What does Mark 12:24 mean?Jesus' assertion that the Sadducees do not know the Scriptures is especially biting. The Sadducees, far more than the Pharisees, value a stridently literal interpretation of the Old Testament, specifically the first five books: the Torah. The Pharisees' belief in the resurrection is based on only two obscure prophecies (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2) and a handful of poems (Psalms 16:9–11; 49:15; Job 19:25–26). The Sadducees disbelief in resurrection relies on an argument from silence.
The Sadducees are trying to use the law on levirate marriages, which provide for a young widow with no children, to prove there is no spirit, resurrection, or afterlife. Their attempt centers on following an idea to a ridiculous conclusion: a technique in rhetoric known as a reduction ad absurdam. However, for this technique to be meaningful, the initial assumptions must be correct. As it turns out, this absurdity merely proves that the Sadducees lack understanding.
Despite their creative machinations, Jesus rejects their supposed expertise and points the Sadducees back to the basics. You don't go to a law on marriage to establish your theology on eternal life. You go to the scriptural truths about God. God told Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). By the time Moses was born, these patriarchs had been dead for hundreds of years. But God identified Himself with these men. That can only mean that the patriarchs are alive, thus proving the existence of an afterlife.
Other people, even believers, can be just as guilty as the Sadducees. It's tempting to read a passage or two out of context, build a theology, and ignore larger truths of Scripture. A common example of this is the question of whether baptism is required for salvation. Several passages associate baptism with salvation (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27). Assuming it is required for salvation requires flawed assumptions as well as rejecting context and cultural environment. In New Testament culture, baptism was performed as soon as a person decided to follow a specific religious sect. It is an identifying activity, like going on the dance floor indicates you want to dance. But baptism isn't required for salvation any more than going on the dance floor is required to dance. And, in fact, some people go on the dance floor with no intention of dancing.