Life after death, as the Sadducees saw it.

Commenter mikespeir has a question about my claim that the Sadducees already believed in life after death.

Why do you say that? I realize we don’t have a lot to go on, but I thought it was pretty well established that the Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death.

I was only able to give a cursory reply in the comments, and indeed my early research did more to raise my own doubts than to confirm my initial statement (hence the edit to my original post). Now that I’ve looked into it a bit more, though, I’m a bit more confident in my initial assessment, and so I thought I’d take some time to share my findings.

One of the first sources I found online (for easier sharing) was the book Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society, by Anthony Saldarini. Saldarini says,

The testimony of all the sources that the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, afterlife and judgment fits the other things we know about them and is historically reliable and convincing. The Sadducees’ belief is the traditional Biblical view; ideas of resurrection, immortality and afterlife entered Judaism in the second century B. C. E. and only gradually dominated Judaism over the next four or five centuries. [footnote: See George W. E. Nicklesburg, Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism (HThSt 26; Cambridge: HUP, 1972). Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1, from about 200 C. E. still has a stricture against those who deny resurrection of the dead; later talmudic comments on this passage speak not of those who deny resurrection of the dead, but who deny that it can be proved from Scripture.]

This is clearly not fundamentalist Christian propaganda, since it alludes to new doctrines being introduced into Judaism in the second century BC (and used the secular “BCE” instead of the Christian “BC”). If this is the case, and “the testimony of all the sources” says that the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife, then it certainly sounds like my initial claim was wrong. But let’s keep digging.

One site I visited brought up an important point about our sources of information regarding the Sadducees.

The most reliable information about the Sadducees is found in three bodies of ancient literature: the writings of Flavius Josephus…; the NT, particularly the Synoptic Gospels and Acts…; and the rabbinic compilations… Two observations about these sources should be made. First, with the possible exception of Josephus’ War, all these sources are decidedly hostile towards the Sadducees. Second, many of the rabbinic references, especially those found in the Talmud and later works, are of doubtful historical reliability. Thus, our knowledge of the Sadducees is perforce severely limited and one-sided.

In other words, all of the reports we have today about Sadducean beliefs were written by people who wanted to discredit those beliefs. A similar example from modern culture might be the way the pro-life movement habitually refers to their opponents, not as “pro-choice”, but as “pro-abortion.” Or if you prefer, you could use the example of pro-choice supporters referring to pro-lifers as “anti-abortion,” though of course that’s a bit less of a distortion.

The point is, belief in life after death is one of the most ancient and pervasive beliefs that the human species (and possibly some near-human species) have ever possessed. If the Pharisees could plausibly accuse the Sadducees of denying one of the most fundamental and widespread of human religious beliefs, it would create a significant popular prejudice against them. Considering that the Pharisees settled their theological debate with Jesus by having him put to death, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that they might indulge in a little old-fashioned politicking as a means to achieving their ends. But could they get away with it?

In fact, it’s not all that difficult. All you need to do is create a definition of “afterlife” that’s different from what the Sadducees believe, get them to agree that they don’t accept that definition, and hey-ho, you can now claim that they don’t believe in the afterlife. If they say, “Yes we do, we believe in X,” you can reply, “Well, X is not the real afterlife, so you still don’t believe in the real afterlife.”

That’s my hypothesis anyway. Let’s check the evidence and if it’s consistent. Here’s a quote from the book Christian Beliefs and Teachings, by John C. Meyer.

[The Sadducees] did not believe in the resurrection of the dead nor the existence of angels. They embraced the traditional Jewish idea of Sheol for those who had died. Sheol was the gloomy and shadowy underworld for departed spirits.

Notice, the Sadducees did believe in an afterlife: they believed that when you died, your spirit departed into a place called Sheol, where it remained forever in the gloom and darkness. Next, from the book Body, Soul and Life Everlasting, by John W. Cooper, we have these observations.

