Ok, so I think we both agree that the point of Jesus’ argument to the Sadducees was that the doctrine of the resurrection was not foreign to the Torah, but should have been a “revealed fact” for those who knew both “the Scriptures and the power of God.” But what I’m still not seeing is how Jesus’ argument was based on an appeal to analogical reasoning about our present existence in order to reveal information about our post-resurrection existence that would not have otherwise been known to those who didn’t deny the resurrection. It seems to me that Jesus’ argument is itself based on, and derives its strength from, a revelatory declaration made by YHWH concerning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - i.e., that even though dead, YHWH was still their God.
I think an example of an appeal to analogical reasoning about man’s present state of existence to argue for the doctrine of the resurrection would have looked something more like this: Jesus directs the Sadducees to Exodus 3:9-10, where YHWH declares that he has heard the cries of the children of Israel whom he is sending Moses to deliver, and then argues from this verse that, because God cared enough about these Israelites to hear their cries for deliverance from slavery, it follows that they will be raised from the dead by him. While the soundness of this argument is, I think, questionable, I see it as being a far better example of (what would at least be an attempt at) analogical reasoning about our present existence to argue for the doctrine of the resurrection than is what we find in the accounts of Jesus’ argument with the Sadducees - which, again, I don’t see as such an example. For there, Jesus’ argument is based on a verse in which God declares himself to be the God of three men whose mortal existence in this world had ended generations ago. The force of Jesus’ argument is derived not from what God says about these men before they were dead, but after they were dead. From this consideration it seems that Jesus could not have been appealing to analogical reasoning to reveal a right understanding of the patriarch’s post-mortem existence based on God’s ante-mortem dealings with them.
Moreover (as I pointed out early on in this discussion) the force of Christ’s argument against the Sadducees is derived not from the fact that we should expect some degree of continuity between the present state of existence and the future state into which the resurrection will introduce us. It is instead derived from the radical discontinuity that there will be between the present and future states of existence. It is only after affirming the discontinuity (which, based on their contrived hypothetical scenario, was not something the Sadducees would have expected had they affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection) that Christ then goes on to demonstrate how the doctrine of the resurrection could be argued for even from the pages of the Torah. And Christ does this not by appealing to analogical reasoning but by working out the implications of a revelatory declaration made by YHWH concerning three long-dead patriarchs - which, at most, revealed just what any believer in the resurrection would have already affirmed, irrespective of whatever else they might have believed or disbelieved concerning man’s post-mortem existence.
Well, actually, I don’t see the “process of choices and growth” which is required in this present existence as being undeterministic. While this subject deserves a thread of its own, I believe all that happens in this world - no matter how big or small - is simply the unfolding of God’s sovereign purpose and will. To quote C. H. Spurgeon (a 19th century Reformed preacher):
As far as God “suddenly cancelling his previous pursuit of goals,” I believe that when the dead are raised, the goals that were pursued in this present state of existence will have been reached (as opposed to “cancelled”). That is, the purpose for which God designed this present state of existence will have been fulfilled, and sin and suffering will simply no longer be a necessary aspect of human existence (as I believe them to be at present). A helpful illustration might be to think of the end for which man was created as a “building” being erected by God, and sin and suffering as the “scaffolding” without which the building could not be completed. When, at Christ’s return, the dead are raised incorruptible and the living made immortal, the “building” will be completed and the “scaffolding” will no longer be necessary. It will have served its purpose. And although much of this remains a mystery to me, I believe that at least one purpose is that of contrast. I believe this present existence is meant to serve as the necessary backdrop against which our future existence may be contrasted, which in turn enables us to fully enjoy and appreciate it.
With that said, I want to emphasize that the view expressed above is simply my interpretation and understanding of our present and future existence in light of what I understand to have been revealed to us by inspiration. That is, it is simply my reasoned attempt at making sense of and explaining why God has seen fit to make our future existence so different from our present existence, given the fact that I believe this to be revealed in Scripture. It is what I understand Scripture to reveal concerning our future state of existence that informs my understanding of God’s dealings with mankind in this world. Since I don’t see it revealed that mankind will be in need of “a mix of grace and severe judgments that lead to learning and growth” after the resurrection, I conclude that the importance and value of this “often painful process toward transformation” must be confined to this present state of existence.
Sorry I lacked clarity. I don’t actually see resurrection declared as “revealed fact” in Torah, nor that Jesus simply declared that to be so in Matt. 22. (Which texts declare the resurrection?) You seem to propose that Jesus just asserts to unbelievers in resurrection that it is so by “declaratory revelation.” Yet I see him cite familiar words embraced by Sadducees, that God is Abraham’s God, etc (Ex. 3:6). Then he appears to reason that if God so related personally to the living Abraham, they could properly infer (in some analogical continuity concerning the God whose character they know) that He will similarly relate to Abraham even though he’s dead. I.e. he argues for resurrection, not from it.
I sense you hear Exodus as declaring that God remains the God of folks resurrected after they’re dead. But I think the Sadducees only saw it as saying that Moses’ god was the same one who was Abraham’s god during his life. Ifthis recognition is the common ground to which Jesus appeals, then he would be arguing from an ante to a post-mortem situation.
You’re right! Arguing no ‘choices’ are 'undetermined" is another thread! Fuller Seminary required all of Spurgeon, and my classmate, John Piper, has published every deterministic idea we were taught. I respectfully am unconvinced, but prefer Talbott’s synthesis, while not really grasping the nature of ‘choice.’
You say, the purpose of present struggles with sin must be complete at our death (and resurrection)! And Dr. Fuller also agreed that its’ goal was providing a “contrast” for eternity, such that (in his case) the few elect could appreciate how “enjoyable” it was to be so delivered from such angst. I find it hard to believe God could not enable us to dig him short of such misery. More, I sense Scripture emphasizes that this difficult process of learning choices and soul-making is at the center of the valued goal that would make such grief worthwhile (presumably even beyond this age). Since you see no Biblical “severe judgments” beyond the present, I suspect you need to “confine” how fundamental this way of transformation is to God. But, sensing that there may be Biblical clues to such future dealings and development, I remain open to a possibly less static future.
P.S. I’m leaving for 5 weeks in Argentina, and probably won’t be able to interact much. Blessings to you, Bob
I agree with you that Jesus is arguing “for resurrection, not from it.” When I said that the doctrine is a revealed fact in the Torah, I meant that it can be logically deduced from what God said in Ex 3:6 that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be raised from the dead. My understanding of Jesus’ argument to the Sadducees is that, given the Sadducees familiarity with and strict adherence to the Torah, they should have understood God’s words in Exodus 3:6 as revealing that there will be a resurrection (at least, a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!). I understand Jesus’ argument to be that God would not have called himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob if these three patriarchs were going to remain dead forever. The very fact that God called himself their God when they were dead demands that they be raised from the dead. It would not, in other words, have been an argument for the resurrection of Abraham if God had declared himself to be Abraham’s God while Abraham was still alive. God’s declaration of being Abraham’s God only becomes an argument for the resurrection because Abraham was not alive when God called himself such. So while it’s true that Jesus’ argument for the resurrection from this verse is an inferred argument, I don’t see it as being based on analogous reasoning from man’s present state of existence. Jesus’ argument is not: “Because God was Abraham’s God while Abraham was alive it therefore follows that Abraham will be raised.” Rather, I believe it is: “Because God declared himself to be Abraham’s God while Abraham was dead, it therefore follows that Abraham will not remain dead but will be raised.” That this is Jesus’ argument is evident from the statement with which he concludes: “For he is not God of the dead, but of the living.” It was essential to Jesus’ argument for the resurrection that God be declaring himself to be the God of three men who were dead at the time the statement was made, because if YHWH “is not the God of the dead but of the living” then what he said to Moses can only mean that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will live again.
No, I hear it as simply declaring (i.e., by implication) that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be resurrected. Since God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and God calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when these three men were dead, then it follows by logical deduction that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be restored to life by a resurrection (for it is only by a resurrection that the dead can live again).
I don’t think this is the common ground to which Jesus was appealing. I believe the only common ground to which Jesus was appealing in his response to the Sadducees was their shared view of the inspired authority of the Torah. It was irrelevant to Jesus’ argument how the Sadducees understood the verse he quoted. What Jesus is doing is showing them how they ought to have understood it - i.e., what they should have understood the verse to imply (and thus to reveal by implication). Had they considered the implication of God’s declaration to Moses about his being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (who, in Moses’ day, were three dead patriarchs), they would have understood this verse as teaching that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would live again. Moreover, Jesus equates the Sadducees’ failure to see the logical implication in God’s declaration to Moses as being an ignorance of Scripture itself! When Jesus asks rhetorically, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24) the implication is that, had the Sadducees “known the Scriptures” (which for them was the Torah, from which Jesus quotes) then they wouldn’t have had a Scriptural excuse not to believe in the resurrection. But their ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God resulted in their being “quite wrong” regarding the doctrine of the resurrection (v. 27).
Moreover, I’m not sure how the mere fact that “Moses’ god was the same one who was Abraham’s god during his life” would have provided Jesus with an argument for the resurrection. If that’s the “common ground” to which Jesus was appealing, then after Jesus declared, “For he is not God of the dead, but of the living,” the Sadducees could have replied, “Exactly, Jesus. God was Abraham’s God during his life - not after he died. And since we are in agreement with you that God ‘is not the God of the dead but of the living,’ and that God was only talking about Abraham ‘during his life,’ we see no reason to believe that Abraham will ever live again.”
