As someone with a theological degree who is pursuing an additional degree in marital and family therapy, the way Christians relate to marriage fascinates me. I have enjoyed looking at Christianity and marriage from a variety of perspectives—psychological, sociological, historical, theological, ministerial—in various courses and outside reading, and I feel there will always be much, much more for me to learn.
One particular question I’ve been exploring lately is marriage and the resurrection, a topic I have found most Christians consider fairly settled based on Jesus’s discussion with the Sadducees in Mark 12/Matt. 22/Luke 20. My brief look at these passages so far, however, has left me unconvinced. I admit, I have not yet put as much into this as I would a research paper for school, and I have not even fully translated these three passages myself. Still, I have looked through a number of commentaries and a few historical sources, and I am left with enough doubt about traditional interpretations that I thought I could make an interesting blog series about it.
Why care? Well, in my mind, this question might affect how we understand a number of things: marriage, sex, our bodies, the nature of creation (old and new), the resurrection itself, and maybe even God as a person. As someone who is married, I have not only a stake in this question but also a bias in my answer, and I imagine some other married people might also wish to know that they will still be married to their spouses after the resurrection. (A few, perhaps, would like to ensure the opposite.) Similarly, some single people would likely prefer to believe that even dying a virgin would not ruin their chances at marital bliss. I do not have an answer to any of our questions about marriage and the resurrection, but I do think that it would be safer to simply say, “We don’t really know,” rather than the common Christian belief that present marriages are dissolved in the new creation.
I base my agnosticism towards this question on a number of different factors, but a good place to start is the obvious: When asked about a woman who has been married seven times, Jesus does not give the Sadducees a straight answer. If we take his answer in the most literal sense (and I’m not convinced that we necessarily should), the most we could say is that new marriages will cease. This does not tell us anything about the state of marriages existing prior to the resurrection, nor which (if any) of the seven husbands this theoretical woman would be married to if some/all/any existing marriages continued. Hence, perhaps we can say that people who die single will not enter into marriage after the resurrection, but if we can say anything, I do not think it is any more than this. (I am not entirely certain we can say even that, though the question of dying single will not be the focus of this discussion.)
In forthcoming posts, I will explain why I do not think this narrative itself warrants the conclusion that current marriages must be ended in the life to come. I will also offer some theological ponderings that, in my view, make it more logical to believe that marriage will continue, despite the admitted ambiguity of these particular texts.