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Patronage, Blog, Limited Good

Cornelius the Centurion. Cornelius the Patron.

Over the last 3-6 months I have realized things in Scripture that I never saw before pertaining to Patronage and the Image of Limited Good that was so prevalent in First Century Culture. An area we have hit points on was who was considered rich, and who was considered poor. It was not so much an economic rank in society but instead a term attached to status.

Check out this excerpt from the Social Commentary on the Book of Acts,

"To be labeled “rich” was therefore a social and moral statement as much as an economic one. It meant the power or capacity to take from someone weaker what was rightfully not yours. Being rich was synonymous with being greedy. By the same token, being “poor” was to be unable to defend what was yours. It meant falling below the status at which one was born. It was to be defenseless, without recourse. Note how often in the New Testament poverty is associated with a condition of powerlessness or misfortune. In Matt 5:3 the poor “in spirit” are associated with “those who mourn,” that is, those who protest the presence of social evil (for “mourn,” see 1 Cor 5:1), as well as “the meek,” people who have had their inherited lands stolen and protest the fact (see Psalm 37). Luke 14:13, 21 list the poor with the maimed, the lame, and the blind. In Luke 16:19–31 the rich man is contrasted with poor Lazarus, a beggar full of sores. In the Jesus group of Jerusalem, the needy are supported by those who had more (Acts 4:35). Revelation 3:17 describes the poor as wretched, pitiable, blind, and naked.

In a society in which power brought wealth (in our society it is the opposite: wealth “buys” power), being powerless meant being vulnerable to the greedy, who prey on the weak. The terms “rich” and “poor,” therefore, are better translated “greedy” and “socially unfortunate.” Fundamentally the words describe a social condition relative to one’s neighbors. The poor are those who cannot be given a grant of honor, who are hence socially weak, while the rich are the greedy, the shamelessly strong.

Along with the palace, the other focal source of power (hence wealth) in Israel was the temple. Those priestly families in charge of the temple were rich, a term that, as noted above, could equally well be translated “greedy” and “vicious.” Given a limited-good view of the world, if the Jerusalem temple personnel and their supporters were amassing wealth stored in the “den of thieves” (Luke 19:46), then large numbers of persons were simultaneously becoming poor and unable to maintain their honor as “sons of Israel.”

So, the poor of society were ones that fell from their status that they were born into. Slaves, hungry, the thirsty , the naked , the widow, the orphan etc. In order for the poor to get back to their original status, they needed a Patron. Someone who had the means to get them their and had the goods.

Here is a quote from the article "Who Is Poor in the New Testament?" by Jerome H. Neyrey

Begging Poor and Almsgiving

Simply put, beggars beg for alms (Acts 3:;2-3; Luke 16:19-21). Almsgiving was a sacred obligation in Israel: “. . .who gives alms sacrifices a thank offering” (Sirach 35:2), a form of worship after the temple was destroyed. In this context we note how often people are exhorted to give alms (Matt 6:2-4; Luke 11:41; 12:22); some people are canonized for their almsgiving (Acts10:2-4). The inner circle of disciples around Jesus regularly gave alms to the begging poor (John 13:28-29).

Yet in one of the most celebrated of Jesus’ parables, he implies that alms means for than money. When the king separates the sheep from the goats, he praises one group and condemns the other according to the criteria of their almsgiving to the begging poor: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt 25:35-36). Nothing could be clearer, except how foolish it would have been to lavish the goods of a subsistence family on non-kin. The old saying, “Charity begins at home,” certainly applied in Jesus’ world where one’s kinship group was the sum total of all social support available. Hence, those who bestowed such alms on the “begging poor” were thought of as prodigal and wasteful of rare family assets. In contrast those who did not give such alms to the begging poor were considered wise, prudent and clever. But not in God’s eyes, for God turns the foolishness of this world into wisdom and worldly wisdom into foolishness. The bottom line, then, endorses the radical care of the “begging poor.”:

Now we can see why Cornelius the Centurion was given the honor of the first Gentile coming into Covenant in Acts...

He was a Patron to the Poor. A Patron restoring the status of those in need. A Patron more concerned with doing acts of Justice and Righteousness instead of being part of the religious elite status quo...

