Introduction: Focus and Hypothesis
Let us return to the law of nature; for then riches are laid up for us. The things which we actually need are free for all, or else cheap; nature craves only bread and water. No one is poor according to this standard; when a man has limited his desires within these bounds, he can challenge the happiness of Jove himself (Ep. Mor. 25.4).
Peasants or artisans with little of this world's goods have what is deemed "sufficient," and so are not called "poor."(1)
Let us distinguish two Greek terms, penês and ptôchos. Dictionaries translate penês as "the poor man" (e.g., BAGD 642), which misses the root meaning penomai, "to work hard." Penês refers to a person who does manual labor, and so is contrasted with plousios, a member of the landed class who does not work (Hauck 1967b: 887). At stake is the social status or honor rating of a "worker"; Gildas Hamel writes of the penês:
[H]e (the worker) was forced to work to live and had to receive some form of wage and to sell, the craftsman was dependent on others' goodwill. In this respect, he was similar to servants and slaves, free but fettered by various customs. . .This lack of time and self-sufficiency, some philosophers argued, made the craftsman unfit to be a citizen, at least an honorable one. One had to be rich to avoid the ties of dependence usually associated with work and be able to live like a true Hellene. Work, because it meant subservience and dependence, was seen as an impediment to this ideal and was therefore contemptible. . .The penêtes were all those people who needed to work in shops or in the fields and were consequently without the leisure characteristic of the rich gentry, who were free to give their time to politics, education, and war (168-69; see Hands 62).
A ptôchos, however, is a person reduced to begging, that is, someone who is destitute of all resources (Hauck 1967b: 886-87; Hands 62-63). One gives alms to a ptôchos. A penês, who has little wealth yet has "sufficiency," is not called "poor." In contrast, the ptôchos, who lacks sufficiency and most other things, such as social standing, is "poor" (see Aristophanes, Plutus 535-54).
Of the destitute poor person (ptôchos) Hamel remarks:
The ptôchos was someone who had lost many or all of his family and social ties. He often was a wanderer, therefore a foreigner for others, unable to tax for any length of time the resources of a group to which he could contribute very little or nothing at all (Hamel 170).
If "poor" and "poverty" are not simply (or primarily) defined in economic terms, let us ask about the cultural and social meaning of these labels in antiquity. My hypothesis about the relationship of a "poor person" (ptôchos) to the value of honor/shame may be stated:
(1) Honor and shame are closely related to wealth and loss of wealth respectively.
(2) In antiquity, wealth and honor were not individual possessions such as we see in the personal fortune of John D. Rockefeller, but the property of the family or kinship group. When a family lost wealth, its status and honor were threatened.
(3) Although most people had meager possessions and low status, there were families or kinship groups who could no longer maintain their inherited status in regard to marriage contracts, dowries, land tenure, and the like. Loss of wealth translated into lower status, which meant loss of honor (Hobbs 293).
Let us briefly examine the values of honor and shame and explore how wealth is linked with honor, while loss of it could be linked with shame.
I. What is Honor?
In this context, I will presume that many of us know a good deal about "honor" in antiquity. I presume on this, so we may spend appropriate time on the biblical text. Nevertheless. Honour is the value of a person in his own eyes, but also in the eyes of his society. It is his estimation of his own worth, his claim to pride, but it is also the acknowledgement of that claim, his excellence recognized by society, his right to pride (Pitt-Rivers 1).
"Honor," then, has to do with one's public standing; as a public phenomenon it entails a public claim to worth and acknowledgement of it. Although one can acquire honor, normally honor is attached to social groups, especially families. All members of a certain clan, tribe or extended family share in its collective honor. In discussing the relevant aspects of honor which constitute the background for the makarisms in the Q tradition, we will focus on three aspects: (a) honor and wealth, (b) honor and the family, and (c) loss of honor and loss of wealth.
A. Honor and Wealth. Honor is not honor unless publicly claimed, displayed and acknowledged. Honor is displayed by the clothing worn in public, which signals status and wealth.(2) Josephus' account of Haman illustrates the importance of public display of wealth and clothing and honor.
If you wish to cover with glory the man whom you say you love, let him rise on horseback wearing the same dress as yourself, with a necklace of gold, and let one of your close friends precede him and proclaim throughout the whole city that this is the honour shown to him whom the king honours (Ant. 11.254; see Philo, Jos. 120).
Everyone in the city could see the symbols of honor: gold necklace, elegant clothing, and proud mount. The renewed honor of the prodigal son is symbolized by the clothing his father allows him to wear: "Bring the best robe. . .a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet" (Luke 15:22).(3)
Besides clothing, elites claimed honor through the display of their table setting and the manner in which they dined. Plutarch comments on the ostentation of meals among his contemporaries, as well as the need for an adoring public to turn mere possessions into honor:
With no one to look on, wealth becomes sightless indeed and bereft of radiance. For when the rich man dines with his wife or intimates he lets his tables of citrus-wood and golden beakers rest in peace and uses common furnishings, and his wife attends it without her gold and purple and dressed in plain attire. But when a banquet -- that is, a spectacle and a show -- is got up and the drama of wealth brought on, "out of the ships he fetches the urns and tripods," (Il. 23.259) the repositories of the lamps are given no rest, the cups are changed, the cup-bearers are made to put on new attire, nothing is left undisturbed, gold, silver, or jewelled plate, the owners thus confessing that their wealth is for others (Plutarch, On Love of Wealth 528B; see Table-Talk 679B).
