Thursday, December 10, 2020

Did the Apostle Paul Live in Poverty?

Did the apostle Paul experience poverty after he became an apostle and did missionary work? Certain direct and indirect signals indicate that he did:

1) Paul speaks of "hardships" (ESV) that he and his coworkers faced: they recommended their ministry to others by arduous difficulties. In the same chapter of Corinthians, Paul describes himself and others "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything" (2 Corinthians 6:4-5, 10).

2) In 2 Corinthians 11:27, Paul confirms that he was often "in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure" (ESV).

Raymond Collins (Paideia Commentary on 2 Corinthians) offers these remarks:

"That Paul often lived with sleepless nights (see 6:5) and in hunger and thirst (cf. 1 Cor. 4:11, linking hunger and thirst) were probably consequences of his decision to be self-supporting. Manual laborers and artisans often did not make enough to feed themselves properly. Paul was often without food, in the cold, and poorly clothed. Paul’s being without food could be a reference to a religious fast, but in the context of a catalog of hardships, the expression more likely refers to the fact that Paul was hungry because he was poor (6:5). In 1 Cor. 4:11 Paul complains about being clad in rags (gymniteuomen, hapax in the NT). Now he says that he was poorly clothed (en gymnotēti; cf. Rom. 8:35), a sure sign of his poverty (cf. Epictetus, Diatr. 3.22.45). The verb and the noun denote nakedness, but those who were poorly clothed and in rags were said to be naked (cf. Seneca, Ben. 5.13.3). Before beginning the fool’s speech, Paul tells the Corinthians that despite being in poverty (11:9), he has refused to take any money from them. In the last several phrases of this long catalog of hardships, Paul spells out some of the consequences of his poverty"
3) Paul relates some of his other hardships in Philippians 4:12-13 (NET): "I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me."

Compare Philippians 4:15-20.

4) An indirect proof that Paul lived in poverty as an apostle is 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV): "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."

Paul exhorted the Corinthians to imitate him even as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Since Christ evidently became poor in a material sense, but made others rich through his poverty, might not Paul have followed the same course, especially in light of other verses in Corinthians? This seems like a genuine possibility to me.

Jan Lambrecht (Sacra Pagina Commentary on 2 Corinthians) points out that Christ became poor by assuming humanity (becoming human); however, Paul also likely had earthly poverty in mind when penning 2 Corinthians 8:9:

"Within Church history-and no less today-2 Cor 8:9 contains the appeal to fellowship with the poor Christ. How can a true Christian, how can the Church be rich or wealthy while the Lord became poor? A number of Christians have willingly become poor because of the poverty of Jesus and that of his poor brothers and sisters (cf. Matt 25:31-46). The preferential option for the poor is greatly stimulated by 2 Cor 8:9. However, the Christians' continuous struggle against all kinds of human misery and destitution shows that we must never exalt or idealize poverty as such."

Finally, another factor that lends credence to the apostle's self-imposed poverty is the form of a servant Christology that we find in Philippians 2:6-7. Although Christ existed in God's form, he took the form of a servant by becoming flesh. Being a servant implies that Christ had an unassuming status and that he practiced self-imposed poverty on earth: Paul urges the Philippians to have the same mind that Christ possessed.

Murphy O'Connor makes this observation on the poverty of Paul:

"In Paul’s time, as today, how you traveled depended on how much money you could afford to spend. Paul was not a rich man. The impression he gives in his letters is that he had no significant personal financial resources. He seems to have had nothing beyond what he could earn and the sporadic gifts sent to him by various churches (2 Corinthians 11:8–9; Philippians 4:14). As an itinerant artisan, a tent-maker (Acts 18:3), he was far better off than an unskilled worker of the laboring class, but no artisan became rich. It would have been as much as Paul could do to earn his daily bread, even if he had enjoyed a stable situation with a regular clientele. But Paul garnered much of his work from fellow travelers on the road, or he had to begin anew in a strange city where he had no reputation to attract business."


Collins, Raymond F. Second Corinthians. Paideia Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Lambrecht, Jan. Second Corinthians. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1999. Print.

Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome. “On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul.” Bible Review 1/2 (1985): 38–47.


