Does Jesus Repudiate Marriage Itself in the Gospel of Luke?

Hello all! I’m a new face around here, formerly from Atheology at Patheos. First and foremost, I want to thank Mark Edward and Matthew Hartke for inviting me to join them on Bad Theologians. I only regret that my name’s not Luke, to complete the synoptic trio of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Even though my name’s not Luke, however, I’ve been doing some work on Luke, the gospel — specifically the enigmatic verses 20.34–36, having previously written a piece on these a couple of years ago.

I originally intended for this current post to be little more than a brief update to my previous one. But the more I looked back at the old one, the more I started rethinking and reworking things from it, and the longer the current post grew. It’s now ended up as the two-part, academic-length monstrosity you have before you. So if you’re in the mood to read what’s tantamount to a comprehensive journal article on this, by all means please do. If not, feel free to skim and skip around.

Before anything else, I should reiterate that while this post offers the most comprehensive scholarly defense of this particular interpretation of Luke 20.34–36 to date, it doesn’t represent a definitive proof of it or anything like that, but only what I believe to be an interpretive probability. Certainty eludes us because there’s precious little to work with at all here; and even what we do have is ambiguous. That being said, I think there are some very compelling arguments to be made in favor of it, and against the traditional interpretation — which is why I speak of probability, and not simply possibility. Others may not see it the same way, though.


Abstract

A number of recent interpreters of Luke 20.34–36 (Seim, Aune, Fletcher-Louis, Giambrone) have seen these verses as suggestive of the idea that refraining from marriage is correlated with one's worthiness of the eschatological age to come — which radically diverges from what's said in the parallel sayings to this in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. Although there are several things that support this interpretation, a number of aspects of it require further analysis. In this study, I offer a deeper look at the syntax of Luke 20.34–36 than has been done up until now, and how the saying functions in context to advance a broader ascetic argument — as well as how it connects with both Jewish and Christian notions of a realized eschatology and immortality. I attempt to pinpoint exactly what the author of Luke may be communicating by the use of this language denigrating or trivializing marriage, and how such a view emerged historically. This involves a more thorough study of both its potential Jewish background(s) as well as overlooked Greco-Roman parallels. Finally, I connect this with previous research on the early reception of Luke 20.34–36 and pro-celibacy arguments in the first Christian centuries.


Table of Contents

(Part 1)

  • Introducing Luke 20.34–36 and its re-interpretation
  • Objection 1: a realized immortality?
  • Objection 2: contextually out of place?
  • A closer look at Luke 20.34–36: the frivolous concern of “this age” (20.34)?
  • A closer look at Luke 20.34–36: the “worthy” in 20.35
  • A closer look at Luke 20.34–36: delving into 20.36
  • Appendix: supporters of the revised interpretation of Luke 20.34–36

(Part 2)

  • Objection 1 (continued): a realized immortality?
  • Objection 3: contradicting standard Jewish and Christians attitudes toward marriage?
  • The early ascetic reception of Luke 20.34–36
  • Conclusion: putting the pieces together

Introducing Luke 20.34–36 and its re-interpretation

So, a brief recap of the context of Luke 20.34–36 and its parallels in the other gospels.

In the second half of Mark 12 — paralleled in Matthew 22 and, of course, Luke 20 — Jesus is embroiled in a theological dispute with the Sadducees. The Sadducees were a Jewish “sect” in the Second Temple period, of some notoriety due to their denial of the eschatological resurrection of the dead: the notion that at the end of history, all dead humans would be resurrected by God, in order for the wicked to be judged and the righteous to inhabit a renewed and paradisiacal earth.

In all three gospels, the stage is set with the Sadducees identified precisely as those “who say there is no resurrection.” Jesus is presumed, by contrast, to be a supporter of the resurrection; and as such, the Sadducees seek to challenge him as to whether this will actually take place, offering a hypothetical scenario relating to levirate marriage which they believe exposes a logical flaw in the very notion of the resurrection. (For those who need a refresher on this, levirate marriage was a codified Jewish practice where, should a man die before he’s able to produce a child with his wife, the man’s brother steps in to become the husband of the widow, in hopes that they would bear children and thus carry on the deceased man’s lineage.)

The scenario the Sadducees offer is as follows:

There were seven brothers. The first married a woman but, having died, left no child. So the second married [the widow] — and died, leaving no child; and the third likewise. None of the seven brothers left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection, when they arise, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as a wife. (Mark 12.20-23)

Again, the Sadducees highlight what they believe to be a kind of logistical problem pertaining to marriage in the resurrection age, which they hope will expose resurrection itself as a fatally problematic notion.

In response to their skepticism, however, Jesus first accuses the Sadducees of ignorance of “the scriptures” and of the “power of God,” and then offers a simple rebuttal to the scenario they had offered: “when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are taken/given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” That is, when the deceased seven brothers and their wife arise at the eschatological resurrection, they won’t have to marry at all, but will instead be “like angels” — presumably drawing on the Jewish tradition that angels are celibate.1

Such it is in the gospel of Mark.

And the parallel in the gospel of Matthew follows all this very closely. Again, responding to the Sadducees’ hypothetical scenario, here Jesus first accuses them of ignorance, and then says that “in the resurrection” the seven brothers and their wife “neither marry nor are taken/given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

So far, so good. But when we get to the parallel to this in the gospel of Luke, we find something quite different. To begin with, Jesus omits the accusation of the Sadducees’ ignorance. Instead, he goes directly into this (with the original Greek text included this time):

οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου γαμοῦσιν καὶ γαμίσκονται; οἱ δὲ καταξιωθέντες τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται — οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν ἔτι δύνανται ἰσάγγελοι γάρ εἰσιν καὶ υἱοί εἰσιν θεοῦ τῆς ἀναστάσεως υἱοὶ ὄντες

The sons of this age marry and are taken/given in marriage; but those worthy to partake of the other age and of the resurrection of the dead do not marry nor are taken/given in marriage — for they cannot even die any more, because they are angelic ones and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20.34–36)2

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First off though, it should be noted that many commentators on these verses, familiar with the parallels to this in Mark and Matthew, simply harmonize the three together. That is, they assume that in all three accounts, Jesus is expressing the same idea in response to the Sadducees, just in slightly different language; and consequently they interpret Luke as saying — like Mark and Matthew — that when the dead are eventually resurrected in the future, they’ll neither marry nor be taken/given in marriage.