The Israelites believed that identifiable though truncated human persons continue to exist after death. True to their holism, they thought of the dead as ethereal bodily beings who remain in Sheol. Whether they are in any sense conscious and active is unclear. Though Sheol is the gathering place of all human dead, there are hints that the lot of the faithful and the wicked is not the same. Hope is expressed that the Lord will rescue his beloved from death itself. At least two texts refer to bodily resurrection. But the predominant picture is of the rephaim in Sheol…

Consider first the most austere view, that even the believing dead remain forever in the silence of Sheol. Like the Psalmist and the Preacher, Sirach laments: “Who will sing praises to the Most High in Hades, as do those who are alive and give thanks? From the dead, as from one who does not exist, thanksgiving has ceased…” (Sir. 17:27-28a, RSV). Even if a strict nonexistence is not what is envisioned here, those who inhabit Sheol are so cut off from life and from God that they might as well be extinct.

This is most likely also the position of the Sadducees, whom we meet in the New Testament. There they are best known for their denial of the resurrection. But they are also supposed to have affirmed annihilation or ontological nothingness after death. This interpretation is confirmed by Josephus, who likens the Sadducees to Epicurean materialists in denying existence after death. The claim that they adopted materialist Greek philosophy is certainly consistent with their reputation as promoters of Greco-Roman political and cultural values. But Russell considers them to be faithful adherents of the Old Testament conception of Sheol, which does not include annihilation, strictly speaking. Perhaps there were Sadducees of both sorts, Hebrew and Greek, or a synthesis of traditions.

Interestingly, C. S. Lewis also presents the Sadducees as believing in a rather diminished existence in Sheol after death. That’s sufficiently different from the Pharisaic view of  afterlife, in which the good go to Abraham’s bosom and the evil (and wealthy) go to a place of torment, awaiting resurrection and God’s final judgment (as in the story of Lazarus). Sure, the dead go to Sheol, but you call that an afterlife? That’s not the kind of afterlife the Pharisees preached, and therefore you could say that they “did not believe in the afterlife [in the Pharisaic sense].” Just leave the parenthetical remark as a silent implication, and you have the report that the Sadducees did not believe in the afterlife, period.

Another interesting point I found in my reading was that those who say the Sadducees denied the afterlife claim that they did so because it was not written in the Torah (i.e. the Law, the first 5 books of the Old Testament). Here’s blogger James Prather:

The Sadducees only held that the Torah was inspired, and rejected the prophets and the writings as God-breathed inspired scripture (the Pharisees held that it was all inspired, as do Christians today. And yes, I know that’s an oversimplification, but there’s no need to get into the canonical debate of the first century in this post).  Furthermore the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or life after death because it’s not explicitly stated in the Torah.  And so in order to discuss topics such as the afterlife with the Sadducees, the Pharisees tried to prove the concept from the Torah itself.

This, of course, would explain why Jesus skipped over more explicit references to resurrection in the Prophets, and tried to prove the resurrection of the dead to the Sadducees using Exodus 3:6. But notice what we’re saying here. We’re saying that not only did the original Hebrew religion lack any kind of doctrine of bodily resurrection, but it even failed to mention what the Pharisees called “afterlife!” It’s not just the Sadducees who lacked any teaching of the afterlife, it’s Moses as well!

And yet, belief in Sheol is even older than Moses, and is mentioned explicitly in the Torah seven times. Thus, even if the Sadducees did reject what the Pharisees called “afterlife,” on the grounds that it was not explicitly taught by the Torah, the same cannot be said for their belief in the older, more traditional view of Sheol as the abode of the spirits of the dead.

At this point, I’m prepared to stand by my original claim that the Sadducees in general did indeed believe that at death, the soul continues to exist, and departs to an afterlife (of sorts) in Sheol, despite Pharisaic attempts to portray them as annihilationists, and despite the possibility that individual Sadducees may indeed have absorbed Greek philosophical materialism into their personal religion. I’d discount the latter group, because if you’re going to become a Greek materialist, you’ve got no particular interest in books of laws supposedly dictated by immaterial gods, and therefore you’re not really part of the debate between Jesus and the Sadducees. What we’ve got in Matthew 22 are a bunch of Sadducees who already believed that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were in Sheol, and in that context, the only way Jesus’ answer even remotely makes sense is if they also believed that Sheol was ruled over by a different god than Yahweh.