Duncan said...

"Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as if he were the Lord. But he is not to stay for more than one day, unless there is need, in which case he may stay another. But if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle leaves, he it to take nothing except bread until he finds his next night's lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet." (Didache 11)

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

Matthew 10:9-10. 1 Corinthians 9:7-18.

Edgar Foster said...

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Edgar Foster said...

From Shawn J. Wilhite's Didache Commentary (Didache 11):

Next, prophets are false if they request financial assistance (ἀργύριον; Did. 11.6). These people must not accept anything but food until they find their next location for lodging (ἕως οὗ αὐλισθῇ). If upon departure they ask for money, they are false prophets. These comments reflect the Jesus tradition, which prohibits taking money (Luke 9:3), a money belt (Mark 6:8), gold and silver (Mark 10:9), or a purse with them (Luke 10:4). These itinerant individuals entrust themselves to poverty and to the generous communities, and ultimately to God, who will nourish and provide for them.

EGF: On the other hand, Paul collected money to care for the poor and advance the good news.

Roman said...

Fascinating, I've done a lot of research on the class status of Jesus, and his immediate cultural context, but not on Paul.

Lucian's account of Peregrinus is further evidence of the propertyless traveling teacher, and also that there was some fruad (which the Didache also seems to attest to, as well as in Paul).

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

St Paul probably belonged to this group (he is described to us as a 'tent-maker', but this may well mean a merchant who owned workshops, perhaps even a contractor supplying the army).

We know that he was born a Roman citizen. It was this that saved him from trial in a hostile local court, since Roman citizens were entitled to demand the emperor's justice - which is why, after his arrest in 58 AD, he was dispatched to Rome.

His case shows that in the early first century AD a well-to-do Jew from Tarsus in Southern Turkey could be a Roman.

Paul's case illustrates one of the advantages of Roman citizenship - legal protection. But there were many others. Roman society was meshed together by networks of patronage. Citizenship gave one access to the most important of these networks and the opportunities for economic, social and political advancement they offered.

Consequently, most men of rank within the empire were eager to become Roman citizens - and the Romanisation we see represented by archaeological discoveries is evidence of both their striving and their success.

Edgar Foster said...

Very quickly, thanks to Duncan and Roman for the Lucian material.

So, Paul made missionary journeys, oversaw congregations, preached in synagogues, made journeys in ships, and owned a workshop? I'd like a second opinion. :)

And he might have been affluent at birth, but see Philippians 3:1-8 to see how that he forsook fleshly privileges for Christ's sake--even considering them all "rubbish."

Paul said that he did not pursue material goods or things on earth, and he encouraged his fellow believers to do the same. Would Paul have also sough earthly glory when his Master rejected the kingdoms of the world and all their glory? To crib a line from one movie, Paul may have been a Roman citizen, but he was certainly no ordinary citizen of Rome. His true citizenship belonged in the heavens (Philippians 3:20-21).

Duncan said...

When Paul became a Christian he probably stopped striving for such things, but if you have money, do you then throw it away? In those days a person's resources were not just coin. They were people too. "Refuse" was probably hyperbole, as a contrast with what he had found. Luke 16:9.

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

He didn't have to throw his money away, but he could have given it to the needy or used it for his ministry until the money was spent. Jesus once told a young man to give all his belongings to the poor and become a follower of Christ. He also insisted that anyone not willing to say forsake material possessions (including money) is not worthy of following him. So, unless Paul was engaging in serious hyperbole in the verses I quoted, he was not affluent as an apostle. As for his influence, that was mostly in the congregation although he waged some type of legal battles too in the public sphere.

Yes, "refuse" or rubbish is hyperbole, but his words imply that Paul turned his back on his former way of living.


Among other definitions, Wallace gives both "refuse" and rubbish" as potential meanings.

Duncan said...

Not sure that is the point of Matthew 19. It has more to do with not being able to let go of the possessions that were holding him back (remember the wife of Lot).

Duncan said...

Mat 26:11 should also be taken into account.

Edgar Foster said...

1) I am not asserting that all Christians must give up their earthly possessions and become wandering preachers or full-time pioneers. The important thing is that we bear fruit and work whole-souled to Jehovah.

