Liberation Theology according to Luke 4:16-30, and the Orthodox critic
to Jon Sobrino
Copyright: Petros Lazos
Web site: http: users.uoi.gr/me00632
Web mail: email@example.com
A. An ordinary reader who according to Gerald West’s definition is “someone who almost by definition read the Bible pre-critically while all the other read the Bible critically”1 will be certainly surprised reaching Luke’s gospel 4:16-30. Basic purpose of this 1st chapter is to give a criticalhermeneutical orientation to all ordinary readers, offering them at the same time the opportunity to read this specific text in a post-critical way.
Focusing Luke’s 4:16-30 we can mark out 3 sections:
a. 4:16-17. Prologue-introduction. Jesus’ arrival to Nazareth.
b. 4:18-27. Principal theme. Jesus is preaching 4:18-19 and discussing with the Jews 4.20-27.
c. 4:28-30. Epilogue. Reaction of the Jews and Jesus’ departure.
a. Prologue. Jesus is arriving to Nazareth 4:16-17.
The arrival of Jesus in Nazareth is also mentioned by Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6.1-6a. Luke only names the place of Jesus’ arrival “Nazareth” and both, Mark and
Matthew are referring to “His home country”. Matthew also mentions the home country of Jesus as “Nazareth” but he does it in another point. This is chapter 2:23 where the Evangelist is transcribing from the Q source another incident of
Jesus’ life (Joseph’s escape to Nazareth).
1. West Gerald, Biblical Hermeneutics of Liberation, Cluster Publications,
Pietermaritzburg 1991, p. 161.
This initial presentation of the place that Jesus is preparing to teach is very important for the whole event. First because of the significance of Nazareth, (2nd most important town after Jerusalem), and second because of the fulfillment of an old prophecy written in the book of Isaiah. Matthew seems to have this prophecy in his mind in 2:23b where he makes a description of Jesus’ “quality”: “So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene”. The same words has in his mind also our evangelist Luke, when he mentions the place of Jesus’ arrival.
b.1. Principal theme. Jesus is preaching 4:18-19.
A very usual way of practicing the faith, was the reading of certain passages of the Old Testament between the Jews2. This liturgy habit had been taking place on Saturdays during the central meeting of Jews, the so-called “Synagogue”. To proclaim the good news, Jesus is using the traditional and most popular way of hearing the preaching. He decides to read almost word for word and according to the definite and typical manner of the sermon, a passage from Isaiah. This is Isaiah 61:12 and I feel an essential need to report it
2. The program of Sabbathian sermon was:
a. Announcement of acoustic “Shemma Israel!”.
b. The prayer “shemon essre”, “Bless is the Lord!”, “Amen”
c. Reading of “Tora”
d. Announcement of prophet’s books
“The spirit of the Lord is on me (Sovereign)
Because he has appointed me
To preach good news to the (to proclaim freedom for the poor captives)
He has send me to proclaim (to bind up the broken hearted)
Freedom for the prisoners
And recovery of sight for the (and release from darkness for blind the prisoners)
To release the oppressed,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s
Luke 4:18-19 Isaiah 61:12
There’s no doubt that Jesus (or Luke) is transforming the old prophecy a bit, with an obvious tendency to particularize his proclamation. This proclamation is referring to: good news for the poor, (evagelisasthe), freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind and release of the oppressed3. On which point this old prophecy is taking a completely new meaning is not clear yet. I will give a short analysis in the
next paragraph where:
b.2. Jesus is discussing with the Jews 4:20-27.
After some minutes of rest (while the Jews were looking curious at Jesus) he decided to stand up again and announce to them in a symbolic way the central meaning of his speech and his presence amongst them. “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.
In other words he is putting forward the concept of Isaiah’s prophecy and he is representing himself as the realization of the scripture. How?
3. The prophecy of Isaiah is connected also with the year of Jubilee, a year when
the emperor used to release all prisoners.
At a first look, Jesus to have a pure consciousness of his mediation (one of the few times that this is almost clear in Jesus’ words), but there is another one very important point here and this is connected with the question what Jesus is mediating and for who. I will return to this main subject in the second section of this first chapter. Finally, the preaching to the Jews has beeing finished with a long discussion and a reference to one parable from Jesus is his attempt to indicate a basic truth: “No prophet is accepted in his
c. Epilogue. Reaction of the Jews. Jesus’ departure 4:28-30.
Hearing the parable the audience was terrified. They misunderstood what Jesus wanted to tell them with the paradigm of prophets Elijah and Elisha. And in his “prophetic” words “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your home town what we have heard you did in Capernaum”, we can realize his self-consciousness about his martyrdom and his mission in general. And in a way, the specific reaction of the addressees is completely “excusable”. When they are hearing the good news about freedom, release/liberation they admire the one who proclaims them. In opposition, hearing the parable (which includes lot of wicked events) they are horrified, starting also the procedures for rejection of the strange-evil speaker4.
The epilogue – and the all text is ending with Jesus’ peaceful
and monastic departure (4.30).
4. A very common way to lead someone into marginalization, or even to death,
was his rejection of the city in a place far beyond social life.
B. The central meaning.
a. Jesus against Old Testament.
Even if it this is not clearly formulated in the whole text, there are some underlying presuppositions of the above aspect. To be more specific I would like to give an emphasis to Jesus’ words 4:21, to the meaning of the parable 4:25-27, and to the reaction of the audience to the hearing of this parable (4:28-29). If we combine these three passages we have a conclusion that indicates a preservative audience from the one side (ready to reject Jesus in the hearing of the “bad” – according to their misunderstanding – news), and a radical proclamation: “[T]oday, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (with me) from the other side. The conflict is unquestionable and it is also evident in Jesus’ self acknoledgement: “No prophet is accepted in his home town”. The Jews will try “to drove him out of the town5 … in order to throw him down the cliff”, and they will finally succeed to crucify him. Luke 23:44-48, Mark 15:33-39, Matthew 27:45-46, John 19:28-30.
b. Jesus, the meaning of freedom.
Without being emotional as many will think, I will try to explain my definition using the symbolic interpretation of Jesus’ words: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. The Greek word for the verb “fulfill” is “peplirote”, the Greek past perfect of the verb “plirou–mai” (3rd person, singular, passive voice). It is very useful for our research to approach the temporal discrimination between the noun
5. Characteristic move to achieve social rejection.
“simeron” which means today, and the verb “peplirote”, which exactly means something that has been done in the past and it is over in the past. In other words, it has been fulfilled. Automatically, many questions are rising from this antithesis: Why Jesus is speaking about a payment which is already done at once in the past and if this fulfillment is freedom (for prisoners, poor, oppressed and blind for sight), how these people can feel immediately free, and finally to what does this freedom refer to? The answer is clarified at the end of the sentence where the Greek text reporting: “en tois osin imo–n”, (en tois=adjunct of cause, exactly: in your ears, because you are hearing), an elucidating statement of Jesus. So, he seems to say that the prophecy is fulfilled because they are hearing it. On the one hand, we may decode the interest of Jesus for his addressees, but on the other, – and if we admit that to hear something includes the presupposition that someone has to tell it – we can conclude the identification of the Christ with freedom.
He is freedom not just because he proclaims freedom, but because in his face freedom found its identification. Freedom, as all others talents – accomplishments, has been donated by God’s favour to Christ as a lump sum, in other words once and forever. And in this point, traditional theology already decided – after many conflicts – about the undiluted union of the divine and human nature of Christ6. This leads us to confirm indisputably a relationship of reciprocity between the two different but not separated natures of the son of God. And the 4th Ecumenical Synod, one of the most hopeful synods in history7, based in and confirmed this dog-
6. Faith Composition of Conciliation, 25 December 431, Alexandria.
7. 8 September 451, Chalkedona.
matic formula. Without being anachronistic, I would like to mention also the 28th canon of the specific Synod that recognized equal seniority between the Patriarchs of Constantinople
c. Jesus the liberator of the prisoners, the sight for blind, oppressed, and poor.
We don’t need to proceed in a further analysis about the role of Jesus as liberator. What was said in the last section should be enough to secure acceptance about this face of
Christ (liberator, saviour). Nevertheless, let me just use the words of Georgios
Martzelos as a confirmation:
“A basic presupposition for the understanding of
Christ’s teaching about liberation and salvation, is
that we can’t conceive a salvation without the saviour.
The idea of self-salvation is inconceivable in
d. The Kingdom of God.
Even if it is not quite evident (not a single reference to the Kingdom in the whole text), the way of interpretation that I used before, in sections b and c, provides us the guarantee to localize the underlying (in the text!) presence of the Kingdom. And this Kingdom has already entered in mundane life with Jesus’ miracles (Luke 17:13, 4:38-39 e.t.c.), with Jesus’ rebuke of demons (Luke 4:41), and in our case with Jesus’ “parousîa”, (presence) and speach.
8. Martzelos Georgios, History of Orthodox Theology and Spirituality, Aristotle
University of Thessaloniki, 1997-98, p. 9.
“Without a doubt, the Lukan emphasis falls above all on salvation in the present. ‘Today!’, 4:21 he announces at Nazareth, ‘this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’, just as he proclaims to Zacchaeus, ‘Today, salvation has come to this house…’, 19:9. To the Pharisees he remarks that if he casts out demons by the power (finger) of God, then the Kingdom of God has already come. 11:20 Asked about the timing of the Kingdom, Jesus replies: ‘The Kingdom of God is in your midst!’ 17:21”9.
e. “No prophet is accepted in his home town”
Another one self – recognition of Jesus’ messianic mission came out of his mouth with simple words. The utterance has a double meaning: Firstly is a small reference – allusion to the following reaction of the Jews (rejection of Jesus), but secondly and most importantly – and in a connection with the fact of the crucifixion – is a tragic verification of Jesus’ self – consciousness about his oncoming martyrdom.
We tried together to give a primary exegesis of Luke’s 4:16-30, and to illuminate some basic meanings of his theology, having always in mind the social and economical context of Luke’s age. But before we enter to further details about this context (I will analyze it in chapter 3) we now need to make a temporal and regional trip to 20th century. Arrival:
Latin America, 1974.
9. Green B. Joel, The Theology of the gospel of Luke, Cambridge University
Press, p. 94-95.
IN LATIN AMERICA
A. Prehistory and Theological issues.
In a general and fast definition we can name Liberation Theology the theology that “professes and practices liberation. And this liberation is first conceivable as the historical procedure that aims the dismissal from the situation of dependence, of social injustice and from the weakness of human societies”10. Also, as R. Antoninch adds to the above: “Basic intention of Liberation Theology was to introduce the perspective of the poor into the social teaching of Catholic church”11.
Indeed, but in order to have a better understanding of what exactly Liberation Theology deal with, we need to quote its historical progress from its birth until the “alternative” Liberation Theology formed by Jon Sobrino.
The birth of Liberation Theology didn’t took place instantly. Many years of maturation were absolutely necessary to create at least the possibility of a new way of doing
theology. The first effort was the theological reflection of a small group to the social situation. Their main intention was to offer an analytical approach of social reality that would be able to create a pastoral practice. Marc Mc Garth, an actual
10. For further details see: Bussmann C., Befreiung durch Jesus? Die Christologie
den lateinamerikanischen Befreiungstheologie, München 1980.
11. Antoninch R./Munàrriz J.M., Die Soziallehre der Kirche, Düsseldorf 1988, p.
archbishop of Panama and doyen at the Faculty of Theology in the Catholic University of Santiago, organized in 1958 a council, in order to establish the beginning of his theological view (as critik to social situation), but the result was nothing more than a disappointment. Fortunately, a lucky consequence was that other cities like Lima, Guernavaca, e.t.c., folowed the paradigm of Santiago and Mc Garth, and tried to create their own theological councils, but their voices could not reach the regime of Latin America’s church. The protestants also moved fast with the creation of
I.S.A.L. in Uruguay, and the inauguration of many faculties around Brazil and Argentina, with the same theological orientation. These first tries were the continuity of a precursor period12, and its representative Richard Shaull, professor of ecumenism in Princeton who wrote in 1953 in Argentine his first work “El Christianismo y la Revolucifin Social”. He also wrote many articles and books all based in the main line of his theology, some of them have been translated to French, English, German, and Portuguese13. The article “La liberacion humana en una perspectiva theolfigica” was an unlucky publishing in the U.S.A., but many years later, in 1965 his theological recommendation “Point of a theolfigical view in liberation” (to the Global Council Of Churches) has been admitted with hope and zest by the members of the council. For his theological line, Eduardo Ibarra marks the following:
12. Ibarra Eduardo, Le context de Liberation Théologie. Théologies de la liberation
en Amérique Latine, Beauchesne, Paris 1974, p. 51.
13. For further details see: Vekenmans, R. Desarrollo y Revolucifin. Iglesia y liberacifin,
Bibliografia, 1973, p. 161.
“Concluding, we can say that Shaull not only was
some years in front of our catholic professionals,
but his perspective is also much more theological
thus he introduces the themes of change revolution
and liberation in a context of global interpretation
of Christianity without limiting them at one and
determined social and political context”14.
The next stage (after these first efforts), was the theology of development with H. Assmann, J. L. Segundo and Joseph Comblin15. Their purpose was to describe the relation between Christianity and a fast developing society. Many others in Europe and in Latin America followed the avant – garde supporters of this theology: Calvez, Babin, Duquoc, Cosmao, Fiolet, Houtard, Olivier. Their theological praxis based in Genesis I, is trying to illuminate the theological meaning of work in the development society. Secondly, this theology drew its material from Paul’s letters, with an emphasis to the parts that speak about Christ’s role in the creation. Finally, material from John’s Revelation had been used as a reference to the final re-creation. The final phase before Liberation Theology, was the period of the revolution theology, (to the obsolete development theology). Many books were published in this period16.
14. Ibarra Eduardo, Le context de Liberation Théologie. Théologies de la liberation en Amérique Latine, Beauchesne, Paris 1974, p. 51.
15. Their most interesting articles in correspondance were: “Tarefas et limitacoes de una teologia di desenvolvimento”, “Dessarollo y subdessarollo: Polos teologicos”, “Teologia de desenvolvimento”, translated in Spanish with the title “Cristianismo y desarrollo”. All books were published in 1968.
16. For further details see: Vekenmans, R. Desarrollo y Revolucifin. Iglesia y liberacifin, Bibliografia, 1973, p. 73-95.
Segundo and Comblin were once more the pioneers of the changeable movement, but now, their arguments began from philosophy, sociology and historical action of Christianity, giving a Christian answer to marxism. Marxism had been underestimated, but after the death of “revolutionary” hopes, started to rise again as the only solution.
B. The birth of Liberation Theology, and Jon Sobrino’s perspective.
After these scouts, the road to Liberation Theology was a one – way street. And the main – stream this time were not arguments in a philosophical level, but their realization in social daily practice.
“The main subject of this theology is not a philosophical
conception, neither a Christian ideal of
liberty, but a historical process, a fight taking place
until today, in the sunset of a concrete history, it is
the struggle for the acquisition or recuperation of a
cultural and social – political liberty”17.
The official birth of Liberation Theology marked out in 1974 with Gutièrrez’s book “Theology of Liberation, History, Politics, and Salvation”, starting at the same time a new way of reading the social reality, a methodology of radical criticism and dialectical structuralism. This – probably the best known liberation theologician – was the author of what today is called “The classic exposition of the movement”.
But what makes up Liberation Theology’s methodology? Which are its references and for what reason has it been dis-
17. Nieuewnhove J. V., Les Théologies de la liberation latino – américaines, from
Théologies en Amerique Latine, Beauchesne, Paris 1974, p. 67.
criminated from the other movements of the same period? A quick answer to all these questions is that theological praxis of Liberation Theology valued the meaning of Christianity in the cultural context, and it valued it with a critical way. In the beautiful words of Jacques Van Nieuwenhove this methodological criticism is connected:
“ … with his ability to read the signals of the season: the historical situation of domination, the inspiration of the people for an integral liberation, the necessity and the implications / consequences of a theological praxis and finally with this praxis itself and its social – political and practical determinations”18.
In further analysis, the methodology of this “specific way of doing theology” is composed in two basic elements:
a. The choice of a new point of starting the theological reflection and
b. The release from discipline in theology, so that the fundamental intention of Liberation Theology will be resided in a reinterpretation of the relation between
the faith and the praxis of liberation.
With due respect, I would like now to examine another partisan of Liberation Theology. My main purpose is to detect these two presuppositions of understanding Liberation Theology’s methodology in the theology of: Jon Sobrino, a Spanish-born Jesuit who lives in El Salvador, teaches theology in the University “Josè Simeon
18. As above, p. 73.
Canas” and also co-directs the Revista Latinoamericana de Teologica, especially known from his first important work Christology at the crossroads, Orbis books, Maryknoll, New York, 1978. From this book and also from another work19, I will try to give an account and at the same time an analysis of his Theology and Christology.
In my view, Sobrino is presenting as elements of his theological – christological concept the below four main points:
a. The preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God.
b. The faith of Jesus.
c. The death of Jesus at the cross.
d. The way of the addressee: The Kingdom of God is for
He starts with a reference to Luke 4:16-30 and an intention to elevate the biblical base of his theology. He always has in his mind the idea that he recommends a new image of Christ20, that is opposite to the “old” and abstract one. The “old” image of Christ as love is described as abstract in Jesus’ terms, thus he never said what this love is21, and the image of Christ as power is also characterized abstract thus it has been used to justify in Christ’s name all sorts of authoritarianism22. Sobrino also adds something else: The danger of an interpretation of Christ only as a reconciler between human beings and God23 that leads to the shocking – to use his terms
19. Sobrino Jon, Jesus the liberator, a Historical – Theological Reading of Jesus of Nazareth, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York.
20. His recommendation to Latin American bishop’s meeting at Medellin, Colombia, 1968.
21. As above, p. 15.
22. As above.
23. As above, p. 16.
– image of an “absolutely absolute” Christ.
Let’s take a systematic look at his theological – christological
a. The preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God. Jesus, writes Sobrino, is teaching not about him-self primarily, or even about God in general, but about the Kingdom of God. His whole christology is built on Jesus’ preaching about the Kingdom. This Kingdom is presented as a total restructuring of human relations. This Kingdom is also a grace coming from God’s initiative, with Jesus’ miracles “calls from the Kingdom”, and forgiveness as signs of liberation. It is presented not only as good news for the poor, but also as a revelation of «who God is» and «what God wants» and values for human society. The preaching for this Kingdom starts after the arrest of John the Baptist as Sobrino notes:
“And let us not overlook one important fact: in
Mark and Matthew, Jesus begins his own public
ministry “after John had been arrested” Mark 1:14,
Matthew 4:12, which can at least probably be taken
as meaning that John’s arrest provided the existential
motivation for Jesus to begin his own work, not
just that the two were coincidental in time”24.
Another one main thought of Sobrino is the centrality of the Kingdom in a theology with primal concern for the liberation of the poor. He himself introduces us to the paradox that, on the one hand Jesus often speaks about the Kingdom of God, but on the other, never explains what exactly this
24. As above, p. 74.
Kingdom is. He only says that the Kingdom is at hand. And as a confirmation of his concept, Sobrino notes Mark 13:32, to conclude:
“Jesus knew nothing about the Kingdom”25 and “Jesus understands final reality as a dual unity of a God who gives himself to history or a history that comes to be according to God. This dual unity which is final reality is what is formally meant by the expression ‘Kingdom of God’ and is what Jesus preached”26.
Jesus according to Sobrino, presents the Kingdom of God as a product of conflict between the anti-Kingdom and the Kingdom. And this attestation brings all of us face to face with the commitment to “active and fighting hope against the anti-Kingdom”27, thus the Kingdom is “a dialectical and conflictual reality excluding and opposing the anti-Kingdom”28. However, Sobrino suggests three different approaches for understanding the content of the Kingdom: By looking how contemporaries of Jesus saw it, by looking at the praxis of Jesus, and by looking at those to whom the promise of the Kingdom was given. Before we try to illuminate his third view, namely the idea that the Kingdom of God is for the poor, we will analyze two more streams of his theology.
25. As above, p. 69.
26. As above.
28. As above.
b. The faith of Jesus.
In a long hypothetical argument St. Thomas Aquinas would accuse Sobrino that he underestimates the perfection of Jesus. Claiming a non perfect knowledge of Jesus for God, the liberation theologician vokes as a proof the letter of Paul to the Hebrews 12:2. Also, he answered to the challenge with another biblical passage from the same letter of Paul: “Jesus was made perfect through suffering; he has been through temptation with us; he was faithful to the one who appointed him;” (Hebrews 2:10, 2:18, 3:2). And he concludes that Jesus was perfect but his perfection did not entail knowing all things. Namely, Jesus remains faithful to the mission that the Father gave him, faithful to the work of the Kingdom, and this human dimension of Jesus’ faith comes as truly good news for the poor, for they see Jesus as the one with whom they can truly identify in their own sufferings and struggle to retain hope.
