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A close reading of the Gospels, taking history and archeology into account, demolishes the myth of a socialist Jesus. Theologians virtually ignore the economic commentary in the Bible. In the few cases where it gets any attention, economic commentary in the Gospels and other New Testament writings tend to lapse into simplistic class warfare nostrums. Liberation theologians A close reading of the Gospels, taking history and archeology into account, demolishes the myth of a socialist Jesus. Theologians virtually ignore the economic commentary in the Bible. In the few cases where it gets any attention, economic commentary in the Gospels and other New Testament writings tend to lapse into simplistic class warfare nostrums. Liberation theologians import Marxism wholesale (but they try to sell it retail) into theology. Academic historians of 1st Century Palestine/Judea have been pushing an account of a poor peasant Jesus leading a poor peasant's revolt based on the idea of mass displaced workers in Lower Galilee. The problem is the actual archeological findings paint a picture of an industrious and entrepreneurial economy during Jesus's time there. Reading the Gospels in light of archeology and history, which are now available to us, gives us a very different picture than the one you’ve been told regarding what Jesus taught about work and money.


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A close reading of the Gospels, taking history and archeology into account, demolishes the myth of a socialist Jesus. Theologians virtually ignore the economic commentary in the Bible. In the few cases where it gets any attention, economic commentary in the Gospels and other New Testament writings tend to lapse into simplistic class warfare nostrums. Liberation theologians A close reading of the Gospels, taking history and archeology into account, demolishes the myth of a socialist Jesus. Theologians virtually ignore the economic commentary in the Bible. In the few cases where it gets any attention, economic commentary in the Gospels and other New Testament writings tend to lapse into simplistic class warfare nostrums. Liberation theologians import Marxism wholesale (but they try to sell it retail) into theology. Academic historians of 1st Century Palestine/Judea have been pushing an account of a poor peasant Jesus leading a poor peasant's revolt based on the idea of mass displaced workers in Lower Galilee. The problem is the actual archeological findings paint a picture of an industrious and entrepreneurial economy during Jesus's time there. Reading the Gospels in light of archeology and history, which are now available to us, gives us a very different picture than the one you’ve been told regarding what Jesus taught about work and money.

30 review for The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Ignore the subtitle. This tiny book will be the best book on the Bible you will read this year. It's not perfect, but it's the book I needed and consciously knew I needed. Conservative Evangelical Christianity has kind of schizophrenia when it comes to money and economics, a schizophrenia that I share. On the one hand, the moral majority threw in their lot with the GOP due to abortion, and due to the influence of William F. Buckley, Gary North, and others we have had a libertarian impulse. On the Ignore the subtitle. This tiny book will be the best book on the Bible you will read this year. It's not perfect, but it's the book I needed and consciously knew I needed. Conservative Evangelical Christianity has kind of schizophrenia when it comes to money and economics, a schizophrenia that I share. On the one hand, the moral majority threw in their lot with the GOP due to abortion, and due to the influence of William F. Buckley, Gary North, and others we have had a libertarian impulse. On the other hand, Evangelicals have always been activists and so charity and suspicions of big business have been as much a part of our history as free market economics. (In fact, Christian alliance with the free market is a recent accident of time and chance, though a good one in my opinion.) And behind a lot of that were the Bible verses. Jesus really lays it in on the money-lovers, and so do the prophets. I definitely have had impulses in both directions, because on the one hand, there are huge problems with our financial system as it stands, but on the other there is Jesus. This book does not solve these tensions, but its greatest virtue is that it recognizes the tensions and says, "Yes, there's a lot here: so let's pay attention to the specifics of what the Bible is saying." Jerry Bowyer is a conservative, but he's a non-reactive conservative, and that's a big deal. Bowyer explained in an interview with a friend of mine that as a conservative he wanted to know what Jesus was talking about, and as someone who was clearly into James Jordan, N.T. Wright, and Nicholas Perrin, he did his research to find out about the historical context. And that's why you should read this book. Many of us just go through the New Testament mentally blocking out all the geographical pointers. Bowyer convincingly shows that this is a bad way to read the Bible and that if we pay attention to the differences between the Judaean Temple economic system in the south and to the Galilean economic system in the north, we see two very very different economies and Jesus's words about money are pointed more at the southern economy. In short, Bowyer interprets much of Jesus's teaching about money as about the evils of money gained through political connection. It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a people-pleasing, compromised Senator to enter the kingdom of heaven. Obviously this leans fairly hard in a particular economic direction, but Bowyer has in fact said in interviews that he is not interested in dismissing more traditional concerns with greed and money-making, only that he wants us to be more careful exegetes and moralists. So this book is for you. It's about the size of the wingspan of my hand and it's 130 pages and it's written in a very simple style. Bowyer may very well be the most accessible presentation of Biblical theology I have read in a LONG time. He does jump a little bit when he linguistically connects the serpent deceiving Eve to the word for debt, but even here there's some evidence in his favor. This book not only makes you pay attention to the historical setting of the Gospels, but also is a powerful trace of all Biblical history. I would love to see more books written as accessibly as this one. I intend to buy several copies for my family members and some of my friends. It's not a flawless book: some of the early chapters are a little weaker and make you think that he is reading too much into certain verses, and his sources may in fact be over-reading certain pieces of archaeology. But so does N.T. Wright, and people still listen to him. So get this book today. You won't regret it because it will be worth your time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Ventura

