Mark 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living...

KJV Verse: 

Mark 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: you therefore do greatly err.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

No, he is not a God of dead ones but living ones: much have you led yourselves astray.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

One key to this verse is that Jesus doesn't use an article before the word for God like he usually does. He doesn't say "the God" but "a god." This is consistent with his point, which is about the differences between the Greek and Judean views of the divine. For context on this verse, see this article on the concept of Gods of Death and Life.

The main wordplay in this verse is the form of the last verb, which say either that his challenges have been led astray or have led themselves astray.
 

KJV Analysis: 

He -- This is from the third-person, singular form of the following verb.

is -- The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics. 

not -- 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. This word begins the verse, making it seem like he is answering a question with a "no."

the -- There is no Greek word that is translated as "the" in the source we use today nor was there one in the source that the KJV translators used. It was added for theological reasons.  There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

God -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods.

of -- This word comes from the genitive case of the following word(s) that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive nouns. 

the -- There is no Greek word that is translated as "the" in the source we use today nor was there one in the source that the KJV translators used. It was added for clarity because in English we often use "the" with plural nouns.

dead,  -- The word translated as "the dead" means "corpse", "a dying man," and "inanimate, non-organic matter." Christ uses it in all three senses, referring to the actual dead, the spiritually dead, and inanimate matter. The word is a plural adjective used as a noun. 

but  - The Greek word translated as "but" denotes an exception or simple opposition. It is used to emphasize the contrast between things like we use "rather". It is the Greek word "other" like we use "otherwise".

the -- There is no Greek word that is translated as "the" in the source we use today nor was there one in the source that the KJV translators used. It was added for theological reasons.  There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

God -- There is no Greek word that is translated as "God" in the source we use today but it does exist in the source that the KJV translators used.

of -- This word comes from the genitive case of the following word(s) that required the addition of a preposition in English.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of", "which is", "than" (in comparisons), or  "for", "concerning" or "about" with transitive nouns. 

the - There is no Greek word that is translated as "the" in the source we use today nor was there one in the source that the KJV translators used. It was added for clarity because in English we often use "the" with plural nouns.

living:  "Living" is a verb that 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." The form is that of an adjective, "living." The adjective is used as a noun.

you -- This is from the second-person, plural form of the following verb.

therefore -- There is no Greek word that is translated as "therefore" in the source we use today but it does exist in the source that the KJV translators used.

do -- This helping verb indicates the present tense, but the tense of the verb could also be the simple past or the verb of possibility.  Helping verbs are not needed in Greek since the main verb carries this information in its form.

greatly -- The word translated as "greatly" means many in number, great in power or worth, and large in size. It is not in the form of an adverb, but adjectives and adverbs are more exchangeable in Green.

err. "Err" is a verb that means "to cause to wander", "to lead astray", "to mislead", "to wander", "to stray," and "to be misled." The form is clearly either the passive or the middle voice, indicating a person acting on themselves. The tense is uncertain.

Greek Vocabulary: 

οὐκ (partic) "Not" is 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) "He is" is eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," of circumstance and events "to happen",  and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

θεὸς (noun sg masc nom)  -- The word translated as "God" means "God" and "deity." It is introduced with an article, so "the God." Jesus often uses it this way perhaps to indicate the one God as opposed to the pagan gods.

νεκρῶν (adj pl masc gen) "Of the dead" is 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 (adv) "But" is alla, which means "otherwise", "but", "still", "at least", "except", "yet," nevertheless", "rather", "moreover," and "nay." --

ζώντων, (part pl pres act masc gen ) "Of the living" is 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."

πολὺ ( adj sg neut acc ) "Greatly" is polus, which means "many (in number)", "great (in size or power or worth)," and "large (of space)." As an adverb, it means "far", "very much", "a great way," and "long."

πλανᾶσθε. (verb 2nd pl imperf ind mp or verb 2nd pl pres subj mp  or verb 2nd pl pres ind mp ) "Do...err" is planao which means "to cause to wander", "to lead astray", "to mislead", "to wander", "to stray," and "to be misled."

Wordplay: 

The joke here is about wandering a great distance, specifically the distances between life and death, but it is lost in the standard English translation. Christ even gets in a little alliteration to make his point even more amusing. The terms translated as "greatly err," which really means "wander" or "go astray" "a great way" is polus planao.

Related Verses: 

Possible Symbolic Meaning: 

Jesus actually sets up the wordplay here back in Mark 12:24 by asking the rhetorical question, "Aren't you going astray?" After answering the specific question about marriage after resurrection, Jesus returns to this idea of going astray here, pointing out that the real problem is that people don't understand the nature of life and death.

To understand Jesus here, we have to understand a little about the Greek (and Roman) view of the afterlife and how it influenced the understanding of the resurrection in Christ's time. The Greek believed in an afterlife, but it wasn't a very pleasant vision. The dead were like wraiths, leading a half-life in the land of the dead. The god of the dead was Hades (Greek) or Pluto (Latin). This vision influenced the Jewish religious leaders of Christ's time. They either imagined that people lingered in this half-life of the dead (as the Greek saw it) or in the ground until the resurrection when they were reincarnated into physical bodies.

This means that, until the final judgment, the dead, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were either ghosts or corpses. (The word that Jesus uses for "dead" also means "corpse."

Jesus clearly rejects this vision. I will leave it to each of my readers to say what his alternative might be. I will only suggest that either time (as we understand it) does not exist between our deaths, the final judgment, and resurrection or that immediately upon our deaths, we are given a new life but not the life in the body of resurrection, which we get at the final judgment. The later vision is supported by Jesus 's statement earlier about Elijah being reborn (Mat 17:12), but personally, I don't think we are meant to know what actually happens at death.

Nov 27 2019