Mark's Gospel

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Question about Life after Death

(Mark 12:18-27)

This is the only recorded conflict that Jesus has with the Sadducees. They put a case to Jesus was technically possible under the Jewish marriage law. The practice of a man marrying his brother's widow originated at a time when it was believed that a man's only immortality was in his children. If a man died childless it was his brother's duty to marry his wife, and the first-born of the union would then be the heir of the dead man. By the time of Jesus this practice had become obsolete.

In this incident Jesus supported the Pharisees. He shrewdly met the argument of the Sadducees by recalling the story of the Burning Bush (Ex 3:2-6). God does not use the past tense but the present tense when he says, 'I am the God of your forefathers'. Jesus implies that the patriarchs, who lived many years before Moses, were still alive. The Sadducees held the Five Books of Moses with great respect. Jesus knew this and so quoting from them would carry great weight. This kind of argument would be very persuasive among the Jews at this time. Jesus is defending belief in life after death. He points out that marriage is for this world only.

The Sadducees and Pharisees often argued about life after death. A good example in the New Testament of how these two parties differed is when Paul was examined by the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:6-8). An uproar broke out between the rival parties when Paul claimed that the true issue of his trial was the hope of the resurrection of the dead.

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