Illustrating Wisdom: Luke 12:16-21 and the Interplay of Death and Possessions in Sapiential Literature Restricted; Files Only

Rindge, Matthew (2008)

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The dissertation reads Luke's parable of the Rich Fool (12:16-21) as a sapiential narrative, and situates this parable within an intertextual conversation regarding the intersection of death and possessions. Most interpreters read Luke's parable through a prophetic lens, and conclude that it is a simple and straightforward critique of avarice. The multiple resonances between Luke's parable and Hellenistic Jewish wisdom texts suggest, however, that Luke is drawing upon an established sapiential motif in Second Temple Judaism. Qoheleth, Ben Sira, 1 Enoch, and Testament of Abraham reflect diverse understandings of death, and offer, in light of these perceptions, competing answers regarding how possessions can be used meaningfully. Six distinct options emerge in these texts for how goods can be used meaningfully given death's inevitability, uncertain timing, and potential imminence: enjoyment, inheritance, generosity, hospitality, alms, and giving to God. The interplay of death and possessions also figures prominently in ancient Egyptian texts and Greco-Roman authors such as Lucian and Seneca.

Luke's parable and its immediate literary context (12:13-34) illustrates, participates in, and reconfigures this contested conversation regarding the intersection of death and possessions. Luke 12:13-34 participates in this conversation by evaluating the relative meaningfulness of six sapiential options for utilizing possessions. In light of death's potential imminence and uncertain timing, Luke rejects as meaningless the pursuit of an inheritance, plans for enjoyment, and storing goods for one's own use. Luke proposes instead that the uncontrollable facets of death make giving to the poor in the form of alms the primary meaningful use of possessions. Luke reconfigures the conversation on death and possessions by appropriating certain motifs such as the unjust acquisition of goods and the attempt to exert control in the face of death, and adapting these themes to his own existential, ethical, and theological concerns. Luke illustrates this conversation by placing it in the form of a narrative and, in particular, a parable. Luke 12:13-34 functions as a sapiential discourse, the unique concerns of which are underscored by comparing Luke's version with the parallel in the Gospel of Thomas.

Table of Contents

1. Luke's Parable of the Rich Fool (12:16-21): A History of Its Interpretation

1.1 Introduction

1.2 The Early-Medieval Periods

1.3 Reformation

1.4 Nineteenth Century

1.4.1 Adolf Jülicher: A Turning Point in Scholarship?

1.5 Modern Readers

1.5.1 Continuing the "Early-Medieval-Reformation" Paradigm

1.5.2 Reading the Parable in its Literary Context

1.5.3 Reading the Parable with Greco-Roman Texts

1.5.4 Reading the Parable with (Jewish) Wisdom Texts Bernard Brandon Scott Georg Eichholz Egbert Seng

1.6 Conclusion: Advancing a Conversation and Filling a Gap in Scholarship

2. The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Qoheleth, Ben Sira, 1 Enoch, and Testament of Abraham

2.1 Introduction

2.2 The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Qoheleth

2.2.1 Qoheleth 2:1-26

2.2.2 Qoheleth 3:11-22

2.2.3 Qoheleth 5:10-6:2

2.2.4 Qoheleth 8:8-15

2.2.5 Qoheleth 9:1-10

2.2.6 Qoheleth 11:7-12:8

2.2.7 Conclusion

2.3 The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Ben Sira

2.3.1 Death in Ben Sira

2.3.2 Possessions in Ben Sira

2.3.3 Ben Sira 11:14-28

2.3.4 Ben Sira 14:3-19

2.3.5 Conclusion

2.4 The Interplay of Death and Possessions in the Epistle of 1 Enoch

2.4.1 Death and a Divine Judgment in the Epistle of 1 Enoch

2.4.2 Participating in a Sapiential Conversation on Death and Possessions

2.4.3 Conclusion

2.5 The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Testament of Abraham

2.5.1 Death as the Primary Plot Device

2.5.2 The Inevitability of Death

2.5.3 Wealth and Possessions

2.5.4 Making a Testament

2.5.5 Hospitality and Death

2.5.6 Conclusion

2.6 Conclusion to Chapter Two

3. The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Ancient Egyptian Literature

3.1 Introduction

3.1.1 Positive and Negative Depictions of Death and the Afterlife

3.1.2 The Uncertain Timing of Death

3.1.3 Death Accompanied by a Postmortem Judgment

3.2 The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Ancient Egyptian Literature

3.2.1 Postmortem Judgment and the Misuse of Others' Possessions

3.2.2 Negative Views of the Afterlife and Enjoyment

3.2.3 Death's Uncertain Timing and Generosity

3.2.4 Death's Uncertain Timing and Enjoyment

3.2.5 The Unavoidability and Finality of Death Enjoyment Generosity and Enjoyment

3.2.6 Remembering the Dead as a Means of Finding Control Remembrance through Generosity and Acts of Justice

3.3 Conclusion

4. The Interplay of Death and Possessions in Lucian and Seneca

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Lucian and the Dialogues of the Dead

4.1.1 The Unavoidability, Irreversibility, and Universal Fear of Death

4.1.2 Death as a Reassessment of Possessions

4.1.3 The Instability of Inheritance and the Distribution of Possessions

4.2 Seneca's Epistulae Morales

4.3.1 Perceptions of Death

4.3.2 Possessions and Wealth

4.3.3 The Interplay of Death and Possessions Pleasures, Luxury, and the Fear of Death Ingratitude, Insatiability, and the Fear of Death Luxury and the Living Dead

4.3 Conclusion

5. Luke 12:16-21: Illustrating and Reconfiguring Sapiential Conversations Regarding Death and Possessions

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Luke 12:13-34: Participating in a Conversation on Death and Possessions

5.2.1 Possessions and Death's Inevitability and Uncertain Timing

5.2.2 Death and Possessions in the Broader Literary Context (12:4-34)

5.2.3 Sapiential Elements in Luke's Parable

5.2.4 Appropriating and Reconfiguring Qoheleth and Ben Sira

5.2.5 Evaluating Sapiential Recommendations Regarding Possessions Enjoyment Inheritance Generosity Giving to God Hospitality Alms

5.3 Reading the Parable in Its Immediate Literary Context (12:13-15, 21)

5.3.1 "Storing up for Oneself": The Critique and Analysis of Greed in 12:13-21

5.3.2 "Not Rich Toward God": 12:20, 21b, 22-34

5.4 The Man's Folly in Light of Sapiential Texts

5.4.1 "Storing up for Oneself": The Folly of Saving for the Future

5.4.2 Ignoring Death's Inevitability, Uncertain Timing, and Potential Imminence

5.5 Reconfiguring the Sapiential Conversation on Death and Possessions

5.5.1 The Dilemma of An Appropriately Acquired Surplus

5.5.2 God, Anxiety, and the Control of One's Life and Possessions (12:22-34)

5.6 Why the Man Is (and Is Not) Called a Fool

5.7 Comparing Luke and Thomas

5.8 Conclusion

5.9 Further Implications

5.9.1 Luke's Parables as Sapiential Narratives

5.9.2 Parables and Character Formation


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