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.

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110 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.

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    • To understand Christianity, you MUST understand, believe and accept Judaism. A house cannot be built on air unless there is no solid foundation. Jesus didn’t come to destroy the foundation where a house is built on but rather to replenish and renovate.

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    • If Jewish believe in the Laws and the Prophets, then a phenomenon like resurrection shouldn't be difficult to appreciate. It has been reported that Elijah raised the son of the widow at Zarephath from death and Elisha also resurrected the son of the Shunamite. Enoch did not see death.
    • But the Jewish have practical instances in their scriptures where deado were raise. So your counter doesn't work
  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!

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  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.

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    • 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.
    • It is incomprehensible how anyone today can think that the Jews have "done damage" to Christians. Did you miss the four years of high school world history and the sad tally of persecutions, pogroms, open anti-Semitism, ending in the worst crime against humanity so far?
    • I being a Christian go to Jesus own words to bless them which persecute you do good to those who do you harm.forgive LOVE every one of God's people. The Jewish people gave us our savior...and theirs. Bless then Lord. Bless them
  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?
    • Thanks for your question, Pepler. Yes, that's about as close as we can come to an answer about the pre-resurrection afterlife: the physical body remains in the grave (or urn, I suppose), and the spiritual body goes to Sheol to await the reconstitution of the physical body on earth via resurrection. I think you may have read the following article already, but just in case:
      https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/happens-death-resurrection/
      Thanks again for your continued contribution to our discussions!

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    • No blood and flesh again but we shall be adorned with glorious bodies again, being like angeles of God, immortality taking over from mortality
  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?
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
  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!
    • In my community there has been evidence of the dead speaking through the living and there were rituals that could be performed and which could make such people medicine men. I believe in the death of body the but the sprit that gives life to the body survives that death
  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.
    • Jesus Christ of Nazareth Christianity would have been nothing not without Jewish because Jewish has their own believe Jewish have their own daughter but Christ came to change the the doctrine of men which is the daughter of Jewish we are not following the daughter of Jewish
    • First and foremost,I would like to thank you for setting up this site. Just accessed it and I have gained alot of insight from both the topic and comments. Now Rabbi, if you can guide help understand this text from the book of Isaiah 4vs1,married to one man

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