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The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition

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It has long been acknowledged that Jews and Christians distinguished themselves through charity to the poor. Though ancient Greeks and Romans were also generous, they funded theaters and baths rather than poorhouses and orphanages. How might we explain this difference? In this significant reappraisal of charity in the biblical tradition, Gary Anderson argues that the poor constituted the privileged place where Jews and Christians met God. Though concerns for social justice were not unknown to early Jews and Christians, the poor achieved the importance they did primarily because they were thought to be “living altars,” a place to make a sacrifice, a loan to God that he, as the ultimate guarantor, could be trusted to repay in turn. Contrary to the assertions of Reformation and modern critiques, belief in a heavenly treasury was not just about self-interest. Sifting through biblical and postbiblical texts, Anderson shows how charity affirms the goodness of the created order; the world was created through charity and therefore rewards it.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 29, 2013 – The award-winning author of Sin: A History provides another must-read for lay reader and scholar alike, especially those in critical dialogue on how Judeo-Christian biblical values influence the role of the state in caring for the vulnerable. The Greco-Roman empire didn't identify the poor as a priority of the gods. In fact, Roman emperor Julian noted that charity was the defining marker of Christian and Jewish identity, not pagan. How did giving alms and caring for the poor become such a central religious concept? Anderson unpacks the book of Tobit and other biblical literature to reveal a complex and radically countercultural story of how service to the poor became the most privileged way to serve God. "Charity," he argues, "was construed as a loan to God, which was then converted into a form of spiritual currency and stored in an impregnable divine bank." Given the current economic crisis and the low esteem in which our financial industry is held, perhaps "storing up treasure in heaven" by depositing wealth into the hands of the poor is a less volatile economic strategy that offers greater long-term security for all.
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Published: Aug 27, 2013
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Seller: Yale University Press
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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