2) Are you saying that Jesus didn't really expect the young man to give up his possessions, and bequeath them to the poor? What about when Peter exclaimed that the apostles had given up their possessions and left homes and family members?

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28 NIV)

Matthew 19:21 (NIV): Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Compare Luke 19:1-10.

Duncan said...

I am saying that giving it to the poor was not the point. That he was prepared to lose them was the point.

For quoting Mark you need to go beyond the text and dig into the culture. First question - at what age was a Jew of this period expected to be married?

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

Firstly, the overall point we've been discussing is whether Paul was poor or not. The reason I alluded to the rich young ruler was to demonstrate that some people with money do give it up, for a transcendent reason. Some Jews and Christians in the first century forsook their wealth or possessions to serve God or Christ more fully.

Secondly, I'm not denying that there are multiple levels to what Jesus told the rich young ruler, but I clearly think he meant what he said. If the man wanted to follow him, he would have to forsake his possessions and give them to the poor. Other followers of Jesus did the same.

I've read about wildly divergent ages for a Jewish male to be married; however, he was expected to be mature and ready to support his family. Yes, we need to study Jewish culture to understand the GNT better. Paul commented on Peter having a wife (see 1 Cor. 9). He pointed out that the other apostles had the right to be married, as Paul himself had that right, yet Paul refrained from being married in order to have greater freedom in his ministry.

Of course, we have to read everything in context; when Peter exclaims that the apostles gave up everything to follow Jesus, including family members, all relevant texts have to be considered and the cultural setting. Still, I don't see how Jewish marital practices subvert anything I've said concerning apostolic self-abasement.

Edgar Foster said...

I will read the rticle on ancient Jewish marriage.

A couple of other sources for the passage in Mark:

Eckhard J. Schnabel: "If the man accepts that obtaining eternal life is inseparably connected with following Jesus, he will do what Jesus commands him: Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor. Peter, Andrew, Jacob (James) and John left their nets and boats and followed Jesus because they acknowledged Jesus’ authority to demand that they give up their professions and their way of life. If the rich man acknowledges Jesus’ authority, he will divest himself of his possessions, donate the proceeds to the poor and follow Jesus, joining Jesus’ closest disciples, who depend on the material support of others. Having treasure in heaven means, in the context of the man’s question, eternal life. The expression implies a contrast with the treasures of earth which cannot compare with the treasures of heaven. The emphasis is not on self-sacrificial almsgiving but on following Jesus, which is confirmed by the aorist tense of the imperatives sell and give and the present tense imperative follow which underscores the permanence of the attachment to Jesus."

So, Schnabel thinks the emphasis is on following Jesus, but he also explains that Jesus expected the man to sell his belongins and give to the poor. The man not only had to be ready to forsake his possesions and give to the poor--he actually had to carry out Jesus' directive, if he wanted to be "perfect."

Edgar Foster said...

Francis Moloney: "Jesus, looking upon him and loving him (v. 21a), attempts to wrest the initiative from the man and to call him to discipleship. There is only one thing that he lacks.[149] He must rid himself of his possessions and his habitual determination of his own life. He must first sell everything he has and give it to the poor. Reduced to a situation of need and dependence he will have the opportunity to be receptive to the action of God in his life. He will not locate his treasure in this life, but it will be with the only one who is good (see v. 18), God in heaven.[150] As the reader has learned from the story of the Syrophoenician woman (7:24–30) and the father of the epileptic boy (9:14–29), these are the requirements of true faith.[151] The invitation 'Come, follow me' links this account to the earlier vocation stories (see 1:16–20; 2:13–17; 3:13–19).[152] A feature of those accounts was the initiative and authority of Jesus, and the immediate, wordless obedience of those called. So also here; Jesus attempts to take the initiative in v. 21. In the earlier vocation stories, the first disciples left their nets, boats, hired servants, and their father (1:16–20), and Levi left his tax house (2:13–15), but there was no command to sell everything and give it to the poor to become disciples of Jesus. Such a command is found only in this story.[153] The disciple must be receptive to the call of Jesus, thus manifesting trust in his person and word. “Jesus’ demand is radical in character. He claims the man utterly and completely, and orders the removal of every other support which could interfere with an unconditional obedience.”[154] The man fails, 'for he had great possessions,' and 'went away' sorrowfully rejecting a vocation to discipleship (v. 22).[155] The theme of receptivity has been further developed by means of this story of a failed vocation to discipleship; the everyday danger of allowing possessions to determine one’s life is the reason for the man’s failure to become a disciple.[156] The link with the theme of discipleship, made clear in Jesus’ calling him to follow in 10:21c, knits this episode into the wider context of 9:30–10:31.

