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Marriage Eternal For 1St Century Jews?


Mike Richards

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Bruce R. McConkie says in his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, "Indeed, almost the whole Jewish nation believed that marriage was eternal, and that parents would beget children in the resurrection. Those few who did not believe that marriage continued after death...were nonetheless fully aware that such was the prevailing religious view of the people generally."

He gives no source for this statement. Does anyone know of any justification for this claim?

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I just read the next page and he cites the following : "...the majority [of Jews at this time] inclined to a materialistic view of the resurrection. The pre-Christian book of Enoch says that the righteous shall live so long that they shall beget thousands. The received doctrine is laid down by Rabbi Saadia, who says, 'As the son of the widow of Sarepton, and the son of the Shunaite, ate and drank, and doubtless married wives, so shall it be in the resurrection'; and by Maimonides, who says, 'Men after the resurrection will use meat and drink, and will beget children, because since the Wise Architect makes nothing in vain, it follows of necessity that the members of the body are not useless, but fulfill their functions.' The point raised by the Sadducees was often debated by the Jewish doctors, who decided that 'a woman who married two husband in this world is restored to the first in the next.' " (J. R. Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentary)

I should have just kept reading. Anyone know anything about Dummelow or these claims he's made?

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I'm rereading the Saadia Gaon quote in context, so stay tuneed.

[Drumroll]

While we are waiting, the following is from Ben Witherington III:

Jesus stresses that in the age to come people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say there will be no marriage in the age to come. The use of the terms “γαμουσιν” (gamousin) and “γαμιζονται” (gamizontai) is important, for these terms refer to the gender-specific roles played in early Jewish society by the man and the woman in the process of getting married. The men, being the initiators of the process in such a strongly patriarchal culture, “marry,” while the women are “given in marriage” by their father or another older family member. Thus Mark has Jesus saying that no new marriages will be initiated in the eschatological [resurrection] state. This is surely not the same as claiming that all existing marriages will disappear in the eschatological state. Jesus, then, would seem to be arguing against a specific view held by the Sadducees about the continuity between this life and the life to come, a view involving the ongoing practice of levirate marriage. In the eschatological state we have resurrected beings who are no longer able to die. Levirate marriage existed precisely because of the reality of death. When death ceases to happen, the rationale for levirate marriage falls to the ground as well. When Jesus says…that people will be like the angels in heaven in the life to come, he does not mean they will live a sexless identity (early Jews did not think angels were sexless in any case; cf. Gen. 6:1–4!), but rather that they will be like angels in that they are unable to die. Thus the question of the Sadducees is inappropriate to the conditions of the eschatological state…In Mark 10 Jesus grounded normal marriage in the creation order, not in the order of the fall, which is the case with levirate marriage (instituted because of death and childlessness and the need to preserve the family name and line). Thus Jesus is intending to deny about the eschatological state 'that there will be any natural relation out of which the difficulty of the Sadducees could arise.' (The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Eerdmans, 2001: 328)

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I know of no direct source, but one can be inferred from the Sadducees' questioning of Jesus.

I've always appreciated this elucidation of the Reticence of Jesus:

In the Apocrypha. . . we read of a young woman, Sarah, who had been married to seven husbands (all brothers), each of whom was killed on the wedding night by a demon. But in the story (Tobit 6:10-8:9,) Sara ultimately marries an eighth husband, Tobias, son of Tobit, who, following instructions from the archangel Raphael, manages to chase the demon away and is therefore not slain. Of special interest is the fact that the archangel (who, according to Tobit 3:17, had been sent to arrange the marriage) tells the young man that his wife had been appointed to him "from the beginning" (Tobit 6:17.) This implies that she had not been sealed to any of her earlier husbands, which would explain why none of them would claim her in the resurrection, as Jesus explained. But if she were sealed to Tobias, the situation changes. Assuming that the Sadducees (whose real issue was one of resurrection, not of eternal marriage) were alluding to this story but left off part of it, this would explain why Jesus told them, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God" John Tvedtnes, "A Much-Needed Book That Needs Much," review of One Lord, One Faith, by Michael T. Griffith, FARMS Review of Books 9. (1997): 41

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Or shall he ponder and say, 'Those in this world, shall they eat, drink and be married, or no?'

