Skip to content

Who are the “Oppressed and Downtrodden” in Luke 4?

28 April 2008

More to the point of my wondering, which groups are included among those Jesus was sent to liberate under the influence of the Spirit of God?

Maybe the idea of demographics is a bit of an anachronism, exegetically speaking.  Or perhaps not:  Paul certainly thought of people in terms of Jew/Greek, slave/free.  

Oh, and:  men/womyn.

In his marvelous and career-defining work, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, Richard B. Hays has provoked me yet again.  In his chapter on the Luke/Acts series, Hays is discussing the prominence of womyn in Luke’s account, and he concludes that section of the chapter with a fascinating prolepsis:  Luke is not a feminist, as modern feminists would like to suppose.  (Hays thinks the term “feminist” is anachronistic when used in exegeting first-century writings.)  Instead, Hays reads Luke as merely extrapolating Jesus’ subversive ministry to its logical conclusions, letting the chips fall where they will.  The entire story of Jesus is one of continually inverting and subverting social, cultural, and religious conventions.  The Pharisees will not even breathe the same air as a harlot; Jesus allows her to touch his feet.  The Zealots despise the tax collectors as willing pawns in the Romans’ hands; Jesus eats with them.  The elites send lepers outside the camp; Jesus touches them.  The disciples see a blind man as a theological case study; Jesus sees him as a thoroughly human, and therefore worthy, object of compassion.

It is not a great leap, Hays believes, to suggest that Jesus’ entire ministry was directed at setting aside the social pecking orders that inevitably structure our societies.  Hays does not say it, but one might infer that it is not a great leap to go one step further:  there is no fundamental, theological reason to keep womyn in institutionalized subjection to men.

Let’s be blunt:  qb cannot stand to listen to Joyce Meyer and her ilk.  But it’s only partly because she is a woman; mostly it’s because she’s on camera, and she knows it.

But what about Barbara Brown Taylor, or Marva Dawn?  Or, closer to home, Phyllis Allison?  What about those womyn who rightly divide the Word of God – and do so without the televangelists’ self-conscious exhibitionism?

Maybe we’ll explore the “usurping authority over a man” argument from Paul in another post, some day soon.


One Comment leave one →
  1. 3 May 2008 6:18 pm


    Presently I’m teaching Ephesians and am dealing with the “dividing wall of hostility.” Check out illustrations of Herod’s temple and that phrase for me takes on a fuller meaning–more like the entire fragment of the temple area preventing gentiles and women from entering the “holy place.” Then, of course, Paul continues his new anthropos talk and says we all are being built into a [new] temple.

    Modern “feminists” could not hold a candle to Lydia, Priscilla, or Mary M.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: