a priori: Gideon Sam’s Work on Destitution and Hunger in Luke

A Priori is a series in which we put three simple questions to scholars undertaking important research in biblical studies, theology, ethics, and more. We seek out the authors who may be poised for future renown at this early stage in their career, whose mission is the church, whose vocation is research. This week we hear from Gideon Sam and his work on destitution and hunger in the Gospel of Luke.

1. Who are you, where did you study, and what work have you published so far?

My name is Gideon Sam S P, an ordained minister from the Church of South India, currently researching at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. My presentation in an international eco-conference on sustainable living has been published in a publication of conference proceedings: “Expanding the Table: The Lucan Jesus in the Debate on India’s Food Insecurity.” Mathew Koshy Punnackad (ed.), Sustainable Living (pp. 88-112). Chennai: Church of South India. At present, I am working on a paper concerning an appraisal of the Lucan theology of hunger and destitution.

2. What research/writing project are you currently working on that you are most excited about? Have you presented papers related to this topic, and can you give us a little taster from your writing?

“If you lose your wealth, you have lost nothing; if you lose your health, you have lost something.” This famous quote by Woodrow Wilson outweighs health with wealth. The issue of food security and poverty are growing globally. India, the second-largest country in the world in terms of population, is divided by social and economic factors and it is home to the largest number of malnourished persons in the world. While during the colonial era famine was the primary problem, presently malnutrition has replaced it as the chief concern of legislators and economists.

My research began with the question of whether Luke was aware of the negation of human identity, dignity, and hunger, and if yes, how his meal narrations reflect and address the issue of destitution and hunger. The importance of this research can be defined in three significant ways.

Firstly, by bringing social-scientific interpretation to the Lucan meal narrations and their geographical, historical, economic, social, political, cultural and even religious contexts, this research proposes a new way of reading Lucan meal scenes from a social-scientific understanding. By bringing the cultural dimensions and anthropology into our understanding of the social context of the first-century world, and a historical-exegetical and redactional approach enhanced with social-scientific perspectives, models and theories, this research attempts to demonstrate the values, social structures and conventions of the Lucan audience.

Secondly, this research is an attempt to explore the meal narrations in Luke-Acts as a source for the theology of hunger to ascertain Luke’s concern for the immigrant, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the outcasts and his concept of hospitality and food justice. This present research uses historical criticism enhanced with the social-scientific models and proposes a new engagement on the Lucan table fellowship theme by enhancing it with “Good news to the πτωχοί.” Previous studies often forget to address the plight of the destitute and the issue of food insecurity.

Thirdly, raising the question of food justice, this research investigates the problem of food insecurity in India by employing statistical analysis and hypothesis testing of the current situation relating to food security/insecurity in India and arrives at possible solutions and institutional responses in ameliorating the cry of hunger. In addition, the findings from the exegetical investigation have aided this research to appraise the Lucan theology of hunger. This research directs the Church with a few recommendations for implementations in its combat against hunger and destitution.

3. Which readers is the final product intended for, and when do you anticipate we might see the fruit of your research in published form?

The research is in the final stage, and I am aiming to submit by mid June 2020. While this research facilitates a fresh engagement in the Lucan table fellowship with social scientific approaches in deducing the centrality of food in the meal narrations of Luke-Acts, it is also intended for anyone.

As the Lucan Jesus states, the Christ-movement is the “community amidst a violent world” (“lambs among the wolves,” Luke 10:3) which fights for harmony, peace, and welfare in the context of injustice and oppression.

The crux of this research is to enliven the Church with humanitarian concerns by encouraging theological students to re-read biblical, especially Lucan theological, and ethical discourses in the light of such deprivation in India and to reclaim them for our theological and ministerial reflections.

Promote your research. Send an email to tavis.bohlinger@faithlife.com answering the three questions above. Contributions are published in the order they are received. We look forward to highlighting your work.

Written by
Tavis Bohlinger

Dr. Tavis Bohlinger is the Creative Director at Reformation Heritage Books. He holds a PhD from Durham University and writes across multiple genres, including academia, poetry, and screenwriting. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three children.

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Written by Tavis Bohlinger
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