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Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition Hardcover – August 27, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0300181333 ISBN-10: 0300181337 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Review

"The award-winning author of Sin: A History provides another must-read for lay reader and scholar alike."—Publishers Weekly, starred review (Publishers Weekly)

“Ambitious . . . formidable . . . remarkably lucid."—Greg Carey, Christian Century
(Greg Carey Christian Century)

“Unquestionably learned [and] insightful. . . . An encouraging work of interreligious scholarship.”—John P. Langan, America
(John P. Langan America)

Won an Award of Merit for the 2014 Christianity Today Book Award competition in the category of Biblical Studies.
(Award of Merit Christianity Today 2013-12-13)

Named one of the 10 Best Religion Books of 2013 by Religion News Service
(Religion News Service)

“Wide-ranging and engaging”—Matthew L. Skinner, Christian Century
(Matthew L. Skinner Christian Century)

“[Anderson's] study . . . persuasively emphasises the spiritual and theological value of charitable works and may deepen the commitment of readers to embrace ‘all peoples and all needs’ within the divine economy of charity.”—Hilmar M. Pabel, The Tablet
(Hilmar M. Pabel The Tablet 2013-12-21)

“Gary Anderson brilliantly illuminates the true place of almsgiving in the biblical and post-biblical tradition. His extraordinary, bold book changes entire fields of Christian theology and biblical scholarship once and for all.”—Matthew Levering, University of Dayton
(Matthew Levering)

“Characteristically learned and wide-ranging, this book is a fascinating and timely call to revisit inherited assumptions about the sacramental connection between grace and charity.”— Markus Bockmuehl, University of Oxford
(Markus Bockmuehl)

Finalist for the 2014 American Academy of Religion Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion, in the textual studies category.
(Awards in Excellence American Academy of Religion 2014-09-24)

“Of interest to a wide range of readers . . . intellectually rich . . . engaging . . . [an] expert and stimulating work.”—Timothy J. Sandoval, Review of Biblical Literature
(Timothy J. Sandoval Review of Biblical Literature)

" . . . Most engaging book both for Jewish-Christian and Roman Catholic-Protestant biblical and theological dialogue. It evinces engaged and laudable wrestling with biblical theology. The book is challenging and charming, full of riches that do profit. If you liked Sin, you will love Charity."—Bonnie Thurston, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly
(Bonnie Thurston The Catholic Biblical Quarterly)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (August 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300181337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300181333
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #704,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul Q. Kucera on April 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was hoping this book would spend a good deal of time discussing the poor in the biblical tradition, as the subtitle suggests. The subtitle would probably be better stated as "Almsgiving in the Biblical Tradition." This book is, as the main title makes plain, an exploration of the subject of charity: the poor figure in it only to the extent that they are the nameless, voiceless "slot" through which one's charitable giving goes "clink" in the heavenly treasury.

So in one respect, Anderson's book did not live up to my hopes for it. However, Anderson is not proposing to study the poor as the poor: his aim is to explore how Second Temple Jewish authors, especially Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus) and the author of Tobit, thought of almsgiving, and to consider also how almsgiving is treated in the gospels according to Matthew and Luke. If anything, the subtitle might have been, "Time with Tobit."

Anderson helpfully explains the way in which almsgiving became an equivalent for temple sacrifice in a time when the Temple in Jerusalem no longer stood. My sense of the sum of Professor Anderson's argument is that charity, specifically giving alms to the poor, is enacting one's faith, in several senses. Anderson discusses those several senses: faith in God, faith in God as the kind of God revealed in Scripture, faith in the goodness of creation, faith in God's promises, faith that God is not indifferent, faith that risking material wealth here on earth is an act that pleases God in heaven, faith that God will remember the faithful.

I am still wondering how one chapter leads logically into the next. This is not always made entirely clear.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christina Grace Dehan on October 19, 2014
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I found this book continuously continuously interesting, intellectually challenging (without being too dense), and spiritually convicting. While Anderson is clearly a gifted Biblical scholar, he steers clear of jargon and esoteric academic allusions and manages to write in such a way that is accessible to any educated reader who loves Scripture. I highly recommend this book, although readers should be warned that both during and after reading "Charity," they will most likely be compelled to re-examine their own attitudes toward charitable giving.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Much easier reading than his "Sin, a History", it brings up some of the same points but drives home the importance of helping the poor as a major part of religious life.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John T. Conroy, Jr. on October 31, 2013
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A superb example of careful exegesis of biblical texts and a sensitivity to a part of our society that is systematically overlooked. It fulfilled the expectations that arose out of its prominent featuring in "America" magazine.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sam F. Hochstatter on February 27, 2014
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I am a Protestant so I didn't follow the authors use of intertestament quotations or his Catholic theology, but I did appreciate his research on charity. Was hoping he would use scriptural references.
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