This faith of Jesus became complete confidence to God at the last times of his life on earth, when Jesus is not seeing clearly the realization of the Kingdom on earth, but he finally trusts himself to God with his last words: “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46b).
c. The death of Jesus.
Basically Sobrino’s major point about the death of Jesus in the cross can be summarized in the following sentence: Jesus suffered the crucifixion not because God willed it as payment for our sins, but his death was intrinsically connected to the mission and the work of his life. And if we combine this point with his presupposition that the image of Christ as power had been used from the powerful to establish their despotism, we will localize his concept to Luke 4:16-30, and the Orthodox criticism to Jon Sobrino 27 about Jesus’ death. Jesus was condemned because he challenged the Pharisees’ use of power.29
d. The way of the addressee. The Kingdom of God is for the poor.
Closing this small representation of Sobrino’s work I will analyze his basic theological concept and object at the same time. We must not forget that, what Sobrino is interpreting from the New Testament is destine, meant to result in a social praxis. And the mainline of Sobrino’s concept, is the idea that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor. The birth of his concept marked out with the recommendation of the partiality principle in Medellin:
“Christ, our saviour not only loved the poor, but
also ‘being reach he became poor’, lived in poverty,
centered his mission on the proclamation to the
poor of their liberation and founded his Church as
a sign of this poverty among human beings”30.
He starts his christology with a reference to Christ’s presence today, trying to give an emphasis on Jesus’ liberation image, rather with a traditional christological methodology
that always includes the danger of being preservative and antiquated. Sobrino notes:
“Other Christologies usually start with texts from
the past about Christ, and when they consider the
29. Suffering crucifixion, the punishment imposed on political agitators, rather than the religious punishment of stoning.
30. Sobrino Jon, Jesus the liberator, a Historical – Theological Reading of Jesus of
Nazareth, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, p. 126.
present they do more to show the difficulties it presents for faith in Christ than to show its possibilities”31.
What I want to stress here is that Sobrino admits the historical dimension of the Kingdom of God as a historical hope (and not as a trans – historical reality), that runs right through the Old Testament. He presents it as a complete and direct transformation of the society as a whole, and finally – following at this point a common basis for all theologies -, he combines it with the “good news” that Jesus brings. Sobrino himself wonders about the receivers of these good news, but clarifies that these are in majority the social – economical poor, since the term “ptochoî” is used 25 times in the New Testament, 22 of them in reference to the social category of the poor. As paradigms he mentions the beatitudes when Jesus “dedicates” the Kingdom to the poor: “Blessed are the poor for yours is the Kingdom of God”,32 “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor”33, and finally Luke’s 4:18-19, a passage that we have already discussed.
“In these three cases where Jesus relates the Kingdom of God to the “ptochoî” (poor), the meaning of “ptochoî” is not spiritual. For the New Testament and for Jesus, the term “ptochoî” is a social
31. As above, p. 22.
32. Luke 6:20.
33. Luke 7:22.
category, even in these three texts that mention
good news to the poor”34.
But who are those poor, the main addressees of Jesus’ good news according to Sobrino? Before we go to a deeper analysis of the social status in the Palestinian society (next chapter), we need to inquire into what is meant systematically by the term “ptochoî” in Sobrino’s Latin American context:
a. The poor are, first of all, those who are materially poor, that is economically and sociologically poor, the great majority of the people living in the 3rd world. Here, Liberation Theology makes its own concept of poor in the Synoptics (and distances itself from marxism, which did not include the poor in the sense as agents of history): “this real material nature of poverty cannot be replaced by any spirituality; it is the necessary condition for evangelical poverty, though is not its only condition”.
b. The poor are those who are impoverished, oppressed. They are then dialectically poor, “being dialectically dispossessed of the fruit of their labor and the labor itself, as of a social and political power by those who have enriched themselves and seized this power by this dispossession.
c. The poor are those who have carried out “a conscious appreciation of the very fact of material poverty, an individual and collective appreciation”. This is a first expression of the spirit in which poverty has to be lived
34. Sobrino J., Jesus the liberator, a Historical – Theological Reading of Jesus of
Nazareth, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, p. 81.
noting that “spirituality is not here a substitute for the material fact but a crowning of it” and that “being materially rich and spiritually poor is an inassimilable and insuperable contradiction from a Christian point of view”.
d. The poor are those who turn this conscious appreciation into organizing the people and praxis. This does not imply belonging to a particular party or organization, but does involve “the brute fact that the poor have to organize themselves as the poor to banish this collective and originating sin of the riches – poverty dialectic”. Here lies the political significance of the poor more evident in the Old Testament than in the New, though not totally absent from the latter.
e. The poor are those who lived their material situation, their conscious appreciation and their praxis with spirit, with gratuitousness, with hope, with mercy, with fortitude under persecution, with love, and the greatest love of giving their lives for liberation35.
Once more, Sobrino concludes indisputably for the partiality of the Kingdom:
“The Kingdom of God is directed to them simply because
of what they are, and they are its direct addressees”36.
and as a justification of the theological – ecclesiastical commitment
– praxis he mentions:
35. As above, p. 127.
36. As above.
“Once again, everything begins with material poverty. The
Kingdom is for the poor because they are materially poor;
The Kingdom is for the non-poor to extend that the lower
themselves to the poor, defend them and allow themselves
to be imbued with the spirit of the poor”37.
The history of Liberation Theology does not end with Jon Sobrino. Many other liberation theologicians followed his paradigm and until now the movement of this new way of doing theology has been hopefully supported in theory but basically in daily practice with a never-ending struggle for the recuperation of social, economical, political and cultural liberty.
37. As above.
THE SOCIAL –
A. Social – economical situation in Luke’s age.
The goal of this section is to give a picture of the social and economical situation of the Palestinian society as is portrayed in Luke’s moral and social understanding of his Gospel. The Palestinian society was organized in two different areas: The city and the villages that surround it. Usually the big cities were built near to rivers or seaports thus they could take advantages by fishing and agriculture38 in the first case, or trading and navigation in second. Jerusalem was the political – economical and cultural – religious center of Palestine. As we may decode from Luke’s description of the capital, the city was a place for leaders. And their leadership is centered around the temple, the predominant national institution of power. (Luke 19:45-47, 21:5-9, 23:45, 24:53)39.
More specifically, these leaders were the groups that made up the Sanhedrin, chief priests, interpreters who explained the Torah, and big landowners. Although Luke alludes as leaders the Pharisees and the Sadducees, (19:39, 20:27-38), the general context of the Gospels and the voluminous and valuable work of Flavious Josephus Jewish antiquities confirms these two groups but also mentions the Essees
38. It is a common knowledge that areas around rivers are arable and fruitful.
39. Moxnes H. as above, p. 69.
and the Zealots, an extreme movement with dominating expectations.
Finally, the portrait of the city completed by the simple people “lao–s” or “o–chlos” who supported the powerful and were controlled by their subordinates: officers and officials, tax collectors, priests, e.t.c.; and we must not forget the Roman supremacy that occupied the central role in the cabinet upon Jewish society. Their rule was expressed with the constitute of the Roman consuls/procurator, and a strong military support the so-called “legeon”. These leaders controlled also the Jew’s kings, the Tetrarchs.
Regarding to the interaction between them, Halvor
“Luke makes an interesting comment upon the
relationship between Pilate and Herode (23:12).
They had been enemies, rivals and power but in
their dealings with persons they became friends
“philoi”. This is not just a description of a state of
emotions; The ancient institution of friendship
plays a dominant role in Luke’s gospel and the
model here apparently is the “amicitia”, a term for
an alliance or mutual interest between equals, usually
of high status: for instance, Roman nobles. The
main purpose was to promote their interests of various
kinds, but the alliance also had at its core a
moral element of trust”40.
The general rule was that the Roman authorities were not involved in internal judicial matters of the Jews. But in Jesus’ case they decided to make an exception.
40. As above, p. 70.
Living in a village, a place characterized by its distinctiveness, smallness, homogeneity and self-sufficiency41, was not an easy thing to do. Although village society was autonomous as a whole, peasants were characterized accordingly to their ability to secure this autonomy.
The landowners who by definition lived far from their properties, in cities or in the capital, had already determined a social and economical system of village government. The peasants were facing each day the struggle between them and the élites in relationships such as patron-clients, master-servants, landowners-tenants or slaves, tax collectorstaxpayers, namely relations between unequal social categories.
The extreme oppression was the temple aristocracy’s one as we can conclude by Luke’s narratives:
“Furthermore, Luke appears to distinguish
between the temple cult as a center for God’s presence
and the leaders who control the temple. The
temple aristocracy is criticized. Similarly, on the
local level of the village Luke apparently has a high
regard for the law, but criticizes the Pharisees who
were the interpreters of the law. Thus, temple and
Torah are revered by Luke, but those who were in
authority over the temple or over the interpretation
of Torah are criticized as part of the people”42.
These oppressed people were simple peasants who
worked as slaves “dou–loi” or as tenants (Luke 12:41-48) in
41. Redfield R., The little community: Viewpoints for the study of human whole,
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1955, p. 4.
42. Moxnes H., as above, p. 74.
the services of the city’s landowners or the village’s rich farmers and most of the times were living as full members of village society that is they could ensure the basic needs of this life: food, clothes, housing. The rich farmers were the village’s leaders. As village leaders we may also characterize the full members of the synagogue who had a religious power upon villagers and were controlled by the higher priests of the Temple.
And finally, at the bottom, village “outsiders”, marginal people namely unclean, (from leprosy or other diseases mentioned in Luke’s gospel as “lepers”), sinners, tax collectors (who didn’t enjoy estimation from peasants because of their authority), and needy – poor that couldn’t afford the three basic needs at the same time. These needy were likewise held in law regard in society, (Luke 7:22, 14:13-22).
The above-mentioned social categories of city (Jerusalem) and villages can be described in a hierarchical order as:
a. The emperor.
b. Rulers in Palestine [and Syria].
1. Roman consuls/procurator.
2. Tetrarchs [Herodian “kings”].
c. High priests and Jerusalem aristocracy, large landowners.
d. The subordinates of b and c: officers and officials,
agents in the local area of Palestine.
e. Village leaders: rich farmers, synagogue leaders,
f. Peasants, “full” members of the village.
g. Village “outsiders”: deviants, unclean, sinners, tax collectors,
“This is a top-heavy structure in terms of power; in terms
of population, most people are in the bottom categories.
Since power unevenly distributed, there was a heavy pressure
from the top upon the village population. They were
in a position of crisis”43.
Probably, the pressure was unquestionable as it is described in terms of Luke’s gospel, and mostly in the passages when he is criticizing the landlords (16:1-8, 19:12-27, 20:9-16), and where Luke is speaking about debts and loans and their relation (6:34, 7:41-42, 16:1-9).
B. Social – economical situation in Latin America.
Hence Liberation Theology appears itself in the seventies, its orthopraxis is combined with the history of Latin America in the last three-four decades. Many years before, Latin America experienced the colonization in a very different way that the United States did. Spaniards and Portuguese brought with them a high level of culture, a spirit of daring and great loyalty to their catholic faith, that effected Latin American habits. Many institutions and patterns of lifestyle have been brought from Spain to Latin America, proving detrimental in the long run. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon colonists haven’t the opportunity to make fortunes from the gold and silver mining – not available in South America. And the institutions that they established were more based in farming and trades, providing self-rule and equality of opportunities. In contrast, many Spaniards and Portuguese came with
43. Illustration and comment: Moxnes H., as above, p. 73.
hopes of striking it rich through mines or vast streches of land. They often brought with them strong class distinctions and behaviour of the aristocracy toward work, setting up this way an authoritarian and centralizing political rule. The situation of poverty because of the colonial government before the age of independence is described by Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, a Spanish writer of the eighteenth century:
a. Agricultural poverty treated as an aristocratic privilege to the detriment of the laboring masses and the true wealth of the country.
b. Public and communal lands used only for pasturing cattle.
c. Excessive amounts of amortized church properties which prevented redistribution into small holding and free economy.
d. A monopolistic system of ownership by idle rich who did not cultivate the land regularly, causing landless unemployed peasants to migrate into the cities”44.
This dependence on landowners continues until today but is no longer defined from Spain and Portugal, but from the United States. After a period of independence from the authoritarianism of the Spaniard’s rules – but not from their tradition -, Latin America faced the consequences of the economical and technological penetration fixed by the high
class of the United States. And the victims of this new reality were once more the “not haves” of the economical dependent Latin American
44. Salas Picon Mariano, A cultural History of Latin America Society. From conquest
to independence, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1962, p. 167.
countries, namely Brazil, Chile, Argentine, Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezouéla.
This dependency also based in an economy geared for external markets to the neglect of both, agricultural and industrial45 products to meet domestic needs. And the last
years, political – military privileges of the U.S.A. support this dependency with foreign market and foreign investors, a relation that reminds us of the relation between patron
“powerful” and client “weak” of the earliest Palestinian years. As a confirmation of Michael Todaro’s research about the unemployment of the peasants in Brazil where: “a group of 340 owners control 117 million acres of land though they only cultivate 11% of it, while hundreds of thousands of peasants are landless”46,
I would like to mention Arthur Mc Govern’s comparative research between the economical status in the U.S.A. and in Latin America:
“A few years back a Detroit newspaper estimated that
the average high school teenager in a Wealthy Gross
Point School, spent over $300 per month on a luxury
items alone – designer clothes, entertainment, junk
food, alcohol and drugs. That matches the total annual
income of the average family in Haiti. Most coun
45. Industrialization of Latin America took place in a rapid way based obvious in a profable and profitable opportunism that was not interested about equal division in economical development of the dependent countries.
46. Todaro P. Michael, Economic development in the 3rd World, Longman, New
York, 1981, p. 260.
tries in Latin America fall a few hundred dollars below
or above the $1000 a year GNP per capital mark”.47
To sum up, it’s not very difficult for someone to recognize the similarities between the old Palestinian society and the Latin American one.
In a comparison we can mark out the below:
a. In both societies there are poor, namely unemployed, needy,
b. The poor are the majority in both social edifices,
c. The poor are in the bottom of the social structure,
d. The poor as majority and foundation of the social status are maintaining and stabilizing the social edifice,
e. The poor are oppressed by a minority,
f. The oppressors are most of the time invisible in the eyes of the poor [landowners who lived in the city, high priest of the temple, rulers and emperor in ancient Palestine, and unknown landowners, remote managers of different companies, supporters – beneficiaries
of the general economical penetration in Latin America].
Although each Latin American country has its own distinct history, culture and problems which mean that the status of Liberation Theology in each country differs consider-
47. Mc Govern F. Arthur, Liberation Theology and its critics, Orbis books, Maryknoll, New York 1990, p. 25.
ably, I believe that these general similarities I just indicated should be enough to secure acceptance at least for the biblical presupposition of Liberation Theology in relation to its addressees. In other words if it was possible to bring together a Jesus’ addressee and a Liberation Theology’s one, I can guarantee to you that they would probably have a lot to discuss each-other.
THE ORTHODOX CHRISTOLOGICAL CRITIC TO JON SOBRINO’S CONCEPT
As already noted in chapter 2, Liberation Theology’s perspective is (or tries to be) accorded to biblical passages, interpreting them in a very special way. The main goal of this final chapter is not so much to criticize this way, as to elevate the traditional orthodox perspective and how it explains these concrete passages as an extension of its theology and mostly christology. So, it is necessary to criticize the way of Liberation Theology’s interpretation, thus I have to find a starting point for the elevation of the orthodox concept. I would like to declare from the beginning that my critic will be based on a radical – for the non orthodox – acceptance: The christological dogma is not effected by any mind of interpretation. This dogma had been formulated under different historical situations, and it was the fruit of the Church’s life as a community. It is already established after many theological fights and conflicts. It also represents until today the unalterable truth of God’s revelation. Because Christianity is not a religion. It is the revelation of God in
history with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Some might say, that the ancient Church with dogmas and with the help of the Greek Philosophy falsified the primeval meaning of the Gospel. This is not right. The christological dogma is already formulated in a seminal way into the Old Testament. And this is the proof for the role of God as Revelation and not religion in history. People may believe in God, and this is religion, but God revealed himself in the world with the creation, energies that runs through the Old and New Testament, with the incarnation of the Word in Jesus, and the formation of the Church with Jesus’ words in the Last Supper. God’s revelation will end with the Church’s consummation inside history. It is inconceivable to admit God as human body (incarnation), and at the same time ignore the fact that this world is created from God’s will or that the formation and the existence of Church based in Jesus words, namely in God’s will. And the Greek philosophy only contributed in the morphological formulation of dogmas and not on their creation.
The birth of dogmas is exclusively connected with God’s revelation in history. As many christological or trinitrological opinions have been already formulated or going to be, they will never for example be able to distort a basic truth that John the baptist is describing in his Gospel 1:14 “And the Word became flesh”. On the other hand, we have Sobrino’s idea that perhaps salvation will come from God’s grace, but this does not mean
that we don’t have to try to establish better social conditions while we are waiting the arrival of the Kingdom. This perspective is censured by the orthodox point of view. The Orthodox mainline is that any struggle for a better world is useless, thus the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with mundane patterns and expectations. This is what the Zealots believed, that’s why one of them betrayed Jesus when he saw his expectations to be falsified. In a first view, this seems like a pessimistic opinion. But the Kingdom of God as it is allocated in the Gospels – and not only but especially in the life and the experience of the Church – is a spiritual Kingdom, a mystic union with God. It is the “theosis” of human beings48.
48. “He (the God’s Word) incarnate, for we become God”. St. Athanasios, Word for the incarnation of the Word, 54, PG25, 192b.
The “theosis” is distinguished in different stages. One of them is the internal renewal of human which lead to one as much harmonious relation with his fellows, and to the orthopraxis in daily life. But always in an attestation of this world as the preparatory stage of the eternal life, that grows with its inferiority from the Kingdom, a continuous hope and wait for the arrival of God’s reign.
In the beautiful words of Matthew:
“The Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully
advancing, and forceful men lay hold on it”49.
Presuppositions for the entrance in the Kingdom of God are in particular the repentance and the demonstration of love’s practice, that is the orthopraxis. And it is obvious that, with the demonstration of love, this world will certainly change and prepare itself to regain the eternal life, namely the life in the Kingdom of God. But according to Sobrino, love’s meaning is abstract in Jesus’ words thus “Jesus never said what this love is”. I don’t think so. Jesus clarified that love is to practise compassion for your fellow-man, even if he is your worst enemy: “Go and do likewise”, Luke 10:37b50.
The preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom is a preaching about himself. Yes, Jesus is not teaching about God in general, but his quality as the one who is originated from his Father, the consubstantial one, equalizes the divinity between them. How it is possible to distinguish them in a divinity level and say that God is more God than Jesus, or Jesus is more God than God?
49. Matthew 11:12b.
50. The parable of the good Samaritan as Jesus’ answer to one of his disciples in
the question: Who is the neighbour that the law indicates to love as our-self?
So, Jesus is preaching about him, and in the same time about the Kingdom of God, that is the spiritual union of humankind with God. When he mentions the Kingdom, he refers the God of the Kingdom too. Sobrino is seeing a Kingdom in general, a Kingdom without a God and Jesus as the “key” to realize this Kingdom, a salvation without a saviour, a sin without a sinner, a Kingdom that will come from God’s grace but with human will.
And this is the underlying interpretation in Sobrino when he mentions that Jesus began his work after John the Baptist’s arrest. In order to locate the historical Jesus Sobrino demotes Jesus’ divinity representing him as the one who carries on John’s work, namely a prophet. But John the Baptist as we know, recognized the superiority, that is the divinity of Jesus, namely his image as the renovator of this world – and not only as the liberator of the poor, oppressed, e.t.a. from their social situation – in order to
be according with God’s spiritual Kingdom (baptism, and divine liturgy in the church):
“After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I’ m not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit” John 16:7 51.
Sobrino also advocates a non perfect knowledge of Jesus about God, and he invokes for this Mark 13:32. But Jesus’ ignorance in this passage is referring to the arrival date of the Kingdom and no to how this Kingdom will be. The adjuncts: “peri tis imêras” and “peri tis ôras”, have a temporal mean-
51. Also see: Hebrews 2:14, Luke 3:16, Mark 1:7-8, Matthew 3:11 Acts 13:25, John 1:26.
ing and they work as explanations of the above passage where Jesus is clarifying what will happen when the Kingdom arrives: “Heaven and hell will pass away, but my words will
never pass away”, (Mark 13:31). Unfortunately, many new editions of the New Testament
distinguished the two passages giving a “characteristic” title for Mark 13:32-37 like “The day and the hour unknown…”. Obligatory, from “Jesus’ ignorance”, Sobrino concludes to an attestation of the Kingdom as dual unity of God with history – incarnation -, or a history that comes to be unified with God. But, if we admit God as the creator of this world and history why we have to discriminate God from history for a long time and present God’s Kingdom as a final reconnection of history with God – or of God with history? The relation of God with history began at once, at lump sum, (creation), and God is present in all history through his energies. The divine’s economy schedule is realized inside this history and God is not absent. In fact we can taste the mystic relation with God inside the Church with the mystery of the divine liturgy and the “parousîa” of Jesus Christ. If we think that the arrival of the Kingdom will come as a union of history with God, we distinguish at the same time God from history, because the arrival of a unity means that we are now experiencing a history and a world separated from God’s energy. (Demonstrated with the incarnation – miracles – Jesus’ parousia in the Church)52.
