Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” And they no longer dared to ask him anything.Luke 20:27-40
The Resurrection of the Dead
One of the greatest theological controversies in Jesus’ day concerned the afterlife. While the Sadducees argued that the soul perished with the body, the Pharisees advanced biblical evidence for the physical resurrection of the dead.
So a group of Sadducees approached Jesus to hear his views on the issue. Assuming the position of the Pharisees on the resurrection, they attempted to demonstrate its fallacy by proposing a hypothetical scenario. A man died, leaving his wife childless. According to the Mosaic law, the brother of the deceased must marry the widow to preserve the family legacy (Deuteronomy 25:5). But seven brothers married the woman in succession and died childless. Finally, the woman also died. At the climax of the conundrum, the Sadducees posed their stumper: “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”
Resurrection and Marriage
Evidently, the Sadducees imagined that an afterlife with resurrected bodies entailed the resumption of life under earthly conditions. Jesus offered unequivocal clarity on the question of marriage in the “world to come.” Using rabbinic concepts, Jesus made a clear distinction between life in “this world” (olam ha-zeh) and life in “the coming world” (olam ha-ba).
“The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
Jesus confirmed the teachings of the Pharisees concerning the resurrection of the dead. By the second century B.C., the idea was firmly established in rabbinic Judaism, based on texts from Ezekiel 37:1-14 (The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones), Isaiah 26:19 (“Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise”), and Daniel 12 (The Resurrection of the Dead). Raised from the dead, “They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise” (Luke 20:36).
Jesus’ teaching was consonant with an opinion already expressed by a Babylonian amora Rav in the third century B.C.
“The World-to-Come is not like this world. In the World-to-Come there is no eating, no drinking, no procreation, no business negotiations, no jealousy, no hatred, and no competition. Rather, the righteous sit with their crowns upon their heads, enjoying the splendor of the Divine Presence.”
Authority of Moses
Yet even before the prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, the Torah witnesses to the reality of life after death. In Exodus, the Lord speaks to Moses as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—living patriarchs awaiting the Messianic redemption. Jesus spoke in the language and idiom of the scribes. Deeply impressed, they commended Jesus, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” After that, they no longer dared to ask him any more questions.
At the resurrection in the world to come,
God’s saints will rise like angels in the kingdom.
“Jewish Resurrection of the Dead.” My Jewish Learning, www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-resurrection-of-the-dead/.
“Olam Ha-Ba.” Www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/olam-ha-ba.
“The Valley of Dry Bones and the Resurrection of the Dead – TheTorah.com.” Www.thetorah.com, www.thetorah.com/article/the-valley-of-dry-bones-and-the-resurrection-of-the-dead.