Many scholars engaged in exploring the economic dimensions of early Christianity simply don’t bother with Paul, mistakenly believing that he had little regard for the poor and that his theological deliberations therefore have little relevance to studies of wealth and poverty in the Greco-Roman world. In Remember the Poor, Bruce Longenecker counters this view, arguing persuasively that care for the impoverished was integral to Paul’s teaching and standard practice in the Jesus-groups that he founded.
Longenecker sets out a robust “economy scale” for urban Greco-Roman society, using his in-depth analysis of poverty in the first century as the backdrop for a compelling presentation which integrates economics, history, exegesis, and theology. Questioning a number of established interpretive paradigms, Longenecker offers a fresh vision in which Paul’s convictions regarding care for the poor are shown to be historically significant and theologically challenging.
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“was convinced that the secret of the unity of believers lay in a steady circulation of goods among ‘the brethren” (Page 6)
“an extremely ‘bleak material existence … was the lot of more than 99% of the inhabitants of the Empire” (Page 41)
“This binary model reflects the rhetorical differentiation that is common in Greco-Roman literature,” (Page 40)
“precisely the context in which Jesus-groups founded by Paul were rooted” (Page 44)
“but neither was it supplemental or peripheral to that good news.” (Page 1)
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, professor of New Testament studies, St. Mary’s College