 
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Posted in Comment Rescue. 22 Comments »

22 Responses to “Life after death, as the Sadducees saw it.”

  1. mikespeir Says:

    Well, I guess it’s only polite to at least acknowledge the effort, although I would hardly call this conclusive. It’s true, of course, that everybody has an axe to grind. Everybody. And yet we can’t dismiss every opinion on account of it.

    Act 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

    Now, of course, “Luke” had his agenda, too. However, I find it hard to look at this particular verse and see an ulterior motive in saying that the Sadducees didn’t believe in a spirit. Maybe he was just wrong? Sure, that could be. I guess it’s just that all the actual ancient comments seem to go against the Sadducees’ belief in life after death, while we have to make inferences from other evidence–which we can’t prove affected this particular one of their beliefs–to see it otherwise.

    I think that for the time being I’m not going to base any arguments on whether the Sadducees believed in life after death.

  2. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I wouldn’t call it conclusive myself, actually. I’m inclined to think that belief in Sheol was indeed part of Sadducean belief, on the grounds that it had long been a part of Hebrew culture. Plus, you’re assuming that by “spirit” Luke meant the spirits of the dead as opposed to spirits as in evil spirits or demons. So I wouldn’t call Luke a conclusive counter-example either. But it’s certainly fair to withhold judgment on this particular question. I’ve had a look, and I think Sadducean belief in Sheol sounds plausible, but it’s a side issue, and I don’t want this discussion to distract from the main point, which is that Jesus was using Exodus 3:6 to try and support a doctrine that Exodus 3:6 does not teach. At best he was being ignorant; at worst, deceitful.

  3. cl Says:

    At best he was being ignorant; at worst, deceitful.

    Or, you could be wrong.

  4. mikespeir Says:

    “Plus, you’re assuming that by ‘spirit’ Luke meant the spirits of the dead as opposed to spirits as in evil spirits or demons.”

    Yeah, I had some qualms about this myself. I’m guessing from the context that spirits of the dead is meant, but there’s no way to be sure.

    “…the main point, which is that Jesus was using Exodus 3:6 to try and support a doctrine that Exodus 3:6 does not teach. At best he was being ignorant; at worst, deceitful.”

    I would agree with that.

  5. cl Says:

    To elaborate,

    Plus, you’re assuming that by “spirit” Luke meant the spirits of the dead as opposed to spirits as in evil spirits or demons.

    The particular word used is pneuma and the only usage I know of that includes demons is when spoken in reference of an evil spirit that has entered into a person. Since in other uses of this sort, the writers use the phrase “evil” or “unclean” spirits, and since there are specific words to denote demons, I think the argument that Luke is speaking in reference to departed souls is clearly the stronger argument.

    Either way, “God of the living” means “God of the living,” and Jesus’ logic was intact IMO. Further, other Old Testament verses clearly teach resurrection, so I don’t see what the problem is. These posts were themed around the concept of biblical inerrancy and what it means. While I agree with your overall point that even an inerrant Bible is subject to errant interpreters, I don’t see that you’ve made your case against Exodus 3:6. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead. Jesus noted that God is the “God of the living” and also “their God.” Therefore, they must live. Clearly, the Sadducees had read Exodus 3:6; Jesus was simply noting that they obviously hadn’t thought it through.

  6. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl—

    At best he was being ignorant; at worst, deceitful.

    About what? The words “I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob” are not the written expression of the Pharisaic idea “In the future, the dead will be brought back to life by being restored to their physical bodies.” Further, identifying “X” in terms of some past “Y” with which it was once associated, in no way requires that “Y” must necessarily be a description of current conditions. Think about it: when you hear someone talk about “the blood of the cross,” do you immediately think that either Jesus must still be bleeding on a cross or else the person must be a liar?