We should know that they will eat and drink like us, and be married, as is elucidated by the Sareptan widow's son and the Shunamite's son, who lived in this world, ate, drank and were worthy of marriage. One of the sages said that he was of the seed of one of them.

-Saadia Gaon, the Book of Beliefs and Opinions, the seventh article, chapter five.

I've rendered a fairly literal translation, following R. Yosef Qafih's first-rate Hebrew translation. Saadia gaon was embroiled in a polemic against those who denied the resurrection and particularly against those who spiritualised it. According to Saadia, the resurrection takes place in this world, IE here on earth, not in heaven. It is also restricted to the righteous and penitent among the children of Israel. For him the resurrection is also an indication of God's power, because if he created us once ex nihilo, then he can certainly recreate us from the same. This world, the world of the resurrection, is a transient and corporeal one and we will be transfered from it into the world to come, which is in heaven. There we neither eat, drink, nor live a married life. He uses Moses as an example. He ate and drank before ascending Mt. Sinai, but while there he went without those things.

Yosef Qafih says that he couldn't find a source for Saadia's statement regarding the two sons, but thinks that it might be emmendated to read "as is elucidated by the Sareptan widow's son and the Shunamite's son, and the dead which Ezekiel brought to life." The sage mentioned by Saadia is R. Judah b. Bathira, who declared that he was descended from the dead in Ezekiel's vision (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin 92b).

At any rate, Saadia's concept of marriage was not eternal marriage. Marriage was a condition of this world. It lasted as long as people were in this world, and included the resurrection.

The other problem with trying to use Saadia Gaon as an illustration of beliefs in Jesus' day is that Saadia lived about 800 years after Jesus.

I don't think I need to indicate why that is problematic.

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At any rate, Saadia's concept of marriage was not eternal marriage. Marriage was a condition of this world. It lasted as long as people were in this world, and included the resurrection.

That's interesting. I'm always fascinated with the reasoning of ancient figures and how it contrasts with mine. I (and most Mormons) approach marriage in the afterlife by means of temple sealings. He approaches it by means of the resurrection and earth life. Fascinating.

The other problem with trying to use Saadia Gaon as an illustration of beliefs in Jesus' day is that Saadia lived about 800 years after Jesus.

I don't think I need to indicate why that is problematic.

What's a few centuries? ;)

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That's interesting. I'm always fascinated with the reasoning of ancient figures and how it contrasts with mine. I (and most Mormons) approach marriage in the afterlife by means of temple sealings. He approaches it by means of the resurrection and earth life. Fascinating.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but marriage was the institution which rendered sexual activity legitimate. Sexual activity was a bodily function (or appetite), like eating and drinking. It fit in the same category. Resurrection after all had to do first and foremost with the body. I agree with you that marriage for us LDS is part of a different category. I vastly prefer it too.

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Not to put too fine a point on it, but marriage was the institution which rendered sexual activity legitimate. Sexual activity was a bodily function (or appetite), like eating and drinking. It fit in the same category. Resurrection after all had to do first and foremost with the body. I agree with you that marriage for us LDS is part of a different category. I vastly prefer it too.

But of course! Eating, drinking, and sex: the epitome of earth life.

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Dummelow's commentary is found in its entirety on google books. It is from 1908! That is positively primeval in Jewish studies.

Elder McConkie didn't read the quotes offered by Dummelow's commentary in context. To be fair to McConkie, Dummelow's doesn't even bother to source the quotes.

