Our
Fellowship

Our
Branch

AHC C Whose Wife Will She Be? - Hebrew Catholics

Association of

Hebrew Catholics

New Zealand Branch

Whose Wife Will She Be?

Ordinary 32     Year C

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

St. Luke 20: 27 — 38

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

 

Introduction

If anything “turns people off” reflecting on spiritual matters, it is sterile debate on speculative ideas which seem irrelevant and rather stupid! This reading would, in some people’s opinion fit that description. The debate does seem ridiculous and a waste of time. We shall see, however, that despite the absurdity of the proposition put by the Sadducees, our Lord makes good use of the occasion to provide His genuinely devout followers with guidelines for the future.

See Appendix 1 for a more detailed introduction and for background to the reading.

Click here for a printable version of the text

 

Some Reflections on the Text

Verse 27

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a
resurrection, came forward and put this question to him,

It is safe to say that the only certain thing which we know about the sect of the Sadducees is that they denied there was any such thing as resurrection, or angels, or spirits (Acts 23: 8). It is often quoted that they considered only the first 5 books of the Old Testament as binding them, but some scholars question this.

A group of Sadducees were finding Jesus more than a little disturbing and thought the best way to silence His teaching was to discredit Him in front of his followers, and make Him look incompetent. Knowing by now that Jesus regularly referred to life after death, they tried to engage Him in a debate which He couldn’t win.

Verses 28 — 33

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.”

The Sadducees, giving special emphasis to their interpretations of the first 5 books of the Old Testament, focussed on Deuteronomy 25: 5 and Leviticus 18: 16 (See also Genesis 38: 8). The situation is: A Man dies without any children. His brother is therefore obliged by Divine Law to marry the deceased brother’s wife so as to provide children. This brother dies, still leaving the woman childless, as do the brothers who follow.

The question put to Jesus (allowing for their implied ridicule) is: “You are always going on about life after the resurrection of the dead; well, when that happens, which of the seven will be the woman’s husband, since they all married her before they died?”

See Appendix 2 for a commentary on this absurd question.

Verses 34 — 36

Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry
and remarry;

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.

Our Lord patiently listened to the arrogance of those who would not only try and make a fool of Him, but who would betray their true lack of respect for the Holy Word Of God. When they came to the end of their nonsense, Jesus commenced His reply, which was gracious in its acceptance of their challenge, but far more studious and scholarly than they had expected or could cope with.

The first part of Jesus’ answer (verses 34 — 36) demonstrates the serious basic error in the argument of the Sadducees by distinguishing two ages of existence (according to Eugene LaVerdiere whose commentary we follow here). In the first age, which includes human history in this world, the question of marriage is pertinent. In the second, however, which follows the consummation of history, marriage is to be seen differently. There are thus two modes of human existence. In the first we live according to the conditions of physical birth.

In the second, arising from rebirth in the resurrection, our life and relationships are comparable to those of the angels.

We note our Lord’s indication in verse 35 that one will take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead only if “deemed worthy”.

The Sadducees must have taken a knock here because Jesus showed how they had completely misrepresented life in the resurrection by assuming it would be a continuation of ordinary earthly life and relationships. In fact Jesus has exposed their lack of scholarship and true authority as well as careless attention to detail. But they were in for a worse shock yet.

Verses 37 and 38

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.”

The Sadducees held that since Moses, one of the greatest Patriarchs, did not believe in the resurrection, why would anyone? In the second part of his reply, Jesus shatters their ungrounded confidence with stunning simplicity! Since they would take notice only of proofs from the first 5 books of the Old Testament, Jesus gives it to them. He quotes Exodus 3: 6 i.e. “I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had long died but God did not say “I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when they were alive”, nor “I AM the God of three dead corpses.” He says “I Am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.

Our Lord then adds, with simple logic, and utter dependence on the Law of Moses alone, that, therefore:

“He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

This is indeed a challenge for the proud Sadducees who had met more than their match and were out of their depth. The reply of Jesus demonstrated that resurrection cannot be explained as merely the resumption of former historical life; just as it would not be seen merely as an event that would occur sometime in the distant future.

Verses 39 and 40

Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have
answered well.”

And they no longer dared to ask him anything.

These two verses are not part of our present Sunday Gospel reading. However they tell us two interesting facts. First, that the Sadducees knew when they were beaten and did not dare to challenge Jesus again.

Secondly, some of the Scribes, associates of the Pharisees, came up to Jesus and congratulated Him without hesitation. “Well spoken Rabbi”, they said, “very well spoken!” It is important for us to see this clear evidence of admiration and acceptance of the Lord by a number of the well educated Jews of the time. Our Lord’s battle was with the minority who had power and authority: they were misleading the common people for personal gain.

 

Conclusion

Blaiklock has written, “The Sadducees exemplify the perennial fault of man to conclude that there can be no reality outside the competence of his five senses to apprehend.” This has to be one of the key lessons for us today as we come under very strong pressure to conform to contemporary pagan philosophy in which our education system is soaked. But the problem is nothing new. The Pharisees struggled to resist it in Jesus’ time, but while they achieved many good things, they often “got it wrong”. That was not what concerned Jesus so much as the fact that they became obsessed with their own achievements. The Sadducees seemed even harder for our Lord to reach out to. This account is a warning from our Lord that even His own followers could, by pride, and separation from the teaching authority of His Church, come to develop and defend absurd beliefs, and reject truth.

