Stewardship, Property and Poverty in The Early Church

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Stewardship, Property and Poverty in The Early Church:
(Notes towards a Social History of Early Christianity)
I. Wealth in the Old Testament: Theology of Things
A. Creation and The Dominion Mandate - Genesis 1-3
B. The Ten Words - Dt. 6; Ex. 20 - Private property is basis of man's moral responsibility for
wealth
C. Right to property was controlled by, if not subordinated to, the obligation to care for those in
need. Rights were subjected to responsibility.
D. Royal and State Revenues in O.T. Sovereignty/power expressed by wealth (I Kgs. 10:23;14:
26; 7: 51; 15:15; 16:8; 18:15; II Kgs. 12: 19ff; 3:4; 23:33-35; 22: 3-4; Jos. 6:19; II Sam. 8:11;
Jdg. 9:4; II Chron 17: 5-11; 26:8).
E. Tithes - II Ch. 17:5; Gen. 47:13-26; I-Sam 8:15,17 (compare with Ugaritic texts); Neh. 10: 3346; 12: 44-47; 13: 10-3.
F. Prophetic critique - Amos 5: 11; 7:1; Ezek. 45: 13-17; Jer 22: 13; Amos 8: 4-8; Isa 5: 8-10; 10:
1-3; Micah 4: 4
G. Forced Labor- Ex. 1: 11-14; 5; 4-19; II Sam. 20: 24; Dt. 26:6; I Sam 8:12, 16-17; Isa. 31: 8
II. Riches in Inter-Testamental Judaism:
A. Social conflict in early Judaism - I Kgs. 21; Isa. 5; 8ff; Mic. 2:2; Neh 5: Iff
B, Jewish struggle for freedom, egs. see Jos. Bell, 2, 427 Maccabees, zealots
C. Poverty and riches in rabbis (.see Pirke Aboth, 1, 2; Test of Judah, 25:4; compare with Dt. 14:
29; 26:12 Tithe for the Poor
D. Jewish War, Bar Cochba Revolt (66-74; 132-5 A.D.)
E. Wealth at Qumran - IQ S4.23; IQH 17:15;IQS 1:10; 9:21; compare with I Tim 6:10 and
demand for pious 'self-sufficiency' (autarkeia of Stoics and Cynics)
III. Jewish Context of Jesus' Preaching:
A. Josephus - Antiq. 18, 55-64
B. Philo - Leg. and C 299ff.
C. Lk. 13: 1ff (context of chps 12-19 and the hearing of outcasts)
IV. Jesus/Kingdom and Wealth:
A. Matt 5: 1-11; 6:33 - Seek first the Kingdom
B. Jesus and disputed legacy - Lk. 12: 13
C. "No one can serve two masters" - Matt. 6:24/ Lk. 16: 13 (Mammon is Aramaic-Phoenician
word for possessions or property)
D. 'Good tidings to the Poor' - Isa. 61: Iff; Lk. 4: 16ff; 7:22; Matt. 11:5
E. Woes on The Rich - Lk. 12: 16-21; 16: 19-31; Mk. 10:24
F. Jesus did not come from the proletariat of day-laborers, and landless tenants, but from middle
class Galilee, the skilled workers (Mk.- 6:3 Tekton); Disciples came from similar milieu Zebedee (Mark 1: 20) Levi/Matthew (Mark 2: 14ff; Matt. 9:9f;10: 3; 11:18)
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G. Jesus presupposed owning property - Lk. 8; 2ff; 10; 38ff; Mk. l:29f; 7:9f; 12:41f; Matt
5:42/Lk. 6:30-34. He did not avoid contact with wealthy - egs. Lk. 10;8ff; 7:36ff; 11:37; 14:1,
12; Mk. 14: 3ff; Jn. 2:13-17; Matt. 11:19/Lk. 7:34; Matt 20:15 Jesus is opposed to misuse of
wealth, not wealth per se.
V. Paul and The Social Context of The Gentile Christian Mission
A. Paul's Stewardship Revolution - II Cor 8 and 9
B. Christian World-View and World-Vision; Poor Greek's helping poor Jewish brothers and
sisters
C. Parousia and realistic responsiblity - eg. I Thess 4: 12; 5:14
D. Paul's Mandate Irrationally assimilated into the Soviet Russian constitution - "If anyone will
not work, let him not eat."
E. The term rich (plorisios) appears only once in Paul, but in a Christological rather than
sociological context - II Cor 8: 9
F. Paul as poor in II Cor. 6:10 - The Divine contradiction - 'Poor, . . . yet rich'; as tentmaker Acts 18: 3; I Cor. 9: Phil. 2:25ff; 4:15ff.
G. Social structure of Gentile Christian Communities - I Cor. 1:16; 1:26; Acts 13: 43, 50; 16:14;
17: 4, 17; 18:7; 18:2, 18, 26; Rom. 16:3, 23 (.city treasurer); Philemon 2; Col. 4:15; II Cor.