But there are actually some stark differences in the wording in Luke, which may suggest that Jesus’ argument here is very different from what we find in the other two gospels.

As we can see, instead of immediately mentioning that the Sadducees’ hypothetical brothers and their wife won’t have to marry in the resurrection, in Luke 20.34 Jesus instead mentions certain “sons of this age” who do marry and are taken/given in marriage. These “sons of this age” then stand as a counterpart to “those worthy to partake of the other age” in 20.35 — that is, those worthy of the future eschatological age.

It should also be mentioned that being the “son(s) of” something is an idiomatic expression in Jewish usage, often suggesting a kind of belonging to or being destined for the object in question. This is already seen in the Hebrew Bible, for example in 2 Samuel 12.5 and 26.16, where “son(s) of death” signifies those deserving of death; and see similarly Matthew 23.15, where one destined for damnation is described as a son of Gehenna. This is why the NRSV and other translations render “sons of this age” in Luke 20.34 as “those who belong to this age” — which in turn brings this language a bit closer to “those worthy to partake of the other age” in 20.35, even if these two groups are obviously intended to be contrasted. On that note, incidentally, in the late second century the famed Christian interpreter and theologian Clement of Alexandria remembered Luke 20.34–35 as precisely contrasting “the sons of this age” with “the sons of the other age.”3

If NRSV and other modern translations have at least captured something of the right sentiment behind these verses, then here we have a rather balanced contrast between those who rightfully belong to “this age,” versus those who rightfully belong to the coming age. In turn, this can be connected with a broader early Jewish tradition in which one’s worthiness to partake of the coming eschatological age is determined by actions in this age. Dale Allison, for example, cites a wide range of rabbinic Jewish texts that explicate this idea of worthiness for the future world, sometimes using nearly identical language to that found in Luke 20.35.4

And herein lies the crux, which could point toward a possibly radical interpretation of Luke 20.34–35: in contrast to Jesus’ response in Mark 12 and Matthew 22, in which the seven hypothetical men and their wife won’t marry in the future world (after the resurrection), the language of Luke 20.35 could be taken to suggest that refraining from marriage in this life is the sort of thing that characterizes those who are worthy of future eschatological life and the resurrection in the first place.

A growing number of Biblical scholars over the past several decades have come to accept this as a possible if not probable interpretation of these verses in Luke — that refraining from marriage in this current life is the sort of thing that characterizes those worthy of future eschatological salvation; or even that this kind of celibacy is what makes them worthy of this. I’ve included a very comprehensive list of these scholars in the Appendix.

I’ll explore the particular language in 20.34–35 in further detail below, as well as the broader logic of the suggested interpretation. But one last issue I want to briefly raise by way of introduction is the role of Luke 20.36 here.

Objection 1: a realized immortality?

It might have been noted, from the translation earlier, that Luke 20.35 and 20.36 are joined by a conjunction, suggesting some link between marriage (or, rather, not needing marriage) and immortality:

those worthy to partake of the other age and of the resurrection of the dead do not marry nor are taken/given in marriage — οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν ἔτι δύνανται...

I’ve left a few Greek words untranslated here, and will actually get back to this later; but for the time being, it’s sufficient to say that these words express something like “because they cannot die any more,” apparently supplying the rationale for the previous clause. This of course raises some questions — first and foremost, about what exactly the connection is between (not) marrying and not being able to die.

Incidentally, no matter which interpretation of Luke 20.34–36 we prefer, the background to understanding the connection between these two concepts is the same. In a wide array of ancient thought, both in the Greco-Roman world and the Jewish world, marriage and procreation were integrally linked. This was in fact already seen earlier in this post, where I mentioned that the very question of the Sadducees’ to Jesus centers around the practice of levirate marriage — where, again, if a man died childless, his brother would marry his widow for the purpose of producing offspring to carry on the deceased man’s lineage.

Deuteronomy 25.5–10, the main passage in the Hebrew Bible which outlines the practice of levirate marriage, describes this as being done for the deceased man “so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” This already gets us much of the way toward this idea of childbearing as something like a figurative antidote for mortality itself, in terms of the continuation of a person’s image and lineage beyond death, as it were.

So if marriage and procreation are so closely linked, and procreation understood as a kind of figurative immortality, then it’s actually a fairly small leap between the notions of marriage and immortality. Incidentally, this connection is already drawn out clearly, for example, in the influential pre-Christian book of Enoch, where the “fallen angels” are told that

you originally existed as spirits, living forever and not dying for all the generations of eternity; therefore I did not make women among you. (1 Enoch 15.6–7)

Interestingly, this assumes that the primordial angels are exclusively male; and in any case, it suggests that since these beings were immortal from the outset, women were never needed to supply a way for new beings to come into the world in the first place. But still, this seems to be almost the exact same logic that underlies the connection in Luke 20.35–36, which only differs in suggesting that those worthy of the future age won’t marry, because they’re immortal.

But then how would this work with the newer interpretation I’ve suggested, which sees the “worthy” here as a reference to those who are currently alive on earth — and presumably mortal — as opposed to those in the resurrection age?

⁂ ⁂ ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

What I’ve said so far should give you a pretty good picture of what’s on the table here re: the interpretation of Luke 20.34–36.

Before getting into the issue of immortality in 20.36, however — and so as to maybe tackle this in a bit more digestible order — I want to back up a little and mention another challenge to this interpretation of 20.34–36 as a whole. I’m certainly going to pick Objection 1: a realized immortality? (continued) back up in the second part of this post, though.

Objection 2: contextually out of place?

