Hearing Luke’s Parables through the Socio-Economic Contexts of His Audience Members

  • Samuel Rogers

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis addresses the question of how first-century audience members of different socioeconomic statuses would have understood the parables of the Good Samaritan (10:25-37), Prodigal Son (15:11-32), Clever Steward (16:1-8), Dives and Lazarus (16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14) in light of the socio-economic markers present in the text. In approaching the socio-economic data in Luke’s Gospel, previous scholars have utilized comparative material or methodologies that may not have relevance for Luke’s audience including elite or late rabbinic literature, class analysis, economic lexemes, and a focus on sectarian conflict. As a different means of approach, this thesis introduces socioeconomic profiling as a fresh method to gauge markers of socio-economic status in the firstcentury. Socio-economic profiling utilizes behaviors and possessions as markers of economic status and moves away from both a lexically focused analysis and caloric intake types of profiling. The socio-economic profiling in this project analyzes characters in the above parables and finds positive characters ranging from ES3 (‘very wealthy’) to ES5 (‘middling’) on Longenecker’s economy scale. This project reads these findings through the lens of three Christ-group members with different economic statuses likely to have been present in the first-century Christ-groups: a wealthy Macedonian woman (ES4), an Ephesian artisan (ES5), and a Corinthian slave (ES6). This method improves on previous scholarship by privileging non-elite and material evidence within the urban centers of Corinth, Ephesus, and Thessaloniki where Luke’s audience would have lived. Possible first-century interpretations of the socio-economic data are contextualized in the different interactions and responsibilities stemming from these character’s understandings of the text. By reading five uniquely Lukan parables through the lens of different socio-economic profiles and socio-economic markers in the parables, this thesis demonstrates that Luke contains positive characters with surplus wealth and corrects previous scholarship’s tendency to limit analysis to rich and poor lexemes in Luke. This project also concludes that Christ-group members of different socio-economic statuses are responsible for using their money to care for others in and outside the Christ-group. When interpreted from the perspective of Luke’s audience members, this care of neighbor fulfills the Jewish law and grants eternal life.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTodd Klutz (Supervisor) & Peter Oakes (Supervisor)


  • Christ-group
  • Economy Scales
  • Gospel of Luke
  • Socio-economic
  • Poverty

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