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The Rich Farmer


(1) Thom 63:1
(2) 1Q?: Luke 12:16-21



(1) Thom 63:1

63 Jesus said, There was a rich man who had a great deal of money. 2He said, "I shall invest my money so that I may sow, reap, plant, and fill my storehouses with produce, that I may lack nothing." 3These were the things he was thinking in his heart, but that very night he died. 4Anyone here with two ears had better listen! [Complete Gospels]


(2) Luke 12:16-21

12:16 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 12:17 And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' 12:18 Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 12:19 And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 12:20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."



Biblical Parallels

Job 31:24-28
24"If I have made gold my trust,
       or called fine gold my confidence;
25if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great,
       or because my hand had gotten much;
26if I have looked at the sun when it shone,
       or the moon moving in splendor,
27and my heart has been secretly enticed,
       and my mouth has kissed my hand;
28this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
       for I should have been false to God above.

Psalm 49:16-20
16Do not be afraid when some become rich,
       when the wealth of their houses increases.
17For when they die they will carry nothing away;
       their wealth will not go down after them.
18Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy
       --for you are praised when you do well for yourself--
19they1 will go to the company of their ancestors,
       who will never again see the light.
20Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
       they are like the animals that perish.

Sirach 2:1-11
1My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
       prepare yourself for testing.1
2Set your heart right and be steadfast,
       and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.
3Cling to him and do not depart,
       so that your last days may be prosperous.
4Accept whatever befalls you,
       and in times of humiliation be patient.
5For gold is tested in the fire,
       and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.2
6Trust in him, and he will help you;
       make your ways straight, and hope in him.
7You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
       do not stray, or else you may fall.
8You who fear the Lord, trust in him,
       and your reward will not be lost.
9You who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
       for lasting joy and mercy.3
10Consider the generations of old and see:
       has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?
    Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord4 and been forsaken?
       Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected?
11For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;
       he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.

Sirach 11:17-19
Some stint and save and thus become rich
and think that they have achieved something
and say, "Now I will make myself a good life,
eat and drink of what I have"
—but they do not know that their hour is near
and that they must leave everything to others and die.


John Dominic Crossan

Item: 94
Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
Attestation: Double
Historicity: +
Common Sayings Tradition: Yes

Crossan [Historical Jesus, 275] notes that this parable is one of several complexes that express a criticism of wealth. In this case the farmer has not done anything wrong:

He is simply rich and has the planning problems of such status. But riches do not save you from death's unexpected arrival.

For other clusters dealing with riches, see: 43. Blessed the Poor, 199. Kingdom and Riches and 235. The Rich Man


Jesus Seminar




JS Mtg





W Avg


Thom 63:1-3
L, T
Luke 12:16b-20
L, T
Luke 12:21
L, T

The commentary in The Five Gospels notes the Lukan context (Luke 12:13-34) in which several elements address questions concerning possessions:

13:13-15 Warning against greed
13:16-21 Parable of the rich farmer
12:22-32 Do not be anxious
12:33-34 Treasure in heaven

While some Fellows of the Seminar were influenced by the lack of distinctive traits to distinguish this saying from the typical moral instruction of the wisdom tradition, most noted the simpler version preserved in Thomas (without either the introductory or concluding remarks found in Luke 12:15 and 12:21 respectively). The commentary continues:

Further, this parable can be seen as making a metaphorical point similar to that of the other parables that portray an inappropriate response to the coming of God's imperial rule. Examples include the parables of the money in trust (Luke 19:12b // Matt 25:14-30); the unforgiving slave (Matt 18:23-34); the Pharisee and the toll collector (Luke 18:10-14); and the response of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). This farmer, like the useless and unforgiving servants, the earnest Pharisee, and the elder brother, fails to respond appropristely to the situation.


Samuel T. Lachs

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament, 291f]:

Rabbinic teaching does not eschew the material things of life, but it does not make of them the ultimate goal of man's existence. Man possesses an insatiable appetite, hence the statement, "Man's nature is such that he is never satisfied." [B. Sanh. 29b] There are many admonitions about the evil of covetousness and avarice, e.g., "A Rich man is compared to a mouse lying on dinars." [Ibid. Cf. also Sira 2.1-11; Ps. 49.16-20; Job 31.24 ff]


Gerd Luedemann

Luedemann [Jesus, 345f] comments:

The authenticity of this passage is sometimes defended by designating it an 'eschatological parable' (J. Jeremias). But it is certainly not that. It is the narrative by a wise man indicating that riches mean nothing in the face of death. As one who knew the traditions of Israel, especially as he had called the poor blessed (6.20), Jesus may have thought that. But each time the context is quite different. If 6.20 is authentic, then 12.16-20 must be inauthentic. Jesus had other concerns than the fate of individual rich men, all the more so as the case mentioned in the parable was not and is not the rule.


Muslim Jesus Traditions

Tarif Khalidi [The Muslim Jesus] provides the following traditions that preserve a slight echo of this cluster.

/294/ Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he sells his soul for all that is in the world, and then leaves all that he sold it for as an inheritance to someone else while he himself has ruined his soul? Blessed is he who saves his soul, preferring it to all that is in the world." [eighteenth century]

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