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Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World Paperback – November 12, 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This important book reveals an economic dimension of Paul’s gospel that has only rarely been identified and never expounded so fully and convincingly. It also builds up a realistic picture of the way that care for the poor was embodied in the life of the communities Paul founded. Longenecker’s well-informed and careful arguments deserve wide attention.”
― Richard Bauckham
University of St. Andrews

About the Author

Bruce W. Longenecker is Professor of Religion and the W.W. Melton Chair of Religion in the Department of Religion at Baylor University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (November 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802863736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802863737
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #736,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Wesley Vander Lugt on September 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Caring for the poor is a prominent theme throughout the Bible, but some argue that the apostle Paul is an exception to the rule. According to this perspective, Paul's main concern was the Gospel of Jesus Christ to which the plight of the poor was a peripheral issue. Is this perspective accurate, or does it misread and misunderstand Paul's concern for the poor? If this is a question that you have wrestled with, then Remember the Poor is a great book for you. Through careful reasoning on a range of exegetical and historical issues, Longenecker seeks to dispel this myth and to demonstrate that concern for the poor was central to Paul's message and ministry.

Longenecker begins by describing the socio-economic dynamics in first-century Palestine: an advanced agrarianism with power resting in the landowning elite and a large segment of manual laborers existing at subsistence levels. It was a culture of "elite acquisitiveness," the elite becoming more elite by gaining more power. The Hebrew prophets condemned unrestrained acquisition, and Jesus took it to a radical new level, condemning honor gained through unjust means that trampled the poor. Longenecker resists simplistic, binary models of the first-century socio-economic spectrum, however, preferring more nuanced models based on careful research rather than rhetorical preferences. He proposes a detailed scale of economic distribution, modifying earlier proposals by Scheidel and Friesen, while warning that generalizations of this nature still lack appropriate nuance.

Despite economic bifurcation, charity was not altogether absent in the Greco-Roman world, but was mostly limited to almsgiving on the basis of various motivations.
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Format: Paperback
Longenecker argues against the view of many modern scholars (Loader, James, Brown, Lopez, etc.) that Paul's theology had a charitable dimension.

During the Roman empire, the majority of the free poor--not just the slaves--lived in desperate, even brutal conditions. Tax collectors could force them to pay amounts far greater than Rome demanded. And if the poor were unable to pay, as Pliny once recounted, the tax collector was free to torture them physically until they did--"he tortured their bodies with racks and wheels'" (p 27), or turn them into slaves.

There was no effort on the part of the wealthy to aid the poor. Euergetism or doing good deeds for the civic good, tended to be a matter of personal vanity, not actual charity. The wealthy built temples or baths for everyone in order that their names might be honored.

Seneca actually warned against the emotion of pity, although he thought that the good man might be charitable. Evidence of the elite helping the impoverished masses is so scanty that "The only explicit evidence from the ancient world...comes from Pseudo-Aurelius Victor...at the end of the fourth century...that the emperor Nerva" (p 92) had poor children given food.

Against this background, the Christian view would be a stunning reversal.

Longenecker agrees that Paul did not write about the poor much in his epistles.
However, Paul had argued that Christ brought a new covenant which demanded we love one another.

Previously, scholars have suggested that Paul's request in Galatians to remember the poor "was peripheral and secondary to the main issues of the Jerusalem" (p 157) council.

Yet what does Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 when he passionately talks about Christians being one body? He insists we are all one body in Christ. It was "essential to the core identity of Jesus-followers" (p284) to be generous and loving towards one another.
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Format: Paperback
All too often Christians forget about caring for the poor as one of their virtues. "Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World" looks the disciple Paul and his relation to the economic conditions of Rome in his day, and the vital role that the poor played in Early Christianity. A work of Christian economics, author Bruce Longenecker offers challenge to both economics and theologians with his studies. "Remember the Poor" is an engaging and highly recommended read for history, economics, and Christianity collections.
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