“God of the Living” – William Tyndale and the Resurrection

eschatology Heaven and Hell Theology / Biblical Studies

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Jesus used God’s relationship to Abraham to argue for the resurrection, not a conscious intermediate state.

In the New Testament in Mark chapter twelve (paralleled in Matthew chapter twenty-two), we read about an encounter between Jesus and some Sadducees. Sadducees, as you may know, were a group of Jews who denied the resurrection of the dead, as well as the existence of spirits (in the sense of departed spirits), angels and demons. This life is all there is, they believed, and when you die, that is the end of you forever.

In this passage the Sadducees were trying to reduce the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead to absurdity by showing that it led to bizarre consequences. What if a woman’s husband died, so she remarried a number of times, with each subsequent husband dying (!!!). At the resurrection of the dead, who would she be married to? Their implied answer was: “Surely not all of them. So the resurrection leads to unacceptable consequences, and you should really just give it up.”

Jesus gave two answers, and I’m going to focus on the second. His first answer was to say that actually at the resurrection of the dead there won’t be any marriage, so the issue won’t even arise. His second answer, however, is an unexpected foray into the Hebrew Scripture in verses twenty-six and twenty-seven:

And 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’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.

For Jesus to draw support for the resurrection from the book of Exodus, then, shows an approach that is happy to meet with opponents on common ground where possible.

What is particularly significant about this quote from Scripture is that Jesus is referring to an account in the book of Exodus. The Sadducees only accepted the authority of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible (often called the five books of Moses). They didn’t accept the other books of the Hebrew Scripture and they didn’t accept the oral traditions and other writings. As far as they could see, the Torah contained no references to the resurrection of the dead (unlike, for example, the book of Daniel), so they didn’t accept it. For Jesus to draw support for the resurrection from the book of Exodus, then, shows an approach that is happy to meet with opponents on common ground where possible.

While the question of the Sadducees, along with Jesus’ answer (“And as for the dead being raised…”) make it clear that the intention of the author was to capture a dispute concerning the resurrection, some have sought to find more here, arguing that actually this passage shows that Jesus believed in a conscious intermediate state of the spirits of the departed. Since God is said to be the God “of the living,” and since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were physically dead when those words were spoken, Jesus must surely have meant that the dead are really alive, conscious in the intermediate state.

If this saying in Exodus indicates that the dead are really alive in the intermediate state, then it offers no support at all for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

However, in addition to being quite absent from this context, since the question of the current state of the dead is not even raised in this passage, and in spite of the clear focus on resurrection, there is a further problem with this attempt to find someone’s doctrine of the intermediate state in this text. The problem is this: If this saying in Exodus indicates that the dead are really alive in the intermediate state, then it offers no support at all for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

If the dead were alive in the intermediate state, then the fact that God is their God and the God of the living could be explained wholly apart from the resurrection of the dead. Imagine the following conversation:

Dualist: Jesus, can you find any support at all for the resurrection of the dead from the Torah? I don’t think there is any, and in fact I doubt the resurrection of the dead altogether!
Jesus: Well, 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’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.
Dualist: But Jesus, of course God is the God of the living – they’re alive right now in heaven! This is a perfectly adequate explanation, so why should I find any support for the further idea of resurrection here?

Now, you might think that you can still salvage an argument for dualism here. After all, the fellow in this conversation is a dualist who believes in a conscious intermediate state, so he would use this comeback and thwart Jesus’ argument. He and Jesus (you might think, as a dualist) agree on dualism, so the argument wouldn’t work here. But even though Jesus knew that dualism is true (again, you might think if you’re a dualist), the Sadducees didn’t know that it was true. Jesus could take advantage of their error about the intermediate state, act as though he did grant it, and still win the argument about resurrection. But this manoeuvre comes at a very heavy price. Jesus is now the politician or used car salesman figure, who intentionally lets people believe that he thinks things that he plainly doesn’t, just if it means he can get them onside and win the argument. I maintain that this attempt to salvage a dualistic argument from this text comes at the cost of undermining the character of the one who made the argument, namely Jesus.

And so when we use this as a proof text for a conscious intermediate state, we steal away Jesus’ argument for the resurrection and make it unsound. This point was not lost on Bible translator and martyr William Tyndale. He got into a dispute with Thomas More, which only served to make him more unpopular, ushering him along to an untimely death. One of the issues they clashed over was the immortality of the soul and the intermediate state. More’s Catholic view was the familiar one; the souls of the dead leave the body after death and move on to their next port of call: Heaven, hell or purgatory. One of the texts that More used to bolster this claim was this saying in Mark’s Gospel: God is not the God of the dead, but the living! Tyndale’s response was a refreshing blend of logic and exegesis:

And when he [More] proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, “If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;” there he stealeth away Christ’s argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that their souls were in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. And with that doctrine he taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ’s argument of none effect.1

The reason Tyndale’s rebuff is so successful is that it not only fits with the context of the biblical text, but it does so with succinct logical force – something that can never be substituted with passion. It’s my view that we need more Christian thinkers like William Tyndale.

Glenn Peoples

Similar Posts:

If you liked this post, feel free to help support this project.

  1. William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (Parker’s 1850 reprint), bk. 4, ch. 4, 118. []
{ 72 comments… add one }
  • Michael January 4, 2012, 6:53 pm

    Dammit stop! LOL, seriously every time I think that I’ve still got a few more nice safe texts about heaven up my sleeve you come along and take it from me! Like taking candy from a baby!

  • Ross January 4, 2012, 8:21 pm

    I don’t quite see how this argument actually addresses or demonstrates the reality of resurrection. (and given the context an interpretation must address it). Jesus’ argument as presented in the Gospel seems to me slightly obscure. Nevertheless the key point seems to be that God’s use of the present tense ‘I am’ indicates that for God Abraham Isaac etc. were not past realities but still in some way present; and that therefore the Sadducee interpretation that life ends irrevocably at the grave was false since for God Abraham and co were still in existence after their deaths.

    Some article I found about this on Google (I searched Mark 12 26-27 commentary, third result) agrees while also making the interesting observation that

    “For the next verse quoted in Mark has a substantial change, a switch in participial number between Mk 12:27 and Deut 5:26. Jesus’ construction is “God of the living (ones),” ???? … ??????, whereas in LXX we read “the voice of God of the living (one),” ????? ???? ??????. Jesus has transformed the participle from the singular to the plural, from referring to God to referring to the patriarchs. That is, Jesus can then make the logical argument, that “God of the living ones” demands that
    the patriarchs be alive at the time of the burning bush some 400 years later.”

    Since the argument seems focused on this idea that Abraham and Isaac were still in existence (in some way) it seems wrong to deny some sort of interstate existence. However in this passage Jesus of course says nothing about what sort of existence Abraham and friends have, it may be that while he envisaged then still in existence they were in a state of ‘sleep’ awaiting their resurrection. Whatever the case somehow or rather Jesus saw the existence of Abraham etc after their deaths as demonstrating their future resurrection.

