July 2003 Zimmerman

Yoder’s Jesus and Economics:

The Economics of Jesus or the Economics of Luke’


Abstract: In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder based his interpretation of Jesus’ economic views on a non-critical use of the Gospel of Luke. An analyses of Luke’s redactional tendencies on issues of economics-including his selection of unique material, his use of double-tradition material, and his redaction of Mark-suggests that Luke, more than the other Gospel writers, had a bias in favor of portraying a Jesus who approached economic issues in the ways Yoder emphasized. Because Yoder’s conclusions about Jesus and economics rely on a noncritical acceptance of Lukan redaction, they are less conclusions about the economic teachings of “Jesus” or even “the canonical Jesus” than they are conclusions about the Lukan Jesus alone.

In chapters two and three of his widely influential book of Christian social ethics, The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder persuaded many by arguing, among other things, that Jesus had a distinctive social ethic that included an economic reversal connected to the semi-centennial year of Jubilee commanded in Leviticus 25. In this interpretation of Jesus’ teachings regarding economics, Yoder built his case on Jesus as presented in the Gospel of Luke. His noncritical reliance on the Lukan portrayal of Jesus led Yoder to confuse Lukan redaction with “the Jesus of the canonical Gospels”[1] and to imply inaccurately that the distinctive Lukan portrayal of Jesus reflects the likely economic views of Jesus himself. As a result, Yoder’s reconstruction of Jesus’ teachings on matters of economics probably reflects more the economics of Luke than the economics of Jesus.

In fairness to Yoder, he did not claim to be describing the views of the historical Jesus. In fact, he explicitly denied that he was attempting to do so. However, while he claimed to be presenting the Jesus of the canonical Gospels, he otherwise referred to his topic as the views of “Jesus,” without adding an adjective such as “the canonical Jesus” or “the synoptic Jesus.” The slippery language-from “Jesus of the canonical Gospels” to “Jesus”-confuses and gives the impression that Yoder established more than he did. To say, for example, that the Jesus of the canonical Gospels presents his teachings in the context of the Jubilee is to say less than that Jesus understood himself to be proclaiming the Jubilee. However, by depending so heavily on uniquely Lukan material, Yoder fell short even of his more limited stated concern for the Jesus of the canonical Gospels. He failed to acknowledge that the synoptic Gospels are less than unified in their presentation of Jesus and issues of economics. Yoder obscured that possibility by presenting the possible subjects of study as the “Jesuses [plural] whom scholarship can present” or “Jesus [singular] of the canonical Gospels.”[2] In matters of economics, there is not a single Jesus of the canonical Gospels. Rather, each Gospel has its own Jesus on this issue. The Jesuses of the canonical Gospels do not necessarily conflict regarding issues of economics, but the Lukan Jesus is the most extreme.

The second chapter of The Politics of Jesus is foundational to Yoder’s interpretation of Jesus’ approach to economics. In that chapter, key texts in Yoder’s argument regarding Jesus and economics are Mary’s and Zechariah’s expectations of social reversal,[3] John the Baptist’s concern for sharing of recourses,[4] Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Nazareth[5] and the Sermon on the Plain, which begins with economically focused blessings and woes.[6] Each of these passages, on which Yoder’s argument regarding economics is based, is unique to the Gospel of Luke.

Yoder insisted that he chose Luke as his primary source because his “story line provides us with a simple outline.” He explicitly denied that his choice of the Lukan Jesus would shade his study in any particular direction:

To simplify the question and bring it within workable dimensions, I propose to concentrate largely on one document, on the canonical text of the Gospel according to Luke. . . . This centering upon Luke for our scattered soundings is not meant to slant the reading; any other Gospel text could equally well have been used. . . .[7]

Despite Yoder’s protests, might Luke have been a prejudicial source regarding the issues on which Yoder focused? Mennonite theologian Tom Finger thinks so, writing that a reliance on Luke’s “particular ‘redaction’ . . . is a weakness of John Howard Yoder’s generally insightful The Politics of Jesus. . . . Yoder might well have acknowledged, as did Walter Rauschenbusch[8] that Luke was ‘The socialist among the evangelists.’[9]

Yoder claimed to be open to distinguishing the canonical Gospels from what Jesus really did and taught, but he set those distinctions aside for The Politics of Jesus partly because “the distance between the canonical text and the ‘historical Jesus’ as he ‘actually was’ is not the subject of my present study. The bridge from the canon to present is already long enough.” He added that historical-critical study of the Gospels was unnecessary for his project because “a careful reading of the canonical text suffices to make our present point.”[10] In regard to his thesis about Jesus and economics, it may be that not only did “the canonical text [of Luke] suffice . . . to make our present point” but that Yoder’s argument depended on a noncritical use of the canonical text of Luke.

