The Sadducees were an interesting mix of beliefs:
- Politically, they were rather “pro-Roman.” As the group that ran the Temple area in Jerusalem, they needed Roman support to maintain their powerful role in Jewish society.
- Financially, the Sadducees had turned the Temple into an enterprise that made them very wealthy (as we discussed when we looked at Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple in Matthew 21:12-17).
- Biblically, the Sadducees considered their understanding of the Scriptures to be pure and undefiled. Unlike the Pharisees who had embraced many rabbi’s teachings on the Scripture as authoritative, the Sadducees considered only the Scriptures themselves to be truly authoritative. Strangely, in their effort to be “Bible based” the Sadducees reduced their Scriptures to ONLY the first 5 books of our Old Testament. If something was not taught in Genesis – Deuteronomy, they did not consider it to be trustworthy.
- Spiritually, the Sadducees were “earth-bound” in their thinking. They did not believe in life after death, thinking the soul died with the body. They also did not believe in the angelic realm (Acts 23:8).
So, the Sadducees ask Jesus a question about the resurrection, attempting to show (what they believe) is the absurdity of the notion of new life after death. Jesus answers the Sadducees . . . and (in a sense) He does so on their terms. Using a key verse (Exodus 3:6) from one of the books they embraced (Exodus), Jesus argues for the resurrection of the dead. This got me thinking . . .
Today, some have a high view of Jesus Christ, but a low view of much of the other Scriptures. This position can turn into a “Sadduceean” perspective where the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have more authority to some than the rest of the Scripture (the New Testament after the Gospels, and all of the Old Testament). Some of these arguments ignore ethical teaching from the Epistles, prophecy from the Revelation, and the supernatural nature of many events in the Old Testament — clinging only to what Jesus taught in the Gospels — “Red Letter” Only (if you will).
So let’s imagine that someone were to come to you and say that they have a “favorable view” of Jesus, but doubt the veracity of the Old Testament. Could you answer them? What would you say? Well, using only the words of Jesus and the record of the Gospels, you can make a strong argument in favor of the historicity of some of the wildest Old Testament events:
- Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5)
- Cain and Abel (Matthew 23:35)
- Noah’s Ark (Luke 17:26, Matthew 24:37-39)
- Abraham (John 8:56-58)
- Lot & Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-32)
- Moses and the burning bush (Mark 12:26)
- Israel eating manna in wilderness (John 6:32)
- Brass serpent healing snake bits (John 3:14-15)
- Elijah & Elisha’s miracles (Luke 4:25-27)
- Jonah (Matthew 12:39-40)
- Isaiah (Matthew 13:14)
- Daniel (Matthew 24:15)
In Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus says, “Sadducees, you believe in Moses, but not the resurrection? Look at what Moses said about the resurrection in Exodus 3:6!”
Given what we see Jesus saying about the Old Testament, we could also say to modern day skeptics, “Skeptics, you believe in Jesus, but not the Old Testament? Look at what Jesus says about Noah and the flood, Jonah and the fish, Moses and the burning bush, etc. in the Old Testament?”
I am going to side with Jesus on all things. I will take the word of the resurrected One concerning life after death . . . and I am going to take the word of the Eternal One about the things that happened long ago in the Old Testament.
Even on “their terms” Jesus wins the day.