Is Jesus saying Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive?

Jesus said the following in Matthew:

Matthew 22:32 “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, BUT OF THE LIVING”.

Did he mean that they were alive? To understand what he said, we need to consider Jewish thought.

There is a Jewish concept that whatever God planned or promised, it was as good as done, therefore they speak about them as if already occurred, as reality. One example is when in Revelation the new Jerusalem is coming down from heaven. It was already there from the beginning.

Similarly, all the souls of the righteous, including the forefathers, Moses, David, the Messiah (already in his exalted state – this is why Jesus is asking for the glory he had with God before) pre-existed. According to ancient Jewish belief Satan pointed to the Messiah and asked God, “Is this the one who is going to unseat me?”

There is a Jewish belief that

“Before God created the world He held a consultation with the souls of the righteous.”

It is also believed that wisdom (not to outsmart another, but for righteous living), equated with the Torah in ancient Jewish belief (see Apocryphal writings), also pre-existed:

Prov. 8:22 “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.”

And God, like a Master Architect, consults wisdom (the Torah) when creating the world:

John 1:1- “In the beginning was the word, and the word was towards (facing) God, and the word was divine. It was in the beginning with God. All things became through it, and without it nothing became that has become. In it was life, and the life was the light of all men.” (my own rendering)

English Christian bibles (except for Tyndale’s translation) have “he” instead of “it” because the Greek term “logos” is masculine, therefore it requires a masculine pronoun, but it should be translated into English as “it”, because the English term “word” is neuter and thus it requires the neuter pronoun. The Hungarian Karoli translation uses the neuter, and I am aware of an Italian bible that has the feminine pronoun because the Italian term for “word” is feminine!

Also, in the statement “the word was God (‘theos’)” there is no definite article before ‘theos’, in which case ‘theos’ can simply refer to human superiors (ie judges in Jn 10:34) or may be used in an adjectival sense, referring to divine in origin (in the KJV you have “The Revelation of St John the Divine”, but John is not deity). If John wanted to unmistakably declare that the word was deity, he had the opportunity by using the definite article, ie “the God” = the Almighty.

God’s throne of glory also pre-existed:

Ps 93:2 Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.

The sanctuary as well:

Jer 17:12 A glorious throne on high from the beginning
Is the place of our sanctuary.

Though these will only become reality in the Kingdom.

Even the congregation of the righteous pre-existed:

Ps 74:2 Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased (Heb: created) of old…

Jesus also made an allusion to his pre-existance: “Before Abraham was, I am”.

Keep in mind hat the Jewish concept of the soul is different from that of Christian. To the Jews the soul is the living person, which has the spirit (breath of life) in it. When the person dies, the soul dies. Hence the need for the resurrection.

Remember, David numbered Israel and found a number of SOULS, that is, persons.

The Christian concept of the soul was imported from Platonism by the Greeks that believed that the soul is trapped in the body which is evil because matter is evil, and death was a liberation. The souls of good guys went to heaven and of the bad guys went to hell.

With this in mind, you understand the correct interpretation of Jesus’ reply to the thief, who asked him,

“remember me when you come in your Kingdom”.

He was asking for the resurrection. Then Jesus replied,

“I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise”.

There is no comma in the Greek. The correct meaning is “I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise (Kingdom)”. So Jesus assured him of his resurrection.

A quote from Justin Martyr who wrote at the beginning of the second century reveals his concern about Christians that adopted Platonism:

“For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians” (Dialogue. Chapter 80).


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