  7. VorJack Says:

    “All you need to do is create a definition of “afterlife” that’s different from what the Sadducees believe,”

    Let’s be honest – most views of the afterlife picture a place where justice is done and wounds are healed. Sheol is just a parking lot for the dead. If the point of believing in an afterlife is to be consoled about death, then we have to look at Job and how he saw no consolation in Sheol. To someone who believes in an afterlife where wrongs are made right and the martyrs are rewarded for their faithfulness, Sheol is not going to seem like an afterlife at all. It’s really just one step above oblivion. You might as well say that the Sadducees don’t believe in an afterlife and be done with it.

    “At best he was being ignorant; at worst, deceitful.”

    Neither, I’d say. It ignores the very … creative ways in which the ancient Jews approached their texts. Even if Jesus believed that the text contained a meaning hidden from other interpreters by God, but which had been revealed to him through divine inspiration, he’d just be in the same camp as the Great Teacher of the Qumran community.

  8. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I do have a bit more sympathy than usual for the possibility that the Sadducees were being misrepresented, simply because I’ve experienced much the same thing myself. I’m a theist. I have a patron Goddess, Whom I link to at the top of every page on my blog. I worship Her, pray to Her and thank Her for the ways in which She blesses me. I regard Her not merely as A real God, but as The Real God; and all lesser gods merely the anthropomorphic myths imagined by men who could not comprehend Her infinite power and complexity.

    And yet, I am routinely identified as an atheist (as were the ancient Christians, by the way). Because I reject the lesser gods of men, including the God of the Bible, people describe me as godless, as though if I don’t accept their god, then I can’t have any god.

    And in truth, it is rather difficult to discuss the problems with the Christian God without inadvertently saying things that make me sound like an atheist. The theological errors of Christians are so profound and pervasive that it’s very easy to let them fill the whole scope of my discussion, leaving little room or motivation for disclaimers about the God I do believe in. I try to slip in a reminder here and there, but even then, my attempts at clarification are often ignored, and people still think I’m an atheist.

    It’s very easy for me to believe, under the circumstances, that the Sadducees may have suffered a similar distortion of their views. You’d think people would take my word for what my true beliefs are, but I’ve found them to be surprisingly stubborn about this, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the believers of the past turned out to be the same way.

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    …in other uses of this sort, the writers use the phrase “evil” or “unclean” spirits…

    Not necessarily. See Mark 9, for example.

    A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

    “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

    So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

    You can believe in spirits other than the spirits of deceased humans, and you can believe that some of them are evil, and you can even believe that this particular spirit is evil, but there’s no rule that says you must always use the phrase “evil spirit” when speaking of spirits other than the (alleged) spirits of deceased humans.

  10. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    Either way, “God of the living” means “God of the living,” and Jesus’ logic was intact IMO.

    The problem is that “God of Abraham” does not mean “Abraham is living.” Notice the difference in the words used to express the idea “God is the God of Abraham” and the idea “Abraham is living.” The one verbal expression is not the other, nor does one imply the other.

    In order for Jesus’ logic to be intact, he needs to be able to invoke a grammatical rule that says that whenever the phrase “the X of Y” is used to refer to a past association between X and Y, then that same association must continue through at least the present time (i.e. the time when someone refers to “the X of Y”). But there is no such rule. If there were, then every time the Bible mentioned the gods of the Gentiles, it would be declaring that other gods were also real, live deities having a personal relationship with their followers as well. Are you prepared to concede that the Bible teaches polytheism?

    It is perfectly normal and meaningful to identify someone or something in terms of a past association without any obligation to infer that the past association necessarily continues on to the present day. Gettysburg can be the location of Lincoln’s famous Address without Lincoln still standing there delivering it. George H. W. Bush can be the Bush of the Persian Gulf War without that war still being fought. God (if He existed) could still be the God of Abraham on the basis of His past association with ol’ Abe while the latter was still living. We’d know what was meant, and there’s nothing wrong with understanding it that way.