Again, I believe Jesus’ argument against the Sadducees only “works” if in Ex. 3:6 God was declaring something to be true about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as dead individuals.
Well I think even you would have to admit that we could never “dig” God as a Savior unless there was something from which we needed to be saved! Moreover, I believe the joy of being saved from an experience of evil is greater than any happiness that one could have apart from such an experience. As rational beings I think we depend on contrast to truly appreciate and fully enjoy. And I don’t think God could achieve his benevolent purpose for mankind any other way except by first subjecting us all to futility and then mercifully freeing us from it. But I do find the idea that some human beings (the “reprobate”) must suffer forever in hell so that other human beings (the “elect”) can be happy in heaven (as argued by reformed theologians such as Piper and Edwards) utterly deplorable, and I’m ashamed that I ever believed it myself and attempted to convince others that it was true.
I’m curious as to what “Biblical clues” you had in mind (besides the passages we’ve been discussing, of course )!
Thanks Aaron, you’re narrowing our gap on Matt. 22! We agree Exodus was calling God Abraham’s God after he was dead, and yet also that it’s better not to say that the resurrection was a “declared fact” in Torah, but a reasonable implication that should be seen. I also agree that God only being in relationship with the living would mean that if He’s Abraham’s God, Abraham should be presumed alive.
Your perception of the text’s logic may be right. But as a Sadduccee sympathizer , your assurance that resurrection is logically required is not clear to me. My perception is that Jesus as a revelatory spokesman often wonderfully interprets the Torah in ways that transcend literal logic. For his opponents, not knowing the Scripture, is not so much ignorance of its’ content, but of the implications that Jesus asserts will be appropriately seen by those with right hearts.
You say that Jesus’ argument only works if Exodus must mean that God is the dead Abraham’s God. But isn’t that tautological for them, demanding that: “If they saw that a dead Abraham was in relationship with God, then they would know that he couldn’t remain dead”? Of course. But the premise is precisely what the Sadduccees did not grant, and thus cannot provide their common ground.
I assume that they heard Exodus as declaring (after Abraham’s death) that their God is same one who was in relationship with Abraham during his part of the story. But I don’t see Jesus pointing up any datum in the Torah text that they didn’t think that they already acknowledged. Where they part is on the appropriate inferences that should be drawn from the datum of the text that they both affirm. I believe this focuses on resisting the implications of the love and “power of God” that is featured in the whole Biblical story.
I.e. I suspect that the most likely common ground involves the clearest Scriptural affirmations that they share: God is the powerful Reality who has been in a personal relationship with Abraham. So taking that love and power as seriously as Jesus did, implies that you should not imagine that He will ever stop such pursuit of relationship with those He loves. This intuition only fails if Sadduccees insist all of God’s admittedly characteristic ways are suspended at death.
On the last two citations, we agree that God surely has reasons for his ways, and I too would assume that the contrast that we’re saved from can enhance our joy. Still, ‘logic’ about what is ‘necessary’ for God is over my head. Yet the constant Biblical themes of suffering and character development, growth through trials and error, disciplinary consequences, and learning by genuine choices are so pervasive that I am inclined to think that this process is more central to theodicy and that God deeply values what such a process yields.
You ask for the “clues” that this could extend beyond the life we know. Of course, first, are the many ‘eschtological’ passages traditionally seen as involving future painful judgments and dealings.
Perhaps most persuasive to me is the ongoing Biblical story which portrays God as One who relentlessly pursues such a process with judgments and mercies, always reinterpreting such prophetic pictures, but forever seeking the continuing choices of a genuinely faithful response. E.g. a major aspect of this process in the realm where things are plainest to us is the goal of ‘purification.’ Thus, when I see that Jesus and the apostles appear to continue to use analagous metaphors for purfication (like fire and salt) when they warn of future judgments and lightly defined events, I’m inclined to think that we are encouraged to imagine that God would continue to value a process in some degree analagous to what we have learned about so far. But I presume that you embrace a differing interpretation wherein such sobering dealings of God have been already completed in history. So this is probably the turf on which these differences deserves to be focused.
Hi Bob! Sorry for taking so long to respond; due to time constraints I had to take a break from this thread for a while so I could participate in other discussions (and by “other discussions” I’m referring primarily to the following thread: The Intermediate State of the Dead). So hopefully we can just pick up where we left off.
Now, you said:
While I’m not really sure what you mean by “literal logic” (as opposed to figurative logic?), did you have any other examples in mind where you see Jesus interpreting the Law and the Prophets in ways that “transcend” this?
I agree that when Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for not knowing the Scriptures he wasn’t accusing them of being ignorant of the words that appear in the Torah; their error was one of interpretation. And while it’s possible that having “right hearts” might have enabled them to better see the implication in God’s words to Moses (for the “mind set on the flesh” is oftentimes, if not always, an enemy of rational thinking), I’m not sure how this would make Jesus’ interpretation of this passage one that “transcends literal logic.”
I agree that this was not their common ground; I believe their common ground was their shared acceptance of the Torah as authoritative Scripture. Again, I think it’s irrelevant to Jesus’ argument how exactly the Sadducees were able to reconcile (or not) God’s words in Exodus 3:6 with their denial of the resurrection; the fact is that they were “quite mistaken” for not seeing the resurrection as being taught in this verse, as Christ evidently thought it a sufficient refutation of their error. They were clearly mistaken for believing that the Torah did not reveal the doctrine of the resurrection, and whether or not they needed “right hearts” to see what Christ believed was taught in this verse is, I think, a little beside the point.
But the Sadducees clearly did not believe that God’s character or his past personal relationship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while they were still alive was any grounds for believing that these patriarchs would be raised. And I fail to see anything in Jesus’ response to the Sadducees that was intended to challenge their intuitions about what was or wasn’t consistent with God’s character and past dealings with these patriarchs while they were still alive. If the Sadducees didn’t understand their denial of the resurrection as being inconsistent with what the Torah revealed about God’s personal relationship with these three patriarchs, how was Jesus’ argument calculated to correct their understanding or intuition? Even if the Sadducees didn’t take God’s love seriously enough (as you suggest), Jesus certainly doesn’t say they were mistaken because of this. It was an ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God which led to their error, not a wrong intuition concerning the love of God. And since Jesus distinguishes their ignorance of God’s power from their ignorance of the Scriptures, I think he would have done the same if their error was also due to an ignorance regarding God’s character.
I think that if, in Exodus 3:6, God was declaring something to be true about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob after these three patriarchs had died, then Jesus’ argument becomes very straightforward and logical: if it’s true that God is not the God of the dead but of the living (which, as I’ll show shortly, is likely a premise that the Sadducees would have been forced to accept as true), then the unavoidable implication is that these patriarchs either have been raised from the dead, or that they will be raised from the dead. The advantage of this straightforward argument is that it doesn’t require the Sadducees to have had a right understanding of what may or may not be consistent with God’s love in order for them to feel the force of it. Rather than referring to a verse where God speaks of himself in relation to those who were still alive at the time and then appealing to analogical reasoning (which the Sadducees may or may not have seen as valid), Jesus instead reminds them of a declaration made by YHWH concerning his relationship to three patriarchs who, at the time of the declaration, had been dead for generations. And then Jesus concludes his argument with a statement that the Sadducees could not dispute without holding to the absurd (and God-dishonouring) position that God is the God of corpses and dust (which, to the Sadducees, is all that was thought to remain of the dead). And since that’s obviously false, then it follows that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not going to remain in the state of death for all time, and that when God declared himself to be their God he had to have been speaking in view of their being restored to a living existence. So in light of the statement with which Jesus concludes his argument, it seems reasonable that Jesus purposefully chose a verse from the Torah that both he and the Sadducees understood to be a divine declaration concerning God’s relation to those who had died long before the declaration was made.
Now, if your interpretation of Jesus’ argument is valid, then wouldn’t Gen 12:2 (along with numerous other verses in which God’s relationship with living people is spoken of) have been just as suited to Jesus’ argument as Exodus 3:6? There, we read of God’s personal relationship with Abraham while he was alive; and if the certainty of Abraham’s resurrection follows from the fact that he was in a personal relationship with God while he was alive, then this verse is just as good as any as a resurrection proof-text to correct the mistaken view of the Sadducees. So if this is the case, did Jesus simply choose Exodus 3:6 at random among all the other verses in the Torah that he could have chosen to make the same point that you think he was making? I don’t think so; I believe Exodus 3:6 was chosen rather than a verse such as Genesis 6:9 (where we’re told that “Noah walked with God”) precisely because, in Exodus 3:6, God was declaring something to be true about his relationship to human beings who were dead. Moreover, if Jesus was arguing for the resurrection on the basis of God’s love for Abraham (although there’s no indication that this was the case), then why couldn’t the Sadducees simply have respond to Jesus by saying, “Of course God loved Abraham, and we take very seriously the love that God has for all who are in a personal relationship with him. But God’s love for Abraham - as great as it was - didn’t prevent Abraham from dying in the first place, so why would it require God to restore Abraham to life at some future time? God certainly doesn’t owe Abraham a future existence, and God would not be unjust if he chose not to resurrect him or anyone else. Moreover, you believe God cares for and values animals (he evidently loved them enough to bring them into existence), so does this mean they’re going to be resurrected too? But why should we believe that either man or beast is going to be resurrected by God when God has not revealed it to us in the Torah?” Of course, I believe Jesus’ argument is that the Torah does reveal that the dead (at least, the dead patriarchs referred to in Ex 3:6) will be raised, so any question about what is or isn’t consistent with God’s love or faithfulness or dealings with men (or animals) in this lifetime is rendered irrelevant in the face of the Scriptural testimony that, although dead, God called himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - something he would not have done if they were to remain dead forever, since (according to Jesus) “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
But you seem to think God’s loving and unchanging character necessitates that he never stop pursuing a relationship with those he loves, even after death. Or have I misunderstood you on this?
