Re: [Synoptic-L] Virtue and Poverty
- The passage Bruce cites:
"We possess in common the riches of Heaven:
the brightness of the sun
is equal for rich and poor;
likewise the moon and the stars,
the softness of the air and the drops of rain . . ."
sounds like a Cynic commonplace, such as those
that say that the roadsides produce vegetables
springs provide water, the earth a bed,
and leaves offer a mattress (Teles 7.1-6 Hense).
The Synoptics present a picture of a group
of people who follow a wandering charismatic
prophet and healer, who asks them to give
up possessions in order to travel with
him. The issue is not really discussed in terms
of poverty being a virtue. There is not a
debate about whether everyone should practice
renunciation in all circumstances, the Synoptics
aren't that kind of text. They offer parables,
stories of encounters between people during which
demands may be made, macarisms
on the poor and the hungry and so forth, but
philosophical ethics is not really what
the Synoptics attempt.
Acts does at least allude to Plato's
ideal of "everything in common" (Critias 110D
hapanta...koina cf. Rep.5.464D ta d' alla koina,
and 8.543B koinas de pasi) though at the same
time echoing Deut.15.4 (LXX) or is it saying
something similar to Seneca Ep.90.38
(in quo pauperem invenire non posses)? But all
this is in fact the idealizing of a community
which needed those of its members who had property
to sell it to keep the community afloat in
very troubled circumstances.
This is not to say that was could not draw
general recommendations from the host of
passages in the NT highly critical of wealth.
We can, but the journey from aphorism,
parable, and description of a community,
to general truths is not a hasty one.
David Mealand, University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
There was no personal income tax back then. The owner of the land was taxed on the harvest, not the workers on the land. The more you tax the owner, the less is left for wages. This was far from the only dynamic in play in the poverty of peasants, but that's the way it worked.
--- On Fri, 4/9/10, Jack Kilmon <jkilmon@...> wrote:
I have to admit that by modern example killing the geese that lay the golden
eggs seems just as stupid now as it was then.
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