    Outstanding. This is a timely book and a necessary contribution to the ongoing discussion about social justice, wealth, and economics. Bowyer has done his homework, sets forth a powerful thesis, and yet does not overstate his case. You will not be able to read the gospels the same after this. Highly recommend.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    Really good. I would not have picked this book, but I am glad I did because I learned many new things.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason Bray

    It’s interesting, but I’m not sure how convinced I am of the central premise. Basically his thesis is that Jesus’ problem with wealth was because it was ill-gotten among those who exercised political power. He never critiques those who earned their wealth through hard work. This appeals to me philosophically, and it certainly seems to be the case through the passages he quotes. However I am not sure he really sells it. It kinda revolves around an argument from silence. I think the argument could It’s interesting, but I’m not sure how convinced I am of the central premise. Basically his thesis is that Jesus’ problem with wealth was because it was ill-gotten among those who exercised political power. He never critiques those who earned their wealth through hard work. This appeals to me philosophically, and it certainly seems to be the case through the passages he quotes. However I am not sure he really sells it. It kinda revolves around an argument from silence. I think the argument could be bolstered by a more thorough look at the Old Testament’s teaching about wealth and trying to harmonize the Old with the New. Let me be clear, I’m not sure he’s wrong, I’m just also not sure he’s right. Later in the book he goes into great detail about debt, and that is by far the most rewarding part of the book. In that, he does harmonize the Old Testament, as well as the typological significance of debt forgiveness and sin forgiveness. This is really compelling stuff and deserves its own study. Unfortunately, it kinda ends flatly, just generally condemning our culture for being greedy and evil. Not that he’s wrong, but I wish there’s been some: “and here’s how we can apply these lessons to our everyday life of the church”. Instead he seems to studiously avoid doing so. I can only assume it’s because he wants to try and avoid getting involved in controversy, but how can you write a book about Christ’s teachings on social justice and not be controversial? Anyway, it is short which is always in a book’s favor when it’s presenting a challenging thesis in the meaning of various biblical passages. Short and to the point is more easily digestible. If it had been long I probably wouldn’t have gotten through it, since I was not thoroughly convinced of the thesis, and I would have missed out on the best part.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luke Deacon