Edgar Foster said...

Robert Stein (Baker Exegetical Series):

"Peter’s words in [Mark] 10:28 stand in sharp contrast to the actions of the rich man. The disciples have indeed left everything and 'followed' (note the perfect tense of ἠκολουθήκαμεν, ēkolouthēkamen) Jesus (1:16–20). Although Peter and Andrew still possessed a home (1:29) and a boat (3:9; 4:1, 36; cf. John 21:3), their commitment to Jesus was total. Whatever Jesus told them to leave, they left (1:17–18) in following him. In response, Jesus gives an emphatic word of reassurance (note the 'Truly' [ἀμήν, amēn]; see 3:28–30) in 10:29 that no doubt was encouraging for the readers of Mark’s Gospel as well. Leaving house, brothers, sisters, and mother recalls both Jesus’s own commitment (3:31–35)9 and that of his disciples (1:18, 20; cf. also Luke 14:26; Matt. 10:37; and Luke 9:57–62; 12:49–53). 'Father or children or fields' completes the list. The omission of 'wife' from the list may reflect the indissoluble nature of marriage taught by Jesus in 10:2–12 (T. Schmidt 1987: 115). In light of the redactional character of the term 'gospel,' it is probable that 'for the gospel' (ἕνεκεν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, heneken tou euangeliou) and also 'for my sake' (ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, heneken emou) come from the hand of the evangelist here, as in 8:35."

Duncan said...

Don't you think it strange that Jesus does not follow by saying something like, those who have lost business or income in my name?

Edgar Foster said...

What do you call giving up all your possessions? That would involve a loss of income. What about the men who left fishing of their own initiative after Jesus called them? He later asked Peter whether he loved "these" more than his Master (John 21:15-17). Jesus was possibly referring to the fishing business and all its accoutrements.

Compare Luke 14:33.

On the other hand, Jesus didn't always (to understand the matter) make his thoughts explicit or clear, and he said many things not recorded in the Gospels. He also seems to follow one of the Gricean maxims, which urges speakers to only state what's necessary and no more.

Duncan said...

Sorry, but I do not think you are getting my point, although your right about thing not being explicit and clear. Mark 10:28 - Is tied more to the verses before or the verses after?

Edgar Foster said...

It seems to me that Peter's utterance in 10:28 is motivated by what comes before: Jesus then responds to his exclamation with the content we find in the following verses. I don't think it's an either/or proposition as to which set of verses bear a greater relationship to 10:28. IMO, 10:28 is syntactically nested between 10:23-27 and 10:29-31: both set of verses could bear an equal relationship to the text in question. In other words, to crib NT Wright, the verses can be understood by means of an exegetical "pincer movement."

Duncan said...

So had Peter left his wife with Jesus endorsement?

Duncan said...

Let's push this a little further. How many people were at the Sabbath celebtration before Jesus death? Do you get what I am driving at?

Edgar Foster said...

I've often wondered about the point, but when reading the Gospel accounts, "wives" are not mentioned at Matt 19:29 or in Mark's account, although there's a variant reading that does include "wives."

Luke 18:29 does mention leaving one's wife "for the sake of the kingdom of God," but just what does that mean? Certainly not divorce and probably not separation. But an apostle would hardly want to take wife and kids with him as he toured the Mediterranean. So, in view of Luke 18:29, you tell me whether Peter had Jesus' endorsement. Yet, from reading the Gospel accounts, we witness Peter interacting with his mother-in-law as you've already noted.

Edgar Foster said...

