Re: poor or beggar

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 22 1996 - 09:26:57 EDT

At 6:35 AM -0600 4/22/96, James H. Vellenga wrote:
> I'm wondering if some of our differences stem from differing
> understandings of the English word "beggar." For some, a beggar may be
> someone who is worse off than someone who is merely "poor" -- hence, the
> relevance of Carl's quote from Aristophanes. But for others of us, who
> have seen people begging as a way of living, a beggar is not always
> truly "destitute." I have, for example, known a man who regularly
> showed up at our church trying to cadge either money or meals, but who
> had a government-furnished apartment and a twice-weekly stipend. (Yes,
> we did feed him.) And then there are, of course, the "mendicants," who
> adopt a practice of diurnal economic dependency as a spiritual way of
> life.
> But it seems to me, from a scan of several NT passages, that "destitute"
> (or possibly "beggar" in the sense of "worse off than poor") is a better
> choice than "mendicant." Cf., e.g., Luke 14.21: "Go out quickly into
> the streets and alleys of the town and bring the PTWCOUS and crippled
> and blind and disabled [people] in here!" It's hard, IMO, to imagine
> that the householder is referring merely to spiritual mendicants in the
> passage. Also cf. Luke 14.13, Matt 5.3ff., Luke 6.20-21.
> On a more reflective note, this whole discussion is making me think
> about the implications of
> a) Mark 10.21: Is Jesus asking this conscientious plutocrat to give his
> money (merely) to beggars, or rather to find people who are especially
> needy, whether beggars or not?
> b) Matt. 26.11: It's a little scary to think that we'll always have
> people among us who are "worse off than poor." And a challenge.

Very interesting. Throws a different light on matters if we read Paul in
Galatians 2:10 as saying " ... however, we should remember the street
people [or 'the homeless']." Furthermore, I've just noticed something I
never noticed before, that Gal 2:10 does NOT specificy these PTWCOI as
being members of the Jerusalem church, as it has always been understood.

And now, as I think on screen, another purely speculative ramification of
Gal 2:10 teases my mind: IF "PTWCOI" should be a designation for the
missionaries sent to evangelize in accordance with the Missionary Discourse
parallels in the Synoptic Gospels, which have at least occasionally been
thought to be post-Easter regulations for missionary work in the primitive
community, then perhaps the "collection" that Paul conscientiously sought
from his Gentile congregations was never intended to relieve poverty in the
Jerusalem church but rather to promote its missionary activities? What
think ye about that?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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