Monday, January 18, 2010

God of the Living

Matthew 22:32
(32)  'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living."

(32)  Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ; οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων.

There are a couple of small exegetical points I would make about this.  First, the phrase "Ἐγώ εἰμι" takes the reader back to Exodus 3:14 where YHWH reveals Himself to Moses as "I am."  The pronoun is unnecessary in Greek, so it would still be accurate to write only "ειμι," which also means "I am."  However, adding the pronoun εγω adds emphasis to this.  Plus, it is a direct quote.  This should also remind the reader of John 8:58, where Jesus uses the same construction.  Jesus is as much the "I am" as YHWH.

The other point is the use of the participle.  A very wooden translation would be, "He is not the God of those who are dead, but of those who are living."  This tells two things.  One is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are very much alive right now.  There is hope for eternal life through faith.  This is the simple saving faith that saved the Patriarchs long before there was a Law for the Jews to follow.  The covenant is by faith (see the book of Galatians).

The other thing this tells us that God "is."  This is a present state.  He is always.  Normally we need an object to an intransitive verb like "is," but not in the case of God.  He simply is.  He defines reality.  He is the God who is.  Period.


tom sheepandgoats said...

On the other hand, here is the parallel account found at Luke 20:37-38:

But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Why the final phrase? Does it not allow for the possibility that they are no longer actually alive, but are only alive to him? (since he has the power and intention to resurrect these ones) Perhaps this verse is an example of Rom 4:17, where God is described as the one "who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were."

Jason said...

Let's look at the whole passage in context:

Luke 20:34-38
(34) And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,
(35) but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage,
(36) for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
(37) But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
(38) Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him."

This passage indicates to me that they are alive in a real sense. The "to him" refers to their eternal fellowship with God.