A little earlier, I hinted at the idea that it’s only recently that the interpretation of Luke 20.34–36 I’m defending here has come to prominence. As such, many of the verse-by-verse commentaries on Luke, of the kind which are published in the standard commentary series (though usually only about once every five years or so), haven’t really had time to address this yet — at least not the extended treatments of this interpretation that have been offered by scholars like Turid Seim, David Aune, and Crispin Fletcher-Louis.5

In fact, as it currently stands, there are hardly any commentaries that mention the interpretation at all, either positively or negatively, One exception to this, however, is Michael Wolter’s commentary on Luke, recently translated to English. Wolter discusses this interpretation of Luke 20.34–36 briefly, but only to reject it. He argues that if Jesus really were suggesting that refraining from marriage in this life characterizes those who are worthy of future eschatological life and the resurrection, this would be an unusual answer to the Sadducees’ actual question, and as such would “destroy the argumentative coherence” of the passage (2.403).6

On the surface, this seems like a perfectly reasonable objection. But there are several lines of response to this.

First, we might notice that from the very outset in Luke, there’s already some distance between the Sadducees’ question and Jesus’ answer when compared to the parallels in the other gospels. That is, in Mark and Matthew, there’s a continuity between the Sadducees’ question and Jesus’ response in how Jesus refers to the seven brothers and their wife in particular not marrying in the resurrection.7 Here in Mark and Matthew, then, Jesus at least plays along with the Sadducees’ hypothetical scenario in which the seven brothers and their wide have died; so when Jesus refers to “them” subsequently not marrying, this can only be a reference to the future resurrection.8

But in Luke 20.34, by not referring back to the seven brothers and their wife in particular as Mark and Matthew had — again, referring instead to the “sons of this age” and then the contrasting group — we have much more generalizing language, which already allows this saying to stand at some degree of independence from the immediate question.

Now, if Luke 20.34f. does indeed intend to re-frame the topic of discussion to the value of marriage in and of itself, we can readily admit that this goes far beyond what the Sadducees were originally portrayed as inquiring about. But it could be noted that an unexpected discontinuity between a question that’s asked of Jesus, seeking clarity on one topic, and Jesus’ response — sometimes offering a quite different rumination — is seen elsewhere in the gospels, too.

For my purposes, among the most relevant parallels to this is found in Luke 17.20, where Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the (future) kingdom of God would come. In response to this, however, not only does Jesus deny that this can be predicted with any kind of “careful watching,” but also challenges the major assumption on which their question is premised altogether. That is, in both early Jewish as well as in other early Christian thought, the coming kingdom of God was associated with a few tangible, external eschatological events: the triumph of the nation of Israel over its sociopolitical enemies; the resurrection of the dead; the final judgment, and so on. How surprising, then, that in stark contrast to this, Jesus responds by suggesting that the kingdom has in fact already arrived — that it’s “within” (or “among”) them.9

Finally, it might also be noted that, just as much in Mark and Matthew as it is in Luke, Jesus’ initial response — about the persons in question not marrying because of their angelic character, etc. — isn’t the main thing intended to demonstrate the resurrection itself at all! At that point in time, all this really does is function as a question-begging assertion. Instead, in all three gospels, it’s only Jesus’ subsequent comment that seeks to “proves” the legitimacy of the resurrection itself, via Exodus 3 as a prooftext. There’s a certain irony, then, in the fact that it’s Luke who (at least in 20.37) might be said to have the more “organic” narrative, when he smooths out Mark 12.26’s “but as for the dead being resurrected” a little10 — the latter almost implying that Jesus hadn’t been addressing the issue of the resurrection at all until then.

⁂ ⁂ ⁂ ⁂ ⁂

The previous section suggests that Jesus’ answers to various questions in the gospels could diverge unexpectedly from the form or topic of the question asked; but we still have to ask why the author of Luke might have sought in the first place to transform Jesus’ response to the Sadducees in the way that he did — if, indeed, “[c]ompared to Mark, Jesus’ answer in Luke has become a brief but independent little treatise on the ethos of the resurrection and of immortality,” as Turid Seim puts it.11 What motivated him, and what did he want to accomplish?

One way of answering this is in pointing to how the form and content of Jesus’ answer here connects with several other ideas, both elsewhere in Luke and in the broader New Testament, and beyond — {and possibly also does forge closer link with Sadducees’ own question, too}; and so this might be the time to take a closer philological look at the content of Luke 20.34–36 itself.

A closer look at Luke 20.34–36: the frivolous concern of “this age” (20.34)?

In the opening section of my post, I mentioned that Luke 20.34’s idiomatic usage of the phrase “sons of,” combined with 20.35’s language of worthiness for the future eschatological age, could be connected with broader Jewish traditions similar to this, possibly furnishing support for the interpretation of Luke 20.34–35 in which worthiness for eschatological life is correlated with refraining from marriage in this one.

To explicate this further, Luke 20.34’s “sons of this age” likely doesn’t function just as a mundane descriptor of those who are currently alive, as those who would harmonize Luke 20.34–35 with the parallels in Mark and Matthew might take it. Instead, it almost certainly suggests some sort of value judgment here, too.

Even the phrase “this age” itself is a particularly loaded one in early Christian usage; and there are broader connections beyond this, as well. For example, in 1 Corinthians 2.6, the apostle Paul refers to the crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the “rulers of this age, who are perishing.” In 2 Corinthians 4.4, he even refers to Satan — presumably12 — as the “‘god’ of this age” having “blinded the minds of unbelievers,” preventing them from seeing “the light of the gospel.” These two references are also closely paralleled in a few different places in the gospel of John, which similarly refers to Satan as ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, “the ruler of this world” (John 12.31; 14.30; 16.11): substituting “this world” for “this age.”

The interchange between “age” and “world” here is actually a very natural one. Earlier in my post, I mentioned that Dale Allison had cited a number of rabbinic Jewish traditions that speak of worthiness for the future world in very similar language to that in Luke 20.35; and incidentally, the main Hebrew and Aramaic terms for “age” and “world” in rabbinic texts here actually aren’t different words at all, but one and the same!

On this note, there are a range of early Christian texts which also speak of the unrighteousness and/or frivolous concerns of “this world” — and, conversely, how the righteous are to overcome this. In John 8.23, Jesus starkly contrasts himself with contemporaneous Jews by saying “you are of this world; I am not of this world.” In John 12.25, Jesus says that “whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” In a saying ascribed to Jesus in the early apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, we find “Jesus says, ‘Unless you fast with respect to the world, you will not find the kingdom of God’” (27).

This brings us to parallels which even more directly elucidate the contrasting pairs in Luke 20.34–35. In the Damascus Document from the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, the elect “men of the Incomparable One” (or alternatively translated, the “men of the community”) — those who “have taken refuge in his holy name” — will prevail “over all the sons of the world.”13 We find a parallel to this in another text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which describes a privileged few being selected from among the “sons of the world” and brought into this sacred community, even perhaps joining the (quasi-)divine beings in this:

In accordance with God’s compassion and in accordance with his goodness and the wonder of his glory, he approaches some from the sons of the world [מבני תבל], so that they can be reckoned with him in the com[munity of] [the ex]alted ones (or community of divine beings), to be a holy congregation... (4Q181 1 II)

Perhaps it’s not clear that the phrases “sons of the world” and “community of the exalted ones” (יחד אלים) are directly juxtaposed here; but in any case, other important texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls are even more comparable to what we find in Luke 20.34–35 — for example those in which the elect are known as the “sons of light,” and juxtaposed directly with the “sons of darkness.” This becomes especially relevant seeing as how elsewhere in the gospel of Luke, there’s another use of the exact same phrase “sons of this age” as in 20.34, but who in this instance are said to be “more shrewd in dealing with their own generation” than “the sons of light“ are (16.8).

The meaning and wider context of this other passage is admittedly obscure; but it does seem clear that, here, these contrasting pairs also refer to two different kinds of people who are currently alive on earth: the “sons” who have a disordered or even fatal attachment to the mundane present age, versus the “sons of light” who through their righteous actions are destined for a kind of numinous eschatological glory.14 Another similar pair can be found in Matthew 13, which contrasts the “sons of [the] evil [one]” and the “sons of the kingdom” — the latter further identified as “the righteous [who] will shine like the sun in the kingdom” (Matthew 13.38, 43; see also Luke 14.14, “the resurrection of the righteous”).

Again turning to non-Christian Jewish tradition, although this comes from a late source and in a way touches on some quite different ideas, we also find a tradition in the later Jewish midrashic Ecclesiastes Rabbah (to Eccl. 11.8) that “the Torah which a man learns in this age/world is inferior/useless in comparison with the Torah [which will be learned in the days] of the Messiah.”

As to such language of the “age” and “world” suggesting frivolous concerns in the New Testament and in Luke in particular, it might be of some interest that the version of Jesus’ saying in Luke 12.29-30 is slightly different than in the parallel to this in the gospel of Matthew, mentioning that “the nations of the world [τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου]” have a misplaced concern about securing sustenance in life via food and drink. Here, then, we might may have a text that’s particularly similar to the proposed interpretation of Luke 20.34–35 here, where a rigid “contrast between Christians and the rest of the human race”15 is drawn in terms of exhorting the former to ignore the standard needs and means of survival — and specifically where the terminology of “age” or “world” is used in conjunction with this. (Before this, in Luke 12.22 Jesus had also advised followers to “not worry about your life”; and v. 33 also continues in an ascetic vein, with the well-known injunction to “sell your possessions.”)

Finally, in Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower in Mark 4.19, he makes a disparaging reference to αἱ μέριμναι τοῦ αἰῶνος, “the concerns of this age.” Interestingly, in the parallel to this in Luke 8.14, this is modified to “the concerns of life.” In so modifying it this way, however, Luke forges a potent, eschatologically-loaded connection between this and Luke 21.34, and also with Luke 17.26-27, too — the latter an important parallel to Luke 20.35. That is to say, Luke 20.35’s specific language of “marrying and being taken/given in marriage” also appears in these verses, addressing what things will be like prior to the final eschatological judgment:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. [People] were eating and drinking, and marrying and being taken/given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark; and the flood came and destroyed all of them. (Luke 17.26–27)

Much like before, then, “marrying and being taken/given in marriage” is here included among those other activities that were considered frivolous in light of the destruction that soon overtook the world in the time of Noah.

In light of all of these things — especially what I’ve discussed in the last few paragraphs — it’s again hard to argue that the contrast between the “sons of this age” in Luke 20.34 and those persons in 20.35, in terms of marrying vs. not marrying, was only intended as a descriptive reference to different actions in the present age and the future age. Instead, it can easily be understood as something that has a moralistic twist, too. But if it’s true that this was intended to have some moral significance, then this can only be explicable as a reference to things one would have control over: that is, that marrying or refraining from marriage are characteristic actions associated with different value judgments and in fact different fates.

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A closer look at Luke 20.34–36: the “worthy” in 20.35

The previous section focused fairly narrowly on Luke 20.34’s terminology of “this age,” though I did connect this more broadly with this idea of misplaced ethical concerns in this life, and the particular language that we find in 20.35 and more broadly in Luke.

But there’s still another aspect of this worth taking a closer look at, too — one that has in fact often served as the main crux in the debate over the meaning of Luke 20.34–36 as a whole (to extent that there even is such an active debate to speak of): the translation of the Greek descriptor οἱ καταξιωθέντες in 20.35.

In my main translation in the first section of my post, I tried to render this descriptor as neutrally as possible: “those worthy” of the coming age. The main question, however, is whether this descriptor suggests those who are “worthy” of future life in the here and now — which, in conjunction with the next words in 20.35, would mean that they don’t or shouldn’t marry even in their earthly life — or whether this simply suggests the state of those who in the future resurrection age won’t marry, again in line with Mark and Matthew.

But I think we can say something about the relative probability of these differing interpretations based on the particular grammatical forms that we find here, in tandem with a closer look at parallels to this language.

First and foremost, a note about the base verb καταξιόω that underlies the form that we find in 20.35. Strictly speaking, this verb usually suggests being worthy or deserving of something, or a judgment about this worthiness or deservedness. In terms of the latter, in active form it suggests the subject themselves rendering this judgment about someone (or something) else. In passive form, it suggests being the recipient of this: so “to be deemed worthy” instead of “to deem worthy.” Moreover, when we find it passive form in Jewish and Christian texts — as we do in Luke 20.35 — it’s more often than not understood as what we call a divine passive: that God is the implicit subject, himself making this judgment of worthiness.

As for the particular form of this verb in Luke 20.35, καταξιωθέντες, this is a passive aorist participle.17 The aorist itself often functions as a simple past tense, referring to an action that happened in the past and after which other things have happened since then. But translating it this way wouldn’t work in this instance, whether in the “traditional” harmonizing interpretation of the verse or in the interpretation defended here. (And it hasn’t been proposed by any defenders of these, either.)

