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viii + 214 pp.

£22.50 / $35 / €27.50
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Poverty, Wealth, and Empire
Jesus and Postcolonial Criticism
Michael J. Sandford

Poverty, Wealth, and Empire presents an antidote to the liberal Jesuses that are constantly being constructed by theologians and historians in universities and seminaries in the West. Sandford’s programme is to pay attention to those texts where Jesus appears hostile to his audiences, or even invokes the idea of divine judgment and violence against certain groups. Drawing on a variety of texts in the synoptic gospels, Sandford finds violent denouncements of the rich and those who neglect the needy to be a consistent theme in Jesus’ teaching.

Rather than deploying biblical texts to support an anti-imperial or liberationist agenda, Sandford foregrounds troubling and problematic texts. Among them are wisdom sayings that justify poverty, texts that denigrate particular ethnic groups, and the ideology inherent in Jesus’ teachings about the ‘the Kingdom of God’. On such a basis Sandford is able to call into question the effectiveness of mainline Christian scholarly interpretations of Jesus in dealing with the most profound ethical problems of our time: poverty, domination and violence.

Always alert to the assumptions and prejudices of much Western New Testament scholarship, Sandford draws attention to its intellectual contradictions, and, furthermore, to the way in which this scholarship has sometimes served to undergird and justify systems of oppression—in particular by its demonstrable dodging of the issue of material poverty and its causes. Building on recent debates in postcolonial biblical criticism, Sandford offers a decidedly ‘illiberal’ reading of Jesus’ sayings on divine judgment, focusing on the paradoxical idea of a ‘nonviolent’ Jesus who nevertheless pronounces divine violence upon the rich.

Michael J. Sandford is an independent scholar living in Sheffield.

Series: New Testament Monographs, 35
978-1-909697-27-0 hardback
Publication March 2014

1. The Socioeconomic Context of the Gospels
2. The Socioeconomic Context of the Gospels: Resistance and Conservatism in Jesus’ World
3. Interpreting ‘the Poor’ in Western Biblical Studies: An Ideological Critique
4. ‘Inclusive’ Jesus: Xenophobia at the Nazareth Synagogue Episode in Postcolonial Perspective
5. Steppin’ outta Babylon: Jesus, Empire, and Cultural Resistance, Or, What the Rastafari Movement Can Tell Us about the Jesus Movement
6. The Paradox of the Nonviolent Jesus

… how Anglophone scholars construct images of Jesus that ‘reinforce and reinscribe Western ideals’ … One of Sandford’s central claims [is] that ‘socioeconomic criticism was a significant feature of Jesus’ ministry’. [He] portrays a Jesus reacting to the ‘extractive’ economy of the Galilee under Rome and belonging to ancient traditions of economic critique. Here Sandford also challenges scholars who metaphorize material poverty in the synoptics. … Most readers … will welcome Sandford’s call for greater self-reflection in the seemingly neverending quest for an historical Jesus. Michelle Christian, Religious Studies Review.