whole that makes logical sense in both the first-century and modern contexts, it also reveals a response that coheres quite well with the presentation of resurrec- tion in other NT texts. I noted at the beginning of this article that current interpretations of Mark 12:18-27 often yield little if any theological reso- nance with the rest of the NT. On the one hand, the suggestion that Jesus here defines resurrection in terms of immortality renders his logic incom- patible with texts such as 1 Cor. 15:35-41 that clearly envision a bodily resurrection. On the other hand, the tendency for scholars to view Jesus as arguing from the fact of the patriarchs’ continuing existence rather than the reason for their continuing existence renders his logic largely irrelevant once believers could point to Jesus’ own resurrection. The interpretation offered in this article, in contrast, effectively resolves the theological dis- sonance that both of these readings create.

First, as I argued above, Jesus’ reasoning in Mark 12:24-27 does point to the future bodily resurrection of the patriarchs. The passage does not, of course, argue that resurrection is bodily, but such an argument is unneces- sary since it represents the underlying assumption inherent both in the language of “resurrection” and in the Sadducees’ scenario. Indeed, my sug- gested analysis of Jesus’ logic requires that “rising from among the dead” (ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῶσιν, 12:25) refers to bodily resurrection: if the patriarchs’ current non-corporeal existence represents a resurrected rather than an interim state, then they would presumably have already undergone a death sufficient to annul God’s covenant, and Jesus’ whole argument would falter.

The problem is that resurrection requires a death, but death annuls a covenant. To argue for resurrection based on God’s covenantal faithfulness therefore requires a kind of preliminary death, a death sufficient to experi- ence resurrection, yet not so complete as to annul the covenant. In other words, Jesus’ argument requires a person’s continued existence in a non- corporeal interim state after physical death. The assumption of such an interim state then enables the following distinction: whereas physical death suffices to annul covenants (such as marriages) between physical beings, it cannot annul covenants with God since all people—not just the patriarchs—continue living with respect to God even after physical death (cf. Luke 20:38). “Resurrection” must therefore refer, as it always does, to the restoration of an embodied state.

Second, the above analysis of Jesus’ response suggests that he does base his proof of resurrection on the reason for—and not just the fact of—the patriarchs’ impending resurrection. That is to say, he grounds his resurrec- tion belief in God’s faithfulness to the covenant with the patriarchs. Far from being irrelevant, this principle represents a fundamental tenet of NT theology. In Gal. 3:15-18, for instance, Paul identifies God’s covenant with Abraham and his “seed” as the reason for Jesus’ receiving of the promised inheritance, an inheritance that his resurrection presumably indicates and enables (cf. Luke 1:55, 72-73; Acts 3:25-26; 7:2-53). Paul then goes on to state that his readers’ own hope rests in their status as heirs of Abraham through Christ (3:29; cf. Heb. 2:16). The debates with Jewish leaders recorded in the NT concerning who constitutes a true heir of Abraham and his covenant (e.g., Matt. 3:7-10 / Luke 3:7-9; John 8:39-40; cf. Rom. 4) similarly attest to the theological importance of this principle.

This brief analysis does not exhaust the theological implications of this passage and their resonances within the rest of the NT.70 For now, however, it must suffice simply to note that, in the reading proposed by this article, not only does Jesus refer to a bodily resurrection, but he also grounds his proof in the same theological understanding that emerges in the appeals to Jesus’ own resurrection made by the early church. This reading of the logic in Mark 12:26-27a thus achieves coherence with the other NT portrayals of resurrection at precisely those points where it might be expected, points where more traditional interpretations have tended to see dissonance.


*)I would like to thank Richard Hays for his helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. 1) Parallel accounts appear in Matt. 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-38, but, as W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), note, “There is no evidence of non- Markan tradition” in either Matthew or Luke (221). This article accordingly focuses on the account in Mark while remaining attentive to the parallel versions.
2)John P. Meier, “The Debate on the Resurrection of the Dead: An Incident from the Ministry of the Historical Jesus?,” JSNT 77 (2000) 8-14. Cf. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (vol. 3 of Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 418 n. 61.