For the traditional interpretation, the strict past tense obviously wouldn’t work for the simple reason that the resurrection is understood to be a future event16; and in my interpretation, understanding it as “were worthy” would also diminish the present significance of this, as if this was something that was true only in the past but not any longer. So the standard past tense can uncontroversially be dismissed. And the past perfect — “those who had been worthy” — suffers from much the same problem as the simple past. We’re left, then, with only a few other options for translation.

As I said above, “those worthy” is the most neutral translation. Although the subsequent verbs in Luke 20.35 and after are in the present tense (that they “do not marry nor are taken/given in marriage”), this still doesn’t necessarily say anything about when these persons are deemed worthy or when they won’t marry — whether this is something that’s already happened or is happening, or if this is only something that will have happened in the future. I think this ambiguity is even still found in the translation “those who are worthy,” even though “are” is usually understood to be standard present tense. (See for example Aune’s translation “those who are counted worthy,” even though he supports the non-future interpretation of this.)

To illustrate that another way, if “those who are worthy . . . do not marry” were prefaced with an implicit “in the resurrection age,” for example, then the present tense here would actually have the force of a future perfect, a la “those who in the future will have been deemed worthy to partake of that age won’t at that time marry...”

So the other two less ambiguous translations of this descriptor seek to explicitly treat it either as a present perfect or a future perfect. Again, I just covered the future perfect, where the translation “those who will have been deemed worthy” suggests persons who are only existing in a future state, and can’t easily be taken to refer to those in the present. Conversely, if the resurrection is understood to only take place in the future age — and consequently that this lack of marriage only comes into effect at that later point — then translations like Giulia Gasparro’s “those that have been judged to be worthy”18, in combination with the present tense “marry” verbs, can’t easily be understood as a reference to the future. Which interpretation is more likely, though?

Now, I’ve said that καταξιωθέντες is an aorist participle; and, grammatically speaking, in and of itself the aorist is much more easily associated with the present perfect than the future — though as mentioned above, we could indeed take it as having the force of a future perfect if the “worthiness” and marriage in Luke were understood with an implicit “in the resurrection,” e.g. as we find it in Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees in Mark and Matthew (at least with “marry”).

But it’s also worth noting that 1) while in Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees in Matthew and Mark, he repeats the phrase “in the resurrection” from the Sadducees’ question more or less verbatim, and 2) while this language of “in the resurrection” also appears verbatim in the form of the Sadducees’ question in Luke 20.33, Jesus’ answer to this in Luke diverges from both Mark and Matthew in instead speaking of those persons who are “worthy to partake of the other age and of the resurrection.”

If only for the interest of space, I’ll let someone else defend the idea that this is still a reference to those who will have already attained the post-resurrection age, viz. with the future perfect interpretation of καταξιωθέντες. Really though, to me this would be very much like a similar interpretation re: the final verses of 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul’s use of “we” + the present tense seems to suggest that he expected to still be alive for the second coming of Christ. Those who are uncomfortable with this, however, interpret Paul to implicitly be speaking of what will eventually be the present reality for a broader Christian “we” at some point in the future: “those of us who are [at that time] alive...”

Back to Luke 20.35, however: a couple of other things can be taken to support the present perfect interpretation, too. I’ve mentioned several times now that there’s a close connection between Luke’s unique language in 20.35 and a few traditions found in rabbinic Jewish texts; and again Dale Allison supplies a more complete survey of these, which I’ve quoted in full in a footnote.19 Of particular note in relation to “those who have been deemed worthy to partake of the other age” in Luke 20.35, however, are a few rabbinic texts which bring the same three elements together:

  • a description of those who are “worthy”
  • to “obtain” or “inherit,” etc.,
  • the future age.

We see all three of these, for example, in y. Ber. 11d (“worthy to inherit both in this age/world and in the age/world to come”); b. Bab. B. 10b (“worthy of inheriting two ages/worlds”); and ʾAvot R. Nat. B 29 (“your patience . . . made me worthy to inherit the life of this age/world and the life of the age/world to come”). Much the same is also found in a well-known, touching second or third century epitaph of a young Jewish woman named Regina, reflecting on her pious life — and giving assurance of her resurrection in a future world:

She will live again, return to the light again, for she can hope that she will rise [surgat] to the life promised, as a real assurance to the worthy and the pious in that she has deserved to possess [meruit . . . habere] an abode in the hallowed land. This your piety has assured you, this your chaste life, this your love for your people, this your observance of the Law, your devotion to your wedlock, the glory of which was dear to you. For all these deeds your hope of the future is assured.

There’s also one example in the rabbinic corpus where one’s righteous actions are said to guarantee that one is a “son of the age/world to come,” similar to the language of eschatological sonship in Matthew 13.38 and Luke 16.8, quoted above — and, again, similar to likely intention of the contrasting pairs of Luke 20.34–35 (or nearly identical to the saying as remembered by Clement of Alexandria and others).20

Finally, even today, an appeal to “be worthy to live to witness and inherit happiness and blessing in the days of the Messiah and in the life of the age/world to come” is still a part of standard Jewish prayer service.

As near as I can tell, in every one of these Jewish traditions, this worthiness for the future age refers to something that’s attained in this current life, as determined by one’s actions and righteousness.

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As for the aorist καταξιωθέντες having the force of a present perfect in Luke 20.35 — that this worthiness is also attained in the current life — there are some elucidating parallels to this language and its conceptual background elsewhere in the New Testament itself, too. In Jesus’ ascetic/renunciative teaching in Luke 18.29, for example, the aorist indicative is used in discussing every person “who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God” (ὃς ἀφῆκεν οἰκίαν ἢ γυναῖκα...), before specifying the rewards they’ll receive.

There are also similar ascetic or renunciative sayings where an aorist more clearly suggests a hypothetical and/or ideal possibility in this current life, a la the subjunctive — e.g. in several sayings parallel to John 12.25 as was cited earlier: “the one who finds his life will lose it, and the one loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10.39, ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν...). In fact, the version of this saying in Luke 9.24 actually uses the present subjunctive instead of the aorist participle: “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever would lose his life for my sake will save it” (ὃς ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν...); and a parallel saying in Luke 17.33 uses the aorist subjunctive.

Of course, in these examples, this present possibility relates to the actions themselves that will merit a future reward. But what about parallels which offer the present possibility of attaining a state of worthiness or reward itself, as has been suggested for Luke 20.35?

As a matter of fact, we have an unusually salient parallel to Luke 20.35 here — again interpreted as suggesting the correlation of not marrying and having been deemed worthy of eschatological life — in Revelation 14.3–4, which speaks of those elect 144,000 who have been redeemed, ἠγοράσθησαν, having “not defiled themselves with women” (both verbs aorist indicatives). As I’ll discuss further in Part 2 of my post, the evidence suggests that this passage is addressing thoroughgoing celibacy. In any case, these persons are further described as “those who follow” Jesus — present tense, οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες — “wherever he goes”; and interestingly, this description also creates a clear connection with the words of the disciple in Luke 9.57, as well as with broader themes of discipleship in the gospel of Luke and beyond.21

Like the rabbinic Jewish texts above, in which worthiness for the future age refers to something that’s attained in this current life, the same also holds for many other New Testament discussion of “worthiness” and related language. In fact, the author of 2 Thessalonians, in commending the Thessalonians’ faith in the midst of their present suffering, uses the exact same verb as in Luke 20.35, with the same tense too: this is “evidence of God’s righteous judgment, deeming/rendering you worthy [καταξιωθῆναι] of the kingdom of God” (1.5).22

We find several other examples in Luke and Acts themselves, as well. In Luke 3.8, John the Baptist exhorts those who come for baptism to conduct themselves in a way that’s “deserving” or “worthy of repentance.” In a radical teaching in Luke 9.62, Jesus suggests that no one who has any hesitations or regrets about the abandonment of their livelihood and family in order to follow Christ ἐστιν (is) “well-suited” for or “deserving of” the kingdom.23 In Acts 13.46, in what’s probably intended as a kind of programmatic statement to Jewish audiences, Paul and Barnabas suggest that those who have rejected the message of Christ “prove [them]selves not worthy of everlasting life.”

Again, in all of these examples, the process of being deemed worthy — of the kingdom of God, of everlasting life, etc. — clearly takes place in this life.

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A closer look at Luke 20.34–36: delving into 20.36

In the last section in Part 1 of this post, I just want to briefly cover a couple of other things about the particular language used in 20.34–36, and whether something in this may be a further pointer to the interpretation that I’m defending.

First off, if Jesus in Luke 20.34–36 is only trying to offer something like a mundane “proof” of non-marriage in the resurrection itself — expanding on Mark and Matthew that, because the resurrected are immortal, marriage is unnecessary — it’s perhaps curious that 20.35-36 spends so much time on descriptors of these persons, in a way that almost seems more laudatory than anything else.

It doesn’t just say that those who are resurrected won’t marry because they can’t die. Again, in addition to instead using this language of worthiness of the resurrection, it also continues that those who can no longer die “are angelic ones and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

The last of these descriptors may be especially interesting, possibly giving it a kind of redundancy or circularity if 20.35–36 is interpreted as a direct response by Jesus to the Sadducees’ question. That is, if 20.35–36 is only referring to future resurrection life as in the traditional interpretation, then overall Jesus would be saying that levirate marriage in this life doesn’t pose a problem for the future resurrection, because there people won’t marry — or die — being “sons of the resurrection.”

By contrast though, if “sons of the resurrection” is somewhat parallel to the descriptor in 20.35, and also denotes those who in this life have been deemed worthy to inherit the resurrection age, this may seem less redundant. Admittedly, I’m not aware of direct Jewish parallels to the phrase “son[s] of [the] resurrection,” though again the phrase “son of the age/world to come” itself is attested.

As for the descriptor “sons of God,” it might also be of interest that in other passages in the New Testament, especially theletters of Paul, Christian believers have already attained this status.In Galatians 3.26 for example, it’s said that “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith”; and in Romans 8.14 that “all who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God.” Further, in Romans 9.8 — which is perhaps the most interesting parallel to Luke 20 in this regard, contrasting an old theology of mundane Jewish ethnic exceptionalism with the new faith of Christ-followers — Paul writes that “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise [who] are counted [λογίζεται] as offspring.”

To add to this: earlier when I quoted Luke 20.36, I left the first few words of this untranslated, οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν ἔτι δύνανται. At the time I said that these words are to be understood as something very much like “for they cannot die any more.” But it might be worth noting that the words οὐδέ δύνανται here almost certainly function to imply that they “cannot even“ die any more — that is, with “even” suggesting a sort of unexpectedness, potentially expressing an aspect of being provocative or climactic. Again, this might be slightly unusual if this were all intended as a more mundane proof of lack of marriage in resurrection; but it may be more natural if it expresses the unexpectedly exalted state of those who already live a quasi-immortal life.

Incidentally, Crispin Fletcher-Louis actually makes a similar argument, but instead in reference to the use of the adverb “any more”: he suggests that if the author had really wanted to convey the traditional interpretation, we “might have expected a πάλιν instead of ἔτι” — that is, that they will “no longer die again“ instead of “no longer die any more” — and that the choice of the adverb as we have it seems “more appropriate as a comment on the unreality of the first, physical death.”24

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I think this is a good place to wrap up Part 1 of my post. The next part will pick back up on the potential objection that I addressed early on in this post, but wasn’t able to return to the very first words of Luke 20.36, suggesting the apparent immortality of those who do not marry.


Appendix: supporters of the revised interpretation of Luke 20.34–36

The most significant defenders of this new interpretation of Luke 20.34–36 over the past couple of decades are Turid Seim (“Children of the Resurrection: Perspectives on Angelic Asceticism in Luke–Acts”; see also The Double Message: Patterns of Gender in Luke-Acts; “The Virgin Mother: Mary and Ascetic Discipleship in Luke,” 90–91, etc.); David Aune (“Luke 20:34–36: A ‘Gnosticized’ Logion of Jesus?”, and already in his monograph The Cultic Setting of Realized Eschatology in Early Christianity); Crispin Fletcher-Louis (especially the section “The Celibate Anticipation of the Angelic Life, Luke 20:34–40” in Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology and Soteriology); and there’s also a brief but insightful recent treatment in Anthony Giambrone, Sacramental Charity, Creditor Christology, and the Economy of Salvation in Luke’s Gospel, 218–222.