Wedding feasts, for example, were excellent times for families to put on a public display of whatever wealth they had, i.e., clothing, coverlets, eating utensils, music, food, etc. Insufficiency of wine at a wedding feast would bring incalculable shame on a family (John 2:1-11).
Historians of the ancient economy remind our industrial world that "wealth" in antiquity resided in land. Apropos of this, Carney writes: "...basically land, not capital, was of critical importance in antiquity. The vast bulk of production was agricultural. Technology was simple, and apart from slaves (used mainly in conjunction with land), inexpensive. So power and wealth went with possession of land" (Carney 181). He continues, "It was land, not capital, that produced resources in antiquity" (Carney 182). Obviously great wealth resided in the hands of aristocrats with vast land holdings, but peasants with small plots of land also enjoyed some "wealth" because of their land. Thus honor is related to wealth which is displayed; it is based on land holdings, which constitute the basis for wealth in antiquity; yet honor is a family affair, such that all members shared in the collective standing of the kinship group.
B. Honor and Family. In antiquity one is primarily known as the "son of so-and-so" or the "daughter of so-and-so." One's identity and honor derive in large part from membership in a family or clan (Malina-Neyrey 1991b: 74-76). The rules for encomia in the progymnasmata mandate that when praising or honoring someone, writers begin their praise with mention of the ancestors and family of the honoree.(4) Rules in the progymnasmata simply codify the popular appreciation of family honor. A relevant passage from Aristotle on the outline summarizes these expectations about birth and family honor.
Now good birth in a race or a state means that its members are indigenous or ancient; that its earliest leaders were distinguished men, and that from them have sprung many who were distinguished for qualities that we admire. The good birth of an individual, which may come either from the male or the female side, implies that both parents are free citizens, and that, as in the case of the state, the founders of the line have been notable for virtue or wealth or something else which is highly prized, and that many distinguished persons belong to the family, men and women, young and old (Rhet. 1360b 31-38).
To know a person, ancient peoples thought it essential to know that person's blood lines (see also Cicero, De Inventione I.xxiv.34-35; Quintilian, Inst. Orat. III.vii.10-11; V.x.24-25; Pelling 213-44). Hence notice of someone's genealogy, ancestors, clan and parents constituted essential pieces of information about him (Malina 1993a: 28-54; Malina and Neyrey 1991a: 25-65).
Peasants in villages have living memory of the families with whom they live. They know which family has "wealth" relative to the village (size of land holdings, crop yields, size of flocks, etc.). They know the reputations of other families, their noble deeds, their chaste women, or their shameful ancestors. Since arranged marriages, which are family affairs, are contracted with social equals or betters, villagers are very careful to assess the wealth, worth and honor of a family with whom a marriage is contemplated.
C. Poverty and Loss of Honor. If honor is symbolized by family and wealth, especially land, loss of honor can be symbolized by loss of family, land, and wealth. The ancients distinguished between the deserving poor, whom one should help, and the undeserving poor, who deserve their situation. This is clearest in the distinction made between those who suffer "misfortune" and those who are poor because of their own fault. Aristotle called it virtuous for a man "to give to the right people, the right amounts, and at the right time" (N.E. 1120a 25). The virtuous person will "refrain from giving to anybody and everybody, that he may have something to give to the right people, at the right time" (N.E. 1120b 3-4). He does not specify exactly who the "right" and "wrong" people are, but indicates that some should be poor (1121b 6). Cicero offers a similar distinction concerning those whom one should help:
The case of the man who is overwhelmed by misfortune is different from that of the one who is seeking to better his condition, though he suffers from no actual distress. It will be the duty of charity to incline more to the unfortunate, unless, perchance, they deserve their misfortune (De Off. 2.18.61-62).
Those who experience "misfortune" suffer undeservedly and so warrant assistance. What then is a legitimate "misfortune"? In praising generosity, Cicero hints at a class of "misfortunes" in others, for the alleviation of which a man might prove generous:
The generous, on the other hand, are those who employ their own means to ransom captives from brigands, or who assume their friends' debts or help in providing dowries for their daughters, or assist them in acquiring property or increasing what they have (De Officiis 2.16.55-56).
Put simply, some people experience misfortune through no fault of their own; they fall below the social level into which they were born, thus provoking sympathy and not contempt.(5) Conversely, the ancients deem others as shamefully "poor" because the fault is their own. Philo mentions a series of things that wither the spirit, all of which have to do with the family and which have a social as well as an economic component: "It is true that marriage, and the rearing of children, and provision of necessities, and disrepute following in the wake of poverty (adoxia te meta achrêmatias), and the business of private and public life. . .wither the flower of wisdom before it blooms" (Gig. 29). While it is no fault of a wife that her husband died or of a farmer that drought ruined his crops, if a "fool" loses his wealth, it is shameful (Matthews and Benjamin 222-26).
Therefore, we have learned that (1) wealth is a component of honor, and both reside primarily in the family; (2) if becoming "poor" (ptôchos) includes a corresponding loss of status, this could come about through actual loss of wealth (especially loss of land) or of family (especially death of parents or husband); (3) such losses threaten one's honor rating, as well as one's economic situation. It would, then, be culturally myopic to consider "poor" and "poverty" merely in terms of economic levels (Hollenbach 50-63).
II. Honor and the Matthean Makarisms
K.C. Hanson recently presented a paper entitled "'Makarisms' and 'Reproaches': A Social Analysis."(6) He argues that 'asrê and makarios should be translated as "esteemed," and hôy and ouai as "disreputable" or "shame on."
