The Social-Science Commentary series presents a pioneering alternative commentary genre that offers a contextual approach to the study of the New Testament, thoroughly grounded in the original audience’s first-century cultural setting. In this commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, the authors build on their earlier social-scientific work and enhance the highly successful commentary model they developed. This volume is a thoroughly revised edition of this popular commentary. It includes an introduction that lays the foundation for their interpretation, followed by an examination of each unit in the Synoptics, employing methodologies of cultural anthropology, macro-sociology, and social psychology.
“Essential to understanding poverty is the notion of ‘limited good.’ In modern economies, we make the assumption that goods are, in principle, in unlimited supply. If a shortage exists, we can produce more. If one person gets more of something, it does not automatically mean someone else gets less; it may just mean the factory worked overtime and more became available. But in ancient Palestine, the perception was the opposite: all goods existed in finite, limited supply and were already distributed. This included not only material goods, but also honor, friendship, love, power, security, and status as well—literally everything in life. Because the pie could not grow larger, a larger piece for anyone automatically meant a smaller piece for someone else.” (Page 400)
“Older men in the Middle East do not run except in an emergency. Hiking up flowing robes in order to run not only lacks dignity, it inappropriately exposes legs to public view and thus causes dishonor. But the father does run because the son is in immediate danger from hostile villagers. He is not running to welcome his son, as Western readings would have it. By hastening to the edge of the village, the father preempts hostile village reaction, signaling by his kiss and embrace that the errant son is under his protection.” (Pages 290–291)
“In a society in which power brought wealth (in our society it is the opposite: wealth ‘buys’ power), being powerless meant being vulnerable to the greedy who prey on the weak. The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor,’ therefore, are better translated ‘greedy’ and ‘socially unfortunate.’ Fundamentally, the words describe a social condition relative to one’s neighbors. The poor are those who cannot be given a grant of honor, hence socially weak, while the rich are the greedy, the shamelessly strong.” (Page 401)