The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Whose property is a woman in heaven? (Luke 20:27-38)

The following comes from

"This Sunday’s sermon at my church was on the question the Sadducees as Jesus about whose wife a woman will be if she is widowed and remarried to 7 brothers consecutively.

“27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”” (Luke 20:27-38)

My Pastor noted is that the Sadducees are cynical in asking the question as they do not believe in resurrection. They are asking it in order to trip Jesus up and as part of a game of one-upmanship with the Pharisees who do believe in it.

The idea that the woman in the story should marry one brother after another comes from the Laws of Moses. To put it bluntly, she is property and as such must be passed on to the next brother when the previous one dies if no child is produced. Her purpose is simply to be a vessel for procreation, a means by which the first brother’s lineage can be continued - if one of the brothers impregnates her, then the resulting child carries the name of the first brother, something highly important in the society of the time.

The Sadducees question envisions that the afterlife will be a continuation of this life, with Mosaic Law still applying so that the woman must be wife to one of the brothers if they are all resurrected. Jesus’s description shatters that idea indicating a radically different future after death. My pastor put it that the promise of God pierces the mystery of the afterlife without revealing it. Beware those who claim to have detailed knowledge of what the afterlife is like - we have a promise of something better but few specifics.

In overturning the Law of Moses which would have the woman married after resurrection, Jesus is not just upending this one narrow idea. He is breaking the concept of woman as a belonging, for she is no longer property of her brothers in the afterlife. We can envision a heaven in which humans do not own each other - there is no slavery. All the ways humans use to devalue others will come to an end. Each and every person will be valued not as a commodity but as having been created in God’s image."

Do you have any other viewpoints on this interesting passage?