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Luke 20:27-40

Marriage and the Resurrection

20:27 Now some Sadducees 1  (who contend that there is no resurrection) 2  came to him. 20:28 They asked him, 3  “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, that man 4  must marry 5  the widow and father children 6  for his brother. 7  20:29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman 8  and died without children. 20:30 The second 9  20:31 and then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. 20:32 Finally the woman died too. 20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? 10  For all seven had married her.” 11 

20:34 So 12  Jesus said to them, “The people of this age 13  marry and are given in marriage. 20:35 But those who are regarded as worthy to share in 14  that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 15  20:36 In fact, they can no longer die, because they are equal to angels 16  and are sons of God, since they are 17  sons 18  of the resurrection. 20:37 But even Moses revealed that the dead are raised 19  in the passage about the bush, 20  where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 21  20:38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, 22  for all live before him.” 23  20:39 Then 24  some of the experts in the law 25  answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well!” 26  20:40 For they did not dare any longer to ask 27  him anything.

1 sn The Sadducees controlled the official political structures of Judaism at this time, being the majority members of the Sanhedrin. They were known as extremely strict on law and order issues (Josephus, J. W. 2.8.2 [2.119], 2.8.14 [2.164-166]; Ant. 13.5.9 [13.171-173], 13.10.6 [13.293-298], 18.1.2 [18.11], 18.1.4 [18.16-17], 20.9.1 [20.199]; Life 2 [10-11]). They also did not believe in resurrection or in angels, an important detail in v. 36. See also Matt 3:7, 16:1-12, 22:23-34; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 4:1, 5:17, 23:6-8.

2 sn This remark is best regarded as a parenthetical note by the author.

3 tn Grk “asked him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

4 tn Grk “his brother”; but this would be redundant in English with the same phrase “his brother” at the end of the verse, so most modern translations render this phrase “the man” (so NIV, NRSV).

5 tn The use of ἵνα (Jina) with imperatival force is unusual (BDF §470.1).

6 tn Grk “and raise up seed,” an idiom for procreating children (L&N 23.59).

7 sn A quotation from Deut 25:5. Because the OT quotation does not include “a wife” as the object of the verb, it has been left as normal type. This practice is called levirate marriage (see also Ruth 4:1-12; Mishnah, m. Yevamot; Josephus, Ant. 4.8.23 [4.254-256]). The levirate law is described in Deut 25:5-10. The brother of a man who died without a son had an obligation to marry his brother’s widow. This served several purposes: It provided for the widow in a society where a widow with no children to care for her would be reduced to begging, and it preserved the name of the deceased, who would be regarded as the legal father of the first son produced from that marriage.

8 tn Grk “took a wife” (an idiom for marrying a woman).

9 tc Most mss (A W Θ Ψ Ë1,13 33 Ï lat) have the words, “took the wife and this one died childless” after “the second.” But this looks like a clarifying addition, assimilating the text to Mark 12:21. In light of the early and diverse witnesses that lack the expression (א B D L 0266 892 1241 co), the shorter reading should be considered authentic.

10 sn The point is a dilemma. In a world arguing a person should have one wife, whose wife will she be in the afterlife? The question was designed to show that (in the opinion of the Sadducees) resurrection leads to a major problem.

11 tn Grk “For the seven had her as wife.”

12 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate that Jesus’ response is a result of their framing of the question.

13 tn Grk “sons of this age” (an idiom, see L&N 11.16). The following clause which refers to being “given in marriage” suggests both men and women are included in this phrase.

14 tn Grk “to attain to.”

15 sn Life in the age to come is different than life here (they neither marry nor are given in marriage). This means Jesus’ questioners had made a false assumption that life was the same both now and in the age to come.

16 sn Angels do not die, nor do they eat according to Jewish tradition (1 En. 15:6; 51:4; Wis 5:5; 2 Bar. 51:10; 1QH 3.21-23).

17 tn Grk “sons of God, being.” The participle ὄντες (ontes) has been translated as a causal adverbial participle here.

18 tn Or “people.” The noun υἱός (Juios) followed by the genitive of class or kind (“sons of…”) denotes a person of a class or kind, specified by the following genitive construction. This Semitic idiom is frequent in the NT (L&N 9.4).

19 tn Grk “But that the dead are raised even Moses revealed.”

20 sn See Exod 3:6. Jesus used a common form of rabbinic citation here to refer to the passage in question.

21 sn A quotation from Exod 3:6.

22 sn He is not God of the dead but of the living. Jesus’ point was that if God could identify himself as God of the three old patriarchs, then they must still be alive when God spoke to Moses; and so they must be raised.

23 tn On this syntax, see BDF §192. The point is that all live “to” God or “before” God.

24 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

25 tn Or “some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 5:21.

26 sn Teacher, you have spoken well! The scribes, being Pharisees, were happy for the defense of resurrection and angels, which they (unlike the Sadducees) believed in.

27 sn The attempt to show Jesus as ignorant had left the experts silenced. At this point they did not dare any longer to ask him anything.

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