Chapter 8 - Other Structures
In addition to housing, there was a lot of other building going on back in the day of the Gospels. Synagogues, tombs, prisons, barns – there’s quite a list.
Along with agriculture, textiles, and, what we might term today, light industry, it appears that construction was the chief component of economic activity.
Again, not so different from today.
One might think Trump would be well represented in these passages given his profession as a builder – and indeed he is...
Hard to say what Peter had in mind for Moses and Elijah but it would have been Jesus’ only home mentioned in the Gospels, aside from his families. Wonder what Trump might build for these.
Mark 9:5 So Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
It’s hard to imagine the Gospels without stories in, and about, tombs. They are the site of perhaps the greatest miracles and scenes in all the Bible: Lazarus, the resurrection, angels, rolling stones, demon chasing…
Matthew 8:28 When he came to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were extremely violent, so that no one was able to pass by that way
Mark 5:3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.
5:5 Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
Tombs of the Saints
Matthew 27:52 And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised.
Matthew 27:64 So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 27:65 Pilate said to them, “Take a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.” 27:66 So they went with the soldiers of the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Mark 16:2 And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 16:3 They had been asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
Fear of the Tomb
Mark 16:8 Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Tomb of the Prophets
Luke 11:47 Woe to you! You build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 11:48 So you testify that you approve of the deeds of your ancestors, because they killed the prophets and you build their tombs!
Women at the Tomb
Luke 23:55 The women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.
Luke 24:22 Furthermore, some women of our group amazed us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 24:24 Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
Tales from the Tomb
Luke 24:9 and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
John 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
John 11:17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days already.
John 11:38 Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.) 11:41 So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me.
John 12:17 So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it.
Jesus’ tomb stone might be the most famous of all time
Mark 16:4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled back.
Much of the Gospels’ action took place in, and through, the synagogues. Jesus was a regular worshiper and teacher.
Luke 4:15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by all.
One can almost see Jesus reading at the service, like lay people do today in a reading from the Bible at a Sunday service.
Luke 4:16 Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
More action in the synagogue…
Luke 4:33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,
On another Sabbath in the synagogue…
6:6 On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and was teaching. Now a man was there whose right hand was withered.
Jesus is also rebuked at the synagogue…
Luke 13:14 But the president of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the crowd, “There are six days on which work should be done! So come and be healed on those days, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Being able to go to the synagogue was of vital importance.
John 12:42 Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.
Jesus’ prime messages were in the synagogues.
John 18:20 Jesus replied, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple courts, where all the Jewish people assemble together. I have said nothing in secret.
Tax Booth (3)
Trump and his taxes are a constant source of debate and friction in political circles. So if we analogize the tax booth as symbolic to the IRS (big sgtretch) we can posit that Trump might have a somewhat jaundiced view of the booth and would try to pay it little.
The tax booth would seem an unlikely place to focus anything having to do with a holy scene, but here it is nonetheless.
Mark 2:14 As he went along, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him.
Markets are exceedingly important to economic activity. The Gospels indicate thriving marketplaces.
Luke 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces!
The temple in Jerusalem was in many ways the focal point of the Gospels in terms of a center of gravity, so to speak.
Mark 11:11 Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. And after looking around at everything, he went out to Bethany with the twelve since it was already late.
From an economic and architectural point of view it would be hard to top in significance. Allegorically and historically the temple is paramount.
Luke 4:9 Then the devil brought him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
The temple has several facets, most importantly to the Gospels “action” are its courts. Here Jesus teaches, is tempted, gets upset, upsets, prophesieses, shakes the order of things, and likely seals his own death warrant.
Temple Courts (29)
Matthew 21:14 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. 21:15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant
Mark 13:1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at these tremendous stones and buildings!” 13:2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
John 8:2 Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them.
Temple Area (4)
John 8:59 Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.
John 10:22 Then came the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. 10:23 It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple area in Solomon’s Portico.
An interesting passage about a strongman protecting his home.
Luke 11:21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe.
Manger (3) and Inn (1)
Perhaps the most famous structures in the Gospels are the manger and inn. Would there be room at a Trump Hotel?
Luke 2:7 …and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Prisons must have been a booming business in Roman times. Just like today.
Matthew 14:3 For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife
Luke 21:12 But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.
Given the apparent importance of the housing industry, roofing must have also been an economic driver.
Luke 5:19 But since they found no way to carry him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles right in front of Jesus.
Tombs are mentioned more frequently than graves, but mentioned they are. Who did the digging?
Luke 11:44 Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it!”
Storeroom / Barn (4)
While infrequently mentioned, the barn (and storeroom) are used at key lessons in the Gospels.
Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds!
Can we see Trump – and ourselves - in this parable?
The Parable of the Rich Landowner
Luke 12:13 Then someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 12:14 But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator between you two?” 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 12:16 He then told them a parable: “The land of a certain rich man produced an abundant crop, 12:17 so he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 12:18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 12:19 And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of goods stored up for many years; relax, eat, drink, celebrate!”’ 12:20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 12:21 So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.”
Gate is generally used figuratively in the Gospels.
Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 7:14 But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
A gateway was a scene of great poignancy in Mark.
Mark 14:68 But he denied it: “I don’t even understand what you’re talking about!” Then he went out to the gateway, and a rooster crowed.
Walkway (2) / Pool
Found only in this passage in John, these walkways and pool seem to appear tender and sublime to the imagination…and then the sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed enter the scene.
John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool called Bethzatha in Aramaic, which has five covered walkways. 5:3 A great number of sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed people were lying in these walkways.
High drama for Peter in the courtyard of the high priest.
John 18:25 Meanwhile Simon Peter was standing in the courtyard warming himself. They said to him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” Peter denied it: “I am not!”
Here is a singular mention of a legal court of law in the Gospels. It is a fascinating glimpse of a legal system that appears to function in ways familiar to us today. Lesson for Trump? Trump is famous for his bankruptcies and legal wranglings epitomized by the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City https://fortune.com/2016/10/10/trump-taj-mahal-bankrupt-icahn-pictures/ . One might conclude that Trump is student of this process and perfected it to The Art of the Deal.
Matthew 5:25 Reach agreement quickly with your accuser while on the way to court, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the warden, and you will be thrown into prison.
A perfectly normal mention of a stall…
Luke 13:15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from its stall, and lead it to water?
This discussion of building a tower and the planning that goes into it is one of the best examples in all the Gospels of an economic and financial activity; all businesspeople can relate.
The bells are ringing for all familiar with the famous Trump Tower in NYC. Home of the Trump Organization and home to Trump himself and his family before his move to the oval office.
Luke 14:28 For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. 14:30 They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’
Given the frequent mention of roads, their building would presumably have been an important economic activity - travel and transportation are mentioned as common events. The Gospels’ participants are constantly on the move. This book does not attempt to assess Travel as an economic activity per se; however, it generally appears to be on foot, aside from water and boat travel as we will see further on.
Roads were well traveled in the Gospels and a significant amount of activity takes place “on the road.” Everything from the mention of a fig tree on the side of the road to beggars sitting by the road, an image of life on the road feels familiar.
Mark 10:46 They came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.
People followed Jesus on the road and spread branches and cloaks on the road for Him. He did miracles on the road.
Mark 10:52 Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the road.
Priests are seen going down the road in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, but when he saw the injured man he passed by on the other side.
Jesus even talks with the disciples on the road after his resurrection.
Luke 24:32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?”
Interestingly though, Jesus instructs his disciples not to talk with people on the road…
Luke 10:4 Do not carry a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road.
In the following passage we see they even had street corners back in the Gospels’ day.
Matthew 6:5 “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward
The infamous quote from Trump during the campaign in 2016 comes to mind, though on an avenue rather than a street:
“They say I have the most loyal people — did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” he said. “It’s like incredible.” https://time.com/4191598/donald-trump-says-he-could-shoot-somebody-and-not-lose-voters/
This review is taken from a study titled Economics in the Gospels which presents a view of the Gospel Economy and with it analogies to current day mixed economies and Capitalism.
The study of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the rest of the Bible, provides “nuggets” of relevant economic commentary – some of the earliest Jewish thought on money that the world has. The economic lessons are not paramount to the writers, for the most part – and yet there they are. So obvious, and yet largely overlooked. As this all relates to Donald Trump, we leave to the reader.
A review of ancient writings, not just Judeo-Christian, for economic lessons may be useful for economists. Current economic theory and practice have shown weakness as recently as the “Great Recession” and housing crash.
As Donald Trump is so associated with economics, his financial success, as well as his oft noted association with The Wharton School, financial and economic success is perhaps his major qualification. So, it would seem to make sense that analogies to the Gospels can be made, at least for the fun of it, if nothing else. We have also added the occasional hyperlink when appropriate.
The accumulator of all contained herein, Steve Richards, is hopefully as unbiased as possible as it pertains to a scholarly review of the Gospels.
Please note that throughout this book we break down the texts into specific words that have an economic context and also list in parentheses the number of times we find its mention. If we only find it once in all the Gospels there is no number.