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139 Chapter 5 Luke The Gospel of Luke, the “third gospel,” is more than likely the most recent of the three Synoptic Gospels to have been written. Like Matthew, it may be considered a revised version of Mark, but it was written for a different audience. The prologue to this gospel indicates that Luke was writing for a fairly sophisticated Hellenistic audience.1 He wrote as a historian de métier, carefully consulting eyewitnesses and using various sources that were available to him. Among these sources was the Gospel of Mark and the Sayings Source, which he seems to have quoted even more faithfully than did Matthew. The evangelist has much to say about riches and the rich and seems to be more trenchant in his judgment of the wealthy than were the other two Synoptic evangelists. For Luke, the attitude of people toward their possessions is a test of their commitment to discipleship.2 Undoubtedly, many factors contributed to the way that Luke wrote about wealth and the wealthy in his story about Jesus. One of these factors was sociological. Luke, his community, and his potential readership belonged to one of the higher classes. “They are 1 Cf. Luke 1:1-4. The Prologue to the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1-6) indicates that the evangelist construed his gospel to be the first part of a two-part work. Lest the present chapter be unduly long, I shall defer consideration of the traditions contained in Acts until a later chapter. 2 Cf. François Bovon, Luke 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1–9:50, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 224.  140 Wealth, Wages, and the Wealthy not exactly poor, and for this reason,” notes François Bovon, “they struggle fiercely with the problem of possessions.”3 Another factor was the evangelist’s keen interest in biblical prophecy and the biblical prophets. Many of them—the prophet Amos comes readily to mind—were strong proponents of what might today be called social justice. The evangelist’s interest in the Hebrew Bible’s prophetic figures was reinforced by his use of the Sayings Source. “Prophetic sayings” were a feature of that ancient text, preserved in the use that Matthew and Luke made of it. Luke preserves many of the Q sayings, as has been noted in the previous chapter. The evangelist’s interest in the prophetic tradition is manifest throughout his story, beginning with the literary characters that appear in the so-called infancy narrative, Luke 1–2. Yet another reason for the Lucan interest in wealth and the wealthy comes from his concern for the marginalized in society. Commentators on the third gospel inevitably note the evangelist’s concern with the poor and the extent to which women appear in his narrative. By and large, women lived on the margins of public society in Luke’s day. Stories such as the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge4 and that of the Widow’s Offering5 reflect Luke’s concern for poor and marginalized women. He has borrowed the story of the widow’s offering from Mark but has drawn attention to her poverty by using an adjective meaning “poor”6 that doesn’t appear elsewhere in the New Testament. This does not mean that the evangelist looked on all women as impoverished and living on the margins of society. Unique to Luke is a brief snippet of information about how Jesus was supported during his public ministry. During the time of his preaching in Galilee and while he was on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus seems not to have functioned as a day laborer using his acquired skills as a builder.7 The gospels give 3 Ibid., 224. Cf. Robert Karris, “Poor and Rich: The Lukan Sitz im Leben,” in Perspectives on Luke–Acts, ed. Charles H. Talbert (Danville, VA: Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 1978), 112–25. 4 Cf. Luke 18:1-8. 5 Cf. Luke 21:1-4. 6 Penikran in Luke 21:2. 7 Cf. Mark 6:3. Luke 141 no indication that he survived by begging for his bread. Occasionally, he was invited to dinner, sometimes even a sumptuous dinner.8 For the rest, Jesus was accompanied not only by the Twelve but also by some women: “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna and many others, who provided for them out of their resources...


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