I thought I would help this blog out by engaging in a bit of shameless self promotion. In case you have an aversion to following my personal blog ‘The Bible and Class Struggle’ you may not be aware that my new book The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew was recently published by Sheffield Phoenix Press in the Social World of Biblical Antiquity series. If you order it from the publisher’s website, individual scholars and students can get a 50% discount. I’ve included the blurb below:
If homelessness typically entails a loss of social power and agency, then why do New Testament scholars so often envisage Jesus’ itinerancy as a chosen lifestyle devoid of hardship?
In this provocative new reading of the Gospel of Matthew, Robert J. Myles explores the disjuncture between Jesus and homelessness by exposing the political biases of modern Western readers. Drawing on the ideological politics of homelessness in contemporary society, Myles develops an interpretative lens informed by the Marxist critique of neoliberalism and, in particular, by the critical theory of Slavoj Žižek. Homelessness, from this perspective, is viewed not as an individual choice but rather as the by-product of wider economic, political and social forces. Myles argues that Jesus’ homelessness has become largely romanticized in recent biblical scholarship. Is the flight to Egypt, for instance, important primarily for its recasting of Jesus as the new Moses, or should the basic narrative of forced displacement take centre stage? The remedy, Myles contends, is to read directly against the grain of contemporary scholarship by interpreting Jesus’ homelessness through his wider economic, political and social context, as it is encoded in the biblical text.
To demonstrate how ideology is complicit in shaping the interpretation of a homeless Jesus, a selection of texts from the Gospel of Matthew is re-read to amplify the destitution, desperation and constraints on agency that are integral to a critical understanding of homelessness. What emerges is a refreshed appreciation for the deviancy of Matthew’s Jesus, in which his status as a displaced and expendable outsider is identified as contributing to the conflict and violence of the narrative, leading ultimately to his execution on the cross.