But I see no Scriptural evidence that the process of which you speak was intended by God to continue beyond death, or that it would be necessary to our future happiness for it to do so. So hopefully we can begin to examine some of the biblical data that you think supports this view.
Also, do you think being mortal and having a capacity for physical pain is essential to the process of character development and growth?
Which “future painful judgments and dealings” described in Scripture do you think have reference to a post-mortem state of existence? As I’m sure you’re aware, one of the most severe judgments referred to in Scripture (if not the most severe) is a premature death, so I’m not sure how this could extend beyond this life or have any reference to our post-mortem existence.
I think God values the process as long as the process (and the state in which the process exists) is necessary. But do we have reason to believe it will continue to be necessary after death? I just don’t see Scripture revealing this to be the case. But I am interested in what specific texts you think support your position that this process of character development and spiritual growth will be just as necessary after death as it is before death.
Now, I think a good example of the painful process of character development that some people undergo in this lifetime is found in Hebrews 12:3-11:
Here the goal of this disciplinary process is partaking of God’s holiness. But as I’m sure you’d agree, very few people throughout redemptive history have reached this goal of spiritual maturity in this lifetime; the vast majority of mankind cannot be said to have attained anything close to this before death. It would seem from this fact (which is consistent with both Scripture and experience) that this present state of existence is not at all conducive to yielding the “fruit” of which the author speaks. So I guess my question for you is this: Do you think the next state of existence will be more or less conducive to our becoming holy than this state? Or will the next state be basically the same as the present in this regard?
Also, do you think God values the process of becoming holy more than the goal of being holy? Or do you think he values the goal more than the process? Or do you think he values them both equally?
Hi Aaron! I appreciate your other discussion, and extensive reflections on our arcane differences!
You said: “While I’m not really sure what you mean by “literal logic” (as opposed to figurative logic?), did you have any other examples in mind where you see Jesus interpreting the Law and the Prophets in ways that “transcend” this?”
I meant Jesus “transcends literal” in going beyond the literal sense to interpret a deeper implication that is not literally spelled out. My attachment in Bibliology, “The Case Against Jesus” under “Is all Scripture equally valid,” cites Jesus quoting Torah and arguing that he authoritatively rejects Israel’s leaders’ logically sounding literal readings, and can favor counter-texts, broader Scriptural principles or human intuitions. E.g. he transcends Torah’s words on cleanliness, food, separation, oaths, Sabbath “work,” divorce, justice, capital punishment, violence, etc. to reverse their apparent literal meaning. On our topic also, he transcends literal logic, if the Sadduccess actually embraced my suggested literal interpretation, wherein Abraham would remain dead.
You assert, in mistakenly denying resurrection, they were rejecting “clearly” what’s “taught in this verse.” But I’m disputing precisely that it does say THAT. E. g. When they reject his Sabbath “work” as good, it’s not because Torah “clearly” taught Jesus’ interpretation, but as here, because they reject Jesus’ INFERENCES grounded in Scripture’s totality (and as I speculate here, including God’s love and power).
You answer, appealing to silence, “Jesus didn’t say it was because of this” (love). But I perceive that failing to see God as love is regularly at the core of rejecting his views on Torah (tho often not spelled out). So I’m inclined to favor it here. If ‘silence’ counted, I’d see no reason to assume that knowing “the Scriptures” simply even means “this verse,” instead of its’ totality (and ask why didn’t he say “this verse”?).
The crowd may be “astonished” at Jesus’ conclusion because they had not seen this verse as “teaching” resurrection. So why do you insist that just citing it would “obviously” make them “feel the force of it”? Doesn’t it cry out for assuming there is some unsaid reasoning? E.g. that describing God as Abraham’s God (meaning during his life) is actually inconsistent with assuming he’s now a goner, because of Jesus’ constant Biblical premise that God is the sort who wouldn’t let go of his beloved. You retort that quoting Ex. 3:6 is decisive when it’s instead of other texts which (I agree) would also be persuasive in my sense of Jesus’ argument. I I’d simply presume this choice may be explained by being the widely recognized identification which was at the center of their understanding of God.
You said: “You seem to think God’s loving and unchanging character necessitates that he never stop pursuing a relationship with those he loves, even after death. Or have I misunderstood you?”
“Necessitates” is a stronger word than I would use. I’d say the whole Biblical narrative makes it reasonable to recognize God as wone who pursues relationship. It’s just less clear to me that it’s equally clear that he requires suffering in order to have us appreciate him.
You said:" Also, do you think being mortal and having a capacity for physical pain is essential to the process of character development and growth?"
That’s a metaphysical question above my competence.
You said: “Which “future painful judgments and dealings” described in Scripture do you think have reference to a post-mortem state of existence?”
That topic has been of wider interest on this site, and our still different presuppositions would probably account for how we will interpret those disputed texts differently also. But my note on ongoing “fire and salt” was a not too veiled reference to Mk. 9:42-49.
You said: “Do you think the next state of existence will be more or less conducive to our becoming holy than this state? Or will the next state be basically the same as the present in this regard?”
It seems “more” so to me.
You said: “Also, do you think God values the process of becoming holy more than the goal of being holy? Or do you think he values the goal more than the process? Or do you think he values them both equally?”
It’s not apparent to me that Scripture disconnects these two like that. I see it as picturing being truly “holy” as a result of “the process of becoming” that way. I’m not even sure that I see sanctified maturity as a sort of value that God might choose to create without any preceding process.
Thanks for clarifying. Now, let’s take the example of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. While it’s true that the Pharisees had interpreted God’s command to keep the Sabbath in such a way that Jesus’ act of compassion on an afflicted man was seen as a violation of this command, I don’t think Jesus’ interpretation of what was said in the Torah was at all inconsistent with the literal reading, or somehow transcended “literal logic.” There is nothing that Jesus did on the Sabbath which was in conflict with a single word found in the Torah or the rest of the OT. The only thing that Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath were inconsistent with was the rabbinic tradition - i.e., the Pharisees’ misguided human traditions regarding the Sabbath, which Jesus referred to as “commandments of men” (Matt 15:9).
Similarly, I’m not sure how a straight-forward literal reading of Exodus 3:6 is in any way inconsistent with Jesus’ use of this verse as a proof-text for the doctrine of the resurrection. What I see as clearly being taught in this verse is that YHWH is declaring himself to be the God of three patriarchs who were dead at the time the declaration was made. And that which can be logically inferred from this declaration is that God was speaking in view of their resurrection - for “God is not the God of the dead but of the living” (which, again, is likely a premise that the Sadducees would have been unable to dispute). Jesus appeals to this verse not to interpret it in a way that required the acceptance of a premises that the Sadducees might or might not have granted (e.g., that God’s love for people requires him to raise them from the dead), but rather to show how a simple, straight-forward reading of this text is in conflict with what the Sadducees already believed.
As you know, it was the Pharisees - and not the Sadducees - who accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. And for all we know, the Sadducees may have disagreed with the Pharisees and sided with Jesus on this. Now, I believe that what made the Pharisee’s accusation of Jesus so reprehensible was that the Torah clearly didn’t teach that what Jesus was doing was wrong. A straight-forward reading of the text in which the command to keep the Sabbath is found is in no way inconsistent with what Jesus and his disciples were doing on the Sabbath when accused by the Pharisees of breaking it. It was clearly not the Torah that Jesus and his disciples were violating, but rather the rabbinic tradition which the Pharisees had added to the Torah (and may have viewed as even more authoritative). Jesus didn’t have to “transcend literal logic” in order to defend himself or his disciples against the accusation of the Pharisees, because their accusation was made not in light of what Scripture taught, but in spite of what Scripture taught.
As far as appealing to silence goes, the author of Hebrews evidently considered the silence of Scripture sufficient proof of a negative (Heb 7:13-14), so I don’t think my doing so here makes my objection to your interpretation any less valid. Because Jesus distinguishes knowing God’s power from knowing the Scriptures when responding to the Sadducees’ argument, it seems reasonable to believe that he would have similarly singled out God’s love or covenant faithfulness if he thought their error was due to an ignorance of this. Instead, Jesus follows his quote of Exodus 3:6 with a statement that one can accept as true without having to share Jesus’ understanding of what is and isn’t consistent with God’s love for those with whom he is (or was) in a personal relationship. While I agree that Jesus placed great importance on the benevolent character of God during his earthly ministry, the question of what is or isn’t consistent with God’s character and love is, I think, about as irrelevant to Jesus’ argument against the Sadducees as it is in his response to the Pharisees in Matt 19:1-9 (where Jesus is similarly “tested” and responds with Scripture) and Matt 22:41-46 (where Jesus confounds the Pharisees with Scripture, just like he did the Sadducees a few verses earlier in the passage under consideration).
Now, you say, “I perceive that failing to see God as love is regularly at the core of rejecting his views on Torah (tho often not spelled out). So I’m inclined to favor it here.” While I would agree that the understanding of the Pharisees and Sadducees in regards to God’s character was deficient, I don’t think it was an ignorance of God’s love that was directly responsible for the Sadducees’ error concerning the resurrection (besides, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but their knowledge of God’s character was arguably even more deficient than that of the Sadducees!). This is neither explicitly stated nor implied by what Jesus says after quoting Exodus 3:6. And I don’t know of any verse in the Torah that reveals God’s love to be such that it would be inconceivable for him to not raise Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from the dead. I believe that to begin to view God as he is fully revealed in Christ (i.e., as a Being who doesn’t just love but actually IS love, and would sacrifice his own life on our behalf) requires a radical transformation of one’s heart and mind that only a “new birth” can bring about, and if Jesus’ argument required that the Sadducees understand God in this way it would have, I think, demanded more from them than was possible at that time. I don’t believe that even Jesus’ disciples had such a radical understanding of God’s love at this time. So rather than being silenced by such an argument, the Sadducees would have likely seen themselves as gaining a victory over Jesus. On the other hand, even those who have not yet been transformed by the power of the Gospel and received the fullest revelation of God’s love for the human race can feel the force of (and be silenced by) a sound logical argument.
The crowd - along with the Sadducees - had not considered the logical implications of what was being said by God in this verse. Jesus helped them see the logical implications by immediately following his quotation with the statement that “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” It was because they felt the force of Jesus’ argument and could not dispute his logic that they were “astonished” at what he said. Jesus caused them to realize that this verse had always taught the resurrection, and that the only reason they’d missed it was because they - unlike Jesus - had failed to work out the logical implications of what God said to Moses. But had Jesus’ argument depended on their having a right understanding of God’s character and of what exactly was and wasn’t consistent with his love, I doubt the people would have been “astonished,” and it’s even less likely that the Sadducees would have been “silenced” by Jesus’ argument. Again, it’s evident that the Sadducees didn’t believe annihilation to be inconsistent with God’s love, and it’s unlikely that the people who overheard Jesus’ response to them would have had radically different ideas about what was or wasn’t consistent with God’s love than the Sadducees.
Of course - that’s what I thought I’ve been arguing. I simply deny that the “unsaid reasoning” has anything to do with what is or isn’t consistent with God’s love as it is revealed in the Torah.
But in Exodus 3:6, God isn’t describing himself as the God of a man who was still alive at the time, so your parenthetical explanation of what God meant falls flat, IMO. Moreover, there is nothing that Jesus says to the Sadducees in connection with the verse he quotes that was meant to draw their attention to what you call “Jesus’ constant Biblical premise that God is the sort who wouldn’t let go of his beloved.” It’s just not there. And even if Jesus did appeal to God’s love I find it unlikely that the Sadducees would have been “silenced” by such an argument, for they undoubtedly believed that God loved Abraham as well. But it’s evident that they didn’t see God’s love for Abraham during his lifetime as being an argument for the resurrection. So how was anything Jesus said to them calculated to challenge their view of God’s love?
I agree that “the whole Biblical narrative makes it reasonable to recognize God as one who pursues relationship.” But apparently the Sadducees didn’t think the Torah made it “reasonable to recognize God as one who pursues relationship” with those who have died, so how was Jesus’ response calculated to challenge their view of God?
Also, do you think God “requires suffering” at all?
Ok. Do you think it’s reasonable to recognize God’s purpose for mankind as including our having a mortal existence and the capacity for physical pain?
And if you would answer this question in the same way as the previous one, would you consider my questions to be unanswerable apart from a divine revelation?
What are your reasons for believing that Mark 9:42-49 has reference to a post-mortem state of existence?
Do you believe the next state of existence will be more conducive to our becoming holy because Scripture reveals this to be the case, or because of some other consideration(s)?
Scripture doesn’t picture Jesus’ sinlessness as the result of a process of becoming holy. There’s also no indication that the angels in heaven are sinless as a result of a process. And unless you believe that Scripture teaches that we can be sinlessly perfect in this life, I’d say there’s no indication that anyone who has ever begun the process of sanctification would ever become completely sinless as a result of the process. That is, I see no indication that the process of sanctification of which Scripture speaks was ever meant to yield a state of sinless perfection that I believe is presently enjoyed by Jesus, God and the angels.
We’ve focused on pivotal hermeneutical presuppositions, not detailed exegesis. And I suspect saying “Jesus’ interpretation” of Torah is “the literal reading” epitomizes our gulf. You appear to embrace my tradition’s consensus: Jesus only challenged later “traditions.” But my cited paper offers 15+ examples where he practically reverses the literal interpretation understandably perceived by his day’s devoted Bible students (proving nothing, Talbott emailed me that he agrees 100%).
So, do you perceive that Jesus never supports violation of Torah’s literal prescriptions (even on cleanliness, food laws, executions, oaths, etc)? On Torah and Sabbath “work,” I presume it hangs on whether a reasonable literalist could assume that this prohibited normal exertion that could easily be avoided. If my Torah had God waxing whoever picks up a piece of wood, I too might have feared that Jesus’ relishment of doing Sabbath ministry (“go and carry your pallet”) that could wait until Sunday would literally violate the doing of no “work” that brings death.
John 5:16f perceives Jesus’ radical defense as “My Father is always at work, and (so) I too am working” How then do the leaders of God’s religion violate literalism about the Sabbath if they reason that Torah suggests, “Don’t work,” but Jesus says, “I will work,” and thus he is “breaking the Sabbath” (5:18)?
I’m also not seeing how you read Exodus 3:6 “literally.” Saying that Moses’ God is also the dead patriarchs’ God does not prove the “resurrection.” It could simply be literally read as saying that Moses had the same God as Abraham. Even Jesus’ added assertion that God is God of the living wouldn’t require a future resurrection. I’m not so sure they accepted this. But if they did, why wouldn’t it more literally suggest that the patriarchs were already alive? You argue that it must logically require resurrection to be so effective as to persuade and “silence” the Sadduccees. But I can’t see in the broad context that their silence meant that he had pesruaded them at all.
On the rest: I’ve already agreed with you that Jesus does point to Scriptures, that function as “counter-texts.”
You ask if “God requires suffering at all.” I do see it as a major part of the process God uses in the Biblical storyline.
You ask if it’s reasonable to see God’s purpose is for us to have mortal existence and capacity for Pain? Yes!
On Mark 9:42-49, do you hold that hearers’ understanding would Not think so eschatologically, because contemporary Judaism contains no views that expected divine judgment beyond history or this life?
Do I think that we’ll be more holy beyond death, because of Scripture? Yes.
On the last, you seem to equate “becoming more holy” and “sinlessness.” I’m doubtful they’re identical. You argue God, Jesus and angels are sinless without any process. But that seem irrelevant for me, since human beings with which I have more experience, appear to be in a different category. You ask why I think for human beings, God might continue using a “process” that involves their choices. Again, it’s the constancy of this in their story that is most plain to me, the Biblical one, that makes it seem reasonable to be open to this possibility.
I don’t think one has to deny that Jesus occasionally - or even regularly - “supports violation of Torah’s literal prescriptions” to object to your interpretation of Jesus’ argument against the Sadducees (and I doubt you would affirm that whenever Jesus quoted a verse from the OT he “transcended literal logic” in his interpretation and application of the text!). As noted previously, Jesus quotes Scripture to the Pharisees both before and after his confrontation with the Sadducees (Matt 19:1-6; 22:41-46), and in neither case is there any indication that Jesus understood - or expected his listeners to understand - these texts in some way other than in their literal, straight-forward sense. Jesus simply didn’t have to “practically reverse the literal interpretation” of these texts in order for him to confound his opponents; the literal, straight-forward reading of the verses he quotes in these examples suited his argument just fine.
Moreover, none of these texts (Matt 22:32 included) are examples of commandments, so in this regard I see them as categorically different from the texts to which you refer in support of your understanding of Jesus’ response to the Sadducees. So the question of whether or not Jesus supported violation of Torah’s literal prescriptions is, I think, irrelevant insofar as texts such as Matt 19:5, 22:32 and 22:44 are concerned. I don’t see any contextual reason to believe that Jesus is interpreting Exodus 3:6 in a non-literal sense, and as in the two examples referred to above, his argument works just as well according to a literal, straight-forward reading. In fact, when I try to understand Jesus’ response to the Sadducees according to your interpretation, I’m not exactly sure what to make of what Jesus says after quoting Exodus 3:6. From what you’ve said so far in regards to your understanding of Jesus’ argument (which you see as an example of Jesus “transcending literal logic” and appealing to the love that God had for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while they were alive), his concluding statement (i.e., “He is not God of the dead but of the living”) seems something of a non sequitur - but perhaps you could elucidate a bit.
It’s likely that the man referred to in Numbers was gathering wood in broad daylight with the intention of building a fire on the Sabbath (an action which was explicitly prohibited by God - Ex 35:3; cf. 16:23). If this is the case, then his action should be seen as an act of wilful, presumptuous defiance. At best, his action manifested a casual attitude toward God and a careless disregard for his law. But should the healed man’s act of picking up and carrying his mat away from where he’d been laying as an invalid for 38 years be understood in a similar sense? Was his act of obedience to Christ a violation of Torah’s literal prescription concerning the Sabbath? Unless this man was planning on starting a fire and cooking with his mat (or perhaps selling it on the street corner) I don’t see how his action could be understood as being a violation of what the Torah literally said; we certainly aren’t told that picking up and carrying a mat on the Sabbath was an activity that constituted the “work” that was prohibited on this day. And as Adam Clarke notes, the man “was a poor man, and if he had left his bed he might have lost it; and he could not have conveniently watched it till the next morning.” While this was certainly a violation of the Pharisee’s extra-biblical rules concerning the Sabbath, the man’s act of picking up his mat on the Sabbath was a far cry from gathering wood to build a fire with when such an activity was explicitly forbidden. For all we know, the only Jews who thought carrying a mat on the Sabbath to be a violation of the literal command found in Torah were the Pharisees.
I don’t think Jesus was defining “work” here in the same sense as he understood it to mean in the 4th commandment: “Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work” (Ex 20:9–10). Jesus was not talking about labouring as a carpenter or gathering wood to build a fire for cooking or any other profane work that was prohibited on this day. Like the “work” of circumcising a child on the Sabbath (John 7:23), or of offering sacrifices (Num 28:9-10), or of travelling to a religious convocation for worship (Lev 23:2-3), the “work” that Jesus was engaged in during his 3 1/2 year earthly ministry was necessary physical activity that was consistent with the literal prescription concerning Sabbath-keeping. He speaks of his divine ministry as “work” not to reverse the literal interpretation of Torah but to make it known that the kind of “work” in which he was engaged on the Sabbath was in the same category of “work” that God had been doing even while “resting” from creating - i.e., it was necessary “work” from which one couldn’t abstain for even a day. Moreover, the work Jesus was doing was not his own work, but rather God’s work (John 4:34; 9:4; 17:4).
But again, for the sake of argument I’m willing to concede that Jesus was transcending “literal logic” and violating a literal command in the Torah when he healed the sick on the Sabbath and told a poor man to pick up his mat and walk, and that this was one of many instances in which Jesus violated literal commands from the Torah. Does this mean Jesus employed trans-literal logic every time he read and interpreted a verse in Scripture? Of course not - and I submit that when Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6 there was simply no need for him to do this in order for this verse to serve as a supporting text for the doctrine of the resurrection. And what Jesus declares immediately after quoting this verse appears to support my position that Jesus chose this verse because of the fact that God was declaring something to be true of himself in relation to those who were dead at the time the declaration was made.
God’s statement to Moses was “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” According to the Torah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had died long before God made this declaration to Moses. Therefore God was declaring something to be true of himself in relation to three men who were understood to be dead and buried. But even though they had died long before this declaration was made, God still considered himself to be their God. But God is not the God of corpses and dust. One must therefore conclude either that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob already had been raised when God made this declaration, or that they would be raised at some future time (in my 10/27/10 post I wrote, “…the unavoidable implication is that these patriarchs either have been raised from the dead, or that they will be raised from the dead.”).
Now, I believe you’re having to ignore or disregard the actual wording when you assert that Exodus 3:6 could be “literally read as saying that Moses had the same God as Abraham” (emphasis mine). The literal reading (which has God speaking in the present tense in regards to his relation to the dead patriarchs) conveys much more than the mere fact that “Moses had the same God as Abraham.” God is making a present-tense declaration about his relation to deceased Abraham which was true at the time he was speaking to Moses. He’s not, in other words, saying to Moses, “I am your God just like I WAS Abraham’s God.” He’s saying “I AM (presently) the God of Abraham…” By using the present tense, God is declaring something to be true not just in regards to his past relationship with these patriarchs (e.g., his relationship with them before they died), but, more importantly, in regards to his relation to them post-mortem. Now, of course it’s true that this declaration implies that “Moses had the same God as Abraham”; God’s declaration cannot mean less than this. But you seem to be interpreting God’s words to mean only this, which is less than what is actually being said. It’s not only true that “Moses had the same God as Abraham.” What God is saying in Ex 3:6 is even more profound than this. Even after Abraham’s death, God is STILL his God! But how can this be? Answer: since God is not the God of the dead but of the living, the only way God could consider himself Abraham’s God at the time he spoke to Moses is if Abraham had already been raised from the dead, or if Abraham will be raised from the dead at some future time.
You’re right; read in isolation from Jesus’ other statements concerning the resurrection (as well as the rest of the NT), his added assertion could have implied a past resurrection of these patriarchs (which still would’ve proven the Sadducees “quite wrong!”). But since both Jesus and the Sadducees seem to be taking for granted the fact that if there is a resurrection it will be a future event, it’s likely that the Sadducees would have understood Jesus’ assertion as implying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be raised, not that they had been raised. But either way, their view concerning the resurrection was still shown to be in error.
If a dead person comes back to life, it’s because they’ve been raised from the dead. That’s what the “resurrection of the dead” is - the event by which the dead are restored to life so that they “stand again.” The question of when they are made alive (resurrected) is, I believe, irrelevant to Jesus’ argument here. The resurrection is proved from Ex 3:6 regardless of whether Abraham was “already alive” when God spoke to Moses or whether he would be restored to life at some future time. Either way, his being alive again after dying would require a resurrection (the very thing the Sadducees denied).
He might not have. Perhaps their hardened hearts and unwillingness to accept defeat forced them to affirm what they knew to be an unreasonable position (i.e., that God is the God of those who are dead). But I suspect that they felt the force of Jesus’ argument and were unable to respond because they knew his argument was sound. Just like Jesus forced the Pharisees to take an agnostic position concerning the baptism of John (Matt 21:23-27), so Jesus silenced the Sadducees with reasoning that they could not dispute without looking foolish in the eyes of the multitude.
Thanks for amplifying on my impression that Jesus often “transcends literal” interpretation. You grant that he may “regularly” contradict “Torah’s literal prescriptions” (so as you ‘concede,’ nothing hangs on whether his Sabbath views are exceptions to this, or, if Pharisees were indeed reasonable to see him as ‘carelessly’ promoting unnecessary “work,” interpreted rather literally).
For you say it’s “irrelevant,” since Jesus’ "different kind of use in Ex. 3:6 is clearly literal in its’ logic. I.e. using “am” (not ‘was’) required that Sadduccees agree that God is “still” (and “presently”) the dead patriarchs’ God. And since He can’t be God of “corpses,” then resurrection is taught here.
But such ‘clarity’ is what I’ve argued is questionable. #1. Sure, pressing the verb tense would require that they be “presently” alive, but it’s precisely such insistence on every literal ‘letter’ of the text, that I have contended Jesus and the N.T. ‘often’ transcend and oppose as disastrous, preferring to argue more broadly for its’ core hopes and values. So I can’t just assume that Jesus will now necessarily be so literalist here.
#2. Such literalism is not required in standard linguistic usage. If I told my dead son’s friend, “I am Joe’s father, Bob,” would you insist that I would have to mean, 'My son is still alive? I think I may not use “was,” even though our ‘relationship most literally exists while he was alive. Neither need the Sadduccees’ reading of Exodus necessarily violate hard logic.
#3. I see nothing in Exodus of “coming back to life,” or of resurrection. And IF literalism indeed requres that patriarchs are “presently” alive, it seem that it proves for you too much. How does that allow a future resurrection? Wouldn’t it literally require that they were then in a living relationship with God? Then, could even you conclude that God is NOT “presently” the God of “corpses and dust”?
I just want to say that I’m enjoying this discussion immensely, and that your critiques of my position are much appreciated! Thanks especially for pressing me on the whole “literal” vs. “non-literal” interpretation of Scripture; you’ve helped me realize that trying to force a completely literal reading upon Exodus 3:6 is an exercise in futility! So I will try to modify my argument somewhat. That said, I still don’t think we should simply assume that Jesus is “reversing the literal interpretation” of an OT verse if there’s no clear indication that he was doing so. I think one must have contextual reasons for believing that Jesus is doing this - and those reasons cannot be based on the OT text alone but rather on something Jesus says or does which shows that he was interpreting the verse in a “non-literal” way. I think there are at least some examples of Jesus quoting the OT in a way that doesn’t necessarily transcend “literal logic” or “reverse the literal interpretation” (e.g., Matt 4:4, 7, 10; 15:4, 8-9; 19:4-5; 43-44; Luke 22:37; John 10:34). It’s also my understanding that in Gal 3:16 the force of Paul’s argument rests on the fact that a noun was singular rather than plural, which suggests to me that he didn’t see an “insistence on every literal ‘letter’ of the text” as something that was necessarily “disastrous.” But since you’ve shown that a “literal reading” of Exodus 3:6 is untenable according to my interpretation of Jesus’ argument, I won’t belabour this point any further!
So let’s say that both of our interpretations have Jesus (in some sense) “transcending literal logic” in his response to the Sadducees. I would still argue that Christ is not using analogical reasoning here to argue how the future, immortal state of existence will be like this present, mortal existence. It is God’s relation to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob after their mortal existence had ended which I think should be seen as the basis for Jesus’ argument that these patriarchs will be raised. In other words, the fact that God still considered himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob even after they’d died means that they will be (or have been) raised from the dead, since God is “not the God of the dead but of the living.” As noted previously, what’s being revealed in Exodus 3:6 is not merely that God considered himself the God of Abraham while Abraham was still alive. Rather, it’s that God considered himself the God of Abraham after Abraham’s death.
To say “I am Joe’s father” implies that you do not consider your relation to him as father as having been broken or terminated by death (and in that sense your relation to Joe exists just as literally after death as before). And as I’m sure you’re aware, there are other relationships that one would most likely not speak of in the present tense after death. For example, the teacher or best friend of a deceased child would most likely not say to someone, “I am his teacher” or “I am his best friend.” Rather, they would say, “I was his teacher” and “I was his best friend.” But because God still considered himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob after they’d died - and because God is not the God of the dead but of the living - it follows that they will not remain dead for all time (for God, unlike a human, has the power to restore persons to life). So I think my general argument is still sound, which is that Jesus’ argument derives its force from the fact that God was declaring something to be true about his relation to three patriarchs who had died long before the declaration was made. God’s being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was true not merely while these men were alive, but it is also true after they’d died - and it is this fact (in conjunction with the fact that God “is not the God of the dead but of the living”) which makes Exodus 3:6 teach the resurrection by implication.
As noted previously, to come back to life and to be raised from the dead are equivalent in meaning; to live again after death is to be resurrected from the dead. While it’s true that there is no explicit mention of anyone being resurrected in Exodus, I believe Jesus’ point in quoting Exodus 3:6 is that the resurrection is implied by what God says to Moses regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It’s true that a “literal” understanding of God’s words would require that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had already been raised from the dead, but I believe Jesus understood God to be speaking proleptically here (for God “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” - Rom 4:17). That this is the case seems evident from what is added in Luke’s account: “For he is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to him” - i.e., in view of the resurrection, all people are alive to God. And yes, I agree that God is not “presently the God of corpses and dust,” and I don’t think that he ever will be. Because he is the God of the living and not the God of the dead, I believe God can only speak of himself as being the God of those who have died in a proleptic sense (i.e., in view of their ultimately being restored to life by him).
By the “Biblical storyline” I’m assuming you mean what transpires both in this present existence and in the next existence. So when you say you believe that suffering is “major part of the process God uses,” are you including every possible kind of suffering that one can experience in this existence, or just certain kinds of suffering? And is it your view that we should reasonably expect there to be suffering for as long as the process continues? The reason I ask is because there is certain suffering that I believe only mortals can experience, which would mean such suffering is only a “major part of the process” in this present existence.
If Scripture didn’t reveal that we will be made immortal in the resurrection, do you think it would be reasonable to expect mortality to be a part of our future existence?
Now, I think most would agree that mortality and death is a huge part of this present existence. In fact, I’m not sure if any of us can truly understand and appreciate how great of an impact our mortality has on what we think and do in this life. In a sense, mortality defines and contextualizes this present existence. All of our moral decisions are made with the knowledge that our time here on earth is limited and will end in death, and this awareness of our mortality has a significant impact on what we choose to do or not do, and why we choose to do something or refrain from doing it. It is, I believe, the primary source of “crisis” in our lives. The awareness of our mortality, and the knowledge that we must all one day face death, the “king of terrors,” is, I believe, the greatest existential burden we must carry in this world. I would argue that most - perhaps all - sins can in some way be accounted for by the fact that we are mortal beings with self-preserving instincts and desires who are also aware of our mortality and inevitable death. This awareness of death leads to a fear which, according to the author of Hebrews, subjects humans to lifelong “bondage” (Heb 2:15) - which, in the context, seems to refer to bondage to sin (see vv. 16-18). But how can an awareness of our inevitable death lead to sin?
The following excerpt is from an article by Rich Vincent (theocentric.com/theology/gos … death.html), who I believe articulates pretty well the position that the “fear of death” of which the author of Hebrews speaks should be understood as the root cause of sin:
But even if one believes that our being mortal is completely unrelated to our being sinful, it still remains the case that our being mortal is inseparable from the present process of becoming more holy that some (although not all, or even most) human beings undergo during this lifetime. The only persons in this present existence who undergo the process that you believe will continue after death are mortal. But of course, when we’re raised from the dead, mortality is swallowed up in life. But if that which is inseparable from the present process of becoming more Christ-like (i.e., mortality and death) does not continue after we’re “made alive in Christ,” why should we expect the process itself to continue at all? The same thing could be said for any aspect of the present process that will not be a part of our future existence. If it won’t continue in the next existence, I don’t see why it’s reasonable to expect the process itself to continue. This doesn’t mean the process can’t continue (assuming, of course, that our being mortal has nothing to do with our being sinners) - I just don’t see why we should reasonably expect it to continue. It may be objected that a process necessarily implies a goal, and so the process must continue until the goal is reached. But when the goal is reached the process is no longer necessary, and this is true irrespective of whether the goal was reached by means of the process or not. Moreover, it may be the case that the goal of the process is something that is obtained before death by all who begin it.
No; I’m not sure what Jesus’ hearers would have understood Jesus to be talking about in this passage. But I think it’s more important to know what Jesus meant, and not what his hearers may or may not have understood him to mean. They could have been mistaken, or they could have rightly understood him. We don’t know unless Scripture tells us. Even if his listeners did expect “divine judgment beyond history of this life” (which, although it was certainly the position of the Pharisees, need not have been the position of all or even most Jews in Jesus’ day), this doesn’t mean they understood Christ to be talking about a post-mortem punishment of disembodied souls or resurrected humans when he referred to people’s bodies being cast into Gehenna. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Christ held to the beliefs of the Pharisees. I think it’s much more likely that Christ was referring to the same kind of judgment referred to in Jeremiah 19.
I’m still curious why you think Mark 9:42-49 has reference to a post-mortem state of existence. I can only assume by your question that you see one reason as being the fact that some Jews in Jesus’ day held to the position that divine judgment beyond history or this life would be experienced. If so, I don’t see any reason to believe that something believed by some of Jesus’ contemporaries (especially if the position was held by the sect that was most criticized by Jesus during his earthly ministry) is true unless it is revealed to be true in Scripture.
No, I don’t think becoming more holy is equivalent to sinlessness. In regards to human beings, I see “holiness” (like “righteousness”) as a status that describes one who is either sinless (i.e., living in perfect and unbroken harmony with the law of God that is written on our hearts) or is on the path to becoming sinless. I do, however, think there is a state in which sin (which I understand to be a violation of the law of God written on our hearts) will no longer be possible. Do you believe human beings can reach such a state by a process? If so, do you think it’s possible to reach such a state now, in this present state of existence?
Your comment seems to suggest that it’s your own experience which determines what is or isn’t relevant for you. But I doubt this is your position, so some clarification would be helpful!
But isn’t this somewhat question-begging? You speak of constancy in the Biblical story, but unless the Bible reveals that what’s constant in this life (such as our being mortal, or our being sinful) continues after death, what reason do we have to expect it to? I don’t see why we should just take it for granted. Does the Biblical story reveal that what’s constant in this life will also be constant in the next state of existence? If it doesn’t, then wouldn’t it mean you’re trying to argue from the Biblical story for that which the Biblical story doesn’t actually say anything about? Of course, if the Biblical story does reveal that the process by which we become more holy in this state of existence will be continued in the next state of existence, then I think this thread could be a lot shorter than it’s becoming!
Finally, you seem to think that God wouldn’t choose to create what you call “sanctified maturity” without any preceding process that involves suffering. But besides analogical reasoning, what are your reasons for believing this? And do you think some people will reach a state of sanctified maturity in a shorter duration of time than others? If so, how long do you think the process has to be in order for it to be something of value to God? Do you think the process requires a certain number of choices to be made, or a certain amount of suffering to be experienced? And if you’re not sure (and frankly, I’m not sure how you could be!), what are you sure of in regards to the process continuing after death?
I’m greatly enjoying discussion with you also! And appreciate your patience in my slowness in sorting out the sorts of implied logics that we each bring to the texts. I agree that we mustn’t “assume” Jesus never appeals to a text’s straight forward meaning. But observing him as a prophetic pioneer who ‘often’ revolutionizes the commonly accepted reading, then as you say, one will be alert for “contextual reasons” that suggest this in any given text.
(Appropo of nothing: Your appeal to literalism in Paul & Gal. 3:16 seems problematic. I think his emphasis on seed’s non-plural form actually reveals how defeating it would be to make “an argument resting on the literal letter.” For isn’t “sperma” usually understood as a plurality (tho grammatically singular)? Thus the correct meaning of the proof-texts that Paul seems to depend on as “literal” can’t bear this weight. For Abraham would insist that it was plural: e.g. “I will make your ‘seed’ like the dust of the earth…” (Gen. 13:15f). And Paul knows this, for he regularly uses ‘seed’ with a plural meaning (e.g Rom. 4:13–“The promise to Abraham and his descendants (seed-singular) that they should inherit…”). Israel had literal meaning on their side in thinking that the promises were to the nation (plural)!
