Question: I have read your thoughts on Jesus’ response to the Saducees about the resurrection and I am not satisfied by your answer. It seems to me that the Saducees had in mind physical resurrection when they challenged Jesus with the marriage/death scenario. First of all, this would have been Jesus’ perfect opportunity to share your point of view (that the resurrection is only spiritual) but he didn’t. It seems to me that the only thing that can be said is: The saducees gave Jesus a scenario about the physical death of several husbands and one wife, and if he returned by telling them about spiritual resurrection, then he didn’t really answer their question at all! He sidestepped the question!! If what you say is correct, than it only makes sense that Jesus would tell both the Saducees and pharisees that they are BOTH wrong about the resurrection. The pharisees would be wrong since they expect physical resurrection. The Saducees would be wrong because they expect no resurrection at al! If your point of view is correct, then how can you answer this? This verse seems to be irrefutable proof that Jesus expected physical resurrection, yet physical resurrection has not come about even 2000 years later. In no ways do I intend to be argumentative. I am simply speaking out of my lack of understanding and frustration thereof. I’m sure I will have other questions to come, but this is all I ask you for now. Please help
I will try to address you thoughts primarily about Luke 20 and the Sadducees.
I definitely take a different view than what you express, and I believe that Jesus’ discourse and answers proves my case quite effectively.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues and apparent facts in the case before us.
1.) It seems apparent that the Pharisees did believe in some sort of a physical resurrection.
2.) It seems clear that the Sadducees did not believe that, in any way, shape or fashion.
3.) It seems apparent that the Sadducees assumed that Jesus agreed with the Pharisees. And this is a critical point!
4.) The Sadducees framed their question around the debates that they had been having with the Pharisees, assuming that there were only two possible choices in defining the resurrection. In other words, they believed that either the Pharisees were correc to argue for a physical resurrection or, they were right to deny any resurrection of any kind, period! Operating on those assumptions, they then approached Jesus.
5.) It must be kept in mind that at the heart of the debate and discussion of the resurrection was the very nature of the kingdom itself. The Pharisees believed in a nationalistic, physical restoration of the glory of the kingdom of David. Military might, national Israel ruling supreme. The Sadducees rejected any kind of after life, any kind of kingdom as identified by the Pharisees. It was the nature of the kingdom that was essentially at stake, not just the question of resurrection, although resurrection was the focus of the debate.
6.) The Pharisees were assuming that in the kingdom/resurrection that they envisaged, that the Torah would remain intact. The Temple and the Cultus would remain as the central points and features of the Kingdom.
7.) What that meant, the Sadducees deducted, was the dilemma they posed about the seven brothers with the single woman, and no children. If, they argued, the resurrection was to a life and kingdom still ruled by Torah and Temple, then the Pharisees had to explain the mess of the seven brothers and the one woman. And that was quite a dilemma to be sure!!
8.) So, Jesus addressed the heart of the issue, the nature of the kingdom. He said that in the age to come– the age of the resurrection– that Torah and Temple would not rule the kingdom, because there would be no marrying and giving in marriage.
9.) It is critical to see at this juncture that Jesus was not talking about marriage as an institution among men period! He was saying that the Pharisaic ideas of a restored kingdom based on Torah– that included the Levirate marriage– would not be valid at all, and thus, the nature of the kingdom was radically different than even the Pharisees–and therefore even the Sadducees– imagined. In one deft stroke, Jesus thus destroyed both the Pharisaic and Sadducean concepts!
10.) The fact, by the way, that Jesus did disagree with the Pharisees on the resurrection is borne out when we examine Paul on trial (Acts 23:7f; 24:13f). I think you would agree with me that Jesus and Paul taught the same resurrection doctrine. So, when Paul seemingly sided with the Pharisees on the issue of resurrection– as Jesus ostensibly did in Luke– the Pharisees temporarily exulted! However, just 10-14 days later at the most, they wanted to kill Paul for his resurrection doctrine! Now, you have to ask yourself the question, why did they suddenly want to kill Paul for his doctrine of the resurrection when just a few days earlier, they were patting him on the back because they thought he was teaching their traditional view of resurrection??? Likewise, if Jesus and the Pharisees agreed on the nature of the resurrection/kingdom, why is it that they ultimately wanted to kill Jesus for his views of the kingdom?
11.) So, it seems to me that in Matthew, Jesus cut with a two-edged sword. He deftly destroyed the Sadducean view, and, at the same time, he destroyed the Pharisaic view, by noting that the kingdom would not be ruled by Torah and Temple.
12.) Notice now the added note given in Matthew: "But as touching the resurrection of the dead." (Mt. 22:31). Do you catch what has happened? It is in this verse that Jesus is actually directly addressing whether there would be a resurrection!! What went before was a discussion of the nature of the kingdom and resurrection world, not the question of whether there would be a resurrection!!
13.) And notice how Jesus proved the resurrection. He did not say that the saints would come out of the ground. He affirmed, "I am the God of Abraham…I am not the God of the dead, but of the living!" The Sadducees believe that Abraham was dead–and he was biologically– but, Jesus affirmed he was "alive" thoroughly dispelling the Sadducean concept of when you are dead, you are like Rover, dead all over!
So, I am affirming that Jesus did, in fact, teach that both the Pharisees and Sadducees were wrong on the resurrection! And I think that when we look at the text within the context of the controversy of the day, and examine the presuppositions that lie behind the debate, that it helps us to see the mastery of Jesus’ argument!
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