    If this book was a meal, the taste was delicious but the presentation was pretty disappointing. 5 stars for Bowyer's fantastic and groundbreaking discoveries surrounding the importance of the economies of Galilee and Judea in Jesus' teachings, his thorough interpretations of some of Jesus' parables about wealth, and a well-argued point concerning the significance of debt remission in Israel (tying in Deuteronomy/Jeremiah/Daniel/etc.) and the part it eventually played in the destruction of the tem If this book was a meal, the taste was delicious but the presentation was pretty disappointing. 5 stars for Bowyer's fantastic and groundbreaking discoveries surrounding the importance of the economies of Galilee and Judea in Jesus' teachings, his thorough interpretations of some of Jesus' parables about wealth, and a well-argued point concerning the significance of debt remission in Israel (tying in Deuteronomy/Jeremiah/Daniel/etc.) and the part it eventually played in the destruction of the temple in AD70. Jesus' teaching isn't always about some inward, spiritual, "heart-thing" we need to learn. He's teaching in the context of the OT, and we forget that at our peril. Bowyer does an excellent job of reminding us of that. Great theology. 3 stars for the writing itself. I kept getting really frustrated when Bowyer asked a certain question and never satisfactorily returned to answer it, or brought up a significant point but then never really drove it home or summarized it well, leaving the reader wondering what the main point of the section was (was he arguing for this or that? Or maybe something in the middle? Or maybe something slightly different? Annoying). This could have been a MUCH more powerful and memorable book if he'd had a good editor. I'm assuming he wanted to keep it short (135 pages), but I think a few extra paragraphs here and there would have helped a lot. Also be warned: it's not about social justice/economics, even though those words are in the subtitle. It's a solid biblical theology of diligent wealth-creation vs. government mooching. Overall, 4 stars. You should definitely read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Beal

    Perhaps one of the most important books to read for the coming years

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Roberts

    Important book for the modern church. I could see this book influencing biblical scholarship for years to come.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    A fine little book, indeed. Written to debunk those who'd portray Jesus as a proponent of socialism. Bowyer's economic expertise undergirds his historical and geographical analysis of the gospels to give us a gem. A fine little book, indeed. Written to debunk those who'd portray Jesus as a proponent of socialism. Bowyer's economic expertise undergirds his historical and geographical analysis of the gospels to give us a gem.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    The chief priests delivered Jesus to death because of envy, and that envy was all about power, influence, and their economic security. Bowyer contrasts the rich elites of Judea who confiscated the money off other regions like Galilee, which accounts for where Jesus went and how He taught. He identifies the rich young ruler as a member of the Council who made all of his money unjustly through the system, and therefore he had to give it all away. I had not encountered the explanation for the diffe The chief priests delivered Jesus to death because of envy, and that envy was all about power, influence, and their economic security. Bowyer contrasts the rich elites of Judea who confiscated the money off other regions like Galilee, which accounts for where Jesus went and how He taught. He identifies the rich young ruler as a member of the Council who made all of his money unjustly through the system, and therefore he had to give it all away. I had not encountered the explanation for the differences between the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke due to the economic situation of the audiences--two sermons for two different crowds that faced different temptations. Bowyer has numerous insights that I'll be weighing further.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marcás

    I really enjoyed this book on Audible. Jerry Bowyer places Christ in His context in some fascinating ways, revealing what He, His mother and those in their area had to say about economics, political power, etc. Jerry goes into lots of detail to place what we call economics within the story of salvation. For a few examples, he contrasts Judea with Galilee as largely centralised and decentralised respectively and shows that Christ was against unjust taxes and the order that sustained them. In contr I really enjoyed this book on Audible. Jerry Bowyer places Christ in His context in some fascinating ways, revealing what He, His mother and those in their area had to say about economics, political power, etc. Jerry goes into lots of detail to place what we call economics within the story of salvation. For a few examples, he contrasts Judea with Galilee as largely centralised and decentralised respectively and shows that Christ was against unjust taxes and the order that sustained them. In contrast, Christ supported the makers in an economy and their industry. The Maker Versus the Takers also reveals the local impressions people had of places like Bethlehem and why this place- dedicated to providing priests with sacrificial lambs- is so significant in relation to Christ, the Lamb of God, and illumines various typological features and prophesies from the Old Testament fulfilled in the New. We see with fresh eyes Christ's parables, including the one about the rich man, who had property, and misappropriated his wealth in some ways, etc so was tied to a certain corrupt social order- hence he would find it hard to convert and enter the kingdom of God. Such teachings by Christ have been misinterpreted to refer to heaven and the afterlife, but at least refer more to His kingdom and have their place within a complex historical milieu which we must take into account to understand the meaning. Bowyer overturns our hallmark assumption that Christ spoke using Parables because they were easy to understand. Arguing that the opposite is true and they were and are meant to be subversive- economically, politically, theologically, etc all together. Our radical Lord was turning the whole social order of Judea, Rome and the world upside down. This is all refreshingly radical and exposes many simplistic banal myths that seek to present Christ as either meek and mild spiritual guru or a kind of Che Guevara figure. No! Bowyer, like the scriptures, correctly paints a picture of Christ as one who brings a life of flourishing economically and otherwise, convicting us of our plethora of sins and failures and mercifully reveals a higher way the restores order to the creation at all levels, including the economic. Our Lord is history's true revolutionary and this was a surprisingly great read for this time in particular, coming up to Christmas.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brent Pinkall