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[Drumroll]

While we are waiting, the following is from Ben Witherington III:

Jesus stresses that in the age to come people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say there will be no marriage in the age to come. The use of the terms “γαμουσιν” (gamousin) and “γαμιζονται” (gamizontai) is important, for these terms refer to the gender-specific roles played in early Jewish society by the man and the woman in the process of getting married. The men, being the initiators of the process in such a strongly patriarchal culture, “marry,” while the women are “given in marriage” by their father or another older family member. Thus Mark has Jesus saying that no new marriages will be initiated in the eschatological [resurrection] state. This is surely not the same as claiming that all existing marriages will disappear in the eschatological state. Jesus, then, would seem to be arguing against a specific view held by the Sadducees about the continuity between this life and the life to come, a view involving the ongoing practice of levirate marriage. In the eschatological state we have resurrected beings who are no longer able to die. Levirate marriage existed precisely because of the reality of death. When death ceases to happen, the rationale for levirate marriage falls to the ground as well. When Jesus says…that people will be like the angels in heaven in the life to come, he does not mean they will live a sexless identity (early Jews did not think angels were sexless in any case; cf. Gen. 6:1–4!), but rather that they will be like angels in that they are unable to die. Thus the question of the Sadducees is inappropriate to the conditions of the eschatological state…In Mark 10 Jesus grounded normal marriage in the creation order, not in the order of the fall, which is the case with levirate marriage (instituted because of death and childlessness and the need to preserve the family name and line). Thus Jesus is intending to deny about the eschatological state 'that there will be any natural relation out of which the difficulty of the Sadducees could arise.' (The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Eerdmans, 2001: 328)

Thanks for posting this--it is interesting. I have Witherington's commentaries on my wish list, but don't own any of them yet. Do you own more than this one on Mark? What's your opinion of his stuff?

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Or shall he ponder and say, 'Those in this world, shall they eat, drink and be married, or no?'

We should know that they will eat and drink like us, and be married, as is elucidated by the Sareptan widow's son and the Shunamite's son, who lived in this world, ate, drank and were worthy of marriage. One of the sages said that he was of the seed of one of them.

-Saadia Gaon, the Book of Beliefs and Opinions, the seventh article, chapter five.

I've rendered a fairly literal translation, following R. Yosef Qafih's first-rate Hebrew translation. Saadia gaon was embroiled in a polemic against those who denied the resurrection and particularly against those who spiritualised it. According to Saadia, the resurrection takes place in this world, IE here on earth, not in heaven. It is also restricted to the righteous and penitent among the children of Israel. For him the resurrection is also an indication of God's power, because if he created us once ex nihilo, then he can certainly recreate us from the same. This world, the world of the resurrection, is a transient and corporeal one and we will be transfered from it into the world to come, which is in heaven. There we neither eat, drink, nor live a married life. He uses Moses as an example. He ate and drank before ascending Mt. Sinai, but while there he went without those things.

Yosef Qafih says that he couldn't find a source for Saadia's statement regarding the two sons, but thinks that it might be emmendated to read "as is elucidated by the Sareptan widow's son and the Shunamite's son, and the dead which Ezekiel brought to life." The sage mentioned by Saadia is R. Judah b. Bathira, who declared that he was descended from the dead in Ezekiel's vision (B. Talmud, Sanhedrin 92b).

At any rate, Saadia's concept of marriage was not eternal marriage. Marriage was a condition of this world. It lasted as long as people were in this world, and included the resurrection.

The other problem with trying to use Saadia Gaon as an illustration of beliefs in Jesus' day is that Saadia lived about 800 years after Jesus.

I don't think I need to indicate why that is problematic.

Thanks for providing this. I wouldn't have known where to start to examine this source.

So, by using the example of Moses , is he saying that Moses was in heaven while on Mt. Sinai? Is that a common understanding among Jews of his experience? I'm not sure if this is right, but don't we, as LDS, view this experience Moses had as being transfigured? If he was in heaven, did he cease to be married while there and then was married once again when he returned? Interesting thought.

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I'm rereading the Saadia Gaon quote in context, so stay tuneed.