    The only reason people try to argue that the phrase “I am the X of Y” must mean that X and Y still exist in the same relationship is because they can’t admit that Jesus was wrong. It’s a quintessential case of special pleading; they don’t even try to apply that same hermeneutical principle to any other situation. Jesus is taking a verse that does not even mention death, let alone declare that anyone is allegedly going to come back from it, and he uses it to contrive a thoroughly bogus argument in favor of an imported pagan doctrine about afterlife and judgment.

  11. cl Says:

    Hmmm….

    You can believe in spirits other than the spirits of deceased humans, and you can believe that some of them are evil, and you can even believe that this particular spirit is evil, but there’s no rule that says you must always use the phrase “evil spirit” when speaking of spirits other than the (alleged) spirits of deceased humans. (DD)

    Correct. A careful parsing of my arguments will reveal I’ve claimed no such rule, only a discernible pattern. I’ve not said a Bible writer, “must always use the phrase ‘evil spirit’ when speaking of spirits other than the (alleged) spirits of deceased humans.” I’ve simply noted that the Bible writers tended to use specific words to express specific concepts, and that the only instances I’m aware of where Bible writers use pneuma in reference to non-human spirits is when describing a spirit that’s entered into another human being.

    Act 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. (mikespeir)

    In reference to his mention of Acts 23:8, in your comment Nov. 11 @ 6:10 p.m., you stated that mikespeir was “assuming that by ‘spirit’ Luke meant the spirits of the dead as opposed to spirits as in evil spirits or demons.” Based on exegesis and history, I believe mikespeir’s assumptions are in fact safe. I added that I only know of a single instance in which pneuma is connected with “evil spirits” or “demons,” and that’s when the aforementioned have entered into a human being:

    The particular word used [in Acts 23:8] is pneuma and the only usage I know of that includes demons is when spoken in reference of an evil spirit that has entered into a person. Since in other uses of this sort, the writers use the phrase “evil” or “unclean” spirits, and since there are specific words to denote demons, I think the argument that Luke is speaking in reference to departed souls is clearly the stronger argument. (cl)

    You then replied,

    Not necessarily. See Mark 9, for example. (DD)

    Yet, Mark 9 is precisely an account of an evil spirit who entered into a human being, correct? So – if I claim that the only usage I know of connecting pneuma with “evil spirit” is in reference to an evil spirit that’s entered into a human being – and you replied by citing an instance where the Bible writer uses pneuma in reference to an evil spirit that’s entered into a human being – then what exactly were you contesting when you said, “Not necessarily?”

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Nice try, but the parallel passage in Matthew 17:14ff identifies the spirit as a demon. Since we’re talking here about whether or not it was accepted New Testament usage for writers to use the term “spirit” to refer to demons, I think the pattern we ought to be relying on is that this was indeed a known and acceptable usage. Plus it indulges the Hebrew fondness for symmetrical idioms: alpha and omega, day and night, angel and spirit. By citing both angels and spirits, Luke makes the Sadducees’ rejection sound all-encompassing, which may have been his goal: “They reject all spiritual beings, good AND bad.”

    But of course the text itself does not explicitly spell out what sense Luke intended to use the term “spirit” in, perhaps the most prudent thing to say is that we can’t be sure what it means.

  13. cl Says:

    First, a side issue: can you confirm that you’ve read my latest personal email to you? Just a friendly yay or nay will suffice, and your answer will determine the extent of my further commentary here.

    Nice try, but the parallel passage in Matthew 17:14ff identifies the spirit as a demon.

    Correct, but why do you say, “Nice try?”