    Unless of course someone here could provide an interpretation for why God’s use of the I am demonstrates resurrection while not demonstrating interstate existence…

  • Ronnie January 4, 2012, 9:01 pm

    the key point seems to be that God’s use of the present tense ‘I am’ indicates that for God Abraham Isaac etc. were not past realities but still in some way present; and that therefore the Sadducee interpretation that life ends irrevocably at the grave was false since for God Abraham and co were still in existence after their deaths.

    Ross, we don’t need to guess at what Jesus’ key point seems to be; he states it in no uncertain terms as recorded in all three Synoptics:

    Matthew 22:31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God

    Mark 12:26 But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush…

    Luke 20:37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.

    Whether or not you understand how Jesus’ argument demonstrates the resurrection is a bit besides the point, with all due respect.

    Jesus: This is an argument for the resurrection.
    Ross: Someone needs to show me how this is an argument for the resurrection.

  • Glenn January 4, 2012, 9:06 pm

    Ross – it doesn’t decisively demonstrate resurrection or an intermediate state. It could – as I said in this blog post – demonstrate one or the other, but not both. What the passage in Exodus does point to is a future beyond death.

    The Sadducees denied any future beyond death in any form, so this alone poses a problem for them. Jesus’ claim was that this future will take the form of resurrected life. I’ve given a reason for denying that it means that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were in fact alive in the intermediate state. If Jesus claimed that these words will be fulfilled in the resurrection and that they actually point to the resurrection, then they do not also refer to present life in the intermediate state.

    That’s the argument I put together in this post. So you can’t just say that it must refer to an intermediate state. You’d have to show where my argument goes wrong.

    Moreover: ‘Since the argument seems focused on this idea that Abraham and Isaac were still in existence (in some way)’ – that is not the focus. Again, look at the context. The focus is very plainly the resurrection: The Sadducees ask a question about the resurrection of the dead. Jesus gives a description of the resurrection of the dead. He then says, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead” and quotes from Exodus. So the focus is absolutely the resurrection of the dead, and not some other thing that you want to put in its place.

  • Ross January 4, 2012, 9:11 pm

    Ronnie

    Absolutely there is no doubt that the aim of the Jesus’ argument is to demonstrate the resurrection. I never said otherwise. My point is that however Jesus’ argument does in the end do this; it bases itself on the continued existence of the patriarchs after their deaths, which presupposes some sort of intermediate state.

  • Ronnie January 4, 2012, 9:23 pm

    Absolutely there is no doubt that the aim of the Jesus’ argument is to demonstrate the resurrection. I never said otherwise.

    What? Twice you claimed that Jesus’ main point was to demonstrate the current existence of the dead:

    the key point seems to be that God’s use of the present tense ‘I am’ indicates that for God Abraham Isaac etc. were not past realities but still in some way present

    Since the argument seems focused on this idea that Abraham and Isaac were still in existence (in some way)

    Whatever the case, it’s almost as if you didn’t read Glenn’s post, as it was written to address the very questions you’re now asking.

  • Glenn January 4, 2012, 9:54 pm

    “My point is that however Jesus’ argument does in the end do this; it bases itself on the continued existence of the patriarchs after their deaths, which presupposes some sort of intermediate state.”

    The main point of this blog post was to address this claim and to show why it doesn’t work.

  • Ross January 4, 2012, 10:04 pm

    Glenn and Ronnie
    I accept that the use of the term ‘key point’ was rather badly chosen. I meant to say that the key point on which the argument for the resurrection is based is the I am etc, not that that the overall purpose of the argument was anything other than the resurrection. I guess my question is essentially this; how does Jesus’ argument demonstrate the resurrection while seemingly being based on the continued existence of Abraham and friends after their deaths? Merely pointing out that the issue and goal of the argument is the resurrection misses my (perhaps badly expressed) point which was that it seems to be based on this idea of continued existence after death.

    “If Jesus claimed that these words will be fulfilled in the resurrection and that they actually point to the resurrection, then they do not also refer to present life in the intermediate state.” Could not Jesus in some way be arguing from the continued reality of Abraham after death to the resurrection? That is what it seems to me. Arguments while not concluding x may still use x as a premise to conclude something else. No?

    I make no pretence of being anything other than a humble layman in these areas so shoot me down!

  • Glenn January 4, 2012, 10:06 pm

    “while seemingly being based on the continued existence of Abraham and friends after their deaths?”

    It just doesn’t seem that way. Saying that God is the God of the living could be explained in several ways, and this is not the seemingly obvious way. Conscious life after death doesn’t even seem to be a blip on the radar here.

    “Could not Jesus in some way be arguing from the continued reality of Abraham after death to the resurrection?” Well, I gave an specific argument in the blog post for why that is unlikely and probably impossible.

  • colin January 5, 2012, 3:43 am

    This passage seems to imply that Jesus didn’t believe in either the intermediate state, or the physicalist view, but rather that Abraham was at that moment alive, in a way that offered evidence of the bodily resurrection.

  • Eugene January 5, 2012, 7:28 am

    How do you feel about N. T. Wright’s handling of this passage in The Resurrection of the Son of God (pg. 423 ff.)? Wright takes Jesus’s response as basically metonymic: in a dispute with the Sadducees, Jesus endorses the Pharisees’ beliefs regarding the intermediate state and, by implication, because it was sort of a package deal in the popular imagination, they’re belief in the resurrection as well.

  • Ronnie January 5, 2012, 7:57 am

    This passage seems to imply that Jesus didn’t believe in either the intermediate state, or the physicalist view, but rather that Abraham was at that moment alive, in a way that offered evidence of the bodily resurrection.

    /facepalm

  • colin January 5, 2012, 8:04 am

    don’t hurt yourself…

  • Eugene January 5, 2012, 8:24 am

    *they’re=their

  • Cameron W Gilchrist January 5, 2012, 10:27 am

    Wow, why don’t you tell us what you really think, and why. I am so fortunate to have found this blog. Thanks Glenn.

  • Swario January 5, 2012, 1:06 pm

    Thank you Glenn and Ronnie!

  • Joey January 5, 2012, 1:15 pm

    Seriously Glenn?! I was going to put a post about this on my blog either today or tomorrow. I’ve been working on it for days! That’s even why I put that question on my Facebook yesterday.

    So, thanks for stealing my blog post which you clearly could have never seen nor even known I was writing before you wrote this…:P

    Oh well, I still think you have a great post here. And at least we each have unique things to offer. You have the William Tyndale angle. I have the rebuttal to the teaching found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (which says that Jesus proves the immortality of the soul, and since the soul cannot live apart from the body forever, he proved and convinced everyone of the resurrection).

    One thing though: in the paragraph after the hypothetical discussion, when you discuss the idea of Jesus making an argument based on something He didn’t believe to be true, did you mean to write “Pharisees” (as opposed to “Saducees”)?

  • Cal January 5, 2012, 1:51 pm

    Nice job Glenn!

    Though I still think there is biblical support for some sort of consciousness (though weakened and not truly alive until the resurrection of the dead). However, this dispute between Sadducees and Jesus is not among them.

    Also, good link in with brother Tyndale!

    Cheers,
    Cal

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 4:12 pm

    Eugene – I haven’t read that part. But if he’s saying that Jesus is getting to the resurrection via the intermediate state, I’d say there’s a problem – the one I identified in this blog post.

