Yoder chapter 3 – the Jubilee Year

I’m starting to annoy myself with the length of this prolegomenon.

As we enter chapter 3 of Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus, he is still setting up his interpretation of Jesus, particularly in the Gospel of Luke. This time, he is expanding a point from his previous chapter about the incident where Jesus from Isaiah 61 in a synagogue in Nazareth. Yoder argues that the “year of the Lord’s favour” that Isaiah and Jesus are referring to is the Jubilee year. The Jubilee year is command in Leviticus 25 and should occur every 49 years.  Yoder identifies four things that are supposed to happen in the Jubilee year: 1) leaving the soil fallow, 2) the remission of debts, 3) the liberation of slaves, the return to each individual of his family’s property (p60). The rest of chapter 3 is dedicated to tracing these themes through the Gospel of Luke to demonstrate that they are common themes.

The evidence that Yoder marshals is minimal; one line of the Lord’s prayer, parts of the sermon on the plain and two parables. This is enough to show that the themes that he identified as Jubilee themes are present in Luke. It is probably enough to show that they are important. It is not enough to show that the actual concept of the Jubilee year is present in Luke, or that it is crucial to understanding the gospel. If Isaiah was directly referring to the Jubilee, then why didn’t he use the actual word? Or why didn’t Jesus?

Yes, the themes of debt and forgiveness, slavery and freedom are prominent in Luke. But, again, Yoder goes too far by trying to fit them in the purely socio-economic framework of the Jubilee year.

We still haven’t actually got to any ethics yet.


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