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Marriage and the Resurrection

27 Now some Sadducees[a] (who contend that there is no resurrection)[b] came to him. 28 They asked him,[c] “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, that man[d] must marry[e] the widow and father children[f] for his brother.[g] 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman[h] and died without children.

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  1. Luke 20:27 sn The Sadducees controlled the official political structures of Judaism at this time, being the majority members of the Sanhedrin. They were known as extremely strict on law and order issues (Josephus, J. W. 2.8.2 [2.119], 2.8.14 [2.164-166]; Ant. 13.5.9 [13.171-173], 13.10.6 [13.293-298], 18.1.2 [18.11], 18.1.4 [18.16-17], 20.9.1 [20.199]; Life 2 [10-11]). They also did not believe in resurrection or in angels, an important detail in v. 36. See also Matt 3:7; 16:1-12; 22:23-34; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 4:1; 5:17; 23:6-8.
  2. Luke 20:27 sn This remark is best regarded as a parenthetical note by the author.
  3. Luke 20:28 tn Grk “asked him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
  4. Luke 20:28 tn Grk “his brother,” but this would be redundant in English with the same phrase “his brother” at the end of the verse, so most modern translations render this phrase “the man” (so NIV, NRSV).
  5. Luke 20:28 tn The use of ἵνα (hina) with imperatival force is unusual (BDF §470.1).
  6. Luke 20:28 tn Grk “and raise up seed,” an idiom for procreating children (L&N 23.59).
  7. Luke 20:28 sn A quotation from Deut 25:5. Because the OT quotation does not include “a wife” as the object of the verb, it has been left as normal type. This practice is called levirate marriage (see also Ruth 4:1-12; Mishnah, m. Yevamot; Josephus, Ant. 4.8.23 [4.254-256]). The levirate law is described in Deut 25:5-10. The brother of a man who died without a son had an obligation to marry his brother’s widow. This served several purposes: It provided for the widow in a society where a widow with no children to care for her would be reduced to begging, and it preserved the name of the deceased, who would be regarded as the legal father of the first son produced from that marriage.
  8. Luke 20:29 tn Grk “took a wife” (an idiom for marrying a woman).