The synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ discussion with Sadducees about resurrection (cf. Matt 22:23-33; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40). The Sadducees denied resurrection because their sole theological authority was the Torah, in which they did not find reference to the dead being raised. Thus, it is fitting that Jesus supports his view of resurrection with words from the Torah. Yet, in order to understand Jesus’ proof-text, we need to attend not only to the broader context of his citation, but also to texts beyond the Book of Moses. Jesus’ single sentence from the Torah conjures language from the Psalms that highlights God’s ability to raise the dead.

Jesus asks the Sadducees, “As for the dead being 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’ [Exodus 3:6]? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mk 12:26-27). At first glance, Yeshua’s quotation of Exodus seems odd since, by his day, the patriarchs from Genesis were no longer living — they had all been dead for hundreds of years! In order to appreciate Jesus’ exegetical logic, we need the context of Exodus 3:6: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…. I have come down to deliver (נצל; natsal) [my people]… and to bring them up (עלה; ‘alah) out of that land [of Egypt]…. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob… is my name forever, and this is my memorial (זכר; zeker) for all generations.” (Exodus 3:6, 8, 15). Since being “delivered” and “brought up” from Egypt as a lasting “memorial” sounds like “resurrection” language, other biblical writers draw on this scene at the burning bush to describe how God saves them from death and renews their lives.

In the Psalms, the same language in Exodus is reapplied as an expression of God’s power to save one’s life from certain death. For instance, Psalm 97 reads, “The Lord… preserves the lives of his holy ones; he delivers (נצל; natsal) them out of the hand of the wicked…. Give thanks for the memorial (זכר; zeker) of his holiness” (97:10-12). Similarly, Psalm 30 declares, “Lord, you have brought up (עלה; ‘alah) my life from the grave…. Give thanks to the memorial (זכר; zeker) of his holiness” (30:3-4). In choosing the passage about the burning bush, Jesus knew that Exodus 3 contains specific liberative terms that other biblical authors use to describe God bringing new life out of death. Thus, with a single verse about “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” Jesus provides the Sadducees with testimonies to God’s resurrection power throughout Scripture.

40 COMMENTS

  1. The “resurrection” language you quote is a rather liberal interpretation. Not incorrect. Just beyond the “plain meaning” of the text. Which is not a surprise, given bodily resurrection was not and never has been a mainstream Jewish belief. There’s evidence it was an Eastern import.

    • Thanks for these comments, John. I agree that the original intent of Exodus and Psalms was not to describe literal resurrection from the dead, but it was standard rabbinic practice to “find” resurrection in the Torah, and Jesus is an early attestation to this exegetical tendency. While resurrection may not have been part of the earlier iterations of Israelite religion, it was a fundamental tenet of late Second Temple Judaism — the Sadducees were outliers in their rejection of it.

      • Sadducees: they were so sad, you see, because they did not believe in the resurrection.

        Someone told me that a few years ago, and it’s helped me remember the difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees (Who had too many rules to be fair, I see.)

      • The Sadducees’ rejection of Resurrection can’t be explained by their accepting only Torah as authoritative. They also rejected angels, which is well attested in Torah. Humorously Jesus couldn’t help himself joking “they will be like angels” just to tease them. Paul also managed to divide the Sanhedrin

  2. So when are you writing a book on “Revelation, Resurrection & Redirection: A Better Way to Read the Bible”, Dr. Nicholas!? 😂 Not meaning to inflate the ego, but my goodness you have some zingers haha

    You’re fast becoming part of my dream team of bible scholars who I’d love to collaborate on a study bible haha I have a decent collection of them, but none contain the blaring brain busters which re-write my interpretative lens like Tim Mackie, Shane Willard, N.T Wright and the Team at Israel Bible Centre.

    If I ever find a study bible connecting Psalm 23 with the Wadi Qelt, maybe I’ll be onto a winner 😂

    • 🙂 I’m really glad you’re enjoying studying with us, Shaun. Once I finish the book I’m writing on Matthew, I’ll get right on your suggestion — great title, by the way. As ever, thanks for contributing to our discussions and taking the time to read and learn Scripture with us!

      • Sounds interesting! I just purchased Dr Eli’s book, “Jewish Insight into Scripture”; will we get an email notification or something when your book on Matthew is complete?

        Grace & Peace

        • Glad to hear that you got Eli’s book, Shaun. My book is still in the early stages, but I’ll keep you posted.

  3. I am at a loss to understand the special place given by Christians to Jews, actually they are no different to the Muslims and have done more damage to Christianity and to Jesus himself, I sometimes wonder why as Christians we blindly support Israel ?

    • Shirley, the New Testament (on which later “Christianity” is based) is a compilation of Jewish texts that are, themselves, indebted to the Hebrew Bible — what Christianity traditionally calls the Old Testament. More, Jesus himself was a Jew, as were his disciples and Paul. That is, the religion reflected in the Christian sacred texts is actually Judaism; or, more precisely, a particular strand of early messianic Jewish thought and praxis. Historically, it has been “Christianity” that has done the damage to Jews, not the other way around.