    More generally, I think it’s risky to say that siding with the Pharisees on one thing should be taken to imply siding with them on other things in that way.

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 4:16 pm

    Joey – you’re a terrible liar! Now you’re going to steal my idea! 😉

  • Eugene January 5, 2012, 5:47 pm

    Glenn, I’m not sure. I think that, in your imagined conversation at least, it would only be a problem getting to the resurrection via the intermediate state if Jesus was debating dualists. But he wasn’t; he was debating Sadducees. So if there were only really two popular theories of post-death experience available to Jews (the Pharisees’ view and the Sadducees’ view) and both of those views were “package deals” that incorporated a whole host of subconcepts, it seems reasonable that Jesus could refute the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection by refuting their denial of the intermediate state and thus forcing them to embrace the Pharisees’ alternative conceptual cluster. Such a move might not be logically valid in a strict sense, but little everyday argument argument is.

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 6:19 pm

    “Glenn, I’m not sure. I think that, in your imagined conversation at least, it would only be a problem getting to the resurrection via the intermediate state if Jesus was debating dualists. But he wasn’t; he was debating Sadducees.”

    Well I think that’s where Jesus ends up looking like the politician of used car salesman I referred to: Knowing that the argument doesn’t do the job at all, but trusting that the ignorance/error of the opponents will allow him to win.

    There’s no reason, as I see it, to assume that defending the resurrection in first century Judaism entailed belief in one of the Pharisees’ versions of the intermediate state – or vice versa (which is what you seem to be getting at). For one the way the passage is written just doesn’t lend itself to this logical flow (but this will no doubt depend in part on what the reader expects to find). Jesus says that the dead rise, as we see in this passage here in Exodus. To have Jesus saying, “well we know that the intermediate state is real because of this passage, so it follows that the resurrection is real because you ought to associate the whole Pharisaical outlook as standing or falling together,” does sound like it’s shoe-horned into the passage. But again, what the reader’s looking for may determine whether that is so. But certainly nobody could say simply on exegetical grounds that this is plausible.

    What’s more, combinations of Jewish belief were sufficiently diverse that we can’t assume that people would interpret Jesus as holding to one of the packages because he held part of it. What’s more, this view of Jesus’ assumptions can get us into trouble. We know that Jesus rejected some Pharisaical views, and we can’t assume that just because a specific disagreement isn’t vocalised in the Gospels, it didn’t exist. We know that as a rule Jesus was opposed tot he accumulation of the traditions of men, and if the Pharisaical views on the intermediate state were among those traditions, then we have reason to doubt that Jesus accepted the total package – or at least we are forced to address that question on its independent merits and not as a starting assumption.

  • Eugene January 5, 2012, 7:07 pm

    “Well I think that’s where Jesus ends up looking like the politician of used car salesman I referred to: Knowing that the argument doesn’t do the job at all, but trusting that the ignorance/error of the opponents will allow him to win.”

    That seems too harsh. I’m not implying that Jesus used some calculated deception, merely a clever rhetorical/argumentative device that backfooted opponents whom he sincerely felt were mistaken.

    Don’t we see Jesus doing this all the time in the gospels (e.g. Mark 11:27-33 & John 10:31-36)?

  • Eugene January 5, 2012, 7:16 pm

    Or to maybe make things clearer, let’s look at the passage again, only this time in the Eugene Amplified Version…

    “Then Jesus said, ‘Listen, Saddu-jerks, your whole resistance to the resurrection is predicated on a more general belief that death is the utter end of a human person. But get this, chumps, God himself said “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” You hear that? “I am,” not “I was.” That implies that these stone-cold-brothers are still alive in some meaningful sense even though their bodies are dead. But that means that your bleak ultra-mortalism is wrong. And that means that your objection to the resurrection is baseless. In your face!”

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 8:25 pm

    “your whole resistance to the resurrection is predicated on a more general belief that death is the utter end of a human person. But get this, chumps, God himself said “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” You hear that? “I am,” not “I was.” That implies that these stone-cold-brothers are still alive in some meaningful sense even though their bodies are dead.”

    Well, we already agree that these dead people still have life “in some meaningful sense.” All I’m saying is that in this text before us, the only sense that is actually stated to apply is the sense that they will be resurrected.

    Of course, had the Sadducees gotten a whiff of dualism in Jesus’ argument, they could have snapped back without missing a beat: “Oh come on Jesus, not even YOU think that this requires a resurrection. Don’t you agree with those Pharisees – or at least one version of what they believe – that the souls of the departed are alive in Sheol? What are you trying to pull?”

    I doubt it would have been terribly compelling for Jesus to say “Well, I don’t do things by halves. If I believe in the underworld, I have to believe in resurrection too!”

    I think a much more biblical way of looking at it is this: The Hebrew Scripture pointed to a future hope, and people developed all sorts of theories about the afterlife to account for that hope. There was a variety of weird and wonderful views within Judaism (well, except for the Sadducees), because they had to explain the possibility of future hope somehow. But the biblical fulfilment of that hope is really the resurrection of the dead, and not those other theories. Jesus here connects that biblical hope to resurrection, and in doing so he makes another interpretation of Exodus unwarranted.

    You may find support for dualism. But to claim it in this text will not work.

  • Joey January 5, 2012, 8:33 pm

    Eugene, 2 things can be said here:

    Firstly:
    Neither Mark 11:27-33 nor John 10:31-36 are like what Jesus would be doing according to Glenn. I don’t even see how the Mark passage could be construed that way. John 10:31-36 does appear to be going that direction (since Jesus seems to be kind of backing away from His claims to deity), but this changes if we read one a few Verses. Any attempt that Jesus would have been making to hide His deity with the comparison to the prophets is shattered by His declaration that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. That’s why, in Verse 39, they try to seize Him again.

    In neither case does Jesus make an argument that only works if you assume true something that isn’t true, which is what He would be doing if He were a dualist yet tried to prove the resurrection based on on monist assumptions.

    Secondly:
    Your amplified version of the text still doesn’t explain how Jesus proved the resurrection. If Jesus was indeed making the point that souls of the patriarchs still live on, how would that prove the resurrection? That was the whole point of the hypothetical conversation with the dualist. That was the whole point of the post. If Jesus was saying that the patriarchs are still alive in some sense, then how would the resurrection be necessary for the scripture to be fulfilled? They would be the “living” with or without a resurrection. If it is not necessary given Jesus words, how is it proved?

    Simply disproving the “ultra-monism” of the Sadduccees does not prove the resurrection. A lot of cultures throughout time, including some Pharisees (not the ones Paul refers to in Acts 24) have believed that souls (or at least the souls of some) live on and stay disembodied forever. Existence after death does not equate to resurrection. Why should the Saudducees, based on Jesus’ reasoning, accept the resurrection as opposed to the alternative view (which would be the only thing Jesus would have actually proved)?

    If Jesus simply proved the continuing existence of the soul, all anyone would have to say would be “fine, but that doesn’t prove a resurrection. The soul could that live one could stay that way.” THAT was the whole point of the conversation with the dualist; it wasn’t irrelevant musing on Glenn’s part. Simply saying that Jesus wasn’t debating dualists doesn’t suffice.