The terminologies of Hebrew 'asrê ("esteemed") and hôy ("disreputable"), and their Greek counterparts makarios and ouai, are part of the word field of "honor and shame."
Hanson suggests that when we approach Matthew's "beatitudes" (5:3-12) from their proper cultural perspective, we should be alert to several things. First, public honor is being accorded to certain people who fit the categories described. Makarios should include the cultural note of "esteemed" or "honored." Second, if "poor" means someone who cannot maintain his or her status and so suffers loss of honor as well as economic hardship, then the makarisms contain an oxymoron: "How honorable are those who suffer a loss of honor. . ."
III. Loss of Family = Loss of Wealth and Honor -- The Original Four Makarisms
This study of the four original makarisms builds on but challenges certain scholarly opinions. First, we build on the consensus that the original Q source contained only four original makarisms and that Luke's version seems to be the more original (Degenhardt 45-53; Schürmann 339-41). We do not, however, direct our attention to the history of the makarisms, whether they originated separately before being gathered together in the Q tradition (see Kloppenborg 1986:36-44; Mealand 62; Horsley 1991:194). Rather we wish to consider their cultural meaning and to suggest a plausible social and historical situation to explain them. In this we question the assertion that the first three makarisms deal with "the general human conditions of poverty and suffering" and the fourth makarism "is oriented toward the specific situation of persecution of the Christian community" (Kloppenborg 1987: 173). Thus, in terms of the Q document, we resist separating the fourth makarism from the other three, whatever their previous independent histories.
The four original makarisms describe someone who has lost both material wealth (poor, hungry), as well as social standing (loss of kin, ostracism). But do they describe four different situations (Kloppenborg's "general human conditions") or delineate the full extent of the crisis of one person? If they describe the full extent of one crisis (Boring 24), what likely scenario explains that? Evidently, in posing the question this way, I am advancing a new hypothesis, namely, that the original four makarisms describe the composite fate of a disciple who has been ostracized as a "rebellious son" by his family for loyalty to Jesus. This ostracism entails total loss of all economic support from the family (food, clothing, shelter), as well as total loss of honor and status in the eyes of the village (a good name, marriage prospects, etc.). Such persons would be "shameful" in the eyes of the family and village, but Jesus proclaims them "honorable" (makarioi).
A. The Fourth Makarism. Let us begin our examination with a closer look
at the climactic fourth makarism. It enjoys the significant rhetorical position
of being last (Daube 196-201) and it is triple the length of the others. It
describes a total loss of honor. Matthew and Luke record different versions
of the fourth makarism, but scholars generally credit Luke with the more original
wording in this case.
|Honorable are you when men||Honorable are you when men|
| hate you
cast out your name as evil
| revile you
drive you out
utter all kinds of evil against you falsely
|on account of the Son of man||on my account|
According to Luke, some person is being shamefully treated; "persecuted" is infelicitous here because it is too vague and imprecise, nor does it adequately suggest either the source of the opposition or its socio-cultural result. But let us examine more closely the terms Luke uses with an eye to their cultural meanings. This hostility, moreover, is not the formal or informal excommunication from the synagogue (Schürmann 333).
- misêsôsin: "hate," the opposite of love, has to do with group attachment (Pilch and Malina 110-12); it means formal rejection and denial of loyalty (see Luke 1:71; 16:13; 19:14); sometimes it is considered virtuous to hate what is evil or disobedient (Michel 688-89).
- aphorisôsin: "separating" regularly takes place between what is holy and what is unclean: unclean lepers were cast out of the camp (Lev 13:4 LXX), as was Miriam for her revolt (Num 12;14). 2 Ezra 10:8 suggests the meaning of "falling under the ban" (Schmidt 455). In Matthew it means "separating" so as to judge or punish (13:49; 25:32); it has the sense of "to outlaw" from a social group (Fitzmyer 635).
- oneidisôsin: reviling and reproaching are acts of shaming another (Matt 11:20; 27:44; Rom 15:3; 1 Peter 4:14); the predominant sense is "'disgrace,' 'shame,' 'scandal,' then 'abuse,' 'objurgation'" (Schneider 238).
- ekbalôsin to onoma hymôn hôs ponêron: although it has been argued that "the name" here is "Christianos" (Fitzmyer 635), a man's personal name or reputation is at stake; Luke speaks of someone speaking calumny, that is, of attacking the public reputation and honor of another.
The fourth makarism describes the separation of a person from his basic social group, either banning or expulsion; it speaks of his being reviled and reproached; his honor, name and reputation are attacked. He is, thus, completely shamed in the eyes of his neighbors.
The material or economic effects of this are not hard to imagine. The Tosefta describes the plight of someone banned or excommunicated:
One does not sell to them or receive from them or take from them or give to them. One does not teach their sons a trade, and does not obtain healing from them (t. Hullin 2:20).
If the person so treated is an artisan, then public reproach will result in loss of employment and trade; if a peasant farmer, the loss of cooperation in planting and harvesting, a break in marriage contracts, an absence from the reciprocal feasts among villagers at weddings and the like. Such losses entail declining material wealth for a peasant and consequent failure to maintain one's subsistence and previous social standing.
In the case of the fourth makarism, public shame goes hand in hand with severe loss of wealth, the person described there is "driven out" (diôxôsin) or "outlawed" (aphorisôsin). This implies that he has lost his property: land (if he is a farmer) or market stall (if he is an artisan). Total economic ruin, as well as corresponding collapse of social standing, quickly follow. This person will surely be a ptôchos, but is he honorably or shamefully destitute? Whence this hostility?
