Luke’s Attitude Toward The Rich And The Poor -- By: Warren Heard

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 009:1 (Spring 1988)
Article: Luke’s Attitude Toward The Rich And The Poor
Author: Warren Heard


Luke’s Attitude
Toward The Rich And The Poor

Warren Heard

Northbrook, Il

I. Luke And “The Poor,” πτωχός

Any investigation of Luke’s attitude toward wealth must deal with his use of πτωχός, “poor.” Much has been written about this term and, not infrequently, it has been asserted that this term must be taken in its purely literal sense: the economically destitute. Unfortunately, there is not unanimity among the interpreters. Indeed, “the poor” has been variously interpreted as the pious,1 those who do not belong to the religious establishment,2 those faithful disciples who have renounced worldly possessions3 those who are actually destitute,4 those who suffer, particularly Jesus’ persecuted disciples,5 Israel6 and the faithful remnant within Israel.7 Though these varied interpretations are not all necessarily mutually exclusive, it is this last-named identification that will be developed here.

The term πτωχός appears in three principle texts: Luke 4:18; 6:20 and 7:22.8 Since Luke apparently is referring to Isaiah 61, Leaney, Schtirmann, and others have underlined the importance of the Isaianic background for understanding Luke’s use of πτωχός.9 Scholars have discerned three basic divisions in Isaiah: 1–39; 40–55; and 56–66. Obviously Luke’s allusions come from the last of these Isaianic sections. In Isaiah 56–66 a portrait of an underclass emerges. The nation itself is out of favor with God and stands under his righteous judgment.

Come here, you sons of a sorceress,
Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute.
Against whom do you jest?
Against whom do you open wide your mouth
And stick out your tongue?
Are you not children of rebellion,
Offspring of deceit? (

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