TBLA (1): the first foundational teaching of Jesus

From Matthew 22:

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” 29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[b]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

What does it mean to say that “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”?

I take it to mean that marriage is part and parcel of this world, the fallen world, that it is not an essential part of the life to come. In other words, the implication of this teaching of Jesus is that marriage is not of eternal importance, and this teaching therefore acts as a bulwark against all attempts to make marriage into a totem or idol. It does not mean that marriage is of no importance at all – hardly that – it simply places a marker down against raising it up to be more than it is.

And what is it? Well, one of the key assumptions in this passage (as set out by Countryman) is that marriage is an economic arrangement. In other words, the question being asked by the Sadducees is a question of property law; it is not a question about the nature of the relationship, in a way that a modern ear might expect to hear.

So is it simply as an economic arrangement that marriage does not share in the eternal? I suspect that it is – but working out all the implications of that is what this series of posts is going to be about. After all, we are assured repeatedly that God is love, and that love is eternal – so in so far as marriage partakes of love, then surely it is also something that has implications beyond the resurrection. I suspect that, in so far as we learn to embody the divine love (agape) in our relationships, so too will we be sharing in something which lasts forever.

5 thoughts on “TBLA (1): the first foundational teaching of Jesus

  1. I suggest it has almost nothing to do with anyone’s view of economic arrangements and everything to do with Matthew’s editorial comment (in case people miss the point!) that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.

    They were attempting to prove their point by a reduction ad absurdum: in the resurrection you’d have to be married to seven men: whoa! How mad is that?

    Jesus’ reply includes a joke at their expense: “They will be like the angels”. Sadducees didn’t believe in angels either.

    Hence Jesus finishes with a punchline about the living saints (not economics).

    As to marriage, it is an ‘icon’ of God’s relationship with his people. The end of all things will be the marriage of the Lamb and the descent of the heavenly Jerusalem as a Bride dressed for her husband. But no use casting those pearls before the Sadduceean swine.

  2. I take it to mean that marriage is part and parcel of this world, the fallen world

    The fact that in Genesis it predates the Fall would seem to argue against this idea.

  3. Tim – call me Jesuitical, but why specifically do you think the relationship between Adam and Eve is a marriage? (I’ll cover what Jesus says about it in my next main post) John – I’ll respond to you in a supplementary post; I’m glad you’re here.

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