CONTEMPORARY IDEOLOGIES OF HOMELESSNESS

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REACTION

The concepts of resistance and disruption are especially useful for a study on homelessness because so many of the Christian responses, while hospitable in intent, do not challenge institutional inequality and oppression. While Jesus exhibited compassion on an individual level, he also challenged oppressive structures and practices. – Laura Stivers1 range of contemporary critical theories suggests that it is from those who have suffered the sentence of history—subjugation, domination, diaspora, displacement— that we learn our most enduring lessons for living and thinking. – Homi Bhabha2 Jesus’ itinerant ministry is almost always conceived of as a manifestation of his agency. The protagonist freely accepts his God-given mission to “save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). It is in the process of fulfilling this task that he “chooses” to enact a so called homeless lifestyle for himself and his disciples. While Jesus’ itinerancy is an integral part of his ministry, the reasons behind it are more complex than usually supposed. The Matthean text signals a number of social and political factors that drive Jesus to the margins. As we have already seen, the infancy narrative in Mt 1-2 introduces the reader to a saviour who is both geographically and politically displaced, and grows up in Nazareth away from his original hometown of Bethlehem. Homelessness and displacement are not usually conditions that people freely choose to enact. Rather, external factors, often far beyond their control, influence their ability to act and react within a particular socio-economic environment. Thesame is true within the story-world of Matthew’s gospel in which Jesus’ actions must always be understood in relation to other events, characters, and external pressures that are encoded within the world of the text.
It is with this in mind that we turn to the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry in 4:12-25. As we will observe, dominant interpretations typically frame the beginning of Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of the Heavens and his calling of the first disciples as a primary manifestation of his agency. Such interpretations sustain the fantasmatic dimensions of neoliberal ideology by emphasizing the ease of social mobility over the influence of structural determinants. Jesus and his disciples, so it is presumed, arbitrarily decide to resist the dominant structures of the world by organizing themselves into a new counter-cultural religious movement. In fact, the calling narratives are often viewed as paradigmatic for all Christian disciples, a universally applicable narrative of radical orientation towards Jesus. But lurking within the text’s gaps and neglected details lay textures of conflict and disruption. What good is it to speak of choice when one only has a limited array of options? Can one really move from the centre to the margins voluntarily? On the contrary, this chapter argues that a number of external socio-political realities are internalized in Jesus as an experience of perpetual uprooting and displacement. Jesus’ itinerant ministry begins as a reaction to his physical and social displacement within first-century Palestinian society.
This chapter follows the usual route of analysis: narrative features are discussed in turn with intertextual components and social and cultural textures. At all points the ideological hermeneutic outlined in Chapter 1 informs the questions asked of the text and its interpretation. Before getting to our highlighted text (4:12-25), however, it is important to explore its wider literary context. What noteworthy events have transpired since the flight to Galilee at the end of the infancy narratives in 2:23?

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ANOTHER HOMELESS PROPHET (MT 3-4:11)

Mt 3 introduces the character of John the Baptist, who features as another homeless figure within the Gospel of Matthew. The Baptist’s meagre existence in the wilderness is apparent from his clothing and diet: he “wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (3:4).3 These details allude intertextually to the OT figure of Elijah who is also described as “[a] hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kings 1:8). Carter writes that the Baptist’s “food denotes poverty, as well as his commitment to and trust in God by not being distracted from the reign because of concern with daily food (cf. Mt 6:25-34, 11). He is indebted to no one.”4 In other words, John exists as an archetypal homeless prophet, detached from the household and normalized society, and sitting at the margins of the ideological-political order.5 Moreover, according to the Matthean text, “people from the regions of Jerusalem and Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (3:5-6).6
Is it correct to think that John’s apparent homelessness is also a remnant, symptomatic of existing arrangements of power in the first century? The narrative abruptly marks his appearance (παραγίνεται) in 3:1 and does not provide a background or origin story as we had with Jesus. Within the sacred texture of the text, the Baptist is characterized as the forerunner to Jesus whose proclamation, which involves both a call to repentance and anticipates Jesus’ preaching, readies the audience for the Jewish Messiah.7 The text appeals to Isa 40:3 (“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’”) in its rationale for the Baptist’s retreat to the wilderness.8 His subordination to Jesus is also explicated in Mt 3:11-12, 14 and 11:2-6. Davies and Allison note a high degree of parallelism between the Matthean portraits of John and Jesus: they say similar things (cf. 3:2 with 4:17, and 3:7 with 12:34 and 23:33, and 3:10 with 7:19); they are introduced in a similar fashion (cf. 3:1 with 3:13); they act by the same authority which emanates from Heaven (21:23-32); they are prophets (11:9; 14:5); they are executed as criminals (14:1-12; 26-27); and they are buried by their own disciples (14:2; 27:57-61).9 We can add to this list their shared characterization as displaced outsiders.

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1 – METHODOLOGY
1.1 IDEOLOGICAL BIBLICAL CRITICISM
1.2 CONTEMPORARY IDEOLOGIES OF HOMELESSNESS
1.3 JESUS AND HOMELESSNESS
1.4 SOCIO-RHETORICAL CRITICISM
1.5 CONCLUSIONS
2 – DISPLACEMENT
2.2 THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT (MT 2:13-23)
2.3 INTERTEXTURE IN THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT (MT 2:13-23)
2.4 CONCLUSIONS
3 – REACTION
3.1 ANOTHER HOMELESS PROPHET (MT 3-4:11)
3.2 STRUCTURING THE BEGINNING OF JESUS’ MINISTRY (MT 4:12-25)
3.3 JESUS WITHDRAWS (MT 4:12-16)
3.4 HERALDING THE KINGDOM (MT 4:17)
3.5 FORMING AN ALTERNATIVE COMMUNITY (MT 4:18-25)
3.6 CONCLUSIONS
4 – DESTITUTION
4.1 TEACHING, HEALING, AND DEEDS OF POWER (MT 5-8)
4.2 NOWHERE TO LAY HIS HEAD (MT 8:20)
4.3 WOULD-BE DISCIPLES (MT 8:18-22)
4.4 CONCLUSIONS
5 – REJECTION
5.1 ITINERANCY AND FAMILIAL BREAKDOWN
5.2 JESUS’ HOMETOWN REJECTION (MT 13:53-58)
5.3 FURTHER SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DIMENSIONS (MT 13:53-58)
5.4 CONCLUSIONS
6 – EXTERMINATION 
6.1 THE REASONS FOR JESUS’ DEATH
6.2 THE ARREST OF JESUS (MT 26:47-56)
6.3 THE DEATH OF JESUS (MT 27:38-50) .. 187
6.4 THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
6.5 CONCLUSIONS
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
Jesus the Bum An Ideological Reading of Homelessness in the Gospel of Matthew

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