      • The religion reflected in the Gospels is the the oral tradition of Judaism which was to be “written on the heart” each time the nation was destroyed and its people forced into diaspora Jere4miah 31: 31-34. Rabbinical Judaism abandoned the oral tradition for individual Torah scrolls to maintain the priesthood.

      • I beg to differ, New Testament Christianity loves the Jews anyone who calls themselves a Christian and hates the Jews does not know the New Testament. Thanks for letting me share.

      • Do you know the old ditty?

        Isn’t it odd
        That God chose the Jews?
        But isn’t it even more odd
        That we choose the Jewish God
        But spurn the Jews?

    • Response to Shirley: Jewish And Israeli are not the same thing. As believers in Jesus, who was Jewish, our spirit roots go so deep into Judaism that we should/must honor that ancient and eternal faith in God. Zionism is a much newer political movement not necessarily tied to God.

  4. What an eye opening. What does the Bible say about our bodies after the resurrection, for time being is it spiritual in the paradise until Revelation 22, and then blood and flesh again?

  5. Thanks, always understood this passage to mean that the patriarchs were alive in God’s presence. The Sadducees also denied the existence of the soul I believe?

  6. Nothing futher is needed. Jesus asks the Sadducees, “As for the dead being 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’ [Exodus 3:6]? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mk 12:26-27).

  7. Where are the dead now? The breath returns to the Maker and the body sleeps, in fact decomposes, or may be no more. BUT just as Yeshua was truly dead and truly made alive; we will be resurrected at the last trump. A blessed hope for believers!

  8. I don’t think this is the crux of the argument, it is with verb tenses, saying “I am” (present tense) The God of Abraham, indicates that Abraham is in the present, although dead physically, he must be in existence in some form (i.e. in spirit), proving life-after-death

  9. Shalom. I think to spirit is in Paradise or Sheol whichever you wish to call it until Judgement Day.
    Shirley Tissera, we owe everything to the Jews. Without the Jews there would be no Christianity. In fact what many call the first Christians was a Jewish Sect.

  10. This is a well to drink, a hidden place in God’s Tabernacle, where God’s riches for His chosen ones are displayed. Believe me all this are revealed by the Spirit and are not human discovery. I am blessed

  11. Dr Nicholas, I read an apocalypse, forgotten which and its whereabouts about the other thief who was crucified with Christ Jesus went to ‘paradise’. As it is not part of the Bible I could not read it properly, please help with some articles if you have so I can delve in

    • Hi, Kolitsoe. I’m not sure, but you may be referring to the early Christian midrash about the thief that (I think) was written by Ephrem the Syrian. Unfortunately, since patristic literature is outside my area of expertise, I’m afraid that I don’t have the necessary acumen to write an article on the topic.

  12. Jesus Cleanses the Temple
    …19Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20“This temple took forty-six years to build,” the people replied, “and You are going to raise it up in three days?” 21But Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body.…
    Dr. Eli
    I took the word Jews out of this verse.
    Why did Linda take the word Jews out?
    It is time for peace among the people of Mother Earth.

  13. It would seem that the emphasis on the physical resurrection was a later development of Christianity, since 1 John seems to reference the Shroud of Turin as proof of the resurrection. The destruction of the Temple also seems to have more to do with Christians than Jews, do you agree?

    • Thanks for your questions, William. The physical resurrection of the dead predates Christianity. It can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ commentary on Ezekiel 37, “the Valley of the Dry Bones.” I’m not sure what you’re asking in your second question; if you clarify, I can respond more thoroughly. Thanks again.

    • William Mayor The burial cloths for Jesus body has no connection to the shroud of Turin. 1 shows a face on the body linen while Peter and John saw 2 pieces. 2 Even if possible I’m sure God wouldn’t have kept it so people could worship it rather than Jesus.

  14. Isn’t it time we realize that the message of the Bible can be reduced to ONE word: REDEMPTION, and the key to penetrate the depth of this word is presented by YESHUA in Mark 12:25 “We will be like angels”=Spiritual Entities. Redemption: Return to the status quo ante (before sin)

  15. No one witnessed the resurrection of Jesus, but it was the spark that solidified the Jesus Movement. The disciples were animists, seeing God in the natural world. Two sources: The Sign by Thomas de Wesselow and The Lost Tomb of Jesus by S. Jacobovici. These solved the mystery for me.

  16. The promise of owning the land from Egypt to Mesopotamia is made personally to Abraham (Gen 15:7-8, 13:15-17 &17:8), Isaac (Gen 26:3), and Jacob (Gen 28:4, 13; 35:12). Death wouldn’t prevent them from owning the Land. According to Heb 11:17-19, Abraham understood resurrection was required by the Promise of God.

  17. The synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ discussion with Sadducees about resurrection (cf. Matt 22:23-33; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40)

    Wow this explains Matthew 17:2-4

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