The Strength Needed to Enter the Kingdom of God

An Exegetical and Theological Study of Luke 16,16 in Context

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Giuseppe G. Scollo
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2
  • Tübingen, Germany: 
    Mohr Siebeck
    , April
     422 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


The present study of Luke 16:16, The Strength Needed to Enter the Kingdom of God, represents the full revised version of Giuseppe Scollo’s PhD dissertation, regarding not only the enigmatic saying from Luke 16:16 and his parallel in Matt 11:12, but also the two parables (The Shrewd Steward, and The Rich Man and Lazarus) from Luke 16, altogether being analyzed within the context of Luke’s Gospel, as well as in the wider biblical perspective and of the ancient world.

In chapter 1, the introduction, the author adopts a basis variant of Luke 16:16, and divides the verse into threefold subdivision. Looking comparatively, while Luke 16:16 is surrounded by a concern with the use of wealth and material possessions, the Matthaean text is well integrated within a context focused on John the Baptist and Jesus.

Chapter 2,A History of interpretation of an Enigmatic Sayingwhich finely is in agreement to the Eastern Orthodox Church methodology, in my opinion, displays and captures that the concept of the “only beautiful violence” (Clement of Alexandria) “is best encapsulated, perhaps, by John Chrysostom, when he unequivocally declares: ‘It is good to seize, yet not the perishable things, but the kingdom of Heaven” (22). Special attention is accorded to the fact that many scholars regard the verse as rather an expression of Jesus’ present perception of the Kingdom, and thus Scollo argues that it must necessarily be part of one of His authentic utterances. The author scrutinizes the first 1,500 years of continuous positive understanding of the “violence passage” and thus exposes, on the one hand, that the longest established understanding of the saying has universally been in a positive manner. On the other hand, he stresses that only in the 20th century does the number of negative interpretations significantly increase.

Chapter 3, “The Saying in its Context,” argues that Luke 16:14–31 constitutes the minimum narrative segment which includes verse 16. As for the previous context, Scollo remarks that “the parable of the Shrewd Steward is one of the most difficult parabolic sections of the Gospels and has long been classified accordingly, just like v. 16, as a crux interpretum” (116–117). The shrewdness of the unrighteous steward can be used to encourage almsgiving as the wisest investment possible for the advantage of one’s own future. The author’s conclusion is that the background unit in which the “violence passage” occurs appears to be logically linked to that setting by “literary techniques, rhetorical devices, and textual indicators” (163).

Chapter 4, “The Linguistic Spectrum of the bia-based Lexemes,” starts from the premise that the evidence offered by the lexical background from the Hellenistic, Jewish and Christian literature supports the view of the Šema Yisrā ͗ēl of Deut 6:4–5 as representing the “broad reference” of Luke 16:16. What is significant for the Scollo’s argument is that Luke is the only New Testament author who uses the bia-based terms to describe the intrinsic force of an act of persuasion, a situation of mob pressure, or an element of nature.

Chapter 5, “Exegesis and Theology of Luke 16:16 in Context,” in my view, is the most interesting one for a biblical scholar. It aims at showing the message of the verse considering the evangelist’s own theological perception. By way of summary, the author states its meaning in this way: “Since mammon must be used to befriend the poor and gain possession of eternal dwellings, Christians are called to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and, most of all, strength or mammon, and thus use bia to gain entrance into the kingdom of God” (284–285). Quoting Dante Alighieri, Scollo answers finally “which kind of violence the Heaven allow itself to be won, namely, the strength of fervent love and living hope together which alone conquers the kingdom of Heaven!” (294).

Chapter 6, the conclusion, stresses first the need to recover the patristic interpretations of this saying and their relevance in current theological reflection. Secondly, the author underscores that the saying relates to the primary theme of the chapter, namely, the right use of riches in view of one’s future entry into the house-kingdom of God. Thirdly, the author explains how “force” and “love” converge harmoniously into what can be called “the violence of love” to gain the heavenly treasure. I think that one of the most relevant ideas stressed here is that if the ancient Zealots and any other kind of fundamentalists permit different types of violence for the sake of a sociopolitical economic freedom, saints struggle for an ascetic liberty, using spiritual weapons in the spirit of agapeic love. As Scollo highlights, this is what was stressed constantly by the Church Fathers who saw human life on earth as an intense warfare against enemies, such as the worldly passions and pleasures from the devil, and just by means of spiritual weapons, such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. “The violence of love,” performed through almsgiving, may be thought of as a “happy” (Ambrose of Milan) and “beautiful violence” (Clement of Alexandria), because it makes the person freer and happier. Accordingly, discipleship is a total filial trust into the hands of God, as exemplified, for instance, by Tabitha (Acts 9:36) and Cornelius (Acts 10:2).

The volume is plentifully annotated and has a large bibliography, and I think that this impressive effort deals with the full spectrum of issues concerning Luke 16:16. Beside the contribution to the better understanding of this special logion, Giusseppe Scollo presents a high contribution in expanding the horizon of Lukan studies and gives new insights especially for Lukan theology, as well as for biblical theology. This is a study of high scholarly quality which will have to be reckoned with by all interested in the Lukan’ theological meanings. Beside this exegetical erudition, I am convinced that this book, in the words of Thomas Collins in the foreword, “has most fruitful practical implications” (xi) for everyone willing to attain the holiness.


About the Reviewer(s): 

Ioan Mihoc is lecturer of New Testament Studies and biblical archaeology at the University of West in Timișoara, Romania.

Date of Review: 
July 24, 2021
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Giuseppe G. Scollo is vice-rector of the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary of Toronto and assistant professor at St. Augustine's Academic Faculty.


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