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§ 248. Christ’s Reply to the Sadducees about the Resurrection. (Matt., xxii., 23, seq.; Mark, xii., 18; Luke, xx., 27.)

Between the spirit of Christ and that of the Sadducees there was, as we have already seen,666666   Cf. p. 35. nothing in common. But although that party generally paid little heed to popular religious movements, and had as yet hardly noticed Christ, their attention, and even their favour, was drawn to him by the opposition of the Pharisees. His happy defeat of the schemes of the latter induced the Sadducees to tempt him with a question in regard to marriage in the resurrection, which might, perhaps, embarrass him on the ground that he occupied. But with them, as with the Pharisees, he struck at the root, art traced their errors to ignorance of the Scriptures and of the omnipotence of God. Had they known the Scriptures, he showed them (even the law, which they acknowledged, for he quoted out of Exodus), not only in the letter, but the spirit, they could not fail to see a necessary connexion between the faith revealed there and the doctrine of an eternal, individual life for man (v. 31, 32). Had they known the omnipotence of God, they would not have supposed that the forms and relations of the present life must be preserved in the future; God could bestow the new existence in a far different, nay, in a glorified form (v. 29, 30).

He thus refuted the Sadducees, both negatively and positively. Negatively, by showing that their question went on the false hypothesis that the forms and relations of the present sensible life would be transferred to the future spiritual one; and positively, by showing the essential 362import of the declaration in the Pentateuch, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” How could God place himself in so near a relation to individual men, and ascribe to them so high a dignity, if they were mere perishable appearances; if they had not an essence akin to his own, and destined for immortality?

We must bear in mind here the emphatic sense in which Christ contrasts the “dead” and the “living;” a sense which is evident (apart from John’s Gospel) in the passage, “Let the dead bury their dead.”667667   Cf. p. 310. It is in this emphatic sense that he says, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living668668   The quibbles of the Rabbinical writers on this passage, compared with Christ’s profound saying, illustrate the proverb, “Duo cum dicunt idem, non est idem. (v. 32). The living God can only be conceived as the God of the living. And this argument, derived from the Theocratic basis of the Old Testament, is founded upon a more general one, viz., the connexion between the consciousness of God and that of immortality. Man could not become conscious of God as his God, if he were not a personal spirit, divinely allied, and destined for eternity, an eternal object (as an individual) of God; and thereby far above all natural and perishable beings, whose perpetuity is that of the species, not the individual.

It is worthy of remark, that Christ does not enter further into the faith of immortality as defined in the belief of the resurrection; his opponents could not appreciate the latter until they had been made to feel the need of the former.

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