    Since we’re talking here about whether or not it was accepted New Testament usage for writers to use the term “spirit” to refer to demons,

    Correct; we are indeed talking about whether or not it was accepted New Testament usage for writers to use the term pneuma to refer to demons. I am saying that in the vast majority of its usages, there is only a single condition in which NT writers used pneuma in connection with “evil spirits” or “demons,” and that’s when the latter have entered into a person. In every other usage I know of, pneuma refers to non-demon spirits. Doesn’t your citation of Mark 9 support my point, as does your clarification of Matthew? IOW, if we paraphrase,

    I’m saying, “Bible writers only use pneuma in reference to demons in context of possession.”

    You’re saying, “In Mark 9, Bible writers use pneuma in context of possession.”

    Where do we disagree?

    Plus it indulges the Hebrew fondness for symmetrical idioms: alpha and omega, day and night, angel and spirit.

    I agree that the Hebrews had such fondness, but in Bible usage symmetrical idioms refer to pairs of mutually exclusive opposites: you are correct that alpha / omega, and day / night denote pairs of mutually exclusive opposites. However, does angel / spirit denote a mutually exclusive pair of opposites?

    Also, in Acts 23:8, an odd number of concepts were referenced; we don’t have pairs of terms, we have a triad of them, so there’s another reason I’m hesitant to accept that angel / spirit were intended as symmetrical idioms.

    Further, just 4 chapters earlier in Acts 19:16, Luke used the phrase “evil (pon?ros) spirit (pneuma)” in reference to a man possessed by a demon, so then we have to explain the abrupt departure from this biblical tradition: either Luke (or his writer) got sloppy, or they intended a different meaning.

    Personally – on account of the aforementioned reasons, discernible biblical patterns and historical consensus – I believe that pneuma in Acts 23:8 refers to a human spirit, and I believe Josephus was correct.

    However, recall that none of this matters, as you claim your argument stands regardless of whether the Sadducees believed in any afterlife or not, and I claim my rebuttal to your argument stands regardless of whether the Sadducees believed in any afterlife or not.

    However, whereas I’ve addressed your arguments and your most recent responses (Pt. III went up this morning), I note that you’ve not addressed my most recent rebuttals, and that until you do, we’re at an impasse.

    ..perhaps the most prudent thing to say is that we can’t be sure what it means.

    Perhaps. That’s why I’ve agreed with mikespeir, in that “I’m not going to base any arguments on whether the Sadducees believed in life after death.”

  14. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    I’m saying, “Bible writers only use pneuma in reference to demons in context of possession.”

    Um, well, yeah, most NT references to demons are in connection with demonic possession and/or affliction. But you seem to be concluding that if demonic spirits possess people, then only spirits that possess people can be demonic spirits. Surely not, though?

    Actually, I think this question can be resolved a bit more easily, and shame on me for not taking the time sooner to look up Acts 23:8 in context. The very next verse says, “And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’” Now, according to the Law, anyone who communicates with the spirits of the dead has defiled themselves and is to be immediately put to death, as both Pharisees and Sadducees would agree. If the “spirits” in Acts 23 had been a reference to the spirits of the dead, then there is no way the Pharisees could have gotten away with saying, “We see nothing wrong here, perhaps he’s only a necromancer” etc. That would be like saying, “We see nothing wrong with Paul, perhaps some other god has spoken to him.” Just ain’t gonna happen.

    I’ll leave it as an open question how the Sadducees could have, in the Law of Moses, a regulation ordering them to punish those who speak with the spirits of the dead, whilst simultaneously denying the possibility that the spirits of the dead existed to be communicated with. ;)

  15. cl Says:

    Then I would submit that you have provided a point in favor of the conclusion that the speaker intended pneuma in Acts 23:8 to refer to a demon, and we get right back to where we were at the end of my previous comment: recall that none of this matters, as you claim your [original argument as delineated in What Biblical Inerrancy Really Means] stands regardless of whether the Sadducees believed in any afterlife or not, and I claim my rebuttal to that argument stands regardless of whether the Sadducees believed in any afterlife or not.

    I’ve addressed your arguments and your most recent responses. You’ve not addressed my most recent rebuttals, and until you do, we’re at an impasse.