Sadly, evidence of this state of affairs abounds, for it is now not unusual to hear of groups who choose themselves which Scriptures they will declare non-binding and those they would emphasise or quote out of context to support some new belief. Ironically this is following in the steps of the Sadducees. Much modern-day Christian teaching and practice, when examined closely, can be as bizarre and grotesque as was theirs.

Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Ordinary 29 ― Year C

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

     Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
     so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating
     how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going
     reflection.

Whose Wife Will She Be?

Ordinary 32      Year C           St. Luke 20: 27 — 35

1.    Our Lord models for us how useless it is to argue over
speculative, cold, sterile matters in religion instead of focussing on
Him. Our Faith is about Jesus Messiah — not arguments of logic
and philosophy. They have their value but our Lord insists they
must not take over from, or hide His true message.

2.    For the Christian, the devout follower of Jesus Messiah, a
sound knowledge of Sacred Scripture is essential according to one’s
situation and ability. Those who wish to establish their own form of
religion, always choose a particular way in which to interpret
Scripture to support their beliefs. Whilst we must ask the Holy Spirit
to guide us in our understanding of the Bible, it is the Church which
our Lord established as the authority to teach the correct meaning,
and thus to guide us to eternal life in Messiah Jesus.

3.    All Sacred Scripture is about, or points towards Jesus Messiah.
The Sadducees had only to listen to Him, and honestly enquire
about Him, and they would have corrected the blind alleyways down
which their religion had led them. Much religion today is modelled
on private interpretation of Scripture, and thus contains many traps
for those who insist that the Holy Spirit would never let them be
misled in their beliefs. The 16th Century reformers Luther and
Calvin strongly objected to this dangerous tendency.

Our Lord commissioned His Apostles to judge in these matters and
to hand that authority down by careful appointment through His
Body, the Church. This is our only way of avoiding the amazing
distortions we witness today in religious affairs.

Let us pray for one another that we will keep our focus on Jesus —
the True and Living Word of God — listening to His message and
meditating on it and thus learning to put into practice His eternal
Wisdom.

 

Shalom!

Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections

 

Luke 20: 27 — 38

Ordinary 32     Year C

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

27    Some Sadducees, 7 those who deny that there is a resurrection,
        came forward and put this question to him,

28    8 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.’

29    Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but
        died childless.

30    Then the second

31    and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless.

32    Finally the woman also died.

33    Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all
        seven had been married to her.”

34    Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry;

35    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.

36    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. 9

37   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;

38    and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are
        alive.”

7 [27] Sadducees: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:7.

8 [28-33] The Sadducees’ question, based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in ⇒ Deut 25:5-10, ridicules the idea of the resurrection. Jesus rejects their naive understanding of the resurrection (⇒ Luke 20:35-36) and then argues on behalf of the resurrection of the dead on the basis of the written law (⇒ Luke 20:37-38) that the Sadducees accept. See also the notes on ⇒ Matthew 22:23-33.

9 [36] Because they are the ones who will rise: literally, “being sons of the resurrection.”

            Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised
edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner.
All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced
in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

Appendix 1

Introduction and Background

St. Luke 20: 27 — 38

According to Jewish ideas, the dead lived on in Sheol, an inert
shadowy existence. At the beginning of the Messianic era they
would rise up from their prison, and come back on earth to
take their places in the kingdom. This new resurrected life
was pictured as continuation of the life they lived before death
(like Lazarus coming back from the dead). At least that was
the general belief of the people, and the teaching of the
Pharisees. The Sadducees ridiculed belief in the resurrection
(Acts 23: 8), and greatly embarrassed the Pharisees by
proposing grotesque situations in the resurrected life; they
regarded this case as unanswerable. They would make this
Messianic pretender look ridiculous; laughter and scorn would
alienate the crowd.

First our Lord patiently corrects their false ideas on the nature
of life after the resurrection: this new birth will make men
immortal. Marriage and reproduction will be unnecessary once
death has been destroyed; they will be totally occupied with
God, as the angels now are (it is from this passage that
chastity is called the angelic virtue). Here our Lord gives only
sufficient to refute the Sadducees; for more detail see
I Corinthians 15: 35 — 49.

Our Lord, never content with merely answering an objection
now gives his adversaries a proof from scripture of the fact
of the resurrection. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been
dead for 500 years when God spoke to Moses. Imagine a God
of corpses and dead bones! These holy men must be living
still. But their present existence in Sheol is only darkness and
gloom
(Job 10: 21 — 22); it could not be called real life. For a
Jew, life meant living on this earth and to do that, the dead
must rise from their graves.

                                                          (From The Gospel Story by R Cox)

 Click here for a printable copy of this Appendix 1

 

Appendix 2

Gross Stupidity

St. Luke 20: 28 — 33

He had put to silence both the High Priest’s emissaries and the
Pharisees’ disciples who had united with the Herodians; and they
would prove Him by themselves, and hoped, of course, by
discomfiture to show the hollowness of the popular belief in the
existence of the unseen universe, particularly in the existence of
souls after death; and, of course, if they could throw doubt upon
the separate existence of the soul, much more upon the union of
that soul to its own glorified and spiritualised body. They imagine
an absurd and, humanly speaking, impossible case, of a woman
who by the Levirate law had seven husbands, who all died before
her and they demanded, “in the resurrection, whose wife should
she be?” Having, as might be expected, only the lowest and
grossest view of the condition of man after death, the Lord first
answers them exposing their short-sighted and miserable
materialism. They had no elevating hopes of the future dignity
and glory of their own race.

                                            From: Commentary On St. Luke by M. F. Sadler.

 Click here for a printable copy of this Appendix 2

[Site Under Construction]