3)Meier, “Debate,” 14; italics original.
4)See also Otto Schwankl, Die Sadduzäerfrage (Mk. 12, 18-27 parr): Eine exegetisch-theologische Studie zur Auferstehungserwartung (BBB 66; Frankfurt: Athenäum, 1987) 501-587.
5)Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.
6)John R. Donahue, “A Neglected Factor in the Theology of Mark,” JBL 101 (1982) 576, 577-578.
7)See Wright, who argues that “resurrection” always means “life after ‘life after death’” (Resurrection, 31).
8)Other scholars who deny that this passage concerns physical resurrection include John Hargreaves, A Guide to Mark’s Gospel (rev. ed.; TEF Study Guide 2; London: SPCK, 1995) 220; Pheme Perkins, “The Gospel of Mark,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995) 676; and Arland J. Hultgren, Jesus and His Adversaries: The Form and Func- tion of the Conflict Stories in the Synoptic Tradition (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1979) 126.
9)E.g., F. Dreyfus, “L’Argument scripturaire de Jésus en faveur de la résurrection des morts (Marc XII, 26-27),” RB 66 (1959) 222-223; Richard B. Hays, “Reading Scripture in Light of the Resurrection,” in Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays (eds.), The Art of Reading Scrip- ture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003) 227; R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002) 471-472; Douglas R. Hare, Mark (Westminster Bible Companion; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996) 156; James A. Brooks, Mark (NAC 23; Nashville: Broadman, 1991) 196; Schwankl, Sadduzäer- frage, 384-396; Larry W. Hurtado, Mark (Good News Commentaries; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983) 183; William C. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 429.
10)Cf. Josephus, B.J. 8.2.165; A.J. 18.1.16.
11)For the legal difficulties this resurrection scenario creates with regard to Torah, see Emman- uelle Main, “Les Sadducéens et la résurrection des morts: Comparison entre Mc 12, 18-27 et Lc 20, 27-38,” RB 103 (1996) 416-417.
12)Cf.J. Gerald Janzen, “Resurrection and Hermeneutics: On Exodus 3.6 in Mark 12.26,” JSNT 23 (1985) 46-47. Of course, unlike the woman in the Sadducees’ story, Tamar does ultimately bear children (Gen. 38:12-30).
13)Janzen, “Resurrection,” 48.
14)The principle of qal vahomer appears as the first of Hillel’s seven exegetical rules in t. Sanh. 7:11.
15)Cf. Main, who suggests that the Sadducees’ scenario essentially raises the question of how one achieves immortality: whether through descendants (the method specified in Torah) or through resurrection (a method that creates problems for the method established in Torah) (“Sadducéens,” 431).
16)I therefore disagree with Main’s conclusion that the evangelists give no indication that the Sadducees’ question is insincere (“Sadducéens,” 416). Linking the Sadducees’ question with the Jewish leaders’ attempt to trap Jesus also helps to explain the Sadducees’ purpose in confronting Jesus. The traditional answer that the Sadducees habitually quizzed religious leaders about the resurrection (e.g., John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark [Sacra Pagina 2; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 2002] 349; cf. Josephus, A.J. 18.1.16) is plausible but not particularly compelling.
17)So James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commen- tary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002) 361-362; and C.F.D. Moule, The Gospel according to Mark (CBC; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1965) 97. 18)See France, Mark, 470.
19)The divergent ways that Matthew and Luke adjust this episode reflect the ambiguity of the scribe’s role in Mark. Luke separates Jesus’ interaction with the scribe (a νομικός in Luke 10:25-28) from this entrapment context (20:27-38), suggesting that he regards the scribe’s question as substantially different in nature from the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ questions. Matthew, on the other hand, transforms the scribe into a Pharisee who explicitly tests Jesus (12:34-35), thereby linking this episode more closely to the preceding tests.
20)So Donahue and Harrington, Mark, 350; France, Mark, 474; Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002) 238; Main, “Saddu- céens,” 417; Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 703; Schwankl, Sadduzäerfrage, 365; and Ezra P. Gould, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1896) 229.