Previous studies of the "forms of persecution" which befell the early disciples of Jesus focussed on formal judicial acts (Hare, Forkman). They describe "persecution" as a form of exclusion from the synagogue, not, however, the formal niddui, but rather "an informal ban employed by every community. . .toward individuals it despises" (Hare 53). Although the NT speaks of disciples "cast out of the synagogue" (John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2) or simply "expelled" (John 9:34; Hauck 527-28), there is another possibility for banning or exclusion, namely, family sanctions against rebellious sons. I suggest that a likely scenario for the fourth makarism is the situation of a son being disinherited by his father and shunned by his family.
And while "itinerancy" may be the role of certain Cynic-like disciples (Theissen 1973; Mack 1993:114-21), fresh discussions are emerging from Q scholars about stable communities (Theissen 1977:17-23; Horsley 1989:197). Not every person ostracized by family necessarily became an itinerant, much less assumed that formal missionary role.
B. The Other Three Makarisms. Let us examine the other three makarisms in the light of the fourth one, for they can be understood as specifying more exactly the economic or material loss that follows the loss of honor and social standing (see Robbins 39-44 and 51-54). My strategy is to imagine them as literally and realistically as possible in the economic and cultural world of peasants and artisans.
As regards the first makarism, most peasants and artisans in antiquity possessed little material wealth; and as we say, they were not thereby called "poor" (ptôchos) if they had what was sufficient (i.e., subsistence). Ulrich Luz describes a "poor" person as one who is not simply lacking in wealth:
"Poor," according to Semitic usage, means indeed not only those who are lacking in money, but, more comprehensively, the oppressed, miserable, dependent, humiliated . . . the translation by the Greek word ptôchos, the strongest available Greek word for social poverty, speaks in favor of this interpretation. The basic rule is: The penês has to work, the ptôchos has to beg (Luz 231).
In the first makarism, those addressed are called ptôchoi, which we take to refer to destitute beggars, not penês or the general peasant audience of have-nots. I favor, moreover, understanding this reference to ptôchos as a general statement concerning persons who have suffered a recent and severe loss of means (Guelich 1976:426); more specificity is given in the subsequent makarisms.
Those who "mourn" might be said to be engaged in mourning for the dead (see Gen 50:3; 1 Esdras 1:32; 1 Macc 12:52; 13:26); they are not lamenting sins or awaiting the eschatological day (Schürmann 331); they will be "consoled."(7) Since we find the combination of "mourning" for the dead and "comfort" in ancient literature, the mourning envisioned here most probably involves the loss of family and kin. The text gives no reason for supposing that the "mourners" are the ubiquitous widows and orphans of antiquity (on life expectancy in antiquity, see Carney 88). Nevertheless, someone lacks parents, family and kin, with all the economic and social loss attendant upon this.
Finally, the literal and simple meaning of "hunger" as lacking food seems warranted. Drought and famine may cause hunger in the land (Josephus, Ant. 15.299-316; 20.51-53; Acts 11:28; Garnsey 219-23), as well as excessive taxation (Kloppenborg 1991:86-88). While landed peasants have resources and relationships to alleviate starvation, not so landless peasants. They have scant money with which to purchase food; even if they had, the money could hardly last for long. These "hungry" folk are promised that they will "eat their fill," but at present they are ptôchoi in regard to their daily bread (Hamel 8-52 and Oakman 22-28).
C. The Relationship of the Fourth and the Other Makarisms. The final makarism offers a plausible scenario for understanding the other three. If a son were banned or disinherited by his father, he would be "hated" by the family and "outlawed" from the family house and land. He would then truly be "poor" (ptôchos), that is, suffering a severe loss of all resources, material as well as social. He could truly be said to be "mourning" the loss of kin and experiencing the loss of status that comes with being without family. Finally, if a son were driven away from the family land, he would immediately experience the loss of access to the grain, vegetables, fruits, etc. which were the daily food of peasants; no doubt he would literally be "hungry and thirsty." The ostracism described in the last makarism, therefore, describes a situation where sufficiency and subsistence fail. Furthermore, each of the four makarisms, either individually or taken together, genuinely describe a ptôchos, someone who has suffered a loss of subsistence and so cannot maintain the social position and status into which he was born.
Moreover, this peasant would suffer a true and total loss of honor and status. His name would be reviled, his name and reputation held up to rebuke, and his character calumniated. Business deals and marriage arrangements with such an outcast would be unthinkable. With loss of wealth, he would hardly be in a position to maintain his social obligations and social status. This loss of honor, I suggest, would deprive him of all standing in the village or town. He would be looked on by his neighbors as a person reaping a harvest of shame. This possible scenario is by no means the only one. What would make it probable? IV. Loss of Family in the Q Source
Several passages in the Q source support the probability of the scenario described above. Two describe family crises (Luke 12:51-53//Matt 10:34-36 and Luke 14:25-26//Matt 10:37-39) and two deal with loss of wealth (Luke 12:22-32//Matt 6:25-32 and Luke 12:33-34//Matt 6:19-21). Three of these passages are found in one continuous discourse in Luke 12; and if the general presumption of the originality of the Lukan sequence prevails here, then the materials on family crisis were originally linked with those about loss of wealth. The loss of family could be the probable context for loss of wealth and thus of honor.
