Original Research - Special Collection: Africa Platform for NT Scholars

Praising the poor and blaming the rich: A panegyric reading of Luke 6:20–49 in Malawian context

Louis Ndekha
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a6065 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.6065 | © 2020 Louis Ndekha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 April 2020 | Published: 19 October 2020

About the author(s)

Louis Ndekha, Department of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics, School of Education and Humanities, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham; Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, United Kingdom

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The article presented a panegyric reading of the Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:20–49) in the Malawian context. It observed that, unlike its Matthean counterpart (Mt 5–7), the Sermon holds an insignificant place in African hermeneutics. Based on the Sermon’s structure and content the article proposed the Greco-Roman panegyric, whose function was to inculcate commonly held values, as a framework for reading of the Sermon. It argued that when read in its original context as a Greco-Roman panegyric, the Sermon’s radical stance on poverty and riches had significant implications for African and Malawian socio-economic realities. It brought into light the complicated relationships between the poor and rich both among Luke’s original audience and the contemporary Malawian context. The panegyric reading of the Sermon also had a significant bearing on the application of the ubuntu philosophy in socio-economic interrelationships in Malawi. The article posited that the socio-economic inequalities in Malawi caused by corrupt, cronyism and nepotism not only challenge the majority Christian status of the nation but also the foundations of the African values of ubuntu. As a panegyric, the Sermon therefore challenges Malawian Christians to rethink their values and the relationship between the rich and the poor.

Contribution: The article provides a new perspective to the interpretation of the Sermon on the Plain in African context. Against the background of its apparent neglect in African hermeneutics, the article underscores the relevance of the Sermon on the Plain to -socio-economic discourse in Malawi in particular and Africa in general.


Luke; Sermon on the Plain; Panegyrics; Praise and blame; Poverty; Riches; Community; African contextual hermeneutics; Malawi


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