Within the final week of His ministry, Jesus announced Himself as the Messiah and took possession of the temple in Jerusalem. During the buildup of hostilities that led to the crucifixion, He was confronted by each faction of the Jewish leadership. The confrontation with the Sadducees(Matt. 22:23‐33; Mark 12:18‐27) is especially instructive.
The Sadducees are known mainly for the beliefs that they rejected. They did not believe in a bodily resurrection. They did not believe in the existence of angels or spirits. They did not accept much of the Hebrew canon, recognizing only the books of Moses as authoritative.
Their confrontation with Jesus centered upon the doctrine of the resurrection. They posed a question about a woman who had, under the code for levirate marriage or yibbum, wed multiple husbands, only to be widowed repeatedly. They asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection.
Their question was not a request for information. Instead, the Sadducees were attempting a reductio ad absurdum, pointing to an intolerable consequence (namely, polyandry) of a bodily resurrection. This placed Jesus in a dilemma: either He could embrace the intolerable consequence, or else He could distance Himself from belief in a bodily resurrection.
Conceding nothing to the Sadducees, Jesus slipped between the horns of the dilemma in an amazing coup fourré. “Ye do err,” He said, “not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” In other words, He accused the Sadducees of two areas of ignorance. He then articulated two answers, one to respond to each area of ignorance.
In reply to the Sadducees’ ignorance of the power of God, Jesus stated that, “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”This was new revelation. Jesus did not base this teaching on anything from the Old Testament, but upon His personal knowledge of things supernatural. It implies not only a knowledge of resurrection, but also a knowledge of angels. Such a reply was not calculated to endear Him to the Sadducees.
The more interesting part of Jesus’ response concerns the Sadducees’ ignorance of Scripture. Here, Jesus appealed to the text of Exodus 3:6, in which God says to Moses, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Reasoning from this verse, Jesus affirmed, “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.”
Read more about Shall We Reason Together? Part Four: Ye Know Not the Scriptures