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Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society

series: Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History

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"This volume is a welcome contribution to the field of poverty studies, and will be of interest, and use, to both students and specialists in the areas of poverty, society, and religion in the Roman empire and late antiquity."--Silke Sitzler, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Wealth and poverty are issues of perennial importance in the life and thought of the church. This volume brings patristic thought to bear on these vital issues. The contributors offer explanations of poverty in the New Testament period, explore developments among Christians in Egypt and Asia Minor and in early Byzantium, and connect patristic theology with contemporary public policy and religious dialogue.

This volume inaugurates Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History, a partnership between Baker Academic and the Stephen and Catherine Pappas Patristic Institute of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. The series is a deliberate outreach by the Orthodox community to Protestant and Catholic seminarians, pastors, and theologians. In these multiauthor books, contributors from all traditions focus on the patristic (especially Greek patristic) heritage.

Contributors: David Brakke, Rudolf Brandle, Denise Kimber Buell, Daniel Caner, Francine Cardman, Demetrios J. Constantelos, Steven J. Friesen, Gorge Hasselhoff, Susan R. Holman, Angeliki E. Laiou, Brian Matz, Wendy Mayer, Edward Moore, Timothy Patitsas, Adam Serfass, A. Edward Siecienski, Annewies van den Hoek, Efthalia Makris Walsh

About the series: Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History is a partnership between Baker Academic and the Stephen and Catherine Pappas Patristic Institute of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The series is a deliberate outreach by the Orthodox community to seminarians, pastors, and theologians of all traditions.

Series Editorial Board

Robert J. Daly, SJ, Boston College

Bruce N. Beck, The Stephen and Catherine Pappas Patristic Institute

Francois Bovon, Harvard Divinity School

Demetrios S. Katos, Hellenic College

Susan R. Holman,

Aristotle Papanikolaou, Fordham University

James Skedros, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology


"This is a splendid book, a substantial contribution on a topic of perennial import for scholars of religion and theology. The essays collected here offer important reassessments of scholarship to date. They present fresh, vivid material and provide revised models through which to study, reflect upon, and respond to deprivation and surplus as realities in antiquity and in our own time. Practical, pragmatic considerations are interwoven with cultural, historical, and theological analyses. Excellent work throughout!"--Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of Religious Studies, Brown University

"In this collection of essays, the reader will find insightful questions raised and conclusions made concerning the early Christian perspectives of need and surplus. It is refreshing to find careful attention paid to the kind of complexities that existed in the minds of those who wrote, directly or (mostly) indirectly, on these matters."--D. H. Williams, professor of religion in patristics and historical theology, Baylor University

"The social obligations of the wealthy and the needs of the poor in the teachings and practices of early Christians are examined in these essays with rich insight, having much contemporary value. The authors remind us that for the patristic mind, virtue cannot be separated from piety and learning. To praise the living God as philanthrōpos and to recall his saving actions also require a genuine love for human persons, especially the poor."--Thomas FitzGerald, professor of church history and historical theology, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology

"This volume is a rarity: a collection of conference papers that is both coherent and consistently excellent. Ably edited by Susan R. Holman, these essays explore a wide variety of texts and topics from diverse methodological perspectives, but they never lose sight of the primary theme of the book: the problem of poverty and the appropriate Christian response to it. The outstanding contributors deftly balance theological and rhetorical analysis with attention to social and economic contexts. The result is an essential contribution to the historical reconstruction of early Christian moral traditions and their theological retrieval today."--David G. Hunter, Cottrill-Rolfes Chair of Catholic Studies, University of Kentucky

The Author

  1. Susan R. Holman

    Susan R. Holman

    Susan R. Holman (PhD, Brown University) is the author of The Hungry Are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia, a member of the board of the Pappas Patristic Institute of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and the creator of...

    Continue reading about Susan R. Holman


"[This book] offers a broad collection of papers predominantly discussing early Christian responses to poverty and wealth across the Roman world. . . . [The] sectional groupings provide a useful and cohesive way to absorb the wide ranging research presented in the volume. The approaches taken to the topic of wealth, poverty, and early Christianity are diverse. . . . Different perspectives are taken, and new insights offered on familiar texts and authors, such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the homilies of John Chrysostom, as well as on less familiar texts such as extant papyri from Egypt. The volume is a welcome contribution to the field of poverty studies, and will be of interest, and use, to both students and specialists in the areas of poverty, society, and religion in the Roman empire and late antiquity. . . . Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society provides a valuable contribution to the study of poverty in early Christianity and late antiquity. Several essays offer important insights into the rhetoric of poverty, and the relative nature of poverty in early Christian texts and practices. Papers such as those by Friesen, Buell, Brakke, Serfass, Mayer, Cardman, and Caner are particularly notable for providing critical and insightful readings of the antique material in their treatments of poverty and wealth in early Christian communities."--Silke Sitzler, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"In light of the growing interest in issues related to wealth and poverty in the church today, this book is a welcome addition to the conversation. . . . This book is indeed a fine blend of academic discussion leading to a more robust social ethic for the church. . . . This book was written--for the most part--with remarkable clarity. Clarity is often lacking in edited volumes, which is understandable in light of multiple authors. This makes this book all the more impressive. Most of the essays could be readily understood by scholars already well versed in the field as well as by students who are entering this discussion for the first time. . . . The book provides a fine balance between particular and general topics. Within each section there is a very balanced blend of narrow topics (usually looking at one text) and general surveys covering a wide range of literature. In other words, both the forest and the trees are examined, which again helps give clarity to the discussion. As far as edited volumes are concerned (which often can be hit or miss), this one is highly recommended for those interested in this specific topic or in the topic of wealth and poverty in general."--Preston M. Sprinkle, Review of Biblical Literature

"[The book's] authorship is cutting-edge. . . . Through the course of the volume, there are several interesting reflections on the practices of the early church and their similarity or dissimilarity with those of today, reflections which are cognizant of the different socio-political circumstances. And it is this that makes the book, quite timely given