You don't also have some way to check out Maimonides as well? It looks like he was even later than Saadi Gaon.

"Maimonides, who says, 'Men after the resurrection will use meat and drink, and will beget children, because since the Wise Architect makes nothing in vain, it follows of necessity that the members of the body are not useless, but fulfill their functions.'"

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You don't also have some way to check out Maimonides as well? It looks like he was even later than Saadi Gaon.

"Maimonides, who says, 'Men after the resurrection will use meat and drink, and will beget children, because since the Wise Architect makes nothing in vain, it follows of necessity that the members of the body are not useless, but fulfill their functions.'"

I'm looking that up as well. It seems to be from the Treatise on the Resurrection. Not only was Maimonides later than Saadia, he was also more extreme in his philosophical views and certainly did not hold that marriage, or any other temporal pursuit, was eternal.

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Thanks for providing this. I wouldn't have known where to start to examine this source.

So, by using the example of Moses , is he saying that Moses was in heaven while on Mt. Sinai? Is that a common understanding among Jews of his experience? I'm not sure if this is right, but don't we, as LDS, view this experience Moses had as being transfigured? If he was in heaven, did he cease to be married while there and then was married once again when he returned? Interesting thought.

The experience is seen as a symbol of what is to come. When Moses was on a higher plane with God then eating, drinking and sex were a non-issue for him. They played no part in that experience. All the more so when we will live permanently in God's presence.

As for Moses being in heaven, check out the Assumption of Moses.

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I'm looking that up as well. It seems to be from the Treatise on the Resurrection. Not only was Maimonides later than Saadia, he was also more extreme in his philosophical views and certainly did not hold that marriage, or any other temporal pursuit, was eternal.

Found it in the Treatise on the Resurrection. The quote itself is distorted almost beyond belief. Translation to follow.

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We can see from those treatises that the people whose souls shall return to their bodies will eat, drink, copulate, beget children and die after a very long life, a life as long as life is in the days of the Messiah. Indeed, the life after which there is no death is the life in the world to come, since there is no body in it. We believe, as any man of understanding verily does, that in the world to come souls are bodiless as the angels are. This explanation, that the body is the sum of instruments required for the soul's actions, has already been explained extremely well... Here it has been explained that the entire purpose of the body is the recption of food for sustaining the body, and begeting similar ones for the continuance of that body's kind. When that purpose is removed then it [the body] becomes unnecessary. That is, in the world to come, which is what our sages of blessed memory have elucidated, that in it is neither eating, nor drinking, nor usage*, which is explained by the absence of a body. The Blessed One would not invent things in order for them to remain unused, and would not do anything without a reason, and heaven forbid that his acts would be like those who worship idols, "Eyes have they, but they see not, they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not (Ps 115:5-6)."

-Maimonides, the Treatise on Resurrection.

For Maimonides marriage wasn't eternal either. It lasted only until man went to the heavenly realm which is entirely bodiless.

In other words, never use Dummelow's, and use McConkie's commentary with great caution.

*Usage was a rabbinic euphemism for sex.

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I'm working on turning my posts here into a blog post, and possibly earning the undying wrath of all McConkites. Elder McConkie was awesome in many ways, but his Doctrinal NT Commentary wasn't one of them.

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Thanks for posting this--it is interesting. I have Witherington's commentaries on my wish list, but don't own any of them yet. Do you own more than this one on Mark? What's your opinion of his stuff?

You can find some of his stuff on his blog. It is solid.

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Thanks for posting this--it is interesting. I have Witherington's commentaries on my wish list, but don't own any of them yet. Do you own more than this one on Mark? What's your opinion of his stuff?

I don't own many commentaries. I think Raymond Brown's commentary on John is the only one I own (and that is because the institute was giving it away).

Google Books is my best friend when it comes to commentaries. I've currently been using Craig Keener's on Matthew for Gospel Doctrine classes.

I like Witherington. Really good stuff.

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