043 Parallels

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This page forms part of the resources for 043 Blessed the Poor in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

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Parallels

Islam

The following sayings on poverty are attributed to Jesus in Islamic traditions:

  • [13] Jesus said, "There are four [qualities] which are not found in one person without causing wonder: silence, which is the beginning of worship; humility before God; an ascetic attitude toward the world; and poverty." [8th C]
  • [37] God revealed to Jesus: "O Jesus, I have granted you the love of the poor and mercy toward them. You love them, and they love you and accept you as their spiritual guide (imam) and leader, and you accept them as companions and followers. These are two traits of character. Know that whoever meets me on Judgment Day with these two character traits has met me with the purest of works and the ones most beloved by me. [mid-9th C]
  • [49] Jesus used to prepare food for his followers, then call them to eat and wait upon them, saying: "This is what you must do for the poor." [mid-9th C]
  • [70] No word spoken to Jesus was dearer to him than "that poor man." [mid-9th C]
  • [75] The Israelites chided Jesus for his poverty. He said to them, "Wretched people, you have been led astray by riches. Have you ever seen anyone who disobeyed God in seeking poverty?" [mid-9th C]
  • [94] [Jesus said:] "At the end of time, there will be religious scholars who preach abstinence but do not themselves abstain, who encourage yearning for the afterlife but do not themselves yearn, who forbid visits to rulers but not themselves desist, who draw near to the rich and distance themselves from the poor, who recoil from the lowly and fawn upon the mighty. They are the tyrants and the enemies of the Merciful God." [late-9th C]
  • [105] Jesus said, "As God is my witness, the world has not dwelt in the heart of a servant without his heart attaching itself to three things in it: labor, whose burden is never alleviated; poverty, which cannot be surmounted; and hope, which cannot be fulfilled. The world is both a pursuer and a thing pursued. It pursues him who seeks the afterlife until his term of life comes to an end, whereas the afterlife pursues him who seeks this world until death comes and seizes him by the neck." [late-9th C]
  • [245] Jesus said, "I have two loves—whoever loves them loves me, and whoever hates them hates me: poverty and pious exertion." [early-12th C]

(Khalidi, [The Muslim Jesus])


Rabbinic texts

Samuel Tobias Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament] (70-72) offers several comments informed by rabbinic traditions:

... it is still more likely that Matthew made the term 'the poor' more precise, by the addition of 'in spirit'; than that Luke deleted the latter, although, as we indicate in the text, 'the poor' and 'the poor in spirit' have the same connotation.

The expression 'poor in spirit,' which would be aniye ru'ah, is not found either in the MT or in rabbinic literature. The Qumran War Scroll, 1QM XIV, however, has the reading v'aniye ru'ah in the statement, 'blessed be the Lord God of Israel ... giving ... vigor to the shoulders of the bowed ... And [...] to the lowly spirits, firmness to the melting heart.' The poor, Gr. hoi ptochoi, is either the Hebrew aniyim or the Aramaic anaya. the Hebrew ani is represented 38 times in the LXX by ptochos. There is a third possibility—that it is anaw, 'humble,' for in the MT there is great confusion between ani and anaw.

In Judaism of the last two centuries BCE the term was practically a synonym for hasid, 'pious' or 'saintly' in the best senses. So, for example, Pss. Sol. 10.7 'The saints also shall give thanks in the assembly of the people and God will have mercy on the poor in the (days of) gladness of Israel.

Poverty in Jewish thinking is not in itself a virtue or a virtuous state, nor is the poor man considered to be happy or fortunate because of his poverty. Here, too, in Matthew, the poor are not happy because they are poor but because the Kingdom of Heaven awaits them. Poverty, however, can be instructive, challenging, and sobering as a test of character.