And I suspect Paul is too sharp to forget such basics in Galatians 3:16. So I think that he is not arguing for literalism at all. He is just cleverly pointing to how seed’s very ambiquity fits nicely with his (re)interpretation that we already believe, which is that the promises to Israel were fulfilled in “one true Israelite” (Jn. 1:47).
I do agree that our own text “transcends literal logic.” Also that Jesus argues that “God’s relationship to Abraham continued after their mortal existence.” But we differ on what logic the Sadduccees are to recognize in reaching his conclusion. I can’t see that Exodus 3:16, as a proof-text, can secure it. Thus “contextually” as I’ve outlined, I come to suspect that Jesus must be appealing to the wider set of assumptions to which Jesus regularly appealed.
You seem to repeat that Exodus can secure it, because the present tense means that God was Abraham’s God in Mose’s day, But what meaning does that secure? (I think Sadduccees believed that was true in some sense.) If you think Abraham did not then exist to have a relationship with, why would this assure that he would come to life, or exist later? If “I’m Joe’s father” only implies an ongoing “relationship” (=?), but not necessarily that I think Joe survives death, what does it assure? I.e. I’m not seeing how your argument is “sound.”
I suspect the real text that your argument relies on is not Exodus at all, but: “God is only the God of the living.” Yet that is not a prooftext here. I see it more as the assertion for which Jesus must argue with Sadduccees, but which seems to require additional assumptions of the sort which I’ve outlined.
I also don’t see why Exodus should be understood as proleptic. So here the tables are reversed , and I’m asking you why contextually one can not take it more literally?
On my addendum, you ask what “kinds of suffering” I see beyond our “present existence”? I don’t know. I just think the prominence of various sorts of painful losses in our present formation suggests that it wouldn’t be surprising if some form of that also contributed to some people’s future choices. I agree that neither of our assumptions here are conclusive about what to “expect.” But I can’t see see why our present experience involving facing death means that choices won’t also be relevant for immortals.
You and Vincent argue sin is rooted in our “fear of death.” I’ve long agreed that its’ role has profound repercussions, but is Genesis’ proto-type sin explained that way? Isn’t fear of death presented as post-sin. I’d think that more fundamentallly a root is our ongoing finitude which leaves us insecure about our relationship to the infinite.
On Mark 9, I actually think on the largest number of issues, of all the sects, the Pharisees were closest to Jesus’ positions (such that their remaining differences on the law and reform make them Jesus’ most problematic rivals). In any event, I simply think that if Jesus would rightly assume his references to “Gehenna” would be seen by his listeners as referring to post-mortem punishments or purifications, and Jesus cares to communicate, it would be reasonable to assume that he wanted to affirm a similar reality, unless contextual indications show that he is differentiating his position (perhaps a parrallel would be Jesus’ caution and use of clarifications about his definition of their term, “Messiah”).
No, I’m not assuming that by a “process,” we (or angels) attain “sinlessness.” I’m just unsure that God would confer it by suspending all the processes that put importance on our cooperative choices in that direction.
You imply that the part of the “Biblical story” about this life can suggest nothing about the next. But that is 99% of its’ story, and is that which gives me the main clues as to God’s character and priority values! But to say that I “take it for granted” that God’s value upon our cooperative choices will continue overstates my view. I’m only arguing that it would lead us to consider indications that God’s dealing with us continue post-mortem.
So you ask, what could be such “reasons for believing” that “suffering” could retain a role? That of course brings us back to interpretations of eschatological warning texts. I very much respect (and am often sympathetic to) your contention that many of these classically point to judgments within history (e.g. Jersak is your ally here). My more traditional reading may be wrong, but I assume that you’ll admit that many others also perceive that Jesus and the apostles are sometimes embracing contemporary assumptions that God will inflict post-mortem judgments upon the unrepentant.
If possible, I think the assumption(s) to which Jesus is appealing when he quotes the OT should be determined by what he says or does in the context in which the text is quoted. Now, when quoting Torah in his response to the Sadducees it would seem that the primary assumption to which Jesus is appealing is that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” This appears to be the premise which, for Jesus, makes Ex 3:6 teach the resurrection by implication. Now, it may be the case that Jesus’ reason for believing that YHWH is the not the God of the dead may be based on the “wider set of assumptions” of which you speak. Perhaps you could unpack this thought a bit (and who knows, I might just agree with you!).
To say “I am Joe’s father” when Joe is deceased implies that you still consider the family relation to be unbroken (and if you were Joe’s boss you most likely would not say, “I am Joe’s boss” after his death). This wouldn’t, of course, imply that you’re presently engaged in an ongoing interpersonal relationship with your deceased son (which implies social interaction). It also wouldn’t mean that Joe is going to be resurrected. But if, after Joe’s death, you said “I am Joe’s father,” and if it was also true that you “are not the father of the dead but of the living,” then the statement “I am Joe’s father” would, I think, necessarily imply that Joe is ultimately going be restored to life (assuming, of course, you had the power to bring it about). And in this case, it would mean you were speaking proleptically in regards to being the father of Joe after Joe’s death.
I’m not sure I completely follow you here. I believe it is the premise that “God is only the God of the living” which makes Exodus 3:6 the proof-text that it is. That is, Jesus quoted a verse which, when interpreted in light of this accepted premise, implies that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be (or have been) raised from the dead. So it is the premise that God is not the God of the dead but of the living which, when applied to Ex 3:6, makes this text (Ex 3:6) teach the resurrection by implication. At least, that’s my understanding of Jesus’ argument here.
But why is it true that God is not the God of the dead? Jesus doesn’t say; perhaps this assertion requires the kind of additional assumptions of which you speak. Or perhaps this was something affirmed by the Sadducees themselves (in which case Jesus would be showing them that a consistent application of this statement to the Torah undermines their position). Here’s what I think: the title “God,” I believe, is relative, and presupposes the existence of a worshipper. But since the dead cannot praise or worship God, it would be inappropriate to call YHWH their God. God is not the God of those who don’t worship or recognize him as God, which necessarily includes the dead. Thus, for God to speak of himself as being the God of those who are dead can only mean that he was speaking in view of their being ultimately restored to a state of being in which they can once again serve and worship him as God.
From the context of Exodus alone I don’t think there’s reason to understand God’s words as proleptic, and I don’t think it was necessary to Jesus’ argument for this verse to be understood in this way (for whether God was speaking proleptically or not, the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is, I think, still being implied by God’s declaration - assuming it is true that he is not the God of the dead). But the larger context of the NT indicates that the resurrection of the dead is not a past but a future event, so it can be inferred from this fact that God was speaking proleptically here, and that Jesus understood it this way (even the Sadducees seemed to believe and argue from the premise that IF there is a resurrection it would be future). Moreover, the additional statement made by Jesus in Luke’s account that “all live to God” seems to indicate that Jesus understood God’s words in Ex 3:6 proleptically, since the “all” would embrace those who were understood to be dead in Jesus’ day. And those who are dead could only be said to live to God in a proleptic sense. But again, even if God’s words aren’t understood proleptically, the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is still implied; it would simply mean that their resurrection had already occurred.
Do you also think the prominence of various physical and mental maladies suffered by people in this present existence suggests that it wouldn’t be surprising if some forms of physical and mental maladies contributed to people’s future choices? And if Jesus hadn’t said that there is no marriage in the resurrection would you think the prominence of marriage in this present state of existence suggests that it wouldn’t be surprising if marriage existed in the future existence?
Perhaps I’m just not imaginative enough, but I’m having a very difficult time trying to conceive of an entirely immortal human race experiencing the “various sorts of painful losses” that an entirely mortal human race experiences regularly in this present existence, so some examples of what kind of suffering you think we should expect immortals to experience (or at least that we shouldn’t find surprising) would be helpful! Since the only state of which I have any experience in which “various sorts of painful losses” are suffered is one that begins with birth and ends with death, and since I don’t read anything in Scripture about immortal humans suffering, I can’t help but think that it would be very surprising if this aspect of our present existence contributed to the choices we’ll be making as immortal beings.
Moreover, John’s words in Revelation 21:4 (which I understood to refer to the final state of humanity at the conclusion of the Messianic age) seem to indicate that suffering of any kind will be absent in the immortal state: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” It’s evident that John is alluding to Isaiah 25:8, where the prophet seems to be describing the state into which we will introduced when death has been destroyed. And the fact that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (or, as Young’s puts it, “the last enemy is done away – death”) suggests to me that there will be no further enemies for man to face when he has become immortal.
And what about the means by which we are saved and purified in this present existence? I’m not sure how that can be expected to continue after we’re raised immortal. It is by a living faith that we are saved in this life (i.e., a faith which necessarily expresses itself in good works), which means that a living faith is essential to the present process of salvation that some mortals undergo. But the faith by which we are presently saved is defined in Hebrews as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Now, in 1 Peter 1:3-4 we read that those to whom Peter wrote had been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven” (the “inheritance” is undoubtedly a reference to the glorified, immortal bodies we are to receive at Christ’s coming to raise the dead). And Paul expressed his hope in God that there was to be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust, and declared that “it is in this hope” (i.e., the hope of being made immortal in the resurrection) that “we were saved” (Rom 8:23-24). Similarly, in 1 John 3:2 the apostle seems to suggest that it is by means of this hope (i.e., the hope that Christ is going to make us like himself at his return so that we “bear the image of the man of heaven,” as Paul says in 1 Cor 15:49) that we are “purified” (cf. Phil 3:20-21, where Paul expresses a similar idea). Being raised immortal by Jesus Christ is undoubtedly one of the primary things (if not the primary thing) “hoped for” by the believer, of which our saving faith is “the assurance.” But once the thing hoped of which Peter, Paul and John speak comes to pass, why should we expect the process by which we are presently saved to continue? That is, if faith is essential to the present process of salvation, and faith is “the assurance of things hoped for,” why should we expect the process by which we are saved to continue when that for which we hoped is realized, and we no longer “walk by faith” but by “sight?”