Yoder acknowledged that “it would, of course, count against our reading of the Jesus story if the historical questers were to come up with a solid demonstration that the ‘real Jesus’ they find is quite incompatible with what we find in the canonical account.”[11] Yoder set the bar inappropriately high. I do not claim that historical Jesus research can offer a “solid demonstration” that the historical Jesus was “quite incompatible” with Yoder’s thesis. What I do think is that a critical study of Lukan redactional tendencies regarding economic issues suggests that some of the economic teachings of the Yoderian Jesus probably reflect less the teachings of the historical Jesus than the editorial interests of Luke.

I will test this thesis by studying Lukan redactional tendencies regarding economics issues. By way of contrast with Lukan redaction, I will also study the tendencies on the same issues in the Gospel of Matthew, which is generally believed to rely on the same primary sources as the Gospel of Luke. Although I will assume the two-source hypothesis,[12] my conclusions will have more to do with relative redactional tendencies and will have similar implications regardless of the relationship between the Synoptics.[13]

To get a handle on the redactional tendencies of Matthew and Luke on economic issues, I will work through the synopsis pericope by pericope.[14] Working within the framework of the two-source hypothesis, I will classify each synoptic pericope as either Special Luke, Special Matthew, Mark or Double Tradition (Q). Recognizing the subjectivity involved in defining the boundaries of pericopae, I will follow the pericope divisions in Kurt Aland’s Synopsis Quattor Evangeliorum.[15]

In my search for redactional tendencies on issues of economics, I will regard the following types of sayings and stories as falling into the category of economic issues:

a. the spiritual dangers of wealth.

b. the possible spiritual benefits of poverty.

c. the responsibility to care for those in economic need.

d. the extent to which Jesus directed his message particularly to the economically poor.

e. the extent to which Jesus announced a present or future reversal of fortunes between the rich and the poor.

f. reference to revolution and insurrection.

I will include pericopae in which economic issues are significant even if not the major theme-for example, Luke 14:7-14, which ends with Jesus telling the guests, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” I will not include pericopae that feature economic issues as a metaphor but that are in my judgment not about economics-for example, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 19:23-25).


The original fact that grasped my attention on this issue concerns the forty pericopae found only in Luke. Thirteen of them fall into the category of economics: 1:39-56, 2:1-7, 6:26-26, 8:1-3, 11:5-8, 12:13-15, 12:16-21, 14:7-14, 16:1-9, 16:14-15, 16:19-31, 18:1-8 and 19:1-10. They range from the Magnificat to the Parable of the Rich Fool to the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man to the story of Zaccheus. The pericopae that refer significantly to economics make up thirty-two percent of the Special Lukan material-a high percentage, and much higher, we shall see, than the percentage in Special Matthew, Mark or the double tradition (i.e., material found in both Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark).

Assuming that the author of Luke also wrote Acts, we may also note that the depiction of the early Christian community in Jerusalem in Acts emphasizes the sharing of possessions. Acts 2:44 says that “all who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts repeats this theme in Chapter 4:

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was in common. . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or house sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need (4:32-35).

Following this latter description, Acts relates the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira for claiming to share all the proceeds of property they had sold while actually keeping some for themselves (5:1-11). Acts describes the Jerusalem community as having “a daily distribution of food” and tells the story of deacons being named to resolve conflict within the community over the fairness of that distribution (6:1-16).