Expositor's Greek Testament:

Mark 10:29. Jesus, seeing Peter’s meaning, proceeds to give, first, a generous answer, then a word of warning. In the enumeration of persons and things forsaken, “wife” is omitted in important MSS. (W.H[97]). The omission is true to the delicate feeling of Jesus. It may have to be done, but He would rather not say it.

Duncan said...

1 Timothy 5:8

Edgar Foster said...

Quite frankly, I'm not sure what you're driving at, Duncan. Please explain how this line of thought impinges on Paul's poverty or that of the other disciples. Just how would we know he number of people who attended the Sabbath before Jesus' death? And why is that fact relevant?

Duncan said...

What means of support would Peter's wife have had if he left here and also imposed poverty in himself?

Duncan said...

I realise that we have no hard answers to these questions but I have to wonder at how we need to understand these accounts in the culture and circumstance.

Duncan said...

Have you had chance to view the orbis to see the estimated cost of travel by sea?

Edgar Foster said...

1) Knowing about the social context of the time and Jewish practices answers your first question. Moreover, would Peter have left his wife or children without the appropriate resources? Notice I've been arguing that Paul (or Peter) were impoverished as apostles (i.e., in their travels): they forsook possessions and homes to follow Jesus. Yet the apostles had their needs met, as Paul testified, and like Jesus taught (Matt 6:33). Would not Peter's wife have received adequate provision as well. To answer your question simply, one has to think communally and call to mind the example of Abraham, who sent Hagar away with sufficient needs for her journey. See also 1 Tim 5:8.

2) I did go to the Orbis page and bookmark it. I wasn't really sure what you wanted me to see: I will focus on that part today or tomorrow. Thanks.

Edgar Foster said...

I saw the 1 Tim 5:8 reference after posting my remark. The bottom line is that a Jewish male would not have left his wife in the lurch, if he was godly and had the means to care for a family. But they also had a social net that most of us do not have, at least not in the States. But think of how Witnesses help missionary and pioneer families, who live simple lives for the kingdom.

Duncan said...

Was that social net established at the time of the first apostles?

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

What I mean is that structures were in place to ensure widows and single women had their needs met. Peter's wife did not have to be destitute based on how ancient Jews cared for such women: they had family and friends to look after them. Of course, I'm speaking ideally--nothing is perfect in this system:


Edgar Foster said...

If you want to know more about Roman economic history, see also M.I. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of Roman Empire, published by Oxford University.

Roman said...

This conversation is right up my alley ... All I'll add is that the subject of wealth and poverty was tied in to the subject of the kingdom vrs the world. I see no reason to believe that when Jesus commanded the rich man to give up everything, his wealth, he meant it ... we can theologize about those implications after the fact, but the way it seems to me is that the Rich man was tied into the world, through his high status, Jesus was telling him to give that up, and give to the poor (which is what the biblical moral ethic is).

There has been a lot of work done on the transition between agricultural/aristocratic societies and commercial societies, the time of Jesus was one of a transition to a commercial society. So you have wealthy men making money on commercial goods, financial dealings, cash crops, etc etc, and centralizing land ownership, while village societies that usually had to pay a tribute to an aristocrat, but other than that had traditional ways of organizing themselves (kinship and so on).

Judaism especially had a saftey net (through the synagogues, and in the communities), enforced by biblical principles of caring for the needy, lending to the poor, etc. The first Christians also had a saftey net, as well as an ethic of mutual aid (similar to some groups of the essenes).

So there is the ethic of the bible/kingdom of God, one of rejecting avarise and mutual aid, and care for the poor, and the ethic of the world, which is that or accumulating wealth and power, the rulers of this world being under Satan.

In my book Jesus's manifesto I lay out some sources to reconstruct the economic/class context of Jesus's time.

Of course, it's important to remember, that among the first generation of CHristians there were those with wealth, who were no less faithful ... so it's not a simple formula. But at the same time we shouldn't water down Jesus's and the early Christian's teachings on wealth and economic issues.

Whether or not Paul was poor or his class position, is not something I'm 100% clear on, but it would certainly be a downgrade from before, the mishnah says Rabbis ought to learn a craft/trade to support themselves, so if Paul was training to be a Pharisaic Rabbi or scribe that he could work as a tent maker would make sense, the fact that his family was Roman citizens would also put him higher on the social ladder. But social class in this period wasn't just economic, his education level, citizenship status, family background, were also determinative.