I do think that our choices as immortals will be “relevant.” I just don’t see any reason to believe that, when immortal, we’ll be tempted to make choices that violate our conscience.
While we’re told that Eve (but not Adam) was “deceived” by the serpent, I don’t see Adam’s sin as being explained in the Genesis account, or elsewhere. We’re told that Adam listened to his wife (Gen 3:17), but I don’t read of where his exact motivation for eating from the tree is explained. I suspect it had something to do with the command itself: “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” It seems reasonable to believe that this command from God produced a fear of death in Adam that was not present before the command was given. Perhaps after Eve ate from the fruit and condemned herself to the death threatened by God, Adam yielded to despair and, as an act of defiance, ate as well. At any rate, I think it’s reasonable to think that both Adam and Eve had an awareness of their mortality, and that this knowledge would have influenced their decision.
Why do you think this would be more fundamentally a root of sin than our mortality and fear of death?
That’s an interesting idea and I would love for you to elaborate on it some if you have time! While I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, it just seems to me that the “remaining differences” of which you speak were of great importance and had huge implications, and that the others issues would not have been unaffected by these differences (if that makes sense).
I have yet to see any conclusive evidence that Jesus’ listeners would have understood “Gehenna” to refer to something other than the actual valley south of Jerusalem. The idea of “Gehenna” being a place of purifying punishment seems to have been a later development in Jewish thought, and even if some Jews in Jesus’ day used “Gehenna” to speak of such punishment, it remains to be proven that this was the position held by those to whom Christ spoke the most about Gehenna.
Even if his listeners did understand “Gehenna” to refer to a post-mortem punishment, it need not have been necessary for Jesus to correct their misconception of what he meant by the word in order for him to communicate what he wanted to communicate to them at the time. And even if Jesus felt a need to correct them on this point, we need not assume that he would have done so immediately (and in some cases we have no reason to believe it was his intention to correct his listener’s misconceptions at all).
If Jesus’ listeners were at all familiar with their Hebrew Scriptures then I don’t think Jesus’ talk of bodies being cast into “Gehenna” would have been lost on them (I also think that their awareness of Jesus’ high view of Scripture would have inclined them - or at least inclined his disciples - to try and understand him in light of the Scriptures of which he thought so highly). And as I believe there are contextual indications that Jesus was referring to the same kind of judgment referred to in Jeremiah 19 and elsewhere, I think it is reasonable to expect at least some of his listeners to have picked up on this.
Do you think humanity will ever attain the kind of sinless state that is presently enjoyed by Christ?
The “cooperative choices” in this life of which you speak are an expression and outflow of a living faith, and (as argued earlier) since faith is the assurance of things hoped, I’m unsure of how a process to which faith and hope are essential will continue when hope has been realized and faith has been replaced by sight.
Based on 99% of the Biblical story, I think we can reasonably conclude that God values our being mortal in this present existence just as much as he values the present process of salvation that (a minority of) mortals undergo in this existence. I also don’t think the idea of God introducing the human race into a state of existence in which sin will no longer be possible is at all inconsistent with what the Biblical narrative reveals about God’s character, so in that sense it wouldn’t be surprising to me if God actually did just that.
Yes, I admit that the majority of Christians perceive this. But when the contemporary assumptions of 1st century Judaism were at variance with what is revealed (or not revealed) in the Law and the Prophets, or inconsistent with what is true regarding God’s nature and character, my understanding is that such assumptions would be rejected (although perhaps not explicitly) rather than affirmed and sanctioned by Jesus. And I see the views of the Pharisees regarding post-mortem punishment as falling into this category. Concerning the beliefs of the Pharisees, Josephus states: “They believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or according to vice in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison (eirgmon aidion), but that the former shall have power to revive and live again” (D. Ant. 18.14-15). Here we find that the Pharisees believed the subterranean place of punishment for wicked immortal souls was an “eternal (aidion, not aionion) prison.” And in another place (B. War 2.162-64), Josephus states that the Pharisees “say that all souls are imperishable, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment (aidios timoria).”
Hi Aaron, For now on your first note, wow, I seem to see huge agreement**!**
Specifically, (1) “The primary premise to (or for) which Jesus appeals is that God is not the God of the dead…” (2) “which is what makes Ex. 3:6 teach the resurrection by implication.” (3) “Jesus’ reason for believing (#1) may be (I would say ‘logically needs to be’) based on a wider set of assumptions.” Amen!
To recap, I balked at what originally sounded like claiming that #A literally requires a resurrection, because, as you affirm, that conclusion would depend on adding premise B (= #1 above also). And I argued this would not be logical for Sadduccees, who I presumed would reject B as citing a non-Penteteuchal assumption. Thus, as you now rightly imply, that premise would hang upon what may be “Jesus’ reason(s) for believing” it (and thus for thinking that Sadduccees should also accept belief B).
Of course, I can’t be sure what that was. But the Sadduccees apparent need for such additional reasoning in order to accept such a premise led me to speculate (based on how I perceive Jesus’ teaching in the much wider context) that He sees it as manifest that people are the objects of a Father’s love which places huge divine worth upon them. Thus, if Sadduccees recognize that Exodus 3, at the very least, reminds us that God is the One who had a rich relationship with Abraham, presumably including being deeply loved, then one should believe that such love toward Abraham could not stop.
I.e. One should infer that God would remain the God of living people, not dead people, (such that “all alive to him,” means either in a ‘spiritual’ state, or at least, just as acceptable, alive in God’s mind, in the sense that their potential for future resurrection is secure). And that realization should overturn the Sadduccees’ bias that the living God would just leave his beloved friends dead in the grave.
Our perserverance on hermaneutics and Ex. 3 yielded neat clarifications, but additional questions seem to proliferate into numerous trails! Perhap you’d be interested in concentrating on certain ones. But I’ll comment on what strikes me.
You ask what immortal suffering is imagineable? I’ve agreed much discontinuity should be assumed, as well as some fundamental continuity in how God would relate to the lost. I sense bodily pain is less awful or fundamental than that in our relationships, and even in facing our own perversity, and I imagine that immortals could still face that.
You continue to be more confident than I in tight exegetical arguments for detailed post-mortem realities and chronology. My less conservative view of Scripture sees these as often unclear, evolving, subject to later writers’ reinterpretation, and seen through a pretty ‘dark glass.’ I’m not arguing that Paul necessarily saw ‘suffering’ for those who’ve “purifed themselves” (tho even such conflating of Paul & John seems problematic). But the sequence that those without the “first fruits of the Spirit” should expect after death seems little addressed or clear. And my head spins when you seem to string passages together (Paul, Jn., Peter, Luke, Jesus; saved & unsaved) as if they are well-fitting pieces of a propositional puzzle.
E.g. you say, “Paul expressed his hope that there was to be a resurrection of just & unjust, and declared that ‘it is this hope…’” But it’s Luke who characterizes this as a Pauline idea (Acts 24:15), and also not so clear that this is what Rom. 8:24 is referrring to. Couldn’t I argue as well that Paul agrees with John (5:29) that the unpurified “will rise to condemnation,” parallel to his throwing the dead into “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14f), and follows Daniel’s vision (12:2) that they will be raised to “shame, and everlasting contempt,” or in Jesus’ terms, raised to “eternal punishment” (Mt. 25:46). Of course, you will interpret and connect such texts differently, and the devil is always in such complex details.
As you say, why Adam sinned speculates from silence. I could equally point to his ignorance & inexperience with reality and its’ consequences, and appeal to the specific attraction of gaining the kind of “knowledge” that God possesses, reinforced by Babel’s insecurity in remaining in finite man’s proper place.
On Jesus & Pharisees, I’m following N.T. Wright that Jesus rejected: 1. the Zealots’ view that deliverance depended on initiating violence, 2. the Essenes view that separation from the world was key, 3. the priests & Sadduccees’ view that accomodation to the pagan world was appropriate. Thus he most syncs with the Pharsees’ view that the need is Israel’s radical reform as the people God seeks who fulfill His Law in the midst of the world (tho defining that law less literally). And on eschatology, he sides with them (over Sadduccees) on the resurrection, which perhaps bolsters the need to specify his departures from their view.
I assume their post-mortem vision was popular. You question whether it existed, esp. in connection with ‘Gehenna,’ and I have no expertise on that. But your citations from Josephus’ account of their view seems to parallel Jesus’ language about judgment. So, if e.g. N.T. Wright sees this as the common first century expectation, do you know the relevant data better? You seem to also argue that Jesus wouldn’t challenge the popular belief anyway, when Scripture is already ‘clear.’ But I see him questioning what is thought to be ‘clear,’ and often in their face to challenge beliefs upon which he differs. Thus, thinking that he would prefer that they not interpret him as endorsing a false view of future punishment doesn’t seem unreasonable.