That Luke’s special material and stories in the book of Acts often concern economics alerts us to the possibility that, in writing his Gospel, Luke may have adjusted his sources to emphasize that theme. That so much Lukan material concerns issues of wealth, poverty and economic justice does not prove that Luke created any of it. There are other explanations, but Luke’s concern for these issues-and his belief that God is concerned about them and that Jesus was concerned about them-is obvious.


There are twenty-eight pericopae unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Only three of them, or 11%, refer significantly to economic themes: 6:1-4, 25:31-46 and 27:3-10. Neither the first of these passages (the command to be secretive when giving alms) nor the last (the death of Judas) strongly advocates economic sharing or emphasize the special place of the poor in God’s reign. The command to give alms secretly reflects a concern that one not be pious for show and does not emphasizes the importance of giving alms, though it may assume it.

Matthew 25:31-46, however, is another matter. It is the Final Judgment scene in which the king separates people, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. In all the teachings attributed to Jesus, this passage is one of the most insistent about caring for the economically marginalized. In this passage the Matthean Jesus identifies himself with those who are poor and suffering in this world. Given its inclusion and role (the basis for final judgment) in the book of Matthew, arguing that Matthew was indifferent to the importance of caring for the poor would be difficult.


The double tradition-which is usually attributed to Matthew and Luke’s common but no-longer-extant written source Q-includes forty pericopae. Eight of them, or 20%, refer significantly to economic themes in both Matthew and Luke (the Matthean passages are listed first): 5:21-26/12:57-69, 5:38-42/6:29-30, 6:7-15/11:1-4, 6:19-21/12:33-34, 6:24/16:13, 6:25-34/12:22-32, 7:7-11/11:9-13 and 10:7-16/10:1-12. These passages include the insistence that, in Matthew’s version, “no one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Mt 6:24).

Two additional double-tradition pericopae refer significantly to economics in their Lukan form but not in their Matthean. They lift to twenty-five the percentage of double-tradition pericopae that refer significantly to economics in Luke. The two pericopae are the Beatitudes (5:3-12/6:20b-23) and the Parable of the Great Supper (Mt 22:1-14/Lk 14:15-24).

Among several major differences in their versions of Jesus’ Parable of the Great Banquet (Mt 22:1-14/Lk 14:15-24), the servants in Matthew’s version fill the hall with “both bad and good” (22:10), while in Luke the host orders the servants to fill the hall with “the poor and maimed and blind and lame” (14:21).

Matthew 6:17-15/Luke 11:1-4 are the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer and are listed above as referring significantly to economics in both Matthew and Luke. Matthew, however, used “debts” to describe what God forgives while Luke had it as “sins.” Since the Matthean Jesus uses the same word to identify what God forgives people and what people are to forgive each other, I am inclined to take “debts” as an intentional metaphor rather than as a Matthean reference to economic debts. However, since Yoder made a point of regarding this passage as having economic implications, I will classify it that way rather than argue the point.[16]

Matthew 6:19-21/Luke 12:33-34 is listed above as referring significantly to economics in both Matthew and Luke. Luke, however, has a more extreme version. While Matthew begins it with, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (6:19), the Lukan Jesus commands, “Sell your possessions, and give alms” (12:33).

The slantings in different directions regarding economics emerges even more sharply in the clashing versions of the Beatitudes.

Luke’s list of Beatitudes is shorter and more focused on the present economic situation of those blessed: “Blessed are you who are poor” and “Blessed are you who hunger now” plus “Blessed are you who weep now” and “Blessed are you when people hate you . . .” (Lk 6:20-22). Matthew’s Beatitudes, in contrast, focus on the inward disposition and priorities of those blessed: “the poor in spirit,” “those who mourn,” “the meek,” “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” “the merciful,” “the pure in heart,” “the peacemakers,” “those persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Mt 5:3-10). Does Matthew “spiritualize” the Beatitudes of his source or does Luke “politicize” them? The Lukan version-focused on stark economic circumstances-served as part of Yoder’s reconstruction of Jesus’ views of economics.

Some proposed explanations seek to avoid the conclusion that one evangelist or both slanted the Beatitudes-including that there were recensions of Q,[17] that Luke and Matthew would have understood themselves to be saying the same thing[18] and that Luke more than Matthew wanted to make clear the Beatitudes’ allusion to Isaiah 61.[19] Although there may be something to this final point, I think that because the choice of Isaiah 61 as key text for understanding the ministry of Jesus is itself a choice to connect Jesus with the poor and oppressed particularly, and because Luke made that connection most explicitly, the connection between the Beatitudes and Isaiah 61 does not push off the table the question of redactional bias regarding economics but keeps it at the center.

However, a majority of commentators agree with Yoder in regarding the Lukan version of the Beatitudes (though generally not including the Woes that follow) as the older tradition.[20] Unfortunately, scholars more often assert this dominant view than argue it.[21]

Kloppenborg has written that the reconstruction of Q

is a matter of determining the redactional tendencies of each evangelist, using their treatment of Mark as a control and then assessing the likelihood that one (or both) has intervened editorially in Q. . . . Where Matthew and Luke disagree in wording, the version which appears less likely the product of redaction is more likely to be the wording of Q.[22]

This use of Mark as a control also aids evaluation of redactional tendencies of Luke and Matthew more generally, since we have Mark in front of us and can thus note Matthean and Lukan redactional tendencies more clearly than when attempting to reconstruct hypothetical sources. We now turn to the Markan pericopae.


Aland breaks Mark up into 115 pericopae. Fourteen, or 12%, refer significantly to issues of economics.[23] We are now able to compare percentages. Twelve percent of Markan pericopae refer significantly to economics. Twenty percent of the double-tradition (Q) pericopae do in their Matthean version; twenty-five percent in their Lukan version. Eleven percent of uniquely Matthean pericopae do. Thirty-two percent of uniquely Lukan pericopae do. Luke included a much higher percentage of this sort of material.

Double Slant Away from Economics

In one Markan pericopae, both Matthew and Luke slant slightly away from an economic theme. Mark 5:21-43 and parallels tell the intertwined stories of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with a chronic hemorrhage. The Markan version reports that, not only did the woman suffer from perpetual bleeding, but that she “had suffered much under many physicians, and spent all that she had, and was not better but rather grew worse” (Mk 5:26). Both Matthew and Luke omit that detail of economic hardship.

Lukan Slant Away from Economics

Luke slanted no other Markan pericope away from a focus on economic issues.

Matthean Slant toward Economics

Matthew intensified the economic focus of one pericope: Mark 6:6b-13. While in Mark (and Luke following him) Jesus tells his followers to carry “no money in their belts” (6:8), the Matthean Jesus expands that to, “You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey” (Mt 10:8b-9a).

Lukan Slant toward Economics

Assuming Luke’s dependence on Mark, Luke did indeed slant several Markan pericopae toward an economic focus (and in one case omitted a pericope that could easily be interpreted as advocating indifference to the poor).

Luke 3:10-14-In the midst of double and triple-tradition John-the-Baptist material, Luke added 3:10-14.[24] In this addition, Luke has John demand the sharing of possessions and an end to economic corruption, telling the crowds, “Those who have two coats, let them share with those who have none; and those who have food, let them do likewise,” and telling the tax collectors to “collect no more than is appointed you.”

Luke 5:27-32-In Luke’s version, when Jesus explains his fellowship with “tax collectors and sinners,” he echoes Mark (2:13-17) in saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” but then adds the words, “to repentance.” The later story of Zaccheus suggests what Luke had in mind as the proper repentance of a first-century tax collector: giving generously to the poor and paying back defrauded persons several times over (Luke 19:1-10).

Luke 11:37-41-Luke adds the charge of “extortion” to Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees.

Luke 7:36-50-Mark, and Matthew following him,[25] describes a woman in Bethany anointing Jesus shortly before his execution (Mk 14:3-9). In response to the concern that the money spent on the ointment could have been given to the poor, the Markan Jesus defends the woman, saying, “You always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.”

This statement by Jesus could be used as an argument against sharing resources with the poor. Whether because he was concerned about that possible interpretation or for other reasons, Luke wrote a very different version of this pericope. He included the surrounding Markan material through Mark 14:2 and beginning again with Mark 14:10 but removed the possibly offending anointing story. Luke set an anointing earlier in Jesus’ public ministry and excluded any discussion of the cost of the perfume and thus any statements from Jesus dismissing the importance of giving to the poor. Thus Luke avoided attributing to Jesus any dismissal of the needs of the poor.

Luke 23:2-5-Luke had the chief priests accuse Jesus of tax resistance when they present him to Pilate.

Luke 23:24-25-Luke repeated that Barabbas had been in prison for insurrection. I include this detail because insurrection often has an economic component, although I admit that the text nowhere makes that connection.

In short, Luke seems to have been willing to alter Markan pericopae to favor the theme of economic justice and sharing with the poor. Thomas E. Schmidt is correct to argue that this theme is no Lukan creation but a consistent theme throughout the Jesus traditions. He goes too far, however, in arguing that because similar material is found throughout the Gospel traditions, “we should not ascribe the [Lukan] Gospel material either to a personal bias or to a unique problem in Luke’s own community.”[26] Luke was not the source of the economic themes in the traditions about the teachings and actions of Jesus, but he seems to have been an aggressive intensifier of these themes.

Matthean Slant Away from Economics

If only Matthew had refrained from slanting Markan material away from economic issues, we could confidently assert that Lukan economic bias is the likely explanation for all differences in passages such as the Beatitudes. Unfortunately, if we hope for an easy answer, Matthew is uncooperative on this point. While Luke slanted some Markan pericopae toward an economic focus, Matthew shifted some away-five by my count.

Matthew 14:13-21-While in Mark the disciples question the possibility of buying food for the five thousand, Matthew left out the concern about the cost.

Omission of Mark 12:41-44-In the most striking example of Matthew apparently editing Mark to reduce the focus on economics, Matthew excised the story of The Widow’s Mite! As Luke did with the story of the anointing at Bethany, Matthew included the Markan pericopae that precede and follow. The pericope’s implication that the piety of poor people is generally spiritually superior to that of the wealthy fits well with Luke’s “blessed are you who are poor” in Luke 6:20. Matthew cuts out the entire story, strong evidence that it conflicted with Matthew’s understanding of Jesus.

Matthew 26:6-13-I have already noted that Luke offered a very different version of the woman anointing Jesus. Matthew’s editorial change of the anointing account at Bethany moved, characteristically, in the other direction. After Jesus says, “You will always have the poor with you,” Matthew omitted the Markan Jesus’ comment that “whenever you will, you can do good to them” (Mk 14:7).

Matthew 27:15-32-While Mark wrote that Barabbas had committed murder in an insurrection, Matthew chose to refer to him simply as “a notorious prisoner” (27:16). As mentioned above in Luke’s repetition of the charge against Barabbas, this example does not clearly relate to economics. However, that Luke would emphasize that Pilate paired Jesus with a revolutionary while Matthew would omit it entirely may well say something about their relative comfort with drastic social change.

Matthew 27:57-61-In reporting Jesus’ burial, Mark called Joseph of Arimathea “a respectable member of the council” (and Luke called him “a member of the council, a good and righteous man”). Matthew, however, specified that Joseph was “a rich man” (27:57). Also, while Mark and Luke said that Joseph was “looking for the kingdom of God,” Matthew called him “a disciple of Jesus,” thereby altering Mark to put a rich man among Jesus’ disciples.[27]

David Mealand is thus correct when he detects in Matthew a “softening” of the economic focus.[28]


With apparent redactional biases in both directions, the picture is unclear. How this relates to the likely teachings of the historical Jesus can be debated elsewhere. At the least, we can say with confidence that, despite Yoder’s claim, his focus on economics of the Lukan Jesus mattered very much to his argument. Luke, at least as much as Matthew, demonstrated a consistent tendency to edit such material to fit his biases. His tendency to slant Markan pericopae in this direction is consistent with the greater frequency with which his double-tradition pericopae emphasize economic themes and with the high percentage of his unique material on those themes.[29]

On track with the evidence are commentators such as Allan J. McNicol and Robert C. Tannehill. Tannehill traced through Luke-Acts the theme of God’s special relationship with the poor and the importance of caring for them. While acknowledging the possibility of metaphorical explanations of “poor” and “hungry,” he stated accurately that “God’s mercy on the physically hungry and economically poor is a major theme in Luke.”[30]

In reference to the Beatitudes, McNicol, arguing from the basis of Matthean literary priority, noted that the Lukan blessings and woes portray Jesus “unequivocally siding with the poor and oppressed of the world.”[31] He noted the consistency of this theme with the theme, in the unique Lukan material, of eschatological reversal introduced in the Magnificat (1:51-53) and emphasized in Jesus’ inaugural sermon (4:18-19).[32] Therefore he read Luke’s blessings and woes as “secondary to Matthew and…to be explained by Luke’s consistent reshaping of the entire Gospel account to emphasize God’s mercy toward the poor, oppressed, and sick of the world.”[33] While McNicol made this argument based on the controversial assumption that Luke used Matthew as his primary source, I think his characterization of Luke’s redactional tendency is accurate, even if one assumes the two-source hypothesis.

Matthew and Luke each tended to slant their source material in the directions reflected in their different versions of the Beatitudes. Matthew, however, did include many pericopae from both Mark and Q that refer significantly to economics, especially the spiritual dangers of wealth. Without significant change, he included the story of the Rich Young Man (19:16-30), for example, as well as the double-tradition insistence that one must choose between serving God and money (6:24). Therefore, while Matthew softened aspects of the prior traditions’ portrayal of Jesus regarding economics, he by no means suppressed it.

As for Luke, he may be suspected of embellishing prior traditions considerably. Though Luke presented himself as a historian seeking to write “an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us” (1:1), in fact, he had clear bias on matters of economics, a bias that led him to alter his sources to emphasize God’s special relationship with and concern for those who are economically poor. His unique material on these themes should therefore be viewed with particular suspicion, as likely Lukan creations.

At the very least, this demonstrable slanting of material muddies the waters regarding Yoder’s interpretation of Jesus’ economic program. It renders especially dubious Yoder’s confidence that, if anything, the historical Jesus was even more focused on economic redistribution than Luke’s Gospel suggests. While classifying economic approaches attributed to Jesus in the synoptic Gospels has not been a focus of this essay, my sense is that the theme of the spiritual dangers of wealth is more deeply and broadly evident in the Jesus traditions than are themes of economic sharing and reversal. Luke’s editorial interests in economic reversal and economic sharing slanted his depiction of Jesus in his Gospel. Because Yoder chose to rely on Luke’s depiction, the economic argument of The Politics of Jesus shares that bias. It is valuable primarily as an illumination of Luke’s presentation of Jesus, but not so much as an interpretation of the Jesus of the canonical Gospels generally or as an interpretation of the likely economic themes in the teachings and actions of Jesus himself.