2:17; 4:2; 11:13; 8:2; 'extreme poverty' I Cor. ll:20ff - rich/poor at Lord's table).
Expansion of religious throughout empire, eg. practices of mysteries of Osiris, etc. and Paul's
refusal to seek support-"- (witnessing in a world of models).
H. Social Significance of Salvation - (warning against avarice and cupidity) Rom 1:29; I Cor.
5:10ff; 6:10; II Cor. 9:5ff; Col. 3:5
I. Eschatology and the Relativization of Possessions/I Cor. 7: 23f; 29; Rom. 13:12; Col. 3:11;
Gal. 3:28
J. Freedom/Detachment - Phil 3:3-20; 4:5ff; I Cor. 13:10
K. House Churches/Hospitality and Inhospitality - I Thess. 1:5; 2:lff; 2:9; 3:3; II Jn 10; III Jn.
9ff; Heb. 13:2; Rom 16:23; Jas. 2:1-7; II Tim. 3:16; 5:17ff; Philemon 2: 22; Titus 1:11; Acts
17: 5-9 (cf. see Matthew's “Hospitality on The New Testament Church” - Lambano (compare
didache lift)
L. Community Ethics in Early Patristic Literature
1. I Clement, 10-12
2. Clement of Alexander, Strom. Ill, 6, 1
3. Cyprian, Ep. 2:2, vol V, 356 (Ep. 60)
4. Eusebius, HE 4.23, 10 (E.T. Lawlor and Oulton)(see Harnack, Mission and Expansion of
Christianity in The First Three Centuries, p. 158f; 171f.)
M. Developing Apocalyptic and Motive of Asceticism
1. Didache, 11.5ff
2. Eusibius H. E. 6, 3
3. Ascetic ideal of Monasticism and the social-critical preaching of Basil, Gregory of
Nazianzen, John Chrysostom and Ambrose of Milan and their stress on the obligations to
the community of those with possessions, would hardly have been conceivable. (See
Campenhausen, “Early Christian Asceticism,” in id. Tradition and Life in The Church,
(London 1968, pp. 90-122 for the 'imitation of God' see A. Heitmann, Imitatio Dei, Rome
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1940; and Hennecke/Schneemelcher/ Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha II. London,
1965, pp. 259-321.
4. 'Self-Sufficiency' (autarkeia) Ideal - I Tim. 6:6-9; Phil. 4:llf; Ps. 128:2 (see Hengel,
Nachfolge und Charisma (BZNW 34). Gottingen, 1968, p. 32).
VI. Christian View of Work and Acquisition of Possessions
A. Moderate wealth
B. Increase via Evangelism in Disciples from upper social structure
C. Care of poor - I Tim. 6:17f; Mk. 12: 4lf; Lk. 21:lf; Jn 17:26; I Jn 4:7ff; Jas 2:lff; II Cor 8/9; I
Cor 16:2; I Jn 3:17. Justin, Apologetics 67:6; Tertullian, Apol. 39, 507; Hippolytus.
Refutation of All Heresies. 9, 12
D. Clement of Alexandria: The Rich Man's Salvation (see Campenhausen, The Fathers of the
Greek Church, 1963, pp. 25-36; and Lietzmann, The Founding of The Church Universal.
London 1953, 3rd ed., pp. 277-94.
VII. Scientific Revolution, Industrial Revolution, French Revolution and The Origins of Modern
Economic Theories (See my Christian Faith and Economic/Political Theories; my Critique
of Marx's Economic Theory; my Critique of Friedman's Economic Theory; and Joseph
Schumpeter's classic History of Economic Theories)
VIII. Biblical Critique of Sider's Socialism and its collalary. Salvation by Socialism.
IX. Liberation Theology, Neo-Marxism, NCC and Communist Economic Theory
X. Biblical Critique of 'Unbridled Capitalism' Bibliography
Hauschild, W.-D. "Christentum und Eigentum." ZEE 16, 1972, 34-49.
Bammel, E. '.Ptochos' TDOT, VI, 894ff.
Bigelmair, A. 'Zur Frage des Sozialismus und Kommunismus der ersten drei Jahr-hundente' in
Festgabe Adolf Ehrhard, Bonn, 1922.
Hengel, M. Judaism/Hellenism I/II (London. 1974).
_______. Property and Riches in The Early Church (Fortress Press, 1974).
Harnack, A. Mission and Expansion of Christianity (London, 1908, NY, 1961).
Fraser, P. M. (ed.) The Social/Economic History of Roman Empire, I/II Oxford 2nd edition,
1957.
Gage, J. Les Classes sociales dans 1'Empire Remain, Paris.1964.
Pohlmann, R. Geschichte der sozialen Frage des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt. vol I/II
(Munich, 3rd ed., 1925).
Rostovtzeff, M. The Social/Economic History of Hellenistic World, vols I-III (Oxford, 1941).
Troeltsch, E. The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches (London. 1931, 2 vols, reprint
1960).
de Vaux, R. Ancient Israel (London, 1961).
James D. Strauss
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