    I had heard high praise of this book before reading it. I don't think it lived up to the hype, but it was still good. Bowyer's central thesis is that the Bible's many denunciations of the rich are not directed at the rich at large but at wealthy people who were manipulating the system at the time. Bowyer shows this especially by focusing on the geographical markers mentioned by the gospel writers--details that would seem superfluous otherwise. He makes many helpful observations, such as why the I had heard high praise of this book before reading it. I don't think it lived up to the hype, but it was still good. Bowyer's central thesis is that the Bible's many denunciations of the rich are not directed at the rich at large but at wealthy people who were manipulating the system at the time. Bowyer shows this especially by focusing on the geographical markers mentioned by the gospel writers--details that would seem superfluous otherwise. He makes many helpful observations, such as why the gospel writers mention that Jesus overturned the tables of the pigeon sellers in particular and why he called them "robbers," or why Pilate was so willing to hand over Barabbas instead of Jesus (it had to do with economic/political pressure he was facing). I found many of his observations insightful, although I occasionally felt like he was stretching or oversimplifying things. This is not really a book about the biblical case against socialism or social justice. It's more like a Bible commentary explaining the economic context of various Bible passages and rebutting some common misunderstandings about passages used to support socialism.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    What a pleasant surprise this book was! I bought this book shortly after I listened to an interview with the author. The general argument he makes was familiar enough but what pleasantly surprised me the most was that by making his arguments, he is also showing how we can more carefully attend the text of scripture by paying close attention to the nouns of the text which shed so much light on the context of scripture. The nouns in scripture come fast and often and we (I) tend to run past them to What a pleasant surprise this book was! I bought this book shortly after I listened to an interview with the author. The general argument he makes was familiar enough but what pleasantly surprised me the most was that by making his arguments, he is also showing how we can more carefully attend the text of scripture by paying close attention to the nouns of the text which shed so much light on the context of scripture. The nouns in scripture come fast and often and we (I) tend to run past them to “get to the point.” The connections he makes are simply outstanding. I particularly thought the chapter highlighting Judas’s origins and status as massively significant to how he behaved and led to his obvious demise. This is a short book but one of the more enlightening books I have read this year. Highly recommended to anyone with a passing interest in civil law, economics, or just want to understand Jesus parables deeper.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brad Belschner

    An eye-opening book. One of the most important and satisfying things I've read in a long time. Here's the review Doug Wilson wrote that piqued my curiosity, a review I can now vouch for: https://dougwils.com/books-and-cultur... My only substantial criticism is that I think the author overextends his argument a bit at times archeologically. I don't know much about Middle Eastern archeology, but I know enough to be skeptical of overly precise and confident claims about a given time and era (e.g., G An eye-opening book. One of the most important and satisfying things I've read in a long time. Here's the review Doug Wilson wrote that piqued my curiosity, a review I can now vouch for: https://dougwils.com/books-and-cultur... My only substantial criticism is that I think the author overextends his argument a bit at times archeologically. I don't know much about Middle Eastern archeology, but I know enough to be skeptical of overly precise and confident claims about a given time and era (e.g., Galilee had an economy like such and such). Thankfully his overall thesis doesn't really depend on those overextended archeological claims, so it's not a big deal. I still think this book deserves a solid 5 stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Stinson

