THEME: Is Resurrection the Reunification of the Body and Soul?

BY: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.


Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 20:27–38) provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the resurrection of the dead, eternal life, or the life of the world to come, which is a pillar of our Christian faith. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.” In other words, what is the nature of the life of the world to come?

Jesus Christ and the Sadducees debated the doctrine of the resurrection. The Sadducees rejected the resurrection of the dead or the immortality of the soul because it wasn’t mentioned in the first five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Besides, they only accepted these five books of the Bible.

What’s more, the Sadducees believe that there are no rewards or punishments after death, which points to the reason why they amass wealth in crooked ways. Instead, all the dead live in Sheol, which is the Jewish place of the dead.

In today’s gospel text (Luke 20:27-38), the Sadducees use an extreme example to demonstrate their rejection of the resurrection of the dead. Their example was based on the levirate marriage (literally, “marriage with a brother-in-law”). There was also an understanding that the purpose of marriage is to pass on life, name, memory, and property through offspring so that a man can live forever through his children.

It should not surprise anyone that there are still people today who still believe that the purpose of marriage is to live forever through their offspring. The Catholic Church is unequivocal regarding the purpose of sacramental marriage and family.

“Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children” (Catechism, 2201). The goods of the spouses are the goods that flow from their interpersonal relationship, which bring about and promote their spiritual, intellectual, physical, moral, and social well-being.

Levirate marriage is one response to the challenges that arose when an Israelite man died, leaving a widow but no children. The word “levirate,” comes from the Latin word “levir,” “a husband’s brother.” It answers the question, “What becomes of a widow with no children to care for her?” “What becomes of a man’s name, memory, and property in the absence of direct heirs?”

Levirate marriage, as described in Deuteronomy 25:5–10, offers a solution to both questions: Let the dead man’s brother marry the widow, and let the children, or at least the first child of this union, be accounted to the deceased (Ruth 1:11–13).

It is important to note that the resurrection of the dead for first-century Jews means the reunification of the body and soul after death in a new heaven and a new creation, as described in Isaiah 65:17–19; 66:22. And since the Sadducees thought that the body and soul would be brought back together after death, they used the levirate marriage to trick Jesus and make fun of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.

They begin with a hypothetical case. “A woman had seven husbands, who died one after the other,” and they ask Jesus, “Now at the resurrection, whose wife will that woman be?” In other words, they were asking, “When the body and soul reunite after death, whose wife will this woman be since she had seven husbands?”

Jesus responds that life after death does not follow the same rules as life on Earth. In eternal life, there will be no marriage, which is associated with our existence in this world. Those who rise, as Jesus says, will be like the angels, living in a different state that we can now neither experience nor imagine.

But then Jesus quotes the Book of Exodus, which the Sadducees accept. He finds proof for the resurrection in the account of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1–6), where God reveals himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus is saying that though these patriarchs are dead, they are still alive to God. As a result, Jesus concludes, “God is not the god of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him” (Luke 20:38).

Jesus himself is the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. He himself is the Life, and the Resurrection, for by his crucified love he has triumphed over death. In Jesus, God gives us eternal life, which is another word for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Jesus offers eternal life to everyone, and thanks to him, everyone has the hope of a life even truer than the earthly one.



Consequently, what happens in the afterlife is not the reuniting of body and soul, as the Sadducees believed would happen. Marriage will not exist in the life to come. We go from death to life, or the fullness of life. We are on a journey, a pilgrimage, toward the fullness of life; this fullness of life or communion with the living God is what is referred to as the resurrection of the dead, the life of the world to come, and eternal life. Therefore, death stands behind us, not before us. Before us is the God of the living.

Perhaps the most important message the gospel gives us today is to assure us that God has created us for communion with him, eternal life, and a life much more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Remember the words of Saint Paul: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Hence, in bad times, we must remember there are better times ahead of us. In good times, let us not forget about the greater happiness God has prepared for those who love him and are faithful to him. This is what our article of faith, “the resurrection of the dead and the life to come,” means. Have a fantastic Sunday.



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