    ******

    Did you read the email, DD? Please. I don’t see why you just won’t say. Just a quick “yes” or “no” to confirm is all I’m asking for.

  16. pboyfloyd Says:

    “..they don’t even try to apply that same hermeneutical principle to any other situation.”

    Imagining Christians World-wide, holding their breaths(spirits?) and stomping their feet, “POOPY-HEAD! We WANT it to mean that, so it MEANS THAT! Poopy-head!”

    Been arguing on other blog about what it could possibly mean for God to have a ‘begotten’ son.(‘poofing’ sperm into existence?) How is that any more ‘begotten’ than ‘poofing’ Adam into existence?

    Missed your regular Friday addition(edition?).

    (sadness)

  17. mikespeir Says:

    Okay, where’d you go, DD? I was just getting to like this site and you’ve run away.

  18. cl Says:

    I don’t know if he’ll let this through, but this is a good site, mikespeir. My inability to persuade DD of either the cogency of my positions or the lack of cogency of his in no way detracts from the positions of his that are in fact cogent.

  19. Hos Martys Says:

    It seems plausible that the Sadducees did not believe that God was concerned with those who had died, that at best dead ones were in a state of reduced personhood, if not all together extinct, and were, in either case, beyond the pale of any return to fellowship with God. Jesus’ argument we may then take to be argument that the writings of Moses do not agree with the Sadducees’ position about what happens to us when we die, their position being that the dead will never again have have fellowship with God.

  20. Deacon Duncan Says:

    That’s an interesting conjecture, but I’m not sure I buy it. Jesus’ argument is that God called himself the God of the patriarchs, and is not the God of the dead, and therefore (somehow) the Sadducees are wrong about resurrection. That doesn’t seem to apply to the situation you’re describing. Even if the dead were reduced in their personhood, God would still be their God just as He is supposedly the God of all Creation, including dumb beasts, insects, and plants. Consider the declaration “God is the God of the sleeping;” is He any less their God when their minds are dormant and their personhood (temporarily) reduced? Would He be any less their God if He didn’t care that they were asleep? Would they be any less asleep if He did care?

    Also, I don’t see any reference, even indirectly, to the idea of a return to fellowship, i.e. a change from the way things are now to some different state in the future. Jesus doesn’t say God will be the God of those who are now dead, he quotes God as saying “I am the God of the dead.” Even if we suppose that Jesus is saying the dead retain enough of their personality to have fellowship with God, that would be an argument that the patriarchs are in fellowship with God right now, without any resurrection. The only way to even remotely connect this with a resurrection is to assume that the Sadducees are actually correct and that the dead currently cannot have fellowship with God. But in that case, it would be wrong for God to say “I am the God of the patriarchs” (at least assuming Jesus’ interpretation of what He allegedly meant by that). So any way you slice it, Jesus’ argument still comes out all wrong. He’s trying to force a Pharisee-style resurrection into the Law of Moses, and it doesn’t fit, because Moses did not preach one.

  21. Travis Says:

    Could not Jesus have meant that “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are all guaranteed eternal life and a part in the resurrection, so therefore, while they may be dead now, they will certainly rise to live again, thus God is the God of the living.”?

  22. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Hi Travis,

    That’s an interesting suggestion, but it stretches Jesus’ words about as far as Jesus stretched Moses’ words, and it still doesn’t work out to be a Mosaic reference to any future resurrection. God doesn’t say, “I once was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and will be their God again when they rise from the dead at the last day.” Jesus’ whole argument hinges on the verb tense of the “I AM,” and if we’re going to consider the possibility that the present tense refers to something other than the present, then it’s a much better interpretation to say God is referring to the past than to the future. After all, Jesus and the Sadducees both agree that Moses taught God *was* the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but even Jesus, when trying to find a Mosaic reference to any future life, couldn’t find anything better than this one reeeeeally tangential reference. That’s hardly an “astonishing” proof of resurrection, unless you’re amazed that Jesus would even attempt such a far-fetched and unsustainable “proof.”