[*]John Zimmerman is a doctoral student in New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in Virgina.
1. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 15.
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[2]. Ibid., 15.
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[3]. Ibid., 26-27.
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[4]. Ibid., 27-30.
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[5]. Ibid., 34-40.
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[6]. Ibid., 40-41.
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[7]. Ibid., 23-24.
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[8]. Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis (New York: Macmillan, 1907), 82.
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[9]. Thomas N. Finger, Christian Theology: An Eschatological Approach, vol. 1 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985), 285.
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[10]. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 24.
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[11]. Ibid.
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[12]. The two-source hypothesis is that the Gospel of Mark was the first-written of our Gospels and that Matthew and Luke, writing independently of each other, each relied on the Gospel of Mark and a no-longer-extant “sayings” source. The vast majority of New Testament scholars hold to this view.
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[13]. An exception would be if Luke is the first-written Gospel. In that case, the implications would be very different: that the other Gospel writers aggressively weakened their source’s presentation of how Jesus related to issues of economics.
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[14] A pericope is a small literary unit within a Gospel (a single incident, saying, parable, etc.). The general rule in defining a pericope is that it should be able to stand alone as a unit of study. So, for example, although Matthew presents Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a single sermon, each saying within it is a separate pericope.
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[15]. Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, 4th ed., ed. Kurt Aland (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996).
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[16]. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 66-67.
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[17]. Ulrich Luz, “Sermon on the Mount/Plain: Reconstruction of Qmt and Qlk,” SBL 1983 Seminar Papers, ed. Kent H. Richards (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1983), 473. This theory pushes any redactional economic bias back to the transmission of the text of Q. While differences in their sources are possible, it is an unnecessarily complicated theory based on a determination to deny redactional bias to the Gospel writers. Significant evidence shows such bias, which renders the postulation of multiple Q’s unnecessary for explaining the differences in the Beatitudes.
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[18]. W.F. Albright and C.S. Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971), 46. Albright and Mann attribute Matthew’s “in spirit” to his concern that, because the likely Aramaic word would have had the sense of “humble” as well as “poor,” “the Greek ?????? (poor) alone would have been misunderstood if left without qualification.”
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[19]. Dale C. Allison, Jr., The Jesus Tradition in Q (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 6-7. Luke earlier had Jesus begin his public preaching with the announcement that he was the fulfillment of that Isaiah 61 prophecy, and later the Lukan Jesus (as well as the Matthean) refers to those and related words of Isaiah to make the case to disciples of John the Baptist that Jesus is indeed “the one who is to come” (Lk 4:16-21, 7:18-23). In reshaping the Q Beatitudes, Matthew and Luke would have been motivated not by a degree of concern for economic themes but rather by levels of interest (high for Luke, low for Matthew) in connecting the saying with Isaiah 61.
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[20] Including W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), 442, 451; D.R. Catchpole, The Quest for Q (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993), 84; John S. Kloppenborg, Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 101; Christopher M. Tuckett, Q and the History of Early Christianity (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 223; and Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Luke, ET David E. Green (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), 120.
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[21] As evidence that the older tradition focuses on the “poor,” I. Howard Marshall argued that James 2:5 alludes to the same theme in Jesus’ proclamation: “Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in him, and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him'” (Jas 2:5) The context of that statement makes clear that James, at least, had in mind the economically poor-“a poor person in dirty clothes”-whom he explicitly contrasted with the economically rich-“a person with gold rings and in fine clothes” (Jas 2:2). Perhaps James knew the Lukan version of the first Beatitude.-I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 249. Dale Allison adds that the Gospel of Thomas 54 parallels Luke 6:20b rather than the Matthean parallel.-Allison, The Jesus Tradition in Q, 102.
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[22] Kloppenburg, Excavating Q, 101.
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[23] 2:13-17, 4:13-20, 5:21-43, 6:32-44, 9:38-41, 10:17-22, 10:23-31, 11:11, 12:13-17, 12:37b-40, 12:41-44, 14:3-9, 14:10-11 and 15:6-14.
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[24]. Aland, Synopsis Quattor Evangeliorum, 23 lists this as a separate pericope, but because it falls in the midst of a report of John’s preaching, I regard it as a redaction of Mark.
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[25]. John, too, for that matter.
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[26]. Thomas E. Schmidt, Hostility to Wealth in the Synoptic Gospels (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1987), 135.
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[27]. In transforming Joseph into a rich man, Matthew may have been influenced by Isaiah 53:9. Jesus’ burial, as described by Mark, may not have sufficiently accorded with Matthew’s understanding of prophecy. Isaiah 53:9 says that, when burying the suffering servant, “they made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich.” While Matthew does not give evidence of accepting the connection between “the wicked” and “the rich,” his designation of Joseph as rich does allow Jesus’ burial to fulfill a prophecy. That he also made Joseph a disciple of Jesus suggests that Matthew had more in mind-an assertion that one could be rich and a disciple of Jesus-perhaps offering Joseph as a positive counterpart to the rich man of Matthew 19:16-30.
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[28]. David L. Mealand, Poverty and Expectation in the Gospels (London: SPCK, 1980), 16.
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[29]. All this makes the view of Hans Conzelmann, for example, difficult to support. He argues that Luke does not suggest “an ideal of poverty” and that the emphasis on the economically poor in Luke 6:20 must come from Luke’s source because it is not developed as a theme in the Gospel as a whole.-Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke (London: Fober, 1960), 233.
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[30]. Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 127-28.
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[31]. Allan J. McNicol, ed., with David L. Dungan and David B. Peabody, Beyond the Q Impasse: Luke’s Use of Matthew (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 104.
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[32]. Ibid., 40.
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[33]. Ibid., 104.
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