What Were The Sadducees Reading? An Enquiry Into The Literary Background Of Mark 12:18–23 -- By: Peter G. Bolt

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:2 (NA 1994)
Article: What Were The Sadducees Reading? An Enquiry Into The Literary Background Of Mark 12:18–23
Author: Peter G. Bolt


What Were The Sadducees Reading?
An Enquiry Into The Literary Background Of Mark 12:18–23

Peter G. Bolt

Summary

Where did the Sadducee’s case study (Mk. 12:20-23) originate? After dismissing 2 Maccabees 7, this article suggests that the Book of Tobit most probably provides the Sadducees with their story. Both they and Tobit talk of the death of 7 husbands and Levirate marriage in the context of an interest in resurrection. The article ends by suggesting that this allusion to Tobit may bring further nuances to the reading of the Gospel of Mark.

In the midst of the controversies of Mark 12, the Sadducees question Jesus about the resurrection (Mk. 12:18–27), something to which, as Mark informs his readers (v. 18), they were not committed.1 Through the citation of Scripture (v. 19, cf. Dt. 25:5–6) and the application of a case-study (vv. 20–23) they attempt to ridicule the notion of resurrection. In their view, the case study demonstrates the absurdity of a resurrection, since it conflicts with the Mosaic law of Levirate marriage,2 for ‘in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?’ (v. 23).

It is not common to inquire into the origin of the ‘case study’ which is so crucial to the Sadducees’ argument. Was it simply a ‘made-up story’,3 an hypothetical case?4 Were they making use of a case actually discussed by their Pharisaic opponents,5 and, if so, where did this particular case originate? Was it ‘the standard puzzle of the Sadducees, in which they sought to discredit the resurrection by reducing it to an absurdity’?6 If so, why this puzzle? Where did it come from?

It is the intention of this article to suggest that the Sadducees may have been drawing upon a well-known story, no doubt favoured by the Pharisees, in order to make their point all the more forcibly. After (I) a preliminary discussion of the potential influence of the story of the seve...

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