Duncan said...

"his education level, citizenship status, family background, were also determinative." - I can agree with that but fundamentally money drives most of those factors. Not just in Pauls era but also in his ancestors.

By the first century the era of commerce was well underway, examples, as evidenced by the pepper trade with India as just one long distance commodity of many. Grain and other foodstuffs from northern Africa.

Matthew. 4:15 - "the way to the sea".

I think that most children were taught a trade but the best attended Beth Midrash (Usually run by a Rabbi). Those who excelled (talmidim) would get to travel and study with the famous rabbanim.

I would think that the mishnah may be reversing the process, in line with the post destruction era?

This is something that am acutely wary of, life pre and post destruction.

Edgar Foster said...

Go too far the other way

Proverbs 30

Roman, I figured you'd eventually chime in, and if you want to provide information about your books, that is fine with me.

As for the rich young ruler, I could be wrong, but I believe that Jesus was telling the man to give up his riches and bequeath them to the poor. I will provide sources later, and let others make up their own mind.

One thing I want to make clear is that I'm not saying every rich Christian must give up his/her belongings and give them to the poor.: I believe that Jesus' words have a limited application, but they represent the ideal way to live. In the Bible, as you know, some did relinquish material goods to advance the good news. In this blog entry, I've also specifically applied my remarks to Paul or the other apostles.

Concerning the ancient social net: See Winter, B. W. “Providentia for the Widows of 1 Timothy 5, 3– 16.” TynBul 39 (1988) 83–99.

Edgar Foster said...

I would suggest that R.T. France's comments about the rich young ruler be read in full. However, I'm justr going to quote part of what he writes:

Jesus’ further demand includes two elements, first selling and giving, and then following Jesus. The two must not be separated as if ‘charity’ alone could make ‘perfect’. While the selling and giving will be a practical application of Leviticus 19:18 (Jeremias, NTT, pp. 221–223), it is primarily the necessary counterpart of following Jesus, as vv. 27–29 will make clear, and it is discipleship, not just charity, which is the issue. But is poverty then an essential condition of discipleship for all? Verse 26 will allow that the rich can be saved, and among Jesus’ followers there were some who were wealthy, and indeed on whose wealth he and his closest companions apparently depended for their living (see on 8:14–15 for Peter’s home and possessions). The demands of discipleship will vary for different individuals and situations. But they will never be less than total availability to the claims of Jesus, however differently these apply in practice. ‘That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom he would issue that command’ (Gundry, p. 388).

v. Wealth and rewards (19:23–30) The rich man in the preceding section illustrates a general principle: contrary to popular expectation, wealth is a hindrance in relation to ‘the kingdom of heaven’, where earthly ideas of priorities and rewards are turned upside down. 23–24. If the kingdom of heaven demands the total renunciation of personal rights and possessions seen in v. 21, then wealth is a handicap (cf. 13:22).

Edgar Foster said...

I also checked out R.T. France's remarks for Matthew 8:14-15. Based on that verse and others, he argues that Peter kept his house even while following Jesus and that it was a rather big establishment. While France does seem to apply Matt 19:21 to the rich man in a literal sense, appealing to Peter, France then says that 19:21 does not apply literally to all disciples. As I said earlier, I do not believe that all Christians must relinquish their earthly wealth/goods: I have restricted my comments to the apostles. I also concur with France that Peter used his earthly goods to further Jesus' ministry.

On the other hand, Peter declared that he and the disciples had left everything behind. What then he then mean?


A potential answer

See also Proverbs 30:6ff.

Edgar Foster said...

I haven't read this article but it also looks worth reading:

About Paul's "downward mobility" as an apostle.

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

I thought it fair to post this even though I don't buy it:-

IMO the "Roman consul Marius" was a propaganda piece.

Paul was Judean & not Italian. This would have a marked effect on how he was treated.

Roman said...

I can agree with that but fundamentally money drives most of those factors. Not just in Pauls era but also in his ancestors.

