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Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts
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Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts


Eerdmans 2007

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


Though “community” has become a common byword in the contemporary Western church, the practice of communal sharing has effectively fallen by the wayside. Unfortunately, it is often the poor who are left in need because we no longer come together. In Of Widows and Meals, Reta Halteman Finger finds a solution to this modern problem by learning from the ancient Mediterranean Christian culture of community. She reminds us that in the earliest Jerusalem church, in holding the responsibility for preparing and serving communal meals, women were given a place of honor. With the table fellowship and goods-sharing of the early church, Luke says, “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:34).

Throughout her insightful text, Finger examines this agape-meal tradition, challenging traditional interpretations of the “community of goods” in the Jerusalem church, and arguing convincingly that the communal sharing lasted for hundreds of years longer than previously assumed. Of Widows and Meals begins an important discussion about need and community, highly important and relevant in the contemporary church’s interaction with the world at large.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Want similar titles? Check out Eerdmans New Testament Studies Collection for more!

Key Features

  • Examines the agape-meal tradition
  • Begins an important discussion about need and community


  • Stating the Question: A Middle-Class Bias against Communal Sharing?
  • Economic Sharing in Acts? A History of (Mis)Interpretation
  • Naming the Meal: Agape, Eucharist, Bread-Breaking
  • Meals on Wheels for the Widows? Common Meals versus Poor Relief
  • From the Top Down: Socio-Economic Structures of an Agrarian Society
  • Jerusalem: Productive City on a Hill
  • Copycats? Essene Communal Life as Model
  • Never Eat Alone! Food and Meals as Cultural Symbols
  • “A Glutton and a Drunkard”: Jesus and Table Fellowship
  • “Upstairs, Downstairs”: Widows and Other Women in Dining Room and Kitchen
  • The Intentional Community: An Exegesis of Acts 2:41-47
  • The Widows’ Complaint: An Exegesis of Acts 5:42–6:1-6
  • Daily Commensality: A Necessity Then, Impractical Today?

Praise for the Print Edition

Of Widows and Meals is a first—the only comprehensive analysis and unbiased interpretation that I have seen of the references to koinonia in Acts 2 and 6. Reta Halteman Finger surveys everything written about this issue and shows that the Jerusalem church was sharing resources of its members to support daily communal meals, and that the widows played a decisive role in this ministry. A brilliant, provocative, and courageous study, with revolutionary implications for the contemporary church.

Robert Jewett, emeritus professor of New Testament interpretation, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

With impeccably detailed scholarship, Reta Finger examines the traditions in the book of Acts about shared property and daily meals in the early Jerusalem church. She shows that this tradition represented a real commitment to a new community in Christ that cut across class divisions and extended food and support to the poorest. For Finger, those traditions are not just a historical footnote on a curious and short-lived practice at the beginning of Christianity, but are an ongoing legacy that must be taken seriously as central to living out the Christian gospel today.

Rosemary Radford Ruether, visiting professor of feminist theology, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont Graduate University

Written by the foremost feminist New Testament scholar from the Mennonite-Anabaptist tradition, Of Widows and Meals demonstrates, once and for all, the historical actuality of sharing common meals and other possessions in the earliest Christian communities. Finger masterfully utilizes a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on the results of the most recent scholarship pertaining to meals in the ancient world. This well-written and fascinating book, full of carefully nuanced corrections to earlier inadequate theories, is a treasure trove of enlightening new insights.

William Tabbernee, former president and Stephen J. England Distinguished Professor of the History of Christianity, Phillips Theological Seminary

Product Details

About Reta Halteman Finger

Reta Halteman Finger is assistant professor of New Testament at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.