21)Edwards, Mark, 367; Meier, “Debate,” 14; Hugh Anderson, The Gospel of Mark (NCB; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976) 276; Eduard Schweizer, The Good News according to Mark (trans. Donald H. Madvig; Atlanta: John Knox, 1970) 248; D.E. Nineham, Saint Mark (Westminster Pelican Commentaries; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963) 321; C.E.B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to Saint Mark (Cambridge Greek Testament; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1959) 375.
22)For different suggestions on how this resurrection transformation will render marriage obsolete, see Caroline Vander Stichele, “Like Angels in Heaven: Corporeality, Resurrection, and Gender in Mark 12:18-27,” in Jonneke Bekkenkamp and Maaike de Haardt (eds.), Begin with the Body: Corporeality Religion and Gender (Leuven: Peeters, 1998) 215-232, and Schwankl, Sadduzäerfrage, 369-375.
23)Craig A. Evans, Mark (WBC 34B; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001) 255.
24)France notes that Jesus denies the “process” of marrying rather than the “resultant state of being married,” but he then qualifies this observation with the remark that “if that state is carried over into the next life, the problem of ‘competing’ relationships remains” (Mark, 472). It is precisely this “carrying over” of the marriage relationship that I want to challenge.
25)Scholars typically suggest that Jesus is critiquing the Sadducees’ assumption that life (and marrying in particular) will continue as normal in the resurrection. E.g., Schwankl, Sadduzäerfrage, 368. Such analyses fail because the Sadducees’ question in no way presup- poses the contraction of new marriages in the resurrection. It requires only the continuity of the marriage state.
26)John J. Kilgallen, “The Sadducees and Resurrection from the Dead: Luke 20,27-40,” Bib 67 (1986) 478-495, proposes that the Sadducees’ (serious) question should be under- stood as asking which of the seven resurrected brothers would be required to fulfill the levirate marriage law and produce an heir. Jesus then responds that that law will become obsolete (484-7). The lack of an heir, however, simply serves to keep the scenario going and prevent any of the brothers from having a special claim to be the woman’s husband. The Sadducees’ scenario does not present a serious dilemma that has helped lead to their position on resurrection but rather an absurd scenario constructed on the basis of that position.
27)Jesus’ answer therefore does not address the question of what happens to the marriage covenants of those who are still living at the time of the resurrection. Ben Witherington, III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001) argues from Jesus’ silence regarding “existing marriages” that only levirate marriages will be dissolved at the resurrection; all other contracted marriages will continue (328-329). Not only does this suggestion impose an awkward distinction between levirate and “normal” marriages, it also fundamentally misunderstands what constitutes an “existing” marriage.
28)For rabbinic examples of this principle, see Walter Diezinger, “Unter Toten Freigewor- den: Eine Untersuchung zu Röm. III-VIII,” NovT 5 (1962) 272-273. On the lack of explicit Jewish references to the resumption of marriage relationships in the resurrection, see Gundry, Mark, 707.
29)Frédéric Manns, “La technique du Al Tiqra dans les Evangiles,” RScR 64 (1990) 6.
30)E.g., Donald H. Juel, The Gospel of Mark (IBT; Nashville: Abingdon, 1999) 78; Harg- reaves, Mark, 221; Brooks, Mark, 196; Anderson, Mark, 279; Nineham, Mark, 322. Cf. Davies and Allison, Matthew, 232.
31)Although Matthew’s addition of εἰμί could be taken as evidence supporting this inter- pretation of Jesus’ argument (so Davies and Allison, Matthew, 232), the addition could also simply be intended to bring the text into agreement with the LXX.
32)E.g., Anderson, Mark, 279: “The argument…, not very convincing by modern stan- dards, is a verbal one of the type common in contemporary rabbinic exegesis”; Nineham, Mark, 321: “The argument is typical of contemporary methods of exegesis and not alto- gether convincing to modern ears.” Cf. Donahue and Harrington, Mark, 352. Similar caveats appear with respect to other proposed solutions. See, e.g., Edwards, Mark, 368; and Gundry, Mark, 704.
