In Defense of the Resurrection

03 May

Defending the ResurrectionJesus began by telling the Sadducee intellectuals that they didn’t know the scriptures and, therefore, erred in their understanding (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24). However, Luke doesn’t mention this insult (Luke 20: 34-35)! Why not? No doubt, Luke doesn’t put the Sadducees in a bad light here or anywhere else in his Gospel, because it was Luke’s intention to give a copy of his narrative to Theophilus, the high priest at the time of his writing (37-40 AD), who was also a Sadducee. It doesn’t make sense to insult the man one hopes in influence to change his mind and stop the then current persecution of the Hellenist Jewish believers, which is exactly what Theophilus ended up doing (cf. Acts 9:31 – cir 39 AD).

Jesus told the Sadducees that marriage was for the current age. The fact is that men die, and logic tells us that life is preserved through one’s descendents. If there were no marriage and no children, the human race would end immediately upon the death of the last man and woman of the first generation of humanity.

On the other hand, since in the resurrection there is no death, children aren’t needed to keep humanity alive. Men in that age would be equal with angels with respect to longevity of life. Marriage, therefore, would be unnecessary. So, the elaborate and silly story, which the Sadducean intellectuals offered, backfired, and Jesus made them look foolish for even offering such a tale, because logic demands that, if men lived forever, the human race wouldn’t need children, and marriage would also be unnecessary, at least in the context in which we understand it in this age.

In Luke 20:37 Jesus began to address the error held by the Sadducees that there was no resurrection. Their question in Luke 20 was meant to make the idea seem foolish, but they didn’t specifically ask Jesus if there was a resurrection. Nevertheless, it was well known that they didn’t believe men were raised to life after death, and that understanding precipitated their criticism of the doctrine. Therefore, Jesus addressed it in his reply. Moreover, because the Sadducees accepted only the Torah for their Scriptures, Jesus met them on their own turf and replied out of Exodus, one of the five books of Moses.

In Luke 20:38 Jesus referred to Exodus 3:2-6, saying that God claimed to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Pagans believe in gods of the underworld (death), but nothing like this was embraced in the Jewish tradition. If God claimed to be God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they must be perceived as being alive in some manner. If they were then dead (and they were) then God, who is not limited by time, was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at that time, because from God’s point of view, the resurrection was just as present to him as when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were alive. In other words, unless the Sadducees were willing to embrace the pagan doctrine of gods of the dead, there must be a resurrection.

One of the scribes (Mark 12:28-34), seeing that Jesus had replied successfully to the intellectual Sadducean emissaries, replied that Jesus had done very well (Luke 20:39). I can imagine that these types of questions had been an embarrassment for the Pharisees’ party, and seeing the Sadducean scoffers put down had to have been pleasing in their eyes. However, Luke’s mention that one of them told Jesus so seems to me out of place (after all they were there to accuse Jesus, not compliment him). Therefore, I have to wonder if Luke isn’t pointing to Paul at this point. After all, Mark does say Jesus told this scribe he wasn’t far from the Kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). I may be wrong, but I have to wonder, if this man wasn’t Paul (just a thought).

When the dust settled and the debates were over, no man dared ask Jesus a question again. Although he was not schooled by any great rabbi (John 7:15), Jesus had both answered each question put to him by the elite of the different groups in Judaism, and he had stumped each group with his own questions. If they weren’t stumped, they wouldn’t offer a reply (Luke 20:40), because in doing so they would have admitted Jesus’ right to be the Messiah, and their obligation to submit to him, and that, at least for them, was unthinkable.


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Posted by on May 3, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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