    It also needs to be noted that Jesus wasn’t only talking to Sadducees, but also a crowd of people who were astonished with His teachings. There easily could have been some dualists among them.

    The fact that Jesus proving dualism doesn’t prove a resurrection is the big thing that I don’t think anyone is really taking seriously here when trying to defend the idea that Jesus is proving dualism. No one has explained how Jesus can be proving the resurrection in this passage while simultaneously proving the continual life of the soul. Nobody has explained how Jesus could be proving both, and why Glenn is wrong to say that He can only be proving one or the other (and if we have to pick one, how can we not pick the one that it says He proved, being the resurrection?).

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 8:55 pm

    What’s interesting to me is the way some people – and this isn’t necessarily an attempt to get behind Eugene’s comments to see what he really thinks, he may not think this way at all – seem to think that Judaism in the first century was a simple two party system, Pharisees and Sadducees, and if you didn’t support one then it follows that you supported the other. The fact is that Judaism did have those movements, yes, the Pharisees themselves were not monolithic, Judaism also had other movements, but more importantly the general Jewish population didn’t support any of the movements.

    I have no particular reason to think that Jesus identified with the Pharisees more than with the average Joe Jew, except that he was a Jew with a growing consciousness that he was something more, that he was the unique bringer of God’s kingdom. As both a thinker and a doer he transcended both Sadducee and Pharisee, and any effort to shackle him to one of those schools of thought by default is surely a major mistake.

  • Crude January 5, 2012, 9:21 pm

    The problem is this: If this saying in Exodus indicates that the dead are really alive in the intermediate state, then it offers no support at all for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

    But, you do have support for the resurrection of the dead in the part you set aside: Christ’s response regarding marriage, which was the primary thrust the sadduccees were using against the concept of the resurrection. Christ there establishes the resurrection as a future event.

    Also, I think the support for dualism could be made this way: dualists agree a soul can be embodied. The sadduccees, as you noted, aren’t dualists – they deny both a resurrection and any existence after death. But if the soul exists after death, then it seems intuitively obvious that the soul can be united with a body once again – so supporting dualism would support the resurrection at the same time.

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 9:27 pm

    “But, you do have support for the resurrection of the dead in the part you set aside: Christ’s response regarding marriage”

    Yes, but Jesus specifically claimed that this text in Exodus supported the resurrection: “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, … etc”

    So if this text from Moses supports a conscious intermediate state, then it does not, contrary to what Jesus said, support the resurrection.

    And if the soul can be alive and disembodied as you say, then this itself fully explains how Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could be alive now, and so saying that God is the God of the living wouldn’t, when combined with this view on disembodied souls, offer support for the resurrection. It might be “intuitively” compatible with resurrection, sure, but that’s not an argument for resurrection, which is what Jesus used this text as.

  • Crude January 5, 2012, 9:36 pm

    So if this text from Moses supports a conscious intermediate state, then it does not, contrary to what Jesus said, support the resurrection.

    Here’s where I think a big problem is coming in with your further response. You say…

    It might be “intuitively” compatible with resurrection, sure, but that’s not an argument for resurrection, which is what Jesus used this text as.

    The problem I have here is, in your OP, you switched out the sadduccees for dualists to show that a claim of dualism would be no big deal if Christ were talking to dualists. But Christ wasn’t – he was talking to people who denied both the existence of the soul as well as a resurrection. And if establishing dualism would advance the argument for the resurrection (or remove a stumbling block, take your pick), then it really does seem – even if the statement is inconclusive – that an argument for the resurrection was given.

    I don’t think you could say ‘Well, establishing dualism wouldn’t lead anyone to regard a resurrection as more likely’ very easily.

    BTW, I’ve lurked on and off here for a while – pleasant site, and a joy to read even when I disagree.

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 10:09 pm

    “And if establishing dualism ”

    Establishing something that’s not even mentioned here?

    Besides, I have articulated an argument that if this does establish dualism, then it does not establish resurrection, since dualism itself would satisfy the demand of God being the God of the living. Indeed, that was the point of this blog entry, and nobody, as far as I can tell, has shown that this is not the case.

    And I have outlined why I think it’s problematic to say that if we take the dualists out of my hypothetical and put in the ignorant Sadducees, things get better for dualism. I did this in the original blog post actually, but I did it again, slightly differently, in comment 25, paragraphs 3 and 4. So that reply can’t just be put out there until those two responses are adequately addressed.

  • Joey January 5, 2012, 10:18 pm

    One could say that establishing some sort of port-mortem existence could make the resurrection more likely, but we must remember that Jesus is not building a cumulative case for his 21st century reader. He was arguing to a hostile group of Sadducees, and shut them up with one single statement.

    It doesn’t matter even if dualism makes believing in a resurrection easier; making it more likely would not be sufficient. Jesus was arguing against a very hostile audience, specifically about the resurrection (not just the afterlife, but specifically, the resurrection). If He didn’t conclusively prove the resurrection (or at least, to the point where they had no response), He wouldn’t have, as Verse 34 put it, “silenced the Saduccees,” or left the audience of unsaid persuasion (presumably pharisaic) “astonished” (Verse 33).

    The way His allusion to one single passage of scripture was understood by the Sadducees, it definitely shut down arguments against the resurrection, which simply demonstrating that souls live on would not do (for the reasons that Glenn has explained without any successful rebuttal).

  • Crude January 5, 2012, 10:54 pm

    Establishing something that’s not even mentioned here?

    Well, it’s mentioned if what Christ meant by the exchange was what I’m saying, which is what’s being discussed.

    Besides, I have articulated an argument that if this does establish dualism, then it does not establish resurrection,

    It doesn’t establish it conclusively, but it does establish (if the dualists are right in their reading) something else the Sadduccees oppose strongly, and which provides a strong opening to the resurrection on its own. Christ’s response about marriage doesn’t establish the resurrection either, but it does defuse an objection.

    I did this in the original blog post actually, but I did it again, slightly differently, in comment 25, paragraphs 3 and 4. So that reply can’t just be put out there until those two responses are adequately addressed.

    I think they’re being addressed here. Adequately? Well, you don’t seem convinced, but I don’t think I’m ignoring the point. I’m addressing why an argument for dualism could be taken as an argument for the resurrection, particularly given the context of who Christ was addressing. I don’t think saying ‘Well, if Christ were talking to a completely different group of people, then this response wouldn’t work’ works well – He spoke with who He spoke with, on their terms. And I don’t think arguing that if we take Christ as giving a dualistic meaning, that this is not a shutdown to the Sadducees – you yourself noted that they denied dualism as well as the resurrection. If the dualism interpretation is right, then the Sadduccees are dead wrong (ha ha), and a reason to believe in the resurrection is given – it’s not 100% conclusive in an airtight logical way, but I fail to see why it needs to be.

    I’ll try to respond later – it’s late here, and I’m trying to argue in comboxes less nowadays. I made an exception here because I like your style, thoughts and civility, and I haven’t been disappointed there so far. In the end I suspect we’ll just disagree on this point anyway – not the end of the world for me.

  • Crude January 5, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Er, respond to the inevitable responses to what I just wrote, that is. G’night for now.

  • Glenn January 5, 2012, 11:00 pm

    It doesn’t establish it conclusively, but it does establish (if the dualists are right in their reading) something else the Sadduccees oppose strongly, and which provides a strong opening to the resurrection on its own. Christ’s response about marriage doesn’t establish the resurrection either, but it does defuse an objection.

    No, I don’t just mean that if the dualists are right then the passage doesn’t demonstrate the resurrection conclusively, but might still offer support for it.

    What I have said – and I gave an argument for this – is that if the reference to “God of the living” is really about the intermediate state, then it offers no support for the resurrection, since “God of the living” now requires no further circumstances to make it true beyond disembodied life. If disembodied life – or anything other than resurrection – might fit the bill, then the whole reason that this text in Exodus might support the resurrection evaporates.

  • Kenneth January 5, 2012, 11:09 pm

    Eugene: The Sadducees did not believe in future salvation beyond this life. The Pharisees did. But as part of their doctrine of salvation, the Pharisees had a strong determinism built into their theology.

    Since Jesus taught future salvation beyond this life, he sided with the Pharisees. But let’s employ this metonymy, or “package deal” approach. Since Jesus took sides with the Pharisees on one important aspect of salvation, he was buying into the package over against a Sadducee’s view. Ergo he was a determinist.

    Can we do this? Or are we only allowed to do it when it comes to dualism?

  • Cal January 6, 2012, 1:43 am

    Maybe this will help:

    Look at the first chapter of Revelation, Jesus refers to Himself, “I am the Living ONE; I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever and ever” (1:18)

    When Jesus was buried in the tomb, He was counted dead. Despite conscious aware, it would be conscious awareness of the dead, not the living. Therefore if God says He is a God of the Living, it must be something other than the intermediate state: which is none other than the Resurrection of the dead.

  • Cal January 6, 2012, 1:45 am

    My shorthand should read, “Despite if you believe in post-mortem conscious awareness”

    Should finish my first cup of coffee before posting 🙂

  • Eugene January 6, 2012, 5:08 am

    Kenneth, I don’t want to drag this out and get all worked up and testy; I enjoy this blog too much to make myself a pariah. I think that N. T. Wright’s handling of the passage in his book I’ve link to is persuasive. His 3 or 4 pages will make the arguement better than a paragraph or two on my part. I encourage you to read it.

    Still, I’ll respond just this once more.

    Sure, we have to be careful about assuming that Jesus embraced the whole of the Pharisees’ post-mortem conceptual-cluster over against the Sadduccees. But while we should be careful, I think we’re mostly on safe ground. I’m arguing that the intermediate state and the resurrection were mostly a package deal for the Pharisees. Similarly, for the Sadducees, the rejection of the intermediate state and the resurrection was likewise a package deal. (While there may have been some exceptions in both cases, I’m under the impression that this was at least generally true.)

    Now we have at least one example from the New Testament of someone, Paul in this case, playing the Pharisees off the Sadducees as if they were competeing members of a “two party system” (Acts 23:6-9). Similarly, Matthew’s gospel at least also seems to concieve of the Pharisees and the Sadducees as members of a two party system: Matthew 3:7, 16:1, 22:34.

    It’s against this backdrop then that I think Jesus offered his response to the Sadducees which played off this theological bifurcation in a clever metonymic way. Basically, “When it comes to life after dead, either the Sadducees are right, or the Pharisees are right. Given God’s words to Moses concerning the current state of the dead the Sadducees are clearly wrong, therefore the Pharisees are right, therefore the resurrection is real.”

    I don’t think this makes Jesus a used car salesmans, it makes him a persuasive communicator in his native social and religious context. Similarly, I don’t think that this entails that Jesus was a determinist, but as many people in the Christian faith (including Glenn) lean that way anyway, I don’t see how that would be a reductio ad absurdam you seem to think that it is.

  • colin January 6, 2012, 5:53 am

    If I were trying to get someone who doesn’t believe in electricity to believe in the US power grid, I might start by showing them a battery. It doesn’t prove the former (and you could argue that it could weaken the case for the former) but it gets the person one step closer to believing.

    Similarly, Jesus’ argument for the resurrection was to open the eyes of these people to the fact that there is evidence for any life after death at all. To a person who doesn’t believe in any forms of life after death, evidence of one form is (informally) evidence of the (closely related) other.

  • Joey January 6, 2012, 9:30 am

    Even if Jesus was using complex rhetorical manuevers (which He does do at times) to say that He sided with the Pharisees in all of their beliefs, this isn’t just about what Jesus believed.

    Not only did He state His belief (which is obviously going to be accurate, whatever it is), He gave an argument that convinced the Sadducees that they were wrong about the resurrection. Not that they were wrong just about the afterlife, but the resurrection.

    Even if Jesus was rhetorically saying that the Pharisees were right about eschatology by affirming them on one thing, that alone wouldn’t convince the Sadducees that the Pharisees were right about all things.

    Remember, He’s not talking to Christians; they even thought they could disprove His teachings. Even if He is saying that He believes a certain thing, that would be meaningless to them. They didn’t like Him. Anything He couldn’t prove to them they would not acknowledge. And NOBODY has explained how proving the continued existence of the soul actually PROVES the resurrection. Do we really think an audience as anti-Jesus as the Sadducees would let Him overturn every aspect of their eschatology when he only logically disproved part of it?

    Remember, the Sadducees weren’t the theological bastards of the Jewish world like how we think of them (due to their bad theology and lack of influence in the Gospels). They were the top tier in Israel! They were a higher class than the Pharisees. They held the most seats on the Sanhedrin. They were expert thinkers and debaters. They wouldn’t miss the flaw in Jesus’ argument FOR THE RESURRECTION (if He was making the argument for dualism, and not specifically for the resurrection).

    If, however, it is as Glenn says, then Jesus proved the resurrection to them, and they would have no rebuttal (which is exactly what the scripture says happened).

  • colin January 6, 2012, 10:08 am

    Glenn, is it correct that you believe that, at the moment that God was talking to Moses in the burning bush, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead (as opposed to living)?

  • Eugene January 6, 2012, 10:40 am

    PS- Glenn, I don’t at all mind if someone tries to “get behind” my comment. That is, after all precisely what I’m doing with Jesus’ comment here.

    And, yes, my/Wright’s reconstruction does presuppose that religiously serious Judaism in Jesus’ day was at least largely a “two party system”. But I’m hardly off on some ignorant fringe by holding that general view…

    “American political life organizes and channels social conflict. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic party defines the American political philosophy of the whole twentieth century, but certainly the two-party system is the norm of American political life. In first century Israel, the sharing of power between Pharisees and Sadducees served a similar purpose.”

    Alan F. Segal, Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard University Press: 1989) pg. 59

  • Cal January 6, 2012, 11:48 am

    Colin:

    The point is that the Sadducee believed there was nothing after death, therefore Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were gone for good, no coming back. God is no longer their God as they do not exist anymore and never will exist. However, if there is a resurrection of the dead in the future, they will live once more so God will still be their God. That’s what Glenn is saying I believe.

  • colin January 6, 2012, 12:20 pm

    Cal

    Sounds like a bit of a stretch

    Jesus specifically made a distinction between dead and living, not dead and mostly dead, not dead and dead with the possibility of resurrection.