33) D.M. Cohn-Sherbok, “Jesus’ Defense of the Resurrection of the Dead,” JSNT 11 (1981) 64-73. He even goes so far as to state that Jesus’ reasoning is “defective” by rabbinic standards (72).
34)Schwankl, Sadduzäerfrage, 403-406. The parentheses in the implied conclusion reflect Schwankl’s own formulation. Cf. Wright, Resurrection, 424; Main, “Sadducéens,” 419.
35)As Schwankl notes, the saying in 12:27a appears nowhere else in the extant literature (Sadduzäerfrage, 406). Since, in this reading, Jesus’ argument depends on the unquestioned validity of both premises, the unknown origin of this saying raises questions as to its poten- tial persuasiveness in this type of proof, especially given the unique application that this view of Jesus’ logic would require. See too Main, who notes that the necessity of asserting this external premise undermines Jesus’ claim to prove resurrection based on what was writ- ten (“Sadducéens,” 419).
36)Evans argues that the two premises lead to the conclusion that “the patriarchs, though presently dead, must someday live” (Mark, 257). Cf. Gundry, Mark, 703-4. This proposed conclusion, however, does not actually follow from the two premises; rather, it undermines the second premise by suggesting that God is indeed a god of the (presently) dead.
37)Gould presents a variation of this argument that regards 12:27a more as a derived prem- ise/inference: “it follows from the nature of God that, when he calls himself the God of any people, certain things are implied in the statement about these people . . . immortality may be inferred from the nature of God himself [12:27a] in the case of those whom he calls his [12:26]” (Mark, 230). This proposal falters by presuming the very point at issue, namely, that a relationship with God necessarily entails immortality/resurrection.
38)E.g., R.A. Cole, The Gospel according to Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (2nd ed.; TNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), suggests that Exod. 3:6 raises a temporal conundrum since “a Hebrew mind” could not conceive of God as being “a God of the past experience of these men” (265). Cf. Moloney, Mark, 239.
39)F. Gerald Downing, “The Resurrection of the Dead: Jesus and Philo,” JSNT 15 (1982) 47. Cf. Henry Barclay Swete, The Gospel according to Mark (3rd ed.; London: Macmillan and Co., 1909) 282.
40)Downing, “Resurrection,” 44-45.
41)The difficulty with positing a mortal-immortal tension as the basis for Jesus’ argument can be seen in Downing’s inability to make cohesive sense of the surrounding context: he regards Mark 12:25-26a as a later insertion that breaks the flow of the argument (“Res- urrection,” 45).
42)Downing notes that Philo does not seem to have a problem relating the mortal to the immortal in De Fuga, raising the distinct possibility that Philo simply manufactured the philosophical conundrum in De Abrahamo because he wanted to talk about moral virtues (“Resurrection,” 50 n. 7).
43)Dreyfus, “L’Argument,” 216.
44)Dreyfus, “L’Argument,” 219-220.
45)Dreyfus, “L’Argument,” 221.
46)Dreyfus, “L’Argument,” 222-3. For scholars who follow Dreyfus, see footnote 9 above.
47)Janzen, “Resurrection,” 50.
48)Janzen, “Resurrection,” 55. Janzen suggests that Jesus here employs a “hermeneutics of resurrection” in which the citation has elements of both continuity and discontinuity with its original context (50).
49)Dreyfus, “L’Argument,” 221.
50)Janzen, “Resurrection,” 51.
51)Janzen, “Resurrection,” 51.
52)His comment on an earlier version of this article. See too Hays, “Reading Scripture,” 224-9.
53)For Jesus’ argument to rest on some unmentioned factor seems even less likely given that in 12:25 he confronts the Sadducees on their own terms (i.e., exegesis). Cf. Kilgallen, “Sadducees,” 480.
54)For the understanding of marriage as a covenantal relationship, see Gordon Paul Hugen- berger, Marriage as a Covenant: A Study of Biblical Law and Ethics Governing Marriage Developed from the Perspective of Malachi (VTSup 52; Leiden: Brill, 1994).
