Jesus the Meek King

Jesus the Meek King

Wainwright, Elaine

Jesus the Meek King. By Deidre J.Good. Harrisburg, Pa.: trinity Press International. 1999. xii + 131 pp. $16.00 (paper)

Jesus the Meek King by Deirdre Good makes a unique contribution to the study of Jesus, particularly in the Gospel of Matthew. Its focus is the quality of meekness, but in particular as a characteristic of Hellenistic kingship. Linguistic and cultural analyses are woven together to enable Good to paint a picture of Jesus, the praus king, and of meekness as a practice which is to characterise the Jesus community.

The study opens with a focus on “words” and “dictionaries” but expands to include the semantic domain of the word praus, which elicits “contrasting as well as shared meanings” (p. 17). These are tested within the value system constructed by the Matthean gospel and located within an exploration of the broader cultural context of the emerging Christian communities in which love of the adelphoi [philanthropic) is named a foundational virtue.

These introductory chapters prepare the ground for chapter 3, as the pivotal point of this study. It constructs, by way of an analysis of key Classical and Hellenistic texts, the concept of the “ideal king.” One significant royal virtue was philanthropic, especially in relation to one’s own subjects, but the praus king would be gracious and compassionate toward his enemies even in times of conflict. Good demonstrates how such virtues could temper the more competitive ones by way of a study of Plutarch’s depiction of Alexander and other texts.

It is against this interwoven linguistic and socio-cultural background that Good is able to undertake her study of Matt. 11:29-30 and 21:4-5, interpreting Jesus as a praus king and in particular, linking kingship with virtue. Focusing particularly on Matt. 11:29-30, she places it in its context of 11:27-30, claiming that it is the designation of Jesus as ‘son’ which symbolizes him as king in this context. The remainder of this chapter explores the meaning of meekness as it is attached to Jesus in the Matthean gospel.

A final chapter explores what Good calls “meekness in community” by way of a number of early Christian texts that either list it as one among many virtues, understand it as authorised because of its dominical origins, or understand it as “power.” The apparent paradox is diminished when these texts are contextualized in the development of the praus king or leader both within Hellenism and the Matthean depiction of Jesus. Indeed, this very paradox contributes to Good’s portrait of “a world of values in which the virtues of leaders and followers intersect” (p. 115).

These words of Good herself at the close of the book point to the significance of her text for a wide range of contemporary Christian readers seeking to appropriate the beatitudes’ call to meekness and to understand the gospel’s characterization of Jesus. The study may also help to critique some of the problematic aspects of kingship in relation to Jesus for contemporary readers, although Good does not undertake this herself in this study. This work will, therefore, serve the theologian as well as being a source of spiritual nurture for the Christian journey.

ELAINE WAINWRIGHT

Brisbane College of Theology and Griffith University School of Theology

Brisbane, Australia

Copyright Anglican Theological Review, Inc. Summer 2001

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