6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. (Acts 23:5-10 (ESV)
Paul knows how to start a fight. You get the impression that there was a little bit of a scrapper in him. He turns the discussion to the resurrection knowing that this will get the focus off of him and into the ongoing quarrel between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. But it is also ingenious because that is why he was on trial. The resurrection of Jesus was the proof of the resurrection the Pharisees needed in their quarrel with the Sadducees who refused to believe in the resurrection. Yet, the Pharisees refused to believe in the resurrection.
I suppose this is one of those things that you believe in theory, but are skeptical of in reality. Kind of like me when it comes to demon possession and the black arts. In theory I believe the stuff is real, or at least can be real. But in reality I’m fairly skeptical whenever I encounter stories of it. The Pharisees believed in theory that the resurrection would occur, but when a concrete example of it occurred, the first fruits of it, they started persecuting those who believed it, as much as they fought with those who refused to believe in the resurrection at all. One of those times when a person finds they have more in common with the people they have been quarreling with than they thought. Kind of like when an LCMS member and an ELCA member get challenged on baptism by a baptist.
And then the fight occurs between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. People who aren’t religious think it’s odd that religious people will fight and quarrel over religion. I don’t. I see people fight in rock clubs, prospecting clubs, sewing clubs, and comic clubs. Religion is at the heart of culture, it’s at the heart of who a person is. Emotions will and do run deep when it comes to a person’s faith. This isn’t an excuse for the infighting that can turn a district convention into a cage match, but it does make things a bit more understandable. I also think if more people understood this about themselves and others, there would be less fighting about it.