I've been researching Jesus' thoughts on poverty and the needy, and I've noticed that Luke's Jesus makes many more pronouncements concerning the poor than the others. What, if anything, do scholars say about this?

Edit: I'm interested in knowing what any scholar has to say about the preponderance of mentions in Luke. If you know of any scholar who is saying anything about it, please let me know.

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    Scholars say a lot of things. You may want to focus your question. Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 17:26
  • @GreatBigBore How many more pronouncements are made in Luke than how many pronouncements in the others, and what are the pronouncements?
    – Hello
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 7:14
  • @Hello I think we're not supposed to have that kind of conversation in this forum. There's a chat room, right? Do you want to do that? Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 7:29

2 Answers 2


Attending to the interest in "what any scholar has to say" about teaching on poverty (and, necessarily I suppose, wealth -- the two themes tend to come together) in Luke...

  1. For general context, see Martin Hengel, Property and Riches in the Early Church: Aspects of a Social History of Early Christianity (Fortress, 1998). Hengel was one of the foremost scholars of the Second Temple Judaism and nascent Christianity, but known as a New Testament specialist.

  2. More specifically, the broad social context for Luke's writing is set in the volume edited by Jerome Neyrey, The Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation (Hendrickson, 1991). None of the chapters are directly on poverty/wealth, but lots about social location which informs this theme.

  3. And more directly yet, see Walter Pilgrim's recently reprinted book: Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts (1981; reprinted Wipf & Stock, 2011). It has been widely cited by later scholars.

  4. A published doctoral dissertation (Glasgow), covers this theme in some detail: Kyoung-Jin Kim, Stewardship and Almsgiving in Luke's Theology (Sheffield Academic Press, 1998).

  5. In shorter compass, here are some articles and/or chapters that address this theme:

While that should be enough to provide an orientation to the scholarly discussion, the "Why?" question remains. And that's difficult to answer.

Many note the clear context of poverty out of which Jesus' ministry emerges: this is the clear signal of the offering of "two turtle doves" provided in Luke 2:24 (compare Leviticus 12:8). Not only does Luke use some distinctive Greek vocabulary for "poverty", he uses the standard Greek term (πτωχός = ptōchos, the "beggarly poor"), with ten occurrences, double that of either Matthew or Mark. And the general theme runs into Acts, too, so it is clearly a pronounced theme in Luke's writing, although obviously shared in many ways with the other gospels, Paul, and James in particular.

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    Great post - please consider making more contributions of this calibre. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 11:09
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    OTOH, some people are hard to please! ;)
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 7:28

Jesus' first person speech is almost entirely inside the gospels. The stated purpose of the gospel of John is that it is written to convince people to believe in him (John 20:30-31). It intentionally deals primarily with who Jesus was rather than primarily with Jesus' teaching. Mark is much shorter than the other gospels and may not include additional information from the proposed Q source present in Matthew and Luke.

As far as Matthew is concerned this question may be illuminating. If Matthew was primarily aimed at an audience of Jewish origin and Luke primarily at an audience of pagan origin the need to emphasise the message on helping the poor becomes clear. The Jews have an embedded culture of needing to care for the poor from the Old Testament (e.g. Ezekiel 16:49, Exodus 23:11, Proverbs 19:17, Isaiah 61:1... I could go on) which in Matthew Jesus has come to fulfill (Matthew 5:17). Whereas Luke needs to introduce his audience to and emphasis the importance of important basic aspects of Judeo-Christian morality that Jesus taught like the duty to help the poor. Likewise in Matthew there is a much greater need to emphasise points where Jesus' teaching is different from Old Testament tradition hence the increased frequency of Jesus presenting the anti-thesis ("You have heard... But I say unto you..." type quotes) found in the gospel of Matthew.

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    Are you suggesting that the pagans needed remedial lessons on morality? This is for a research project, so if you could point me to some supporting sources I'd really appreciate it. Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 21:05
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    I'm saying that Pagans required remedial lessons in Judeo-Christian morality yes. To most of the Greco-Roman world a lot of Israel's traditions would be rather alien. Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 22:49
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    In terms of your research project. Read about Greco-Roman ethics and society around the BC/AD border. In all manner of ways the Roman Empire was being run was contrary to Jewish teaching: equal treatment for the poor under the law is directly commanded in Exodus 23:11 and Leviticus 19:15. In the Roman legal system it was assumed the richest party in a dispute was in the right because they would have comparatively less to gain by acting nefariously than a poor person. This is one of the reasons the whole system of Roman patronage was so important. The patron would be your rich-guy in disputes. Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 23:38

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