Act 10:1 Now there was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a captain of what was called the Italian Regiment, Act 10:2 dedicated, and fearing Elohim with all his household, doing many kind deeds to the people, and praying to Elohim always. Act 10:3 He clearly saw in a vision, about the ninth hour of the day, a messenger of Elohim coming to him, and saying to him, “Cornelius!” Act 10:4 And looking intently at him, and becoming afraid, he said, “What is it, master?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your kind deeds have come up for a remembrance before Elohim. Act 10:5 “And now send men to Yapho, and send for Shimʽon who is also called Kĕpha. Act 10:6 “He is staying with Shimʽon, a leather-tanner, whose house is by the sea.” Act 10:7 And when the messenger who spoke to him went away, Cornelius called two of his household servants, and a dedicated soldier from among those who waited on him continually. Act 10:8 And having explained to them all, he sent them to Yapho. Act 10:9 And on the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Kĕpha went up on the house-top to pray, about the sixth hour. Act 10:10 And he became hungry and wished to eat. But while they were preparing, he fell into a trance, Act 10:11 and he saw the heaven opened and a certain vessel like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth, Act 10:12 in which were all kinds of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping creatures, and the birds of the heaven. Act 10:13 And a voice came to him, “Rise up, Kĕpha, slay and eat.” Act 10:14 But Kĕpha said, “Not at all, Master! Because I have never eaten whatever is common or unclean.” Act 10:15 And a voice came to him again the second time, “What Elohim has cleansed you do not consider common.” Act 10:16 And this took place three times, and the vessel was taken back to the heaven. Act 10:17 And while Kĕpha was doubting within himself about what the vision might mean, look, the men who had been sent from Cornelius, having asked for the house of Shimʽon, stood at the gate, Act 10:18 and calling out, they enquired whether Shimʽon, also known as Kĕpha, was staying there. Act 10:19 And as Kĕpha was thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “See, three men seek you. Act 10:20 “But rise up, go down and go with them, not doubting at all, for I have sent them.” Act 10:21 So Kĕpha went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Look, I am the one you seek. Why have you come?” Act 10:22 And they said, “Cornelius the captain, a righteous man and one who fears Elohim and well spoken of by the entire nation of the Yehuḏim, was instructed by a set-apart messenger to send for you to his house, and to hear words from you.” Act 10:23 So inviting them in, he housed them. And on the next day Kĕpha went away with them, and some brothers from Yapho went with him. Act 10:24 And the following day they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his relatives and close friends. Act 10:25 And it came to be, that when Kĕpha entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and bowed before him. Act 10:26 But Kĕpha raised him up, saying, “Stand up, I myself am also a man.” Act 10:27 And talking with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Act 10:28 And he said to them, “You know that a Yehuḏite man is not allowed to associate with, or go to one of another race. But Elohim has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Act 10:29 “That is why I came without hesitation when I was sent for. So I ask, why have you sent for me?” Act 10:30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour. And at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and see, a man stood before me in shining garments, Act 10:31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your kind deeds were remembered before Elohim. Act 10:32 ‘Now send to Yapho and call Shimʽon here, who is also called Kĕpha. He is staying in the house of Shimʽon, a leather-tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he shall speak to you.’ Act 10:33 “So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. And now, we are all present before Elohim, to hear all that you have been commanded by Elohim.” Act 10:34 And opening his mouth, Kĕpha said, “Truly I see that Elohim shows no partiality, Act 10:35 but in every nation, he who fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Act 10:36 “He sent the word to the children of Yisra’ĕl, bringing the Good News: peace through יהושע Messiah! He is Master of all. Act 10:37 “You know what word came to be throughout all Yehuḏah, beginning from Galil after the immersion which Yoḥanan proclaimed: Act 10:38 how Elohim did anoint יהושע of Natsareth with the Set-apart Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for Elohim was with Him. Act 10:39 “And we are witnesses of all He did, both in the country of the Yehuḏim and in Yerushalayim, whom they even killed by hanging on a timber. Act 10:40 “Elohim raised up this One on the third day, and let Him be seen, Act 10:41 not to all the people, but to witnesses, those having been chosen before by Elohim – to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. Act 10:42 “And He commanded us to proclaim to the people, and to witness that it is He who was appointed by Elohim to be Judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43 “To this One all the prophets bear witness, that through His Name, everyone believing in Him does receive forgiveness of sins.” Act 10:44 While Kĕpha was still speaking these words, the Set-apart Spirit fell upon all those hearing the word. Act 10:45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Kĕpha, because the gift of the Set-apart Spirit had been poured out on the gentiles also, Act 10:46 for they were hearing them speaking with tongues and extolling Elohim. Then Kĕpha answered, Act 10:47 “Is anyone able to forbid water, that these should not be immersed who have received the Set-apart Spirit – even as also we?” Act 10:48 And he commanded them to be immersed in the Name of יהושע Messiah. Then they asked him to remain a few days.


0 #1 Beth Erlandson 2016-02-27 03:55

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