Zacchaeus as the Rich Host of Classical Satire

In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: David H. Sick1
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This piece builds upon the work of Dennis Hamm and Mikeal Parsons to compare the character Zacchaeus of Luke 19:1–10 to the rich host of a banquet from classical satire and related genres. In this category the diminutive tax collector joins a rogues’ gallery, including Nasidienus from Horace’s Satire 2.8 and Trimalchio from Petronius’ Satyricon. Those who grumble (γογγύζειν) about Jesus’ table fellowship should be understood as his fellow dining companions. The moralizing voice of the satirist is represented by these grumbling guests, whose harping is similar to that of the Pharisees. According to recent literary theory, the voice of the satirist, in this case a Pharisaic one, is undermined by its own harshness. By weakening the criticism of the satiric voice, Luke encourages identification with the sinner Zacchaeus and thus fosters the Gospel’s general objective of salvation of the lost.

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