Friday, April 16, 2021

Sadducees and the Resurrection

About the Sadducees
In connection with the Pharisees
  • They were also religious leaders, Acts 4:1, Acts 5:17
  • They spuriously came to John’s baptism, Matthew 3:7
  • They tempted Jesus for a sign, Matthew 16:1
  • They espoused religious leaven, Matthew 16:6, 11-12
In distinction from the Pharisees
  • They denied the resurrection, Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27
  • They denied angels and spirits, Acts 23:6-8
  • They filled the high priestly offices, Acts 5:17

Matthew 22:23-33 (See also Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-38)

The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

The Sadducees make a phony inquiry. They did not believe in the resurrection, yet posed a fanciful question based on harmonizing the law of levirate marriage with the resurrection.[i] Their assumption was that Jesus would be confused by and unable to answer the question.

The Sadducees provide a legal foundation for their query, “Moses said or wrote.” These instructions may be found in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. History indicates the practice existed before the law (Genesis 38:6-10). The appeal to Moses would strike fear into the average person, but Jesus is great than Moses!

Jesus gives an unexpected answer. Their question is fictional in their own minds, and in truth! They err both in understanding the scriptures and the power of God (cf. Hosea 4:6). “In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” God has the power to resurrect, but marriage is irrelevant in the resurrection.

Jesus gives them an additional explanation (Old Testament scripture for the resurrection, again more than they bargained for). Concerning the resurrection itself, God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” Read Exodus 3:6a, Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Intriguingly, the point made hinged on the tense of a verb. The liberals Sadducees here were silenced and could say no more.

[i] The levirate marriage preserved the name and inheritance of a man who died childless. “Levirate” comes from the Latin word levir, meaning a husband’s brother, or brother-in-law. Despite its sound, the word is unrelated to the tribe of Levi, or their ancestor. |

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