Charity - Anderson, Gary A. - Yale University Press
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The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition
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Won an Award of Merit for the 2014 Christianity Today Book Award competition in the category of Biblical Studies.
Named one of the 10 Best Religion Books of 2013 by Religion News Service
Finalist for the 2014 American Academy of Religion Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion, in the textual studies category.
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.
Gary A. Anderson is Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame. He lives in South Bend, IN.
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