Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Was Jesus Rich?

From an article I read a while back that I thought was quite interesting. Now I don't believe the claims made by the 'prosperity gospel' about what this would imply about Jesus and Christianity, but the question about whither or not Jesus was rich, I do find interesting.

When I first heard them state this claim I thought it was preposterous, but the proponents make a half decent case in terms of using familiar things from the Bible and providing examples from biblical passages to back up there claims, while interpreting these passages in a context that I had never really thought about before:

“Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey,” says Anderson. “Poor people ate their donkey. Only the wealthy used it as transportation.”

…The proof [of Jesus' wealth], he says, is scattered throughout the New Testament. One example: The 12th chapter of the Gospel of John says that Jesus had a treasurer, or a “keeper of the money bag.”

“The last time I checked, poor people don’t have treasurers to take care their money,” says [Rev. Tom] Brown, author of “Devil, Demons and Spiritual Warfare.”…Brown says Jesus’ own words prove that he wasn’t poor.

“Jesus said you will always have the poor, but you will not always have me,” Brown says. “Jesus did not affirm himself as being part of the poor class…

Jesus’ wealth is evident even in the Gospel accounts of his execution, some pastors say.

The New Testament reports that Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing while he hung on the cross. They wouldn’t gamble for Jesus’ clothing unless it was expensive, Anderson says.

“I don’t know anybody — even Pamela Anderson — that would have people gambling for his underwear,” Anderson says. “That was some fine stuff he wore.”

After reading this though, I later found this passage on a blog by Gary North refuting it to a degree:

Jesus’ family was poor. We know this because of the law of the offerings governing the firstborn son (Ex. 13:13). A lamb had to be sacrificed — expensive. A poor family could substitute two turdledoves (Lev. 5:7, 11). Jesus’ family offered turtledoves (Luke 2:24).

The treasurer — Judas Iscariat — held the money for the disciples. He stole the money (John 12:6). It was not Jesus’ money.

Jesus had no home or resting place (Matthew 8:20).

The coat was nothing special. It was more useful than four pieces of cloth divided four ways (John 19:23-24).

I think it is safe to say that Jesus clearly would not have been considered rich according to the standards of his time, since rich would be basically the elites who owned significant sways of land and Jesus clearly didn't, but the issue is slighlty muddled by the fact that (as I've seen one scholar mention) there was nothing that would be like the middle class in the sense that we have one today. Jesus did have some financial resources so it would not be right to say that he was destitute poor either. Hence Jesus could easily mix with both the poor and the rich and not seem entirely out of place among either.

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