    The Maker Verses The Takers is by far the most helpful book I've read on the subjects of economics and social justice. You can tell Bowyer did hours and hours of research to back up every claim he makes. This is one of those rare books that will cause you to see almost everything in scripture through new eyes. It's not a book where the author shares his own political opinions over and over, taking verses out of context. No, this is a deep exegetical work that will challenge you and cause you to The Maker Verses The Takers is by far the most helpful book I've read on the subjects of economics and social justice. You can tell Bowyer did hours and hours of research to back up every claim he makes. This is one of those rare books that will cause you to see almost everything in scripture through new eyes. It's not a book where the author shares his own political opinions over and over, taking verses out of context. No, this is a deep exegetical work that will challenge you and cause you to look deep into scripture and the heart of Christ. I am in awe of how he was able to do this in under 200 pages. If you are wrestling with what you believe about economics and social justice, and want to build your convictions from the Bible, then please read this book!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Jerry Bowyer draws back the curtain and reveals just how detail God is in His design of His plan for our salvation. Jerry looks into the facts and circumstances behind why God chose to use certain places and certain times to bring His son into the world. We see just how purposeful God is in everything He does. We get an intimate look about what Jesus thought about business and finance and how they were used to glorify God and abused by those in power in Jesus’s day and how these lessons can appl Jerry Bowyer draws back the curtain and reveals just how detail God is in His design of His plan for our salvation. Jerry looks into the facts and circumstances behind why God chose to use certain places and certain times to bring His son into the world. We see just how purposeful God is in everything He does. We get an intimate look about what Jesus thought about business and finance and how they were used to glorify God and abused by those in power in Jesus’s day and how these lessons can apply to us in our day. Business leaders and owners will be rewarded for their time by reading this book. This is a factual, historical, theological, economic, and political thriller of a book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    4 out of 5 stars A very solid book that goes in-depth on Biblical topics with reference to economics. I appreciate the author's choice of including significant historical background information, as that really helped make this book an enjoyable read. The only thing I can think of to criticize this book on is how short it is. I feel like the author could have gone a little more in-depth on the topic he chose to cover, and I was disappointed with how fast I went through the book. Still, overall thi 4 out of 5 stars A very solid book that goes in-depth on Biblical topics with reference to economics. I appreciate the author's choice of including significant historical background information, as that really helped make this book an enjoyable read. The only thing I can think of to criticize this book on is how short it is. I feel like the author could have gone a little more in-depth on the topic he chose to cover, and I was disappointed with how fast I went through the book. Still, overall this is a book I would recommend.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bennon

    Really solid stuff. The argument is that Jesus specifically rebuked those who used political power to rob the populace while remaining largely silent to the well to do in Galilee who started businesses and provided jobs. I thought his arguments persuasive. I would have loved a more practical application of how this should play out in politics given his statements in the conclusion about both parties now advocating for big government. Probably too much for me to ask for given the scope of the book Really solid stuff. The argument is that Jesus specifically rebuked those who used political power to rob the populace while remaining largely silent to the well to do in Galilee who started businesses and provided jobs. I thought his arguments persuasive. I would have loved a more practical application of how this should play out in politics given his statements in the conclusion about both parties now advocating for big government. Probably too much for me to ask for given the scope of the book but I ask it anyways.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Great stuff for understanding the Bible better and getting to know Jesus better. Bowyer goes to great lengths to show that careful attention to the geography and social dynamics in Jesus’ life and teaching are critical to understand him. This analysis indicates that Jesus does not condemn hard-earned honest wealth but rather ill-gotten gain by the politically well-connected. Some of the specific textual evidences given are more convincing to me than others, but all are at least plausible. Overal Great stuff for understanding the Bible better and getting to know Jesus better. Bowyer goes to great lengths to show that careful attention to the geography and social dynamics in Jesus’ life and teaching are critical to understand him. This analysis indicates that Jesus does not condemn hard-earned honest wealth but rather ill-gotten gain by the politically well-connected. Some of the specific textual evidences given are more convincing to me than others, but all are at least plausible. Overall, this book was very beneficial for digging deeper into Scripture, and I highly recommend it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jun Sung Lee

