Matthew 22:32 I am the God of Abraham,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 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.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

"I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."
He is really not a god of dying but of living.

Hidden Meaning: 

this is a very interesting verse regarding the meaning of the nature of the afterlife.

The first part of this verse is a quote of Exo 3:6. but, unusually, it is a paraphrase of the Greek of the Septuagint leaving out the phrase "of thy Father," which is addressed to Moses but would work for any Jew since Christ regularly referred to Abraham as the "father" of the Jews of his day. this is interesting because most of Christ's quotes are the exact wording in the Septuagint. The differences here demonstrate that the Bible authors were not just quoting the Septuagint when "translating" Christ into Greek quoting the OT. this is one more piece of evidence that Christ taught in Greek (see article here), and the Greek of the synoptic Gospels are his actual recorded words.

The pronoun "I" is used here explicitly. Since, as the subject of the sentence, it is part of the verb, its explicit use accentuates who is speaking "I." Saying "I myself" captures this feeling in English. This accentuation is from the Septuagint, not Christ.

The word translated as "the God" means "God" and "diety." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." This too is from the Septuagint, but Christ often refers to "God" as "the God" though it is not always translated that way as in the previous verse, Mat 22:31.

"Abraham", "Isaac," and "Jacob" are all quoted in a Greek spelling of the Hebrew word, without the Greek ending for the possessive form. This follows the Septuagint, and lack of an ending was used in Mat 8:11, which is not an OT quote. When Christ quotes Greek names (for example, "Caesar" in Mat 22:21) they follow normal Greek word endings.

In the KJV source, there was an extra "God" appearing here that does not appear in the better Greek sources we used today.

When the verb "to be" appears early in a phrase, before the subject, as it does here, the sense is more like "he is" or, in the plural, "they are."

The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence to captures the same idea.

The word for "God" that appears here only has the article ("the") in front of it in some sources. Without it, the sense becomes "a god" not "The God."

The word translated as "the dead" means "corpse", "a dying man," and "inanimate, non-organic matter," but its from of that of an adjective, not a noun. Christ uses it in all three senses, referring to the actual dead, the spirtual dead, and inanimate matter. It is an adjective and has no article in front of it to make it act like a noun.

The Greek verb translated as "the living" means "to live", "the living," and "to be alive." It is a metaphor for "to be full of life", "to be strong," and "to be fresh." It is in the form of an adjective as well so "living" as opposed to "dying." It means being physically alive not just existing as a spirit.

About Gods of Death and Life

The ancient world had a very clear concept of a "god of the dead." From the earliest Egyptian religions from the time of Moses to the Roman religions of Christ's era, there was a clear model for the afterlife. Souls, referred to as "the dead," traveled to the underworld where they were judged by the god of the dead (Anubis in Egypt, Pluto in Rome, Hades of the Greeks). The "dead," no matter how they were judged, lived a type of half-life, without a body (though among the Romans, some thought that the most heroic dead could achieve a godlike status in the underworld and could affect our world). The Egyptian religion was built around the idea that spirit of the dead would joined by resurrection of the body at some future date, but that idea was not widely shared in the ancient world.

For Christ, the statement that God is not "a god of dying" may speak directly against the existence of an afterlife that is some form of holding cell where spirits kill time until the resurrection but this would be cleared if he had used an article to say "the dead" instead of the adjective "dying."

Christ may be saying that the Patriarchs are living and have always been living, at least from God's point of view. He makes it clear that he is not talking about life of the soul, but a "resurrected" life. In Mat 8:11, Christ describes them as having their own table in the heavens where Gentiles will join them. This "beyond earth" (see this article about the meaning of the word "heaven") elsewhere.

Here, as in many other places, Christ is dealing with our faulty perceptions of time. As we now know, time is a dimension of our physical universe, just like height, depth, and breadth. Christ is saying that God, angels, and our own resurrection exist outside time, that is, outside of our current framework of existence.

From God's point of view, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are living in every sense. Their life in what we consider the past exists now for God, but their resurrected lives also exist now. Though we cannot conceive of a timeless state or a state which has direct access NOW to all of time, this is a limitation of our current state, not a limitation on God, the angels, or our future state.

Because we cannot think outside of time, we try to force both God and the afterlife to conform with our perspective, which exists within time. So, we conceive that, after we die, time passes until the Last Judgment. We have to spend that time in a spiritual heaven, which is different than the final paradise, or we have invent a concept call "soul sleep," which assumes our spirit "sleeps" until that final Judgment Day.

For Christ and God, time does not pose a problem. Creation through all of time exists as a whole. Any part of it is directly accessible. There is no real "before" or "after" except as different points, like different points in space. God didn't walk with Adam and Eve in paradise before or after Christ's death and resurrection in the Roman ear. God is walking in Eden. Christ is walking on earth. The Judgment Day is happening now. We are being born now. We are dying now.

Vocabulary: 

Ἐγώ (pron 1st sg masc nom) "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least", "for my part", "indeed," and for myself.

εἰμι (verb 1st sg pres ind act) "Am" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

θεὸς (noun sg masc nom) "The God" is from theos, which means "God," the Deity."

Ἀβραὰμ "Abraham" is from Abraam, which is the Greek form of "Abraham."

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

θεὸς (noun sg masc nom) "The God" is from theos, which means "God," the Deity."

Ἰσαὰκ "Isaac" is from Isaak.

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

θεὸς (noun sg masc nom) "The God" is from theos, which means "God," the Deity."

Ἰακώβ;” "Jacob" is from Iakob.

οὐκ "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective.

ἔστιν (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

[ὁ] θεὸς (noun sg masc nom) "God" is from theos, which means "God," the Deity."

νεκρῶν (adj pl masc gen) "The dead" is from nekros, which specifically means "a corpse" as well as a "dying person", "the dead as dwellers in the nether world", "the inanimate," and "the inorganic"

ἀλλὰ "But" is from alla, which means "otherwise", "but", "still", "at least", "except", "yet," nevertheless", "rather", "moreover," and "nay."

ζώντων. (part pl pres act masc gen) "Living" is from zao, which means "to live", "the living," and "to be alive." It is a metaphor for "to be full of life", "to be strong," and "to be fresh."

Related Verses: