In Begging for Their Daily Bread, Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez formulates a beggars-centric hermeneutic and interprets Matthew 6 through this lense, arguing that this text could be both engaging and alienating to beggars in the first-century Jesus movement. Gurina-Rodriguez establishes that beggars come from different backgrounds and diverse perspectives on their realities of life while sharing particular life experiences marked by destitution, homelessness, lack of any safety net, and controversial reactions from the public to their means of survival. Gurina-Rodriguez constructs three beggar characters, explores the differences and similarities in their possible interpretations of a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and brings to our attention some of the blind spots that many traditional readings of the text written by non-poor Western scholars have concerning life in poverty.
Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez (Ph.D., Brite Divinity School) currently serves as an Associate Pastor of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Chapter 1: Positioning a Beggars-Centric Hermeneutic in New Testament Studies
Chapter 2: Socio-Economic Profile of Beggars in Antiquity
Chapter 3: On Receiving Alms (Matthew 6:1-4)
Chapter 4: On Praying and Fasting (Matthew 6:5-18)
Chapter 5: On Treasures, Eyes, Masters, and Worries (Matthew 6:19-34)
Chapter 6: Conclusion
This insightful and thought-provoking study aligns with other NT studies that examine the interactions between the majority, low-status, first-century, ‘common folks’ and NT texts. Yet Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez presses into largely unexamined territory: how might the lowest of the low, beggars who pervaded the Roman world, engage Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount? Employing several critical methods to construct a ‘beggars-centric hermeneutic,’ and recognizing the diverse experiences of beggars, she reads the Sermon with three beggars – Georgios, Elpida, and Kopreias. The result is an intriguing, multivalent, and compelling study.
This is a project of historical imagination, a proposal for how first-century beggars might have heard and responded to passages from the Sermon on the Mount. Inspired by the author’s own concern about modern day inequities and how they affect the most vulnerable among us, the book prompts readers to consider how Jesus’ most well-known teachings intersect with both ancient and modern economic realities.
Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez’s carefully constructed exposé into the lives of ancient beggars is a must-read for anyone interested in the daily realities of poverty in the Roman world. Her creation of a beggars-centric hermeneutic and her willingness to utilize historical imagination produce a fresh perspective on Matthew. Perhaps the most stimulating discussion is her profound attention to the ways in which Gospel teachings alienate beggars and others with little to no financial means.