    God didn’t say “I will be the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”

  • Cal January 6, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Read my above comment about Revelation.

    Jesus says He was dead and now alive forevermore, so if He was conscious in death (which I think He was as are all the dead, though in a diminished, shadow,dream-like way) that was still dead.

    I agree with Wright on this issue but I don’t think this is a passage that teaches it.

  • colin January 6, 2012, 1:13 pm

    OK, so you do believe in a conscious intermediate state.

    In that case, I doubt that your views match what Glenn is saying, as he’s a physicalist (right Glenn?)

    Also it does seem odd to use the term ‘dead’ to refer to something that is conscious.

    When Jesus used the word in this passage, wouldn’t he have been using it the way the sadducees used it?

  • Cal January 6, 2012, 4:04 pm

    My view doesn’t match Glenn’s, but I agree with his understanding of what going on in this scene (which is what I thought what we were discussing (!)).

    My view is that in death there is some retainment of consciousness, some immaterial aspect of the mind that is aware but not fully in a realm of the dead. Something like dreaming. It has mainly to do with: Jesus preaching in the grave (1 Peter), Paul’s references to ‘sleep’ and ‘being with the Lord’ as the condition of the fallen Christians and the summoning of Samuel’s shade by Saul (All of which Glenn has probably a different interpretation).

    I don’t think this shadow state, as conceived of by some of the Pharisees, as really being alive. I’m sure the Sadducees knew well enough about the story Saul, the witch of Endor and Samuel’s shade but I don’t think they’d say that’s being alive. In fact the Sadducee’s problem was the absurdity of the Resurrection in marriage. I doubt these shades of the dead are wondering about marriage,

  • Glenn January 6, 2012, 4:23 pm

    “And, yes, my/Wright’s reconstruction does presuppose that religiously serious Judaism in Jesus’ day was at least largely a “two party system”. But I’m hardly off on some ignorant fringe by holding that general view…”

    Eugene, I wish I could remember where I heard Wright emphatically point out that most normal Jews were not “party” supporters at all, and both Pharisees and Sadducees were largely irrelevant to them – and this is not just the irreligious, this was everyday believing, worshipping Jews.

  • Glenn January 6, 2012, 4:30 pm

    Eugene: “I’m arguing that the intermediate state and the resurrection were mostly a package deal for the Pharisees.”

    Well, I don’t think this gets away from Kenneth’s counterexample. Salvation beyond death and determinism, if both held by the Pharisees, would have been closely connected to them as well.

    I think the “package deal” argument here is a very hard sell. It may have been that a very large number of beliefs were part of the Pharisaical “package,” just as a very large number of beliefs fit into the “Lutheran” package. I see no clear warrant for assuming that if Jesus bought into one belief that the Pharisees counted as part of their package, he bought into the others that they count as part of that package.

    So far the only thing I have seen in favour of this is the suggestion that it may be so. On the other hand, without pre-judging the matter I see some well grounded reasons for thinking that Jesus’ use of this text to argue for the resurrection makes it very hard to find support for the underworld/intermediate state in the passage. But I do also note Jesus’ general disdain for adding traditions to Scripture, and Paul’s own disdain for what he called Jewish fables. I only throw that in because this disdain may be in part a reaction to Paul’s former life as a Pharisee.

    Don’t be offended if my responses start to wane – these things can potentially go on forever as I’m sure you know.

  • colin January 7, 2012, 3:31 am

    any thoughts on post 42 glenn?

  • Glenn January 7, 2012, 6:09 pm

    Colin, I just read comment 42.

    I guess the question is “in what sense”? Yes they were dead in the sense that they were not partaking in actual life right at that moment, and in fact they were buried in the ground.

    But their lives were not over, as they had a future (because of the resurrection).

  • Eugene January 7, 2012, 8:31 pm

    Glenn, I’m curious to know what you think of John Polkinghorne’s view on the matter of life after death. Polkinghorne embraces a physicalist anthropology, strongly emphasizes the resurrection, but still affirms a sort of intermediate state in which a person is a shadow of one’s self, mere (semi?)conscious information in the mind of God.

  • Glenn January 7, 2012, 10:25 pm

    Eugene, I haven’t read much about Polkinghorne’s view, admittedly – but if I understand him, he thinks the person really does die completely, and is in need of resurrection in order to have any further personal future as an individual. He believes that God does something like store the blueprints of us in the meantime – he calls them “patterns of human persons.” God then uses those patterns to make us again at the resurrection. So this is compatible with my view that dead people are not alive at all other than as remembrances in the mind of God.

    There are much stranger views within Physicalism. Peter Van Inwagen and Kevin Corcoran are examples of Christians who are physicalists, and yet who believe in a physical intermediate state. I say something about this in part four of my podcast series In Search of the Soul.

    The reality is – I don’t presume to know how God connects our physical lives here and now with our physical lives in the resurrection. It’s the kind of thing God would have to reveal, and I just don’t think he has. It’s comforting to know, however, that philosophers much better than I have come up with some possibilities.

  • colin January 8, 2012, 6:23 pm

    “I guess the question is “in what sense”?”
    Well I guess I would defer to the sense that those words are used elsewhere. It just seems to me like you have an uphill battle to reconcile your beliefs with Jesus’ apparent declaration that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were living at the time that God declared himself to be their God. If their status was ‘dead, but with the possibility of resurrection’ then doesn’t that describe anyone really? And it severely weakens Jesus argument to the Saducees (more severely than by introducing a notion of an intermediate state)

  • Glenn January 8, 2012, 7:34 pm

    “Well I guess I would defer to the sense that those words are used elsewhere.”

    But clearly you don’t so defer. After all, elsewhere the word “living” normally means that a person hasn’t died yet. But clearly neither of us reads this passage that way. We both understand that the word is used here in some cryptic sense, because Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were – in the normal sense – dead. So I try to let the immediate context guide my interpretation, and in this immediate context, the only explanation that Jesus offers is that they will rise.

    If Jesus meant that they were “dead, but their life isn’t over because they will rise,” then clearly Jesus’ argument is not weakened but strengthened. Remember: The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so for God’s words to mean this would devastate their position.

  • colin January 9, 2012, 7:42 am

    After all, elsewhere the word “living” normally means that a person hasn’t died yet.

    Not fair. For example, Lazarus was living, then he was dead, then he was living again.

    I think the word was used in a fairly plain, non cryptic sense, to say that these folks weren’t as dead as the saducees and the pysicalists think they were. You can’t accept that so you’re changing what Jesus is saying.

  • Cal January 9, 2012, 8:42 am

    The issue is what is “Living” and what is “Dead”

    The Scriptures teach is the “Resurrection of the Dead”; conscious or not, those who’ve died are dead.

    I think you’re adding unnecessary layers of being dead. No one but a Hellenist would try and argue that the dead aren’t really dead. The issue was Resurrection and this was what Jesus was weighing in on.

  • colin January 9, 2012, 4:40 pm

    Cal, I only assume you’re talking to Glenn, because I completely agree.

  • Glenn January 9, 2012, 5:58 pm

    “Not fair. For example, Lazarus was living, then he was dead, then he was living again.”

