The Eschatology of Matthew 22:23-32 as Completing the Matthean Theology of Marriage

Scholars discussing marriage and divorce in Matthew typically only focus on Jesus’ instructions to the crowds in 5:31-32 and to the Pharisees in 19:3-12. The Matthean theology of marriage is incomplete, though, without also taking his correction of the Sadducees and its teleological ethics in 22:23-32 into consideration: Matthean creation theology in the reference to “the beginning” and Gen 2:24 in 19:3-12 is only perfected by the eschatology found in the age of resurrection and the angels of 22:23-32. Concerning the eschaton, Davies and Allison acknowledge this passage had a large impact upon early Christian life, which was lived in imitation of the angels. Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Ecl. 57; Jerome, Ep. 108; Gregory of Nyssa, Vit. Macrina; Jerome, Hom. on Cant. 3, 4, 11, 15; Ephrem the Syrian, Hymn on Faith 10:9; Apophthegmata Patrum, in PG 65 (John the Dwarf 2); Hesychios, On Watchfulness 200–1; cp. 2 Bar 51:5, Philo, Sacr. 1:5, Test. Isaac 4:45–47, 1QSb (1Q28b) 4:24–26. Pope John Paul II concluded this passage reveals the glorification, fulfillment, inheritance, task, and objective of the created person. Against the divinization of marriage and making it eternal (Mormonism, Islam), Jesus instructs that after the parousia (24:3, 27, 37, 39) and “the end of the age” (13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20) there will be no more marriage (contra Witherington).

This paper begins by reviewing David Instone-Brewer’s work on the NT cultural context surrounding marriage including first-century Jewish and Greco-Roman marriage contracts, Jewish divorce certificates, Roman laws, and early rabbinic debates over marital duties. Then 5:31-32 and 19:3-12 are placed within this context before comparing Matt 22:30 par. to Mark 12:25 and Luke 20:34-36. Explored issues include: the system in which women are passed from father to son-in-law; τίνος (“whose”) as a genitive of relationship within the Sadducees’ question in 22:28; OT angels as almost exclusively male (except Zech 5:9); Jewish and early Christian texts on an angellike existence; and both men and women as οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου will be like or “equal to angels,” “sons of God,” and “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34, 36). Given the first-century Roman occupation and First Jewish Revolt of 66-73 CE, it is suggested that Jesus teaches in Matthew living in angelic holiness within marriage (though not without sexual relations) and holding loosely the things of this world, even as Paul states: “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on, those who are married should live as if they were not” (1 Cor 7:29).