52. For further details see the works of: St Athanasios, St Basil, Gregory the Theologician, who recommended the energetic and not essential type of God’s relation with this world and history. (In the voluminous work of Quasten J., Patrology, Utrecht – Antwerp, 1966).
Sobrino also presents the Kingdom of God as a product of a dialectical conflict between the Kingdom and the anti – Kingdom. This is wrong. I would like to remind, that before humankind collapsed, the Kingdom was continuous present. In fact it was the only situation that our ancestors have been tasting. The reign of the anti – Kingdom that is the reign of Satan normally arrived as a result from human’s ability to choose (given also from God’s grace). And our ancestors chose the sin. The miracles – calls from the Kingdom as Sobrino is very beautiful characterizing them – are the victories of the forgotten but always present Kingdom upon the reign of the anti-Kingdom.
For example, Paul’s letter to Thessalonians B’:
“And then the lawness one will be revealed, whom
the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his
mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming”
is indicating the simplicity of the Kingdom’s triumph upon
the anti-Kingdom. And when we are talking about simple triumph,
we cannot locate a “conflict”.
Sobrino introduces us also to another paradox in order to justify the identification of the poor with Jesus. This is the faith of Jesus to his Father and the fact – according to the
Liberation theologician -, that Jesus became perfect through suffering. So that’s why the oppressed – suffered people in Latin America identified themselves with the image of the
suffered Jesus. To prove these two perspectives, (identification of the poor and faith of Jesus), Sobrino is perplexing different passages from Paul’s letter to Hebrews, but he interprets them out of their context. These are Hebrews 2:10, 2:18, 3:2, and I will try now to illuminate their falsified meaning in Sobrino’s concept.
a. Hebrews 2:10.
The infinitive “teleîose” (to make perfect) is the object of the impersonal verb “eprepe” (it has), thus it is in the mood that asks for impersonal syntax (euktikî). As an object of the infinitive we have to accept the term “ton arhigo–n” (the leader). The adjunct “tis sotirîas” (of salvation) is defined to “ton archigo–n” (the leader of salvation). But the definition of the cause adjunct “diâ pathimâton” may referring the term “tis sotirîas”, so we translate: “He made perfect/possible their salvation through suffering”, or the term “arhigo–n”, so we translate “(God) has to made the leader of their salvation (Jesus) perfect through suffering”. In the first case we don’t deal any problems about the apathetic nature of Jesus. But in reference to the second translation that underlies a passivity of Jesus I would like to mention the basic orthodox thesis about the passivity of Jesus’ human nature alone, expressed by Basil of Selefkia’s. Basil makes a typological interpretation of Abraham’s sacrifice as a type of Jesus’ sacrifice. He insists that as in the case of the one and only son of Abraham the sword didn’t touch Isaac’s head, but Isaac stayed apathetic (his place took a sheep), the same thing happened to Jesus. The one and only Son of God stayed apathetic. The Cross didn’t touch his divinity but his human nature – the wear sheep – in Basil’s beautiful parallelism53.
53. Basil of Selefkia’s Word VII, to Abraham II, PG 85, 112B.
b. Hebrews 2:18
Sobrino here is interpreting the participle “peirasthei–s” (tempted)54 far away from the above sentence – context. The participle is referring to Jesus’ temptations (Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 4:1-11), and it has nothing to do with Jesus’ “faith” or its “expression” on the Cross as Sobrino thinks.
c. Hebrews 3:2
Sobrino’s habbit to complex different texts interpreting them away from their specific context is once more repeated here. The sentence “faithful to the one who appointed
him…” is the continuity (there is a comma there) of the above sentence “the apostle and high priest whom we confess”. Paul is trying here to give an exegesis to the Hebrews about the presence of the Church between them, so he mentions Christ as the high priest, the first apostle, the one who completed the mission that his Father gave him: The formation of the Church. I’m not expecting from anyone to agree with the existential reason of the Church throughout the ages. But I’ m sure that the above passage is not underlying a “faith of Jesus” namely a danger to demote his divine nature. In reference now to Sobrino’s concept and Theology of the cross in order to Jesus’ death, I would like to note the following:
The theology of Sobrino although has been attested as “orthodox” in the past is effected by the Protestant recommendation of the “Historical Jesus”, namely a dualistic attestation
of Jesus Christ.
54. The Greek text is not mentioning at all the word “suffered”, as many new
1. I accept the fact that science of the History of New Testament hardly worked and is working in order to illuminate which of Jesus’ beatitudes and acts are certain historical facts and not subsequent additions from the Evangelists, but I can not imagine a “historical Jesus” separated from the Christ of our faith. The ancient Christian confession is: Jesus (is) Christ. Peter confessed to Jesus: “You are Christ, the son of the ‘living’ God”.
2. Other confessions in New Testament that should be enough to secure acceptance of Jesus as Christ are: Matthew 14:33, 26:63, 27:40, 43:54, and John 1:34-49, 10:24, 11:27,
The final section of this chapter will be a critic upon the principle of partiality, namely the idea that the Kingdom of God is for the poor. Sobrino is using three passages from Luke where the “Kingdom is connected to the poor”. And he clarifies that in these three texts the meaning of poverty is not spiritual but only material “where spirituality is not here
a substitute for the material fact”. We don’t need to analyze the passages where the poor are mentioning as a social category. It is an indisputable fact, that the materially poor were a part of the society in Luke’s age. In fact they were the majority. But in the cases where Jesus is dedicating the Kingdom to the poor, the term poor has a spiritual and not a material meaning. This is my agreement. Let’s examine these certain passages of Luke, used by Sobrino as proofs for the “partiality” of the Kingdom.
a. Luke 6:20 “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God”.
Although the text is not adding a qualification of these poor, according to Sobrino, I would like only to quote some different versions – that referring “to pneu–mati” (in spirit) –
expressed by other New Testament’s codices. These codices are: Sinaitic II, Q, ÿ, f1.13, 33, 579, 2542, and the small-lettered a, c, f, r1. Also, the Vulgate translation with the Fathers’ indication for Knowledge of one or more New Testament manuscripts supporting the reading with the term “in spirit”, and finally five bohaÔric witnesses are supporting this particular reading.
b. Luke 7:22 “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news are preached to the poor”.
In this passage I’m not discriminating any partiality or preference of the poor. They are mentioned in accordance to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dead, and the leppers. If we accept a partiality of the Kingdom for the poor – even if these poor are finally the material poor-, why don’t we accept a Kingdom for the blind, another one for the deaf, e.t.a.? The principle of partiality is producing an idea for different Kingdoms that they are accorded to our temporary needs. Are we deaf? Let’s build a kingdom where everybody will hear. Are we poor? Let’s construct a kingdom where everyone will be rich. White? Let’s establish a kingdom for white people. And the Orthodox presupposition is not including these dangers when it attests the Kingdom as spiritual reality and union with God. There is one Kingdom for everyone and not “for everyone but first for the poor”, thus we all people have a common element that is unifying us. The sin. And the arrival of the Kingdom dismiss us from the captivity of the sin. Besides, the meaning of the poor is not elucidating from Luke in these passages, although Luke attests generally the poor as materially poor. Moreover, the qualities of the other categories, (deaf, lame, lepers, dead, blind) are referring to corporeal disadvantages. And the attestation of the human beings in this age was that human is a unified psychosomatic entity. So why Luke had to refer the good news to five physical – psychical disadvantageous categories, and to make compulsory an exception for the material poor? And finally, in how many cases in his gospel is Luke relating the good
news (Kingdom) to the material poor?
Anyway, the way that the addressees are interpreting the good news is not distorting the immutable in addition spiritual character of the Kingdom. This character is obvious when Jesus mentions the Kingdom as “vasileîa to–n ourano–n”, namely “the reign of heavens”. And it’s not possible to speak about social justice and economical equality in a Kingdom that will be established in the heaven, far away from this mundane life and its problems.
Matthew also in his gospel (6:33 and 22:20-21), clarified the spiritual meaning of the Kingdom, and noted the useless hope for the gain of mundane – material kingdoms:
“But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well”
and “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God
what is God’s”
c. Luke 4:18 “To preach good news to the poor”
And we are back at the beginning. Perhaps, this is the only case where Luke is presenting Jesus to preaching good news to the material poor. But is not preaching the good news only to them. Once more he relates the Kingdom also to another social categories as prisoners, blind, oppressed, namely a majority divided in separate classes. And we must not forget that the meaning of the term “sight” is parallel to the meaning of the sentence “to preach good news”. Even if Jesus is not often using this way to announce the good news, the sentence “sight for blind”, must be interpreted under the mainline perspective of Luke. And this mainline is the proclamation of the Kingdom with Jesus’ words. Sobrino is right when he says that the poor are the direct addressee of Jesus. But they are not his only direct addressees. They are with another social classes the majority of Jesus’ audience. And this is a serious reason to support that Jesus refers the Kingdom not only to them. How it is possible to speak about preferences when these preferences are referring to many similar but separate social categories? Is this Kingdom finally a release from sin, sin that is common for everyone, poor and non-poor like Zacchaeus?
For one more time I would like to use the words of Georgios Martzelos:
“Jesus as saviour discharge human not only from
the legal obligation, but also from the sin. And the
fact of sin is not a jurist fact, namely a simple
breach of the divine will, but and primarily one
ontological incident that is psychosomatic resided
in human nature”55.
55. Martzelos Georgios, History of Orthodox Theology and Spirituality, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 1997-98, p. 9.
The main goal of this final chapter was not to judge Jon Sobrino and his work. Only the fact that with Sobrino’s concept Christianity found many “supporters” under very difficult
circumstances is hopeful. And the Orthodox Theology never in the past excluded the possibility for a dialogue between itself and the several theologies. But the basic line of this dialogue, even in our occasion, is to make a dogmatological check in order to harmonize this several and remote theologies to its traditional instruction. And from the other side use them to establish this already formulated teaching if this is possible [in case that they don’t falsify the Orthodox Church’s dogmas]. I would like to remember that the dogmas are not that much intellectual products, but the fruits of Church’s life as community throughout history with the contribution of the Holy Spirit, and the mystic experience of Jesus Christ. Moreover their confirmation or not is proceed only from the dialectical road and from the conflicts or agreements with other dogmatological formulations.
As a result of this small representation of Jon Sobrino’s Liberation Theology and its Orthodox critic, we can only have one compound agreement. Liberation Theology although is falsifying the christological dogma and tried to demote – without understanding it – the divine nature of Jesus, is a living theology taking place every day with the fight for an establishing of social justice and political, cultural and economical freedom in Latin American countries. The Orthodox Theology must receive the positive messages
that Liberation Theology is sending all the time. It has to incorporate in its teaching the central meaning of Liberation Theology, namely the way of the addressee, but it also has to reformulate it in this way so it will be not insulting or offensive for its basic dogmas. In this way, Church will be more able to approach the social class of the poor, offering at them the necessary help. This mission will be based in the primordial teaching of Christ that is the practice of love, the practice of justice, and the cultivation of the belief’s spirit in order to wait the spiritual union with God. Orthodox Theology and Church have to use the methodology of Liberation Theology for approaching the poor, but they also have to be very careful not to create in them fake and mundane expectations. Social justice is something that the Orthodox Church is trying for, but it is not its only purpose. The main purpose is the inward renewal of humanity with the practice of love and justice, that obligatory leads to social and economical equality, and final to the mystic union with the one Creator.
Athanasios St., Word for the incarnation of the Word.
Antoninch R./Munàrriz J.M., Die Soziallehre der Kirche, Düsseldorf,
Basil of Seleukia’s Word VII, to Abraham II.
Bussmann C., Befreiung durch Jesus? Die Christologie den
lateinamerikanischen Befreiungstheologie, München, 1980.
Govern Mc F. Arthur, Liberation Theology and its critics,
Orbis books, Maryknoll, New York, 1990.
Green B. Joel, The Theology of the gospel of Luke, Cambridge
Ibarra Eduardo, Le context de Liberation Théologie. Théologies
de la liberation en Amérique Latine, Beauchesne,
Martzelos Georgios, History of Orthodox Theology and Spirituality,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 1997.
Moxnes Halvor, The economy of the Kingdom, Fortress Press,
Nieuewnhove J. V., Les Théologies de la liberation latino –
américaines, from Théologies en Amérique Latine, Beauchesne,
Quasten J., Patrology, Utrecht – Antwerp, 1966.
Redfield R., The little community: Viewpoints for the study of
human whole, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1955.
Salas Picon Mariano, A cultural History of Latin America
Society. From conquest to independence, University of California
Press, Berkeley, 1962.
Sobrino Jon, Jesus the liberator, a Historical – Theological
Reading of Jesus of Nazareth, Orbis Books Maryknoll, New
Todaro P. Michael, Economic development in the 3rd World,
Longman, New York, 1981.
Vèkemens, R. Desarrollo y Revolucifin. Iglèsia y liberacifin,
West Gerald, Biblical Hermeneutics of Liberation, Cluster
Publications, Pietermaritzburg, 1991.
Chapter 1: The Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 7-16
Chapter 2: Liberation Theology in Latin America . . p. 17-32
Chapter 3: The social-economical context . . . . . . . . p. 33-43
Chapter 4: The orthodox christological critic to Jon Sobrino’s concept . . p. 45-59
Epilogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 61-63
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 65-68
Τhe book of Petros Lazos
Liberation Theology according to Luke 4:16-30,
and the Orthodox critic to Jon Sobrino
has beem typesetted by Viki Spirou
printed by G. Pelekanos
for the reckoning of the author himself.