55)This principle suggests that, when a nation or tribe constitutes a covenanting partner (as at Sinai), the covenant stipulations remain in force until the entire nation becomes extinct (e.g., 2 Sam. 21:1-14; cf. Josh. 9:1-27). God, however, clearly contracts his covenant with Abraham with an individual, as the extensions of the promises to Isaac (Gen. 26:3-5, 24) and Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15; 35:12) show.
56)Contra Kilgallen, this Lukan addition should not be understood to mean “all people are meant to live, not die” (“Sadducees,” 492). It simply does not say anything about God’s intention or desire.
57)Although Hurtado similarly points to the seeming incongruity of God’s having a con- tinuing covenant with the dead patriarchs, he resolves the tension by adjusting the nature of the covenant: “[Jesus’] point seems to be that God’s covenant is meaningless if it is can- celed by death” (Mark, 183). Jesus’ answer in 12:25 and his inference in 12:27a support my contention that he challenges the patriarchs’ status instead.
58)Schwankl, Sadduzäerfrage, 403-406.
59)Swete, Mark, 282. Cf. Cranfield, Mark, 376.
60)Wright, Resurrection, 424.
61) E. Earle Ellis, “Jesus, the Sadducees and Qumran,” NTS 10 (1963/1964) 275.
62) Cf. Edwards, Mark, 369: “If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead . . . then God’s promise to them was limited to the duration of their earthly lives, which renders his promises finite and unfilled”; and Witherington, Mark, 329: “The biblical God had made promises to these patriarchs, and since they had not all yet been fulfilled, it must be assumed that they are still alive.” These scholars essentially argue that God’s unfulfilled promises keep the patriarchs alive. They thus reverse the relationship that I am proposing.
63)Thus would I counter Gundry’s critique that “Dreyfus . . . cannot show that God’s faith- fulness to God’s covenant with those patriarchs demands their resurrection” (Mark, 708).
64)So Schweizer, Mark, 248; Nineham, Mark, 321.
65)Sanhedrin (trans. H. Freedman [chps. 7-11]; vol. 3 of The Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nezikin in Four Volumes, ed. I. Epstein; London: Soncino, 1935) 604-605. All brackets and italics original.
66)Nineham, Mark, 321. This Gamaliel is presumably Gamaliel II, who headed the Yavneh academy.
67) Cohn-Sherbok, “Jesus’ Defense,” 71. According to Cohn-Sherbok, Gamaliel argues that, since Israel received the land after the patriarchs had died, “God must have raised the patriarchs back to life since this would be the only way that God could keep his pledge” (73 n. 14). This indication of a past resurrection does not disturb the parallel that I am suggest- ing: both Jesus (in my reading) and Gamaliel base their proof for resurrection on the fact that God will fulfill / has fulfilled his promise to give the land to the patriarchs.
68)See David Instone Brewer, Techniques and Assumptions in Jewish Exegesis before 70 CE (TSAJ 30; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992).
69)Whether or not Torah proves resurrection was an apparently heated first-century debate (m. San. 10:1).
70) For instance, the suggestion that life continues after physical death supports the idea of a “second death” described in Rev. 20:6, 14; 21:8.


One Response

  1. Such an insightful analysis. My only question is whether the assumed “intermediate state” is not only unnecessary but muddies things up. The hearers would clearly remember that God said in the previous verse in Exodus that he would remember (and fulfill) his covenant with Abraham even though he had died. Wouldnt this indicate to a 1st C Jew that, unlike covenants between humans, God honors his promises even if the promisee dies before the promise is kept? But how can he keep the promise to Abraham of possessing the land if he has already died? The Sadducces would not have thought of an Intermediate State as part of Jesus’ unspoken explanation for why God would honor his promise — there is no need to “prove” why God would honor his promise because Exodus clearly indicates that God intends to do so whatever the reason. Jesus forces the Sadduccees into the position of necessarily calling God a liar by denying that Abraham will be resurrected. If a covenant between God and a man necessarily ends at the death of the man, then this would have been the obvious retort of the Sadducees since they did not believe in an Intermediate State. Thus, jettisoning the idea that God would consider himself released of his promises made to a man if the man dies first makes Christ’s resurrection proof that much more compelling.

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