Fletcher-Louis (Luke-Acts, 82 n. 234) cites a number of supporters prior to these: Herbert Preisker, Christentum and Ehe in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, 118–19; B. K. Diderichsen, “Efterfølgelse og Ægteskab i Lukasevangeliet” and Den Markianske Skilsmisseperikope (no pages cited); Frank Moore Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies, 73–4; David Balch, “Backgrounds of 1 Cor. VII: Sayings of the Lord in Q; Moses as an Ascetic ΘEIOΣ ANHP in 2 Cor III,” 354; Dennis MacDonald, There is No Male and Female: The Fate of a Dominical Saying in Paul and Gnosticism, 71 n. 15; Mary Rose D’Angelo, “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View,” 456; G. Baumbach, Das Verständnis des Bösen in den synoptischen Evangelien, 197–200; Christopher Tuckett, “1 Corinthians and Q,” 615.

To these we can add François Bovon, Luke 3: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 19:28–24:53, 63 (“[t]he special theology of these verses looks to a present reality that Mark resolutely fixes in the future”; see also 68: “for the elect the conditions of life differ radically from those of the common run of people,” which “suggests that these conditions apply . . . to a present that can be described as eschatological in anticipation”); Hans-Ulrich Weidemann, “Engelsgleiche, Abstinente — und ein moderater Weintrinker Asketische Sinnproduktion als literarische Technik im Lukasevangelium und im 1. Timotheusbrief,” 35ff. (his interpretation earlier describes as suggesting that “followers of Jesus are urged to adopt the unmarried, angelic state here and now, not just at the resurrection of the dead”); Hans-Josef Klauck, “Die Armut der Jünger in der Sicht des Lukas”; S. Brock, “Early Syrian Asceticism,” 6 (“the worthy already anticipate the marriageless life of angels in this world“); Somov, “Representations of the Afterlife in Luke-Acts” (dissertation), 78–79; Thonemann, “Amphilochius of Iconium and Lycaonian Asceticism,” 202 (Luke 20.34–35 “could legitimately be taken as stating that two classes of men already exist in the present world”); R. M. M. Tuschling, Angels and Orthodoxy: A Study in Their Development in Syria and Palestine from the Qumran Texts to Ephrem the Syrian, 73 (Luke’s language “clearly allows the meaning of abstaining from marriage in this life”); David Rutledge, “Celibacy,” in Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, 139 (citing Luke 20.34–36 alongside 1 Corinthians 7, expressive of “the belief that the end or eschaton was imminent, requiring believers to devote their entire energies to the service of God and the bringing in of his kingdom”); Ellen Muehlberger, Angels in Late Ancient Christianity, 151 (Luke 20.35–36 is “an affirmation that the life of the resurrection was available before death to those on Earth who declined to marry”); Stephen Patterson, “The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Beginnings,” 274, following Aune (who “rightly argues that this saying speaks of persons who have already been deemed worthy [note the aorist participle, καταξιοθέντες] in this life”); David Dungan, The Sayings of Jesus in the Churches of Paul, 130 (“it is hard to doubt that this is Luke himself speaking here,” which “fits well into his well-known, hard-line asceticism”; and “we look in vain for so extreme a statement as that in Luke 20.34ff.”); Daniel Marguerat, The Reception of Paulinism in Acts, 146 n. 13 (“Lk 20,34 alters Mk 12,25 to say that those worthy of salvation do not marry”); Petr Pokorný, “Strategies of Social Formation in the Gospel of Luke,” 107 (“[i]n Luke we even meet elements of encratite practice abolishing marriage,” citing Luke 20.34–36 alongside 14.26; 17.27, etc.); Amy-Jill Levine, “Jesus, Divorce, and Sexuality: A Jewish Critique,” 124 (“Luke . . . adapts the prohibition against remarriage into a general program of asceticism,” citing Luke 20.34–36); Zacharias Thundy, Buddha and Christ: Nativity Stories and Indian Traditions, 209 (“[i]n Luke’s version, the elect abjure marriage even in this life”; and elsewhere “[t]he encratitic view that only the unmarried could be saved is found in Luke 20:35”); April DeConick, Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and its Growth, 182 n. 16 (Luke 20.34–36 “implies that the age of the resurrection has already dawned”); Outi Lehtipuu, “No Sex in Heaven—Nor on Earth? Luke 20:27–38 as a Proof-Text in Early Christian. Discourses on Resurrection and Asceticism,” 24, cautiously following Seim; Brittany Wilson, Unmanly Men: Refigurations of Masculinity in Luke-Acts, 73 (following Seim, that “Luke lauds virginity and denigrates the traditional family,” and citing Luke 20.34–35 as “prohibiting [re]marriage”). Also Kevin Sullivan, “Jesus, Angels and the Honeycomb in Luke 24:42,” 253–54, drawing on Aune, makes the interesting suggestion that it could have been a “community with the same [realized eschatological] outlook” that was responsible for both Luke 20.34–36 and a variant in Luke 24.42.