    Colin, no, that seems fair enough. Lazarus did die, then he was not living anymore because he had died. And then he rose again. I assume we share the common ground that resurrection reverses a person’s death.

    So I really do think that when you see God saying “God of the living,” if you think that refers to an intermediate state then you’re not taking that word in its normal sense. You can’t be, because normally the distinction between living and dead is the distinction between people walking and breathing, and those in the ground.

    I think you’ve unintentionally acknowledged this now, in the following way: You said, without thinking twice, that “Lazarus was living, then he was dead, then he was living again.” So while he was dead, by your own lights, he was not living! Have a look at what you said naturally, instinctively, without trying to place special meanings on those words. You said in a normal, straightforward way that you agree with me that in normal usage, “living” is what Lazarus was doing while walking around prior to his death and after his resurrection, but not during the in between time. And using your method of just taking words to mean what they normally mean, you surely can’t think that God meant that Abraham was alive in this sense during Moses’ lifetime. So you would have to suddenly change tack and take the word “living” to mean something else (which you say you don’t want to do), or else you’d have to think that maybe he meant that they will live (in the normal sense) in the future – which is what I think.

    Please don’t let unnecessary hostility enter this discussion by talking about me not wanting to let Jesus’ words mean what it looks like they mean. Let’s focus on the text and its logical implications, not one another’s motives.

    The only connection Jesus makes with the fact that the patriarchs are living is that they will be physically alive again (Cal was talking to you, colin).

    Besides which, colin, none of this overcomes the logical objection I raised in this blog entry. If God’s words to Moses offer evidence for the resurrection, then God can’t have thought that people are living in the intermediate state – otherwise Jesus’ argument for the resurrection here collapses.

  • Joey January 9, 2012, 6:03 pm

    Calling those who are dead but guaranteed to live again for eternity “the living” is not out of line with how those through whom the word of God came (including Jesus, the Word of God) speak of the future age.

    Jesus Himself even says that whoever believes HAS eternal life (John 6:47). And yet, the Bible, in many places, including from Jesus’ mouth, says that eternal life is something to come (Matthew 25:46, Luke 18:30). Also, if knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3), what of the fact that we do not fully know God, even as believers, and only will in the future (1 Corinthians 13:12). Was Jesus wrong? Or, was He saying that as soon as you believe, your inheritance of eternal life is guaranteed?

    Consider Romans 8:30; “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” They had already been glorified? In what way? Their bodies were “dead” (Verse 10) They were facing only increasing persecution and shame in public. They were still awaiting the day that God would give life to their mortal bodies (Verse 11; cf. 1 Corinthians 15), and you don’t even need to the Bible to tell you that they, like us, are in many ways not glorified. And yet, God had already “glorified” them. The verb is in the aorist tense; it means just what the English suggests, that this was a completed, past action. God glorified them, it literally says. They had been glorified. Yet how have they actually been glorified?

    Is Paul wrong then? Does it somehow refer to some earthly glorification that would be pretty much invisible to anybody? Or, is it speaking of the fact that Jesus has already died and been resurrected, and that their glorification is therefore as good as done?

    Has Jesus really abolished death (2 Timothy 1:10)? Didn’t Paul, in that same letter, even speak of his imminent death (4:6-8)? And obviously death in every sense still came to unbelievers and has been coming, with full force, ever since. Death hasn’t been abolished, destroyed, rendered powerless, or anything of the like. Even the Bible says elsewhere that it will be the last enemy to be destroyed, in the future…(1 Corinthians 15:26; same Greek word for “abolish”). Yet the Bible isn’t wrong; by dying and rising again, Jesus secured the end of death forever; it hasn’t happened yet, but it is a sure thing.

    Remember how I briefly mentioned Romans 8:10? It says that the bodies of those Paul who was writing to were dead. Really? Was he writing to a bunch of ghosts? Was he writing to corpses? Or, was he saying that their bodies will die, and that that is unavoidable (thus their hope is in God bringing them to life, both “spiritually” and in the resurrection)?

    Were the bodies of the Roman readers dead at the time? That’s what it literally says. Had death really been destroyed/abolished/rendered powerless back then? That’s what it literally says (even though common sense and the Bible itself disagrees). Have we been glorified already? I sure hope not, but that’s what it literally says…

    If our bodies can be dead, and death considered destroyed (despite its obvious continuance), and if we have eternal life (despite the fact that that is a future inheritance), all because those things are guaranteed to come true, then why could those who are dead but awaiting a guaranteed resurrection not be said to be “the living”?

    If that is what was meant, then Jesus proved the resurrection to his hostile, non-Christian audience (the resurrection which He was explicitly trying to prove to them). If not, it may allow the reference to them being among the “living” to be more literal and thus more satisfying to some, but then it still fails to prove a resurrection (it only would prove that souls live on after death, which is not the same thing).

  • Glenn January 9, 2012, 6:11 pm

    Calling those who are dead but guaranteed to live again for eternity “the living” is not out of line with how those through whom the word of God came (including Jesus, the Word of God) speak of the future age.

    That’s very true, Joey. In fact the Bible speaks of idolaters in the same way, speaking of their future as though it were already present. In psalm 15:8, after saying that idols cannot speak or hear etc, the writer says “They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.” it is literally written in the present tense. However, as most interpreters grant, it means that those who worship idols will become like them: dead.

    Speaking of future, guaranteed states of affairs as being already present is not strange in Scripture. Speaking of God’s promises, Paul says in Romans 4:17 that God “calls those things which are not as though they were.”

    So it should not be strange at all to think that God would call the patriarchs “living” if their eternal life is guaranteed through the resurrection – which is how Jesus applied these words.

  • Glenn January 9, 2012, 7:01 pm

    This post and the ensuing discussion just reminds me again – You really never know in advance which posts people will take an interest in! I didn’t expect this one to get much attention at all.

  • colin January 10, 2012, 8:48 am

    “if you think that refers to an intermediate state then you’re not taking that word in its normal sense.”
    Agreed, though it could be referring to a post-resurrection state.

    “You can’t be, because normally the distinction between living and dead is the distinction between people walking and breathing, and those in the ground.”
    Of course it is possible to be living without walking or breathing though.

    “So while he was dead, by your own lights, he was not living”
    Agreed.

    ““living” is what Lazarus was doing while walking around prior to his death and after his resurrection, but not during the in between time.”
    Right, of course we can’t take Lazarus’ experience as normative of the nature of the resurrection offerd to the saints.

    “you surely can’t think that God meant that Abraham was alive in this sense during Moses’ lifetime.”
    Couldn’t I?

    “Please don’t let unnecessary hostility enter this discussion by talking about me not wanting to let Jesus’ words mean what it looks like they mean.”
    You’re right. My apologies.

    “The only connection Jesus makes with the fact that the patriarchs are living is that they will be physically alive again”
    He said that they were living. ‘Physically’ and ‘will be’ are yours.

    “Besides which, colin, none of this overcomes the logical objection I raised in this blog entry.”
    Agreed.

    Here’s a genuine question, does Greek and/or Hebrew have a future tense? I’ve always assumed that it did, and that if Jesus had meant ‘those who were dead but would some day be living’ then he would have said so.

