Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition

Gary A Anderson, Author
Gary A. Anderson. Yale Univ., $30 (232p) ISBN 978-0-300-18133-3
Reviewed on: 07/29/2013
Release date: 08/01/2013
Open Ebook - 233 pages - 978-0-300-18373-3
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-78104-7
Paperback - 232 pages - 978-0-300-19883-6
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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. (Aug.)
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