By Gary A. Anderson
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It has lengthy been said that Jews and Christians uncommon themselves via charity to the poor. Though historical Greeks and Romans have been additionally beneficiant, they funded theaters and baths instead of poorhouses and orphanages. How may we clarify this difference? In this important reappraisal of charity within the biblical culture, Gary Anderson argues that the negative constituted the privileged position the place Jews and Christians met God.
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Additional info for Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition
The same overconﬁdence that leads investors and lenders to underestimate the risks of legitimate investments also leads them to underestimate the likelihood of fraud. . 5 Surowiecki begins with what many commentators have judged to be a leading cause for the near depression that the United States, Iceland, and much of western Europe entered at the close of 2008. In the years leading up to that debacle, banks had extended credit to a whole host of borrowers A Loan to God 39 whose creditworthiness was suspect, to say the least.
If we move just a few hundred miles to the east, into that portion of the Christian world that spoke Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic very similar to the Aramaic of rabbinic Jewry), we ﬁnd a strikingly similar set of ideas. Let me illustrate this with the ﬁgure of St. Ephrem, a fourth-century Christian who lived in eastern Syria. In his hymns in praise of the holy man Abraham Kidunaya he wrote the following: Two heroic commandments: to love one’s neighbor and God. You bore them like a yoke. Between man and God you sowed a beautiful deposit.
But neither were biblical law codes mute with respect to this issue. In those rules that pertained to donations made to the temple—the ordinary means of taxation in ancient Israel—speciﬁc imposts were designated as means of assisting the plight of the poor. As we saw in Chapter 2, Deuteronomy mandates that the Israelite farmer donate his tithe every third year to resident aliens, orphans, widows, and Levites—persons who had no regular source of income (Deut 14:28–29). In addition to this, during the harvest season Israelites were not to reap their ﬁelds entirely but had to leave the corners untouched.