Jesus Against the Scribal Elite

Friday, April 5, 2013

Was Jesus a Peasant? cont... - Le Donne

Yesterday Professor Keith addressed the question "Was Jesus a Peasant?"  He suggested a couple avenues toward an answer. On such matters I tend to defer to him.  Nobody is as conversant with the literature on social status in first-century Judea (his other specialty is late-80's WWF wrestling).  This is why I was a bit surprised when he appealed to Richard Bauckham's suggestion that Jesus' family owned farmland.  While the possibility shouldn't be ruled out, I find Bauckham's argument to be rather weak.


In this book, Bauckham assumes that every family in Nazareth owned farmland.  The fact that Jesus is a craftsman, according to Bauckham, simply tells us what Joseph and Jesus did on the side to make extra money.  Thus the title "tekton" was what made their family unique from the other farmers.  After this assertion, he writes on pp 183-4:


Bauckham's appeal to Hegesippus is interesting, but not convincing in isolation.  He acknowledges that the story might be legendary (fine), but argues that the details are too specific to have been invented (not fine).  I'm open to the possibility that there was a Joseph/Clopas family farm, but I'll need a bit more evidence.  Moreover, even if the land did belong to Jesus' nephews, it is a further assumption to trace ownership back to Joseph.

Another note: Bauckham uses the phrase "peasant farmers" suggesting that the farmland was not nearly large enough to support the extended family.  I agree with Chris that Jesus was probably not among the utterly destitute. I also found his insights about upper-class artisans very helpful. So I suppose that my problem is really with Bauckham's argument.

To our readers: do you feel comfortable making the assumptions that Bauckham makes? Secondly, if the plot of land was in Jesus' family, is the phrase "peasant farmers" helpful?

-anthony

6 comments:

  1. Let me defend myself here real quickly by pointing out that I never claimed that I found Bauckham's argument convincing, only that it was interesting and, if it had merit, it would serve to underscore further that Jesus' family was not among the poorest of the poor.

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  2. And 80's WWF wrestling is not a side specialty that enough biblical scholars cultivate. Look for my forthcoming book--"Beyond the Arm Tassels: The Historical Ultimate Warrior."

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    2. Professor Keith knows all too well that my monograph "Ultimate Champion: The Quest for the Warrior behind the Face Paint" was conceived first and under contract first. This attempt to scoop me is just pathetic.

      -anthony

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  3. There's nothing contradictory about a "peasant" owning a small amount of land. There were tennant farmers and there were smallholders. One was not more economically precarious than the other in all situations. I don't know why you're drawing a contrast with "utterly destitute" as that condition is not synonymous with any definition of peasant. In Roman terms a peasant whether a tennant or a small landowner was a pauper but this social class was clearly defined and would not have included beggars and the truly destitute. Peter Brown suggests "impoverishable" as the core condition of the late Roman "peasant" as opposed to "impoverished". Vulnerable to their economic superiors and in need of patronage.

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  4. At first, I thought that Jesus was a peasant because he gave me the impression that he was one. Now, I'm not so sure.

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