Well, I don't really know, nobility and family, and ethnicity, and "Honor" were more fundamental than economic factors, and often drove access to privilages, including economic privilages, more than and market factors.

"By the first century the era of commerce was well underway, examples, as evidenced by the pepper trade with India as just one long distance commodity of many. Grain and other foodstuffs from northern Africa."

This is true, but there is a lot of evidence that it increased dramatically in Jesus's era, with large building projects, the increase of industry, the increase of urbanization, etc etc. Yes it started earlier (we see this in the archeology, with coinage increasing before the ROman period), but it accelerated during the Roman period, and we see this refelcted in banditry, messianism, revolutionary movements, etc etc, recorded by Josephus.

Daivd Finskey, Richard Horsley, and Sean Freyne have written a lot on this front, David Finskey being very balanced, taking the whole picture into account and different viewpoints.

One thing to keep in mind is that it's not just the reality of the economy, but also the perception, so some scholars argue that there was economic growth during this period as an arugment against the accelarating class conflict hypothesis, but that ignores the fact that economic growth often exasurbates tensions in society, both by enacting rapid changes, and increasing inequality.

But as I mentioned, you're right, commercialization started earlier, but I think evidence shows it accelerated during the Roman period.

"I think that most children were taught a trade but the best attended Beth Midrash (Usually run by a Rabbi). Those who excelled (talmidim) would get to travel and study with the famous rabbanim."

The passage I was thinking of was in Perkei Avot 2.2 where Gamaliel argues that Torah study should be combined with a craft, and that torah study by itself is dangerous, but that a physical craft is a protection.

If this is a dependable tradition it makes sense why Paul would, learning form Gamaliel, have taken up a craft like tent making, even though he may not have needed too (physical labor, and craft, was looked down on by the upper classes, one should own land, not produce crafts to sell), but yet later on he depended on that craft (partially)

"I would think that the mishnah may be reversing the process, in line with the post destruction era?

This is something that am acutely wary of, life pre and post destruction."

Could be.

Roman said...

"Roman, I figured you'd eventually chime in, and if you want to provide information about your books, that is fine with me."

Thanks brother

Both books deal with socio-economic issues around early Christianity and Christian origins.

"As for the rich young ruler, I could be wrong, but I believe that Jesus was telling the man to give up his riches and bequeath them to the poor. I will provide sources later, and let others make up their own mind."

I think that's correct, the arguments I've seen for that make sense of the text; most of the arguments I've seen against it are largley attempts to make Jesus seem "reasonable," which I don't find pursuasive.

I think something that is important to keep in mind is that the issue was about keeping the Torah, a big part of the Torah and the biblical tradition, was caring for the poor, and it was against avarice and endless accumulation. But he wasn't willing to give that up. After that, he speaks about people leaving this behind now, and gaining even more in the new system of things , the first will be last.

I think this basically fits with the idea that this "system of things" or "age" is run by satan, all who rule in it, all who are on the top in it, are on the top of a system that will be flipped on its head.

"One thing I want to make clear is that I'm not saying every rich Christian must give up his/her belongings and give them to the poor.: I believe that Jesus' words have a limited application, but they represent the ideal way to live. In the Bible, as you know, some did relinquish material goods to advance the good news. In this blog entry, I've also specifically applied my remarks to Paul or the other apostles."

I completely agree, Ethics, like Theology, is not reducible to historical reconstruction, or a historical exegesis of a single text, one needs the entire narrative of the bible, as well as reasoning from the entirety of scripture. It is also true that there were people with wealth that were faithful Christians. So it's not as easy as saying "Jesus said to give up wealth so all have to become monks," or "the rich are necessary not fit to be Christians" nor should one downplay the passages all over the bible, and in Jesus's ministry, that condemn avarice, accumulation, wealth, exploitation, and insist on the welfare of the poor.

Duncan said...

I have read in the past from several sources that the Jews were educated in trade by the Persians, during and after the exile.

Just came across this and am in the process of reading it:-

Might have something worthwhile.

As for Torah observance by the masses during this period, who knows? The Pharisees calling the "uneducated" Am ha'aretz

Duncan said...

I am just learning about the Āl-Yāhūdu archive & wonder if this has anything relevant?

Duncan said...