Mark 12:26 and Exodus 3:6
Since Jesus places what He says in the context of Moses and the burning bush, the first step is to compare what Jesus says with the event as recorded in the Old Testament and translated to Greek:
But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mark 12:26 NKJV)
περὶ δὲ τῶν νεκρῶν ὅτι ἐγείρονται οὐκ ἀνέγνωτε ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ Μωϋσέως ἐπὶ τοῦ βάτου πῶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ θεὸς λέγων ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ
Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. (Exodus 3:6 KJV)
ויאמר אנכי אלהי אביך אלהי אברהם אלהי יצחק ואלהי יעקב ויסתר משה פניו כי ירא מהביט אל־האלהים
And he said to him, “ I am the God of your father, God of Abraam and God of Isaak and God of Iakob.” And Moyses turned his face away, for he was being reverent to look down before God.
(LXX-Exodus 3:6 NETS)
καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς τοῦ πατρός σου θεὸς Αβρααμ καὶ θεὸς Ισαακ καὶ θεὸς Ιακωβ ἀπέστρεψεν δὲ Μωυσῆς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ εὐλαβεῖτο γὰρ κατεμβλέψαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ
Jesus follows neither the Hebrew or the Greek accounts. For starters, Jesus did not use the phrase I am the God...,
ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς as in the LXX. His words were,
ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς I the God... Since there is no present tense form of the verb to be in Hebrew, Jesus preserved the correct Semitic form of self-identification which is simply I the God...,
ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς, as if He were present.
There are also variances in the use of the article and the conjunction
LXX: ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς τοῦ πατρός σου θεὸς Αβρααμ καὶ θεὸς Ισαακ καὶ θεὸς Ιακωβ
Mark: ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ
The Hebrew lists Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The LXX has Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. With respect to
καὶ Jesus agrees with the LXX. However, unlike the LXX Jesus includes the article with each:
LXX: θεὸς Αβρααμ καὶ θεὸς Ισαακ καὶ θεὸς Ιακωβ
Mark: ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ
From a purely grammatically point, the construction Jesus employs is how three different would be listed. That is, a list of three items each separated by
καὶ and each introduced with the article is how distinct items would be written. In this case, what makes the three the same is a belief they are the same, despite grammar which implies otherwise.
The LXX avoided this grammatical implication by omitting the use of the article with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and by ending with
ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. This ending refers back to He who said,
εἶπεν αὐτῷ. In the LXX rendering, He who said was He whom Moses looked down before God. The ending complements the omission of the articles to make the point He who said "I the God of..." was the God who Moses couldn't face, and it is He who was God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.
In addition, the LXX properly renders "God" whom Moses cannot look at using the article
τοῦ θεοῦ. The Hebrew is האלהים, literally the Elohim. In English the literal Hebrew is:
Moreover he said, "I God of your father, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon the God.
Exodus in English adds articles where not present, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and omits it where it is present, look down before the God. English translations are contrived to convey the passage as one of clear monotheism. But the ending, the Elohim suggests otherwise. Arguably, the Hebrew האלהים should be the Gods whom Moses could not face. This would agree with the three different descriptions of who was interacting with Moses: the Angel of YHVH (3:2), YHVH (3:4), and Elohim (3:4, 6).
Jesus explains the significance about what He just said:
He is not God of dead ones, but of living ones. You are greatly mistaken”. (DLNT)
οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων πολὺ πλανᾶσθε
Ironically, the verb expected in the account of God's self-identification at the burning bush,
ἐγώ εἰμι... is how Jesus begins His explanation.
ἔστιν is the third person singular of
εἰμι. It can refer to a person or something. Since translators understand Jesus is referring to God,
ἔστιν θεὸς is rendered as he is God.
There are other considerations. The explanation begins as a negative statement
οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς νεκρῶν, not he is God of dead.... Also, after using the article before every
θεὸς in the previous verse, Jesus omits the article in the explanation. Just as in Exodus 3:6, most English translations add the article where none was present.
The initial assumption is God in verse 27 must be referring to God in verse 26. In this case, God of living would be the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Of course, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead. Thus there is a paradox in attempting to use the explanation with what Jesus just said.
The paradox is removed when the entire passage is placed into its proper context:
18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him...26 But concerning the dead, that they rise...
Concerning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all who are dead, they will rise because there is resurrection and there will be resurrection because there is God of living. Therefore, the proper referent to
ἔστιν is He who is resurrection:
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11)
He is Jesus. It is He who is the resurrection life of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all who believe. This agrees with Jesus omitting the article. The expression
...ἔστιν ὁ θεὸς..., that is He is the God, would be the correct way to clearly connect
θεὸς in verse 27 with those repeated
ὁ θεὸς in verse 26. By omitting the article, Jesus makes the distinction between
ὁ θεὸς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰσαὰκ καὶ ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ and