RE: [XTalk] Re: women beggars?
- At 09:19 PM 1/6/04 -0700, Bob Schacht wrote:
>In other words, I am suggesting that the answer to your question is toNice response, Bob, reminding us to avoid "begging" the question.
>question the assumptions you are making about "begging," and what it
>consists of. To answer your question, we need a sociology of begging in
>first Century Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.
Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
"Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
Actually, I believe we have the beginnings, at least, of just such a sociology. The clue, however, to the existence and scope of begging is not to be found in the word "beggar," but rather in the word "gate."
It was at the gate of a city that beggars were known to gather, for the simple reason that this was the place where alms could most effectively be found. There are references in the Old Testament (cf. Amos, for example), which refer to the "needy at the gate" and also to "the afflicted at the gate." These form the foundation within which to understand the situation of the man born blind--he was simply one more beggar at the gate.
There has also been delineated a group of people known as "the mutilated" who were not eligible to enter into "polite society" or into the Temple. These were people with lost limbs, the blind, deaf, and mute, etc.--which could be either male or female. Additionally, a separate--and even lower--group has been identified, known as "sinners and outcasts," which included lepers and others known to be severely contagious. These, too, could be both men and women.
In neither case could the women among these groups make use of the "remedy" of prostitution, debt slavery, or other such. They were quite literally "dead" to their communities--perhaps even more so for the expedient of having been born female. But these, too, had to eat, and thus had to depend on the compassion of almsgivers who passed them by at the city gate, where they sat, somewhat in the way, awaiting what coins as might be thrown their way.
One potential difference, however, might have existed between men and women in these categories: it still might have been more acceptable for the men to plead for alms than the women. If this is so, then the women were, again, at the bottom of the beggarly "pecking order" whose only recourse was to sit in silent proximity to the other beggars and hope that something might be tossed their way.
By the way, one might wish to add Luke's story of Lazarus and the rich man to the list, insofar as, although a parable, it was drawn from common experience readily known by both Jesus and his hearers--or at least by the author as observer of such circumstances in his/her own right.
Koester did some good early work on much of this, later followed by Theissen.
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- --- In email@example.com, Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...>
> Let's start by being more precise with the lexical categories. Itake it
> that you have in mind two NT passages:disciples
> NRS Mark 10:46//Luke 18:35 They came to Jericho. As he and his
> and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus,a blind
> beggar, was sitting by the roadside.beggar
> NRS John 9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a
> began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?"ask for
> The Greek words in question are based on prosaiteo, meaning 1) to
> in addition 2) to approach one with supplications 3) to askverse
> alms (according to my old copy of BibleWorks). If we follow the
> about Blind Bartimaeus to the sequel, we read,out and
> 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout
> say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"loudly,
> 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more
> "Son of David, have mercy on me!"In addition, of course, Acts 3:1-10 should be noted as the most
> In this case he was begging-- but not in the sense you meant.
detailed and vivid description of begging in the New Testament. From
this passage we get the picture of a (male) beggar
1. habitually sitting in the same place
2. asking (aitein, erôtan) for alms
3. the almsgiving normally consisting in a donation of 'silver or
Thus, quite similar to current practices.
As far as women beggars are concerned, the proposals already made may
hold true to some extent. References to beggars are not, after all,
that frequent in the New Testament. In addition to those already
mentioned - Bartimaeus in Mark, the man born blind in John, and
the "chôlos" in Acts - we may add Lk 16:3, where the unjust
mention begging as a shameful possible occupation for himself. This
makes a total of four references to actual (within the narrative) or
potential male beggars, which I do not think is enough to make the
absence of women beggars especially striking.
Tobias Hägerland, M.Th.
Department of Religious Studies and Theology