A. Crisis in the Family. One passage records Jesus attacking the social
debt of obedience owed by sons to their fathers and family (Luke 12:51-53//Matt
|Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division;||Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I not come to bring peace, but a sword.|
|henceforth in one house there shall be five divided, three against two and two against three;|
|they will be divided,
father against son, and son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter
against her mother,
mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
|I have come to set
a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
|and a man's foes will be those of his own household.|
Despite other sayings of Jesus in support of family (Mark 7:9-12; see Pilch 1988: 32-59), he is attacking here the basic solidarity and loyalty family members owe to each other. This passage implies that the division of the family occurs precisely because of Jesus ("I have come to. . ."); it envisions some members loyal to family traditions but others joining the circle of Jesus and espousing his teachings.
Linked with this is a second passage (Luke 14:25-27//Matt 10:37-39) which also has to do with family loyalty. It presents a totally divided household:
|He who loves father or mother more than
me is not worthy of me; and who loves son
or daughter more than me
is not worthy of me.
|If anyone come to me and does not hate his
own father and mother and wife and
children and brothers and sisters, yes, and
even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
|And he who does not take up his cross and
is not worthy of me.
|Whoever does not bear his own cross and
come after me
cannot be my disciple
Matthew's version emphasizes "love X more than me"; this connotes a posture of respect for or acceptance of the approval of another, which is the essence of honor. Who "loves X more than me" is "not worthy" of me, another term of honor. Luke's account stresses "hating" parents and family members, which translates into disregard for filial obligations of obedience and respect (see Luke 9:59-60//Matt 8:21-22). This son would hardly be "honoring father and mother." Who does not hate the family group (with its social standing, land and wealth) cannot find affiliation, status and respect in Jesus' group. Again the issue focusses on the source of honor, either from family or Jesus. Loyalty either to family or to Jesus occasions the choice.
Both versions contain an exhortation to "take up one's 'cross'" and become a member of Jesus' fictive-kinship group. The "cross" must surely be a metaphor for negative experiences, possibly physical sufferings (begging, hunger) and/or social ones (loss of family, shame). These sufferings are not the result of taxation, drought or some other "misfortune," but precisely the results of becoming Jesus' disciple. There would be, then, shame from the family, but honor from Jesus.
It takes little imagination to see how "hatred" of one's family would lead to a "cross." Disobedience to one's parents, a paramount virtue sanctioned by custom and law, can easily lead to social and economic ruin. A rebellious son should be banned by the family (Deut 21:18-20). If banned, he will surely take up a "cross" to be Jesus' disciple, namely, suffering as physical (hunger) as it is social (mourning, begging, being an outcast). The crux of the crisis lies in honor and loyalty, either traditional loyalty to parents and family with its concomitant honor, wealth and status or affiliation with Jesus. Loss and gain: loyalty to Jesus entails loss of honor in the family and kinship network, because the honor code between father and son is violated, but also a gain of honor, because Jesus honors those loyal to him (makarioi) and acclaims them "worthy."
Although these passages do not say that the father eventually bans the rebellious son and disinherits him or that the son quits his father's house, yet they offer an immediate and plausible scenario for the ostracism described in the fourth makarism. If any form of banning or disinheriting results from a son's loyalty to Jesus, then he will truly be "poor," as well as hungry and mourning.
B. Other Remarks on Loss of Wealth. Two other passages need to be examined (Luke 12:22-32//Matt 5:24-34 and Luke 12:33-34//Matt 6:19-21), the correct social interpretation of which can shed light on the economic and cultural effects of families being divided over loyalty to Jesus. In the Lukan and Matthean versions, both passages are linked together, an editorial clue which we respect.
Luke 12:22-32//Matt 6:25-34 (6:25-34) explicitly treats loss of wealth and its relationship to honor. The passage begins with a topic statement:
DO NOT BE CONCERNED ABOUT:
what to eat
what to wear (Luke 12:22//Matt 6:25).
The scenario envisioned here reflects the gender division of society common in antiquity: a male world (public tasks in public places) and a female world (private or household tasks in the household). The person "concerned about what to eat" is a male, whom I call the husband. When he looks at the birds of the air, he "sees" fields, which in the gender-divided world of antiquity were the male places where males did the male task of farming. Birds, however, do not perform the tasks typically done by males, i.e., "sowing, reaping, gathering into barns or storehouses" (Luke 12:24//Matt 6:26). Yet God gives them subsistence food. The issue is food production, the proper concern of a male peasant.
Alternately a female scenario is imagined. The female in the family is concerned about "what to wear," i.e., "clothing," which was produced by females in the household.(8) This female is presumably the wife of the male addressed above, so that the basic male and female tasks (farming/clothing) are in view, which are the primary tasks of a peasant household. A basic family unit is envisioned which is typically divided into the characteristic gender-specific tasks -- males: food production and females: clothing production. When this female looks at the fields with a gender-specific eye, she sees stuff for weaving. The lilies "neither spin, nor toil," yet they are more gorgeous than the royal robes woven by Solomon's harem.
Beyond this gender-specific reading, the exhortation treats the loss of wealth, that is, insufficiency of food and clothing; peasant subsistence in these two basic areas is failing. The text does not say why, but the options are limited. Drought, which produces famine for humans and lack of fodder for wool-bearing sheep. Or excessive taxation, which leads to peasant indebtedness, which when foreclosed results in lost of land. Or family conflict, such that a son (and his wife) were disinherited, "driven away" from the family farm, and set adrift without land or animals. Which option seems appropriate? Since the exhortation is addressed to disciples (mathêtas, Luke 12:22), loss of wealth is formally related to issues of group loyalty, and not to "general human conditions."
The passage, moreover, links wealth with honor and status. At the very beginning, the topic is announced with an imperative (mê merimnate). As part of the topic, a value statement is made that the "soul" is more valuable (pleion) than food, and the "body" more important than clothing. The comparative term pleion relates to the world of worth: whether it has a quantitative or qualitative note, pleion ranks one thing above another, thus giving respect and honor to it. After the male is told to look at the birds, he is asked (Matt) or told (Luke) that he is "of more value" than them, another term connoting honorable status. Rhetorically this repeats the earlier value question, and explicitly bestows honor to the man who lacks food (and land). A male is worth more than mere birds. Likewise with the female; after she looks at the lilies of the field, she is told that a paternal figure values her more than them, and so is promised honor and respect (on the relationship of clothing to honor, see Neyrey 1993: 20-22, 120-22).
What may we say about this passage? The husband and wife are peasants who are falling below the subsistence level in regard to food and clothing. Nothing in the passage explicitly states that loss of land, especially family land, is at stake. But something is missing from the horizon: there is no family, no household, and no kinship network to catch them as they fall. In fact, the addressees are told to turn to a heavenly paternal figure, rather than to the obvious kinship network (Luke 12:30; Matt 6:26, 32). Of course, the family may have all died out; but then the son should have inherited his father's land.
Nevertheless, the loss of wealth by this husband and wife entails a concomitant loss of honor and social standing, for a major element in the exhortation has to do with "worth" and "value," i.e., honor. Therefore, this husband and wife are truly becoming "poor" in the eyes of the rest of the peasants, thus losing familial honor but gaining worthiness and respect in Jesus' and God's eyes.
Family banning or disinheritance of a rebellious son would account for the loss of subsistence envisioned here, as well as the loss of honor attendant on such an economic catastrophe. This option becomes plausible and probable when we recall that this passage in Luke 12 is linked directly with other remarks about family conflict. We presume that Luke retains the correct sequence of the original Q source:
"do not be anxious about your life..." (12:22-32)
"treasure in heaven..." (12:33-34)
"a house divided..." (12:51-53).
This Lukan collection concerns itself with disinheritance (12:13) and covetousness (12:15), the former directly dealing with family conflict. The original source, then, saw a connection between loss of wealth, family conflict, and discipleship. It envisions a scenario which would make a person needy of food and clothing as described in 12:22-32, namely, loss of family through disinheritance or banning.
In an adjoining passage (Luke 12:33-34//Matt 6:19-21) disciples are instructed about "treasure." Like the previous passage, it begins with a command from Jesus: "Sell your possessions and give alms" (Luke 12:33) or "Do not lay up treasure on earth" (Matt 6:19). Since Luke regularly exhorts disciples to give alms (Luke 11:41; Acts 3:2-6; 9:36; 10:2, 4, 31) Matthew contains the more original wording here. The imperative in Matt 6:19 ("do not lay up treasure") is formally parallel in structure to that in Matt 6:25 and Luke 12:22 ("do not be anxious").
Jesus' remarks about "treasure" are clearly hyperbolic, for subsistence peasants simply do not have "treasure," especially in this period of ruinous taxation. Peasants could have an ox (for plowing), some sheep (for wool/clothing), some goats (for milk), and some fruit trees and vines (for food). But this is hardly "treasure." The moth threatens the few blankets and garments the peasant has (on the cost and scarcity of clothing, see Hamel 64-67) and corruption (brôsis) rots wood (house or wooden plow) and corrodes metal (an iron plow?). Thieves (kleptai) abound in Galilee in this period, whose prime targets would be villages unprotected by walls (on widespread banditry, see Horsley and Hanson 48-87).
However meager his wealth, it is a peasant's "treasure" and the key indicator of his status and honor in the village. Jesus' remark, moreover, tells the peasant not to value what all his family and neighbors value, but rather to value something else superior to "treasure on earth." At a minimum, Jesus attacks peasant covetousness (Luke 12:15 and Delling 266-70) and the honor attached to wealth. Nothing explicit is said about loss of wealth here, except that moth, corruption and thieves cause loss. But we remember that wealth and honor reside in the family, not the individual. Hence a family's collective honor is in view.
From the discussion in this section, one clear theme emerges. The Q document contains a number of statements which attack family unity and loyalty. These statements, moreover, are often linked with remarks on loss of wealth and honor. Thus crisis within the family emerges as a probable cause of the disinheritance, banning or excommunication envisioned in the fourth makarism. Such a radical action by a family against a disobedient or rebellious son would surely entail immediate, severe economic and social loss.
V. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND FURTHER CONVERSATION
A. Summary. To the extent that the early part of this study was successful, we have shown that being "poor" (i.e., ptôchos) contains a social and cultural component as well as an economic one. Clearly "wealth" is a component of "honor"; and the loss of wealth entails a corresponding threat of loss of honor. When a man moves from being penês to ptôchos, he loses the resources to maintain his social status or honor rating. This loss of honor is more serious to ancient peasants than the mere loss of wealth.
The scenario or Sitz im Leben envisioned by the makarisms in Q has to do with both loss of honor (makarios = "honorable") as well as loss of wealth. But the question remains: why did a person suffer loss of wealth according to the makarisms? My hypothesis has been that a son and his wife are envisioned as banned or disinherited by a father and family, and so they suffer both loss of wealth and honor.
