Economy of the Kingdom
"Several Lucan parables give clear indications both of the precarious situation of tenants and of the built-up antagonisms and criticism against landlords (16:1-8; 19:12-27; 20:9-16)."[i] “Some of Josephus’ stories indicate the hugh accumulations of wealth involved (e.g. Life, 66-68, 126-128).”[ii] Gerd Theissen makes this comment: “A progressive concentration of possession probably heightened the struggle over the distribution of wealth in the first century A.D.”[iii] Sean Freyne stated: “The Galilian Jewish peasant found himself in the rather strange position that those very people to whom he felt bound by ties of national and religious loyalty, the priestly aristocracy, were in fact his social oppressors."[iv]
The vineyard parables presuppose the absence of the landlord[v] but was the landlord a foreigner? Halvor Moxnes analyzed the economic relationships of the landlord in The Economy of the Kingdom.[vi] The trusted servant acted as a messenger on his behalf (Lk. 14:17-24; 20:9-14). The absentee landlord employed a steward (oikonomos) who is in charge of the estate while the landlord is away (Lk. 12:41-48). Moxnes stated “It was primarily the large absentee landowners who needed agents. The owner of the vineyard in the parable 20:9-19 lives close enough to deal with his tenants directly through a servant messenger (doulos) who could not act independently of the master.”[vii] These observations may contradict the conclusion that the owner of the vineyard was an absentee foreign landlord. The phrase, “went into another country”, may be the derogatory comment of a Galilean preacher identifying 'Judea' with “another country.” At the time of Jesus, Galilee had only been subject to Jerusalem authority for about 100 years beginning when the Hasmonean High Priests came to power during the Maccabean revolt.
[i] Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom: Social Conflicts and Economic Relations in Luke's Gospel, (Philadelphia 1988), 73.
[ii]. Andrew Chester, “The Jews of Judaea and Gaililee” in Early Christian though in its Jewish Context edited by Barclay and Sweet, (Cambridge, 1996), 12.
[iii] Gerd Theissen, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity, (Philadelphia 1978), 41.
[iv] Sean Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, 323 B.C.E - 135 C.E.: A Study of Second Temple Judaism, (Philadelphia, 1980), 199.
[v]. Lk. 16:1ff; 13:6ff; 19:1ff; Matt. 21:33-44; Mark 12:1.
[vi]. Moxnes, 62-64.
[vii]. Moxnes, 63.