Original Research - Special Collection: Old and New Testament Studies

The renouncement of possessions according to Matthew 19:16–30

Marius J. Nel
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2928 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2928 | © 2015 Marius J. Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2015 | Published: 13 July 2015

About the author(s)

Marius J. Nel, Department of Old and New Testament, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


This article focuses on the renouncement of possessions in Matthew 19:16–30 in terms of three related questions. Firstly, it asks if the renouncement of possessions was, according to Matthew, a general requirement for following Jesus or for membership of the Matthean community. Secondly, it investigates if this requirement did not lead to a distinction within the Matthean community between those who adhered to a stricter ethic of Jesus and those who did not (i.e. between religious virtuosi and non-virtuosi)? Finally it enquiries as to what would have compelled followers of Jesus or members of the latter Matthean community to comply with it? The article concludes that at least some of the followers of Jesus are depicted by Matthew as having renounced their possessions as a sign of their unconditional commitment to him. The Matthean community could thus have been a two-tiered community comprised of virtuosi who had renounced all their possessions, as was demanded of the rich young man, and those who had not. The renouncement of their possessions could have been part of their initiation into the Matthean community and have been motivated by the promise of an incomparable eschatological reward. It further appears that while not all who were considered to be followers of Jesus had surrendered their possessions, all would share in God’s eschatological reward if they provided hospitality to those who did.


Matthew; Possessions; Matthean community


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