Further, a few more, mixed in with some who aren’t quite committal to the interpretation but still acknowledge the possibility: Fletcher-Louis cites Ton H. C. van Eijk, “Marriage and Virginity, Death and Immortality,” 215, as suggesting the possibility of this interpretation “without violence being done to the text”; and to that we can add Will Deming, Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7, 23 (“Luke’s version . . . is suggestive of ascetic practices in the here and now”); Richard Pervo, The Acts of Paul, 101 (the author of Luke is “close to the radicals [of the second century]” and “associates worthiness for resurrection with celibacy”); Risto Uro, “Is Thomas an Encratite Gospel?”, 144 (mentioning encratism in Luke, citing “the formulation of Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees in Luke 20.34–36”); Halvor Moxnes, “Where is ‘Following Jesus’? Masculinity and Place in Luke’s Gospel,” 164 (“[i]n Mark and Matthew this is a future vision . . . but in Luke, implications are drawn for the present”); Dale Allison, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, 209 (considering that the historical Jesus could have viewed chastity “as a proleptic recovery of things lost by Adam and Eve,” noting the similarity to our interpretation of Luke 20.34–36); Lily Vuong, Gender and Purity in the Protevangelium of James, 159, apparently following Brock, that “Luke implies in his version that those who are worthy of resurrection already participate in the unmarried life in this world and are in this way made equal to angels”; Luise Schottroff and Wolfgang Stegemann, Jesus and the Hope of the Poor, 84 (“[l]ike Paul [Luke] seems to regard celibacy as an ideal recommended to all Christians,” as per “the specifically Lucan version of the story in which the Sadducees question Jesus about the resurrection”). Finally, see David Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, 222 (citing Luke 20.35 alongside Revelation 14.4 as precedent for “repudiation of all forms of sexual expression”); Robin L. Fox, Pagans and Christians, 363 (Luke 20.35 refers to “Christians who are worthy of the next life,” and that this “needed only a slight shift of emphasis to refer the absence of marriage to this world, not the next”); and Giulia Gasparro, “Asceticism and Anthropology: Enkrateia and ‘Double Creation’ in Early Christianity,” 134ff. makes some suggestive comments, though not committing to it.


Footnotes

1 Whether angels had always truly been thought of asexual in Jewish tradition is another issue. In fact, it was quite the opposite in Second Temple Judaism, considering the well-known tradition in which “fallen” angels had come down to earth and produced offspring with human women. But I suppose we can say that this was thought to be an extraordinary situation, which precisely had to do with them leaving their normal heavenly dwelling and state.

2 My own translation, following the Greek closely. David Bentley Hart translates very similarly: “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, But those accounted worthy of sharing in that Age and in the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, For they cannot even die any more, for they are the equals of angels, for they are God’s sons, being sons of the resurrection” (The New Testament: A Translation, 155-56). Some translate γαμίσκονται and γαμίζονται reflexively, as “give themselves in marriage”; cf. Aune, “Luke 20:34–36: A ‘Gnosticized’ Logion of Jesus?”, 123. This seems less likely.

3 Clements cites it as οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται, in contrast to οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (Stromata 3.12.87). See similarly other quotations of this, like in pseudo-Justin’s De Resurrectione.

4 Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History, 195. I’ve quoted these texts in footnote 19.

5 These main studies are Seim’s “Children of the Resurrection: Perspectives on Angelic Asceticism in Luke–Acts”; Aune’s “Luke 20:34–36: A ‘Gnosticized’ Logion of Jesus?”; and Crispin Fletcher-Louis’ Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology and Soteriology (especially the section “The Celibate Anticipation of the Angelic Life, Luke 20:34–40”).

6 A criticism in somewhat the same spirit as this was already offered by Tertullian, responding to the Marcionites in the first half of the 3rd century — that “it was the marriage of that [future] world [Jesus] was asked about, not this one, and the marriage which he said did not exist was the one he had been asked about [=that in the future world].”

7 Cf. Matthew 22.28, “for all married her.”

8 Several major English translations even take the liberty of translating the verbs in Mark 12 as future: “when they rise from the dead, they will neither marry nor be taken/given in marriage.” In the Greek, these verbs are actually in the present tense; though of course the fact that this is also explicitly described in Mark and Matthew as taking place “when they rise from the dead” confirms that this is in the future.

9 This is double relevant, as this too appears to be one of the starkest expressions of realized eschatology in the New Testament. In terms of other examples of Jesus’ answers to questions which seem to shift the subject quite significantly, see perhaps Luke 18.26–27.

10 “But that the dead are raised, even Moses...” (Luke 20.37).

11The Double Message: Patterns of Gender in Luke-Acts, 214-15.

12 See Derek Brown’s monograph The God of This Age: Satan in the Churches and Letters of the Apostle Paul.

13 This last line reads על כל בני תבל.

14 As for Luke 16.8 itself, Bovon comments that “[h]ere in Luke, as in Paul, the atmosphere is apocalyptic and the believers know that they are living in the last days. What is daring in Luke 16:8b is that ‘the children of his age’ are hailed—albeit in certain limited circumstances—as an example for the ‘children of light’” (Luke 2: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 9:51–19:27, 450). Bovon also mentions Matthew 10.16 here, in which the apostles — surely considered to be “sons of light” — are exhorted be as “wise/cunning as serpents.” For more on Luke 16.8, see Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 620–21 (the “sons of light” are “those who belong to, are destined for, God’s kingdom of light”), etc.

15 Bovon, 3.220.

16 I’m not really aware of those who have suggested otherwise.

17 Also complementing the verb τυχεῖν here, an aorist infinitive.

18 “Asceticism and Anthropology: Enkrateia and ‘Double Creation’ in Early Christianity,” 135.

19 ʾAbot R. Nat. A 19 (תזכו לחיי העולם הבא, “you will be worthy of the life of the world to come”); ʾAbot R. Nat. B 29 (זכה לי לנחול . . . חיי העולם הבא, “for me to be worthy to inherit . . . the life of the world to come”); Tanḥ. Yelammedenu Tsaw 14 (“זוכה לחיי העולם הבא, “worthy of the life of the world to come”), y. Ber. 11d (7:3) (זוכה לירש העולם הזה והעולם הבא, “to be worthy of inheriting this world and the world to come”); b. ‘Erub. 54b (דתיזכי את ודרך לעלמא דאתי, “that you and your generation might be worthy of the world to come”); b. Git. 68b (זכי לעלמא דאתי, “will be worthy of the world to come”); b. B. Bat. 10b (אזכה לעעלם הבא, “that I may be worthy of the world to come”); Midr. Ps. 78:12 (זכי לעלמא דאתי, “will be worthy of the world to come”)

20 Some other rabbinic uses of phrases like “sons of the age/world to come” are cited in Charles Hudson, Christ Our Life: The Scriptural Argument for Immortality Through Christ Alone, 12.

21 See for example Luke 22.33, too.

22 Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, 395, commets that they are “already being made worthy of the kingdom.”

23 On this verse see Bockmuehl, “‘Let the Dead Bury Their Dead’ (Matt. 8:22/Luke 9:60): Jesus and the Halakhah.” Also δεκτός in Acts 10.35?

24Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology and Soteriology , 83.