    With respect to the many examples given, of:
    believers having/will have eternal life
    idolaters being/will be dead/incapable of perception
    saints being/will be glorified
    death being/will be abolished
    … I’ve always thought that these things are described both ways precisely because they have a sense in which they’re already true, and a sense in which they’re not yet true. I don’t think the same could be said about abraham if he was completely dead.

    “but then it still fails to prove a resurrection (it only would prove that souls live on after death, which is not the same thing).”
    Or that the resurrection of Abraham occurred earlier than expected? Or that from God’s perspective it had already occurred?

    “Speaking of God’s promises, Paul says in Romans 4:17 that God “calls those things which are not as though they were.””
    Right, it seems to me that God does this not to confuse us, but because he has a different perception of time.

    “So it should not be strange at all to think that God would call the patriarchs “living” if their eternal life is guaranteed through the resurrection – which is how Jesus applied these words.”
    It would be less strange for him to call them ‘living’ if they were already resurrected, and this would provide even better support for the argument he was making.

  • Joey January 10, 2012, 11:23 am

    “Or that the resurrection of Abraham occurred earlier than expected? Or that from God’s perspective it had already occurred?”

    There’s no way the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob happened early, if by resurrection we mean…the resurrection. He certainly could not have been made perfect (i.e. all the stuff that happens at the resurrection cf. 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 3:20-21), because we are told in Hebrews: “And all these [including Abraham], having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40). When God said those things in Exodus, the “us” in Hebrews would not even exist for over 1,000 years. How, then, could Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been made perfect prior to the events of Exodus (when God said those things)? And if not made perfect, were they just walking around in mortal bodies (that were somehow still alive when Jesus said those things), having been resurrected sort of, but not in the way believers will in the future? If those three are walking around somewhere in imperfect bodies (like ours), isn’t that kind of a big deal, something worth mentioning?

    As for the resurrection already having happened from God’s perspective, how would that work? They haven’t actually been resurrected as of now or then in the sense that they were talking about (in terms of “the resurrection”). How could they have been resurrected from God’s persprective (in a way that would be relevant to the Saduccees)? Would it be that their future resurrections would be, to God, who knows the future, the same as if it was a present reality? That actually would make sense…

  • colin January 10, 2012, 12:58 pm

    Hi Joey
    I’m glad you have it all figured out to the degree that you know the things that are impossible for God. Remember, God calls those things that are not as if they were, so God might act as if the readers of Hebrews existed before they did. Right?

    In quantum mechanics the same two events can be observed to occur in different orders to two different observers.

    “As for the resurrection already having happened from God’s perspective, how would that work?”
    If I can’t (or don’t) tell you exactly how that would work, does that make it less likely?

    “Would it be that their future resurrections would be, to God, who knows the future, the same as if it was a present reality? That actually would make sense”
    Sure, that might be one way of looking at it, but if it makes sense to us mortals, then it probably isn’t the whole story.

    The point is, that there’s a plainer interpretation of this passage that has the one simple drawback that it’s ‘impossible’. And on that technicality you throw it out and reach for an interpretation that relies on fiddling with the meaning of the words.

  • Joey January 10, 2012, 5:11 pm

    Okay then?

  • Liz February 18, 2014, 6:43 am

    Hello Glenn I love how you handle the debate and how you dig deep into what Jesus said instead of skimming over like the majority does. I wanted to add something which is what God himself said in the very beginning that if Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate if the tree of good and evil they would surely die. Genesis 3:19 says dust you are and to dust you shall return. This is because of disobedience and lack of love for their creator. What’s interesting in the beginning he neither said to our first parents or to Cain himself who followed his flesh that they were going to some other “region” to burn or be conscious? The only warning in the very beginning was death- that’s the punishment, no eternal life simple as that! Because of Jesus righteous blood he gave mankind hope for a further resurrection and everlasting life! Otherwise what was the whole point of his death if we are already rewarded with heaven or he’ll?

  • CL February 26, 2014, 12:09 am

    I need to re-read this. I never thought that this text was such a strong positive argument for bodily resurrection. Wow!

  • Richard June 2, 2015, 10:14 pm

    Well, I haven’t read any of the comments, but

    > Jesus is now the politician or used car salesman figure, who intentionally lets people believe that he thinks things that he plainly doesn’t, just if it means he can

    John 2:19-21

  • elaine March 23, 2016, 3:46 am

    Hi Glenn…This scripture has the mind of Christ and all of His understanding well and truly atttached to it…

    …For me Glenn when Jesus says “for they are all living to Him” doesn’t mean that they are all ALIVE ANIMATED BEINGS but that TO HIM, they ARE LIVING…and HOW are they all living to Him…remembering that there is a body that will some day (soon I hope) be reserrected and we will be raised immortal, imperishable and incoruptable. With all this in mind can I use an analogy of a DVD player…God Himself is the electricity, the source of power plugged in….. the DVD player would be the body….. the disk the soul and the contents on the disc, either good or bad would be the spirit within a person (belonging to Christ if the disc is a “good contents” disc and not belonging to Christ if its a “bad contents” disc, thats born again as opposed to not) and the playing of the DVD on the TV screen, would be the living out of my life as an alive animated human being.
    Now when we die or rather the plug has been pulled and the power cut off (God the source), the DVD player ceases to function there is no life in the player (death of a person)…it cannot play DVD’s, pleasant or violent, therefore cannot play the disc, does that mean though that the disc no longer has the contents on it, no, the contents of the disc remain, it is still living (living to the contents) just because there is no DVD player to play it on..do the contents have no effect, cease to be, no again, but in the hands of the one having the ability to once again plug and power the DVD player, the DVD is still perfectly ok, the DVD only has effect when placed in the DVD player and once again played. So for me even though I have the power cut off (God the source of life), my body being the DVD player…. the DVD being my soul, still has all the contents on it (the contents being my spirit ie: thoughts, intentions, reasonings, beleif in God, love of God, desire to be Christlike, born again..ect) and it goes back to the hands of the source. When I am reserrected in my new glorious body (the DVD player), God will once again place within me my disc, that to Him was always living, not alive, but living with all the information still on it ready to be played once again, then I will be powered (source God) in my new body (DVD player) with the disc (my soul) playing a wonderful film (my spirit made perfect) out in my everlasting life (which is like the tv displaying the moving disc) I do not believe that when i die I am aware of anything at all, but God has me living, for with Him is the source of life, somewhere in His DVD rack waiting to make ALIVE ( the one that to Him was always living, me) that child that Christ Jesus died for. I will wait in the grave for the time when Christ comes and I will rise to meet Him in the air, then I will be aware of everything….and as Jesus said “Father into your hands I entrust my spirit” all that makes me me and your power to bring me to life once again.
    Believeing that I am aware of all things in heaven directly I (what is the I) die, opens up all sorts of cans of worms like Do I (again what is the I) really then die at all? and if I ( me as a thinking aware being) dont die did Christ die for me or was it only a body that did. what about judgement if im in heaven already….see what I mean!
    Thanks Glenn

Leave a Comment

Remember: All comments should conform to the blog policy and you must use your real name. Comments that do not conform may be removed in whole or in part. You can review the blog policy here.

 Characters remaining