The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Wheaton Theology Conference: Walsh and Keesmat on Money and Power as Jesus’ Context

Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmat presented a combined lecture (audio/video), in a dialogue format, that challenged another lacuna in Wright’s work on the historical Jesus. While Wright situates Jesus as a prophet critiquing first-century Jewish nationalistic zeal, Walsh and Keesmat see a glaring omission. They argued that Jesus also offered prophetic critique for Jews’ lack of justice and treatment of the poor. In terms of money, sex, and power, Wright only focused on power—political power. But Walsh and Keesmat believe there is much to be said in the context of money and justice too. They believe this is especially relevant for Westerners today, given the recent financial crisis, where “the rich forgave the debts of the rich in ways that they wouldn’t forgive the debts of the poor.”

They spoke about the Jewish practice of Jubilee, but primarily staked their argument on a reinterpretation of Luke 19:11-27. This was a compelling reinterpretation, which shifted the story from one about the Kingdom to one about a first-century event. After all, it doesn’t begin with “the Kingdom of God is like . . .” (but see 19:11). The nobleman, they argue, doesn’t represent God, but instead represents Herod Archelaus (a story which Josephus recounts).

To support their interpretation, they argued that a 10-fold return on investment (Lk 19:16) would not have been seen positively by Jewish hearers. To them it would have alluded to corruption, much like the tax collectors’. Our own context has transformed the meaning of this story. Walsh and Keesmat believe this interpretation helps explain the violent conclusion of the story.

They contrasted “crucifixion economics” (i.e., most modern business practices) with “resurrection economics,” but said that subverting “crucifixion economics” with “resurrection economics” would likely involve painful choices, including “get[ting] the hell out of the financial market.”

Wright challenged this interpretation, saying that it shifts the story from being a parable to being a moral story. Apparently this moves it outside of Jesus’ normal practice. But Walsh and Keesmat took issue with this, arguing that it could still be defined as a parable.

Your mom taught you well