(1) The four makarisms are addressed to disciples, not the crowds. As such they do not speak of "the general human conditions of poverty and suffering" applicable to the crowds or the generic "anxiety about the basic necessities" (Horsley 1991:194), but of specific consequences of discipleship.
(2) The four makarisms, whatever their tradition history, are joined by the time of the Q document, and should be taken as a unit, as a comprehensive statement about the economic and social situation of certain persons. Daube's arguments persuade us that the fourth makarism constitutes the appropriate climax of the series, and so should not be separated from the other three.
(3) The makarisms contrast the way of Jesus with other "ways" of living (Guelich 1976:416-19). Hence, the general Sitz im Leben envisioned is one of discipleship and loyalty shown to Jesus. Disciples "take up their cross" and follow him; they are willing to lose all to gain his favor and approval (Matt 19:29). Thus they are active players who make choices which have consequences. They are not mere passive victims, who suffer "misfortune" independent of their actions. Dennis Duling distinguishes "involuntary marginals" from "voluntary" ones (1993:644-48). "Involuntary marginals" cannot participate in the normative social life of a group because of race, ethnicity, gender, and the like; "voluntary marginals," however, consciously and by choice live outside the normative social patterns. The beatitudes address "voluntary marginals" who by choosing to follow Jesus are excluded from their normative social statuses, roles, offices and the like (Duling 1993:653).
(4) But discipleship with a deviant like Jesus is costly. Thus, the four original makarisms should been seen as Jesus' "honoring" of disciples who have paid a price and been shamed by their kinship network. They are not just typical peasants in the audience, all of whom are penês; rather they are ptôchoi, that is, people who have suffered a recent loss of wealth and status, which directly results from discipleship or loyalty to Jesus.
(5) But what type of loss? If a village turned on someone, he would presumably still have family to fall back on, either his father's house and land or his own house and land. He would still have kin in the area, whose first loyalty would be to him. He would not necessarily be hungry or mourning. But a disciple who suffered disinheritance by his father or banning from the family land would become a ptôchos, and immediately suffer lack of subsistence, kinship and honor.
(6) The Hebrew scriptures are quite concerned with the proper obedience of sons to their fathers; obedience to and respect for parents are cornerstones of the Hebrew scriptures (see Exod 20:12; 21:17; Lev 20:9; 5:16; Tobit 4:3-4; 14:12-13; Prov 1:8; 6:20; Sir 3:1-16), although less emphasis is found in early Christian writings on this theme (Mark 7:9-13//Matt 15:3-6; Eph 6:2-3). One finds the motif of "the rebellious son" in Scripture (Deut 21:18-20) and rabbinic literature (Malina 1993b:2-4; Blidstein 37-52). Ancient childrearing practices consisted of disciplining children who were perceived to be naturally rebellious (Pilch 1993:102-107). The right relationship of sons and fathers, therefore, was a recurring, common problem thoughout the life cycle (see Mark 7:10-12; Matt 21:28-29; Luke 15:11-13). Issues of family loyalty and parental authority, not religious excommunication from the synagogue, emerge as an important locus of crisis in the lives of ordinary peasants.
We attended to passages in the Q source where Jesus boldly claims to have caused division in families. These divisions would not be worth mentioning if they did not result in social consequences. Luke 12:51-53//Matt 10:34-36 and Luke 14:26-27//Matt 10:37-38 envision disciples of Jesus experiencing hostility from their kinship groups, which I argue results in some form of disinheritance or banning (i.e., the fourth makarism), and so loss of wealth and honor.
(7) The Q document contains a number of explicit remarks about the troubled relationships within families caused by discipleship with Jesus.
Luke 9:59-60//Matt 8:21-22
Luke 12:51-53//Matt 10:34-36
Luke 14:26-27//Matt 10:37-39
In addition to these, there are other passages which seem to have family members in view, who suffer a crisis in the kinship network (see 1 Cor 7:12-16). One passage envisions the plight of a family (husband and wife) who has neither food nor clothing (Luke 12:22-32//Matt 6:25-33). Although one can imagine many reasons for this social tragedy, the persons addressed are clearly disciples to whom Jesus issues commands. The question returns, then, as to why a disciple is in such dire straits? Alternative answers such as debt foreclosure or drought do not satisfy the criterion that such a tragedy is befalling a disciple. A probable scenario seems to be the same one envisioned above in Luke 12:51-53//Matt 10:34-39, namely, some form of kinship crisis which results in a loss of land, wealth, food and clothing. Seen in combination with Luke 12:51-53//Matt 10:34-39, Luke 12:22-32//Matt 6:25-33 probably reflects the same situation: discipleship has caused family division and resulted in disinheritance or banning from the basic kinship network. Thus the family is seen in the Q tradition as a primary source of "persecution."
(8) Our investigation of a focus in the original Q document on family crisis does not contradict the data in Matthew's gospel which treats of the polemic between the disciples of Jesus and "your synagogue." The relationship of Matthew and the birkat ha-minim is a valid explanation for various passages dealing with a social crisis. But these later clues about social dislocation do not adequately explain the earlier crises of disciples described in the Q document.