    This is a courageous and revelatory book. Too often we have heard the parroted, "Jesus spoke more on money than on Heaven and Hell combined," followed by some equally tired platitude on better money management or worse. Brother Bowyer's conviction to clarify the Gospels is tested and proven worthy as his paradigmatic key seamlessly unlocks mystery after mystery throughout both testaments, dealing death blows to millennia-old heresies and contemporary Christianese disguised as understanding. My p This is a courageous and revelatory book. Too often we have heard the parroted, "Jesus spoke more on money than on Heaven and Hell combined," followed by some equally tired platitude on better money management or worse. Brother Bowyer's conviction to clarify the Gospels is tested and proven worthy as his paradigmatic key seamlessly unlocks mystery after mystery throughout both testaments, dealing death blows to millennia-old heresies and contemporary Christianese disguised as understanding. My praise could go on: ideologues beware, seekers rejoice!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brady Moore

    Please ignore the boomer-brain subtitle. This historical survey of the geographical implications with respect to Christ’s teachings illuminates some of the tension evangelical Christians often face when digesting seemingly contradictory passages about money, wealth, & economics. Without the geographical context Jesus can come off as neurotic; however, when you read scripture within its cultural framework we see the contrary.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    This was a very enlightening book. I have new insight into the economics addressed in the Bible; including the negative selfish agenda of some that take advantage, and the positive aspects of rightly acquired wealth; minus our current culture's erroneous idea of class warfare. The economic background of Jesus' upbringing was very eye-opening as well. Good read! This was a very enlightening book. I have new insight into the economics addressed in the Bible; including the negative selfish agenda of some that take advantage, and the positive aspects of rightly acquired wealth; minus our current culture's erroneous idea of class warfare. The economic background of Jesus' upbringing was very eye-opening as well. Good read!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Kyriosity

    (See, Becky? I listen to the ones I can get on audio! 😉) Lots of 🤯 moments in this one. A little repetitive in places, but very clearly written and well argued. The narrator appeared never to have encountered a Bible before. I wish Christian Audio would be better about choosing narrators who have basic knowledge about the Christian faith.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jon Pouliot

    One of the most thought provoking books I’ve read. I would recommend to anyone looking for an accessible, easy to read treatment of the economic and social context of Jesus’ life and death. Well researched but written in an easy to understand way.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emily Shields

    Very insightful. I had not thought that much about the socioeconomic details of the different regions Jesus' ministry was in. I wish I had read this 20 years ago and had been reading the Bible with this backdrop of knowledge. Very insightful. I had not thought that much about the socioeconomic details of the different regions Jesus' ministry was in. I wish I had read this 20 years ago and had been reading the Bible with this backdrop of knowledge.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Bowyer’s application of his research makes so much sense of Jesus’ actions and words as well as the actions of those around Him. The economy is of central importance to modern countries worldwide, why wouldn’t it have been of central importance to countries in the time of Christ?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    A simply engaging read (or listen, in my case) by an author who has dug more into economic history and language than I ever thought to. I don't feel like all of his points land perfectly for me, but it might be because I need to do more research of them. Those points that do land, land solidly. A simply engaging read (or listen, in my case) by an author who has dug more into economic history and language than I ever thought to. I don't feel like all of his points land perfectly for me, but it might be because I need to do more research of them. Those points that do land, land solidly.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rendel Carolino

    Chillingly good at helping you finally get to the bottom of biblical economics in the big picture and in the littlest but significant details.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Horner

    What Jesus really said about social justice and economics. A must read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Lewis

    Meh.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Outstanding. Highly recommended as dot connector when reading the New Testament.

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