B. Conclusion. What, then, is the cultural meaning of Jesus' four makarisms? The mere loss of wealth would make those described ptôchoi, but what of their honor rating and its relationship to their loss of wealth? My scenario envisions those disinherited or banned as suffering a frightful social stigma in the village as disobedient and rebellious sons. They clearly lose honor and so become shameful, at least in the eyes of their neighbors. According to the materials we read earlier, they would not be the objects of compassion or sympathy. They got what they deserved, because they did not suffer "misfortune." They experience shame from family and kin for their rebellion against family tradition. But these people are disciples of Jesus. In his perspective "last is first," "least is greatest," and "shame is honor." Hence a disciple who has suffered shame in the eyes of his neighbors precisely for honoring Jesus is honored by him in turn. "How honorable are those who . . ." They indeed are "worthy" to be his disciples. Thus Jesus' remarks admit economic loss and the consequent loss of honor. But he honors the dishonored.
C. Further Conversation. This study engages the current conversation on Q in several ways. Concern over the social context of Q is receiving much attention (Mack 1988:620-32; Horsley 1989:195-200; Kloppenborg 1989:211-12; 1991:85-88 and 96-99). The tendency to downplay the crises faced by disciples from religious to economic factors is welcome; this study suggests that the family factor be emphasized more, as many passages in Q indicate. Second, although passing mention is made of crises within families by Q scholars (Kloppenborg 1987:241; Mack 1988:634), the materials in Q which we have examined suggest that division of families and banning of rebellious sons should be taken more seriously as part of the historical and cultural background for many aspects of the Q tradition. Third, the importance of "itinerancy" as a hallmark of "missionaries" in Q still enjoys support (Catchpole), especially with recent interest in Cynic parallels. But not all disciples were itinerant; some who were ostracized by their families did not necessarily become itinerants. It is often claimed that disciples in the Q tradition are called to a "life of protest" against society (i.e., prophets). But "voluntary marginals" whose allegiance to Jesus caused them banishment from their families need not be classified as espousing a life of protest (Horsley 1991:184), but considered rather as requiring support in a crisis of kinship authority created by discipleship. Finally, more serious consideration needs to be given to the basic social institution of antiquity, namely, the family and the role of the pater familias (Hennessey). Further studies in Q would do well to investigate the role of families in socializing new members and exercising social control. Issues of family and (fictive) kinship remain underdeveloped in scholarship.
1. 1. "Sufficiency" (autarcheia) was a value regularly praised among the ancients; for a peasant to live by this principle is probably making a virtue of necessity. "Sufficiency" applies even to wealth: "Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough" (Seneca, Ep. 2.6).
2. 2. In Isa 3:18-24 we are given a description of the wealth of certain elite females in the Jerusalem of the prophet's day; noteworthy is the sense of "conspicuous display" of the wealth of these elite persons. Conspicuous consumption and display are said to be consistent features of the eastern Mediterranean. See the praise of Solomon' sumptuous palace by the Queen of Sheba (1 Kgs 10:4-5); it gained him further wealth (10:10) and public honor (10:6-8).
3. 3. Luke's Jesus says that peasants can notice the "fine linen and purple" of a rich man (Luke 16:19) and that those who wear soft raiment and are gorgeously appareled live in kings' courts (Luke 7:25). Cotton from Egypt (Isa 19:9) and silk from the orient (Ezek 16:10, 13; Rev 18:12) were available for the rich. And the clothing of the elite would be dyed in blue, scarlet and purple (Exod 28:5-6; Jer 10:9; 1 Macc 4:23; Rev 18:12). We can imagine Herod's splendor when "he put on his royal robes" to take his seat on his throne (Acts 12:21).
4. 4. Ancient rhetorical handbooks and the instructions on writing encomia in the progymnasmata all instruct the orator or writer to attend carefully to the ancestors and family of the person under discussion, for "honor resides in the blood." See Isocrates, Panegyricus 23-25; Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 5.5.23-25; Josephus, Vita 1-6. The ancient concern with genealogy belongs here.
5. 5. This idea of "honorable misfortune" might be compared with three "misfortunes" mentioned in Lev 25, which render a person truly "poor": (a) "if your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property" (v 25); (b) "if your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you" (v 35); (c) "if your brother becomes poor beside you, and sells himself to you" (v 39). Thus, loss of land, loss of means to meet basic social obligations, and debt that drives a family into slavery are examples of "misfortune" for which there should be "redemption" in the Jubilee year. Thus families may suffer misfortune by (1) loss of family land, which is as much a status as an economic indicator; (2) debt bondage; and (3) loss of resources to maintain one's status. To these could be added others: a widow in a village might be called "poor," because she has no male to defend her interests and safeguard her reputation. This is not simply an economic issue (i.e., loss of her house; see Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47).
6. 6. Forthcoming from Semeia.
7. 7. One thinks of "consolation" literature in the Greco-Roman world, which gave advice to those who were grieving and mourning the death of kin; see Plutarch, Consol. ad Apoll. 112A-B or 1 Thess 4:13-17; Abraham J. Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989) 64-65.
8. 8. Xenophon describes the respective places of males and females in a household: ". . . Human beings live not in the open air, like beasts, but obviously need shelter. Nevertheless, those who mean to win store to fill the covered place, have need for someone to work at the open-air occupations; since plowing, sowing, planting and grazing are all such open-air employments; and these supply the needful food. Then again, as soon as this is stored in the covered place, then there is need for someone to keep it and to work at the things that must be done under cover. Cover is needed for the nursing of the infants; cover is needed for the making of corn into bread, and likewise for the manufacture of clothing from the wool. And since both the indoor and the outdoor tasks demand labour and attention, God from the first adapted the woman's nature, I think, to the indoor and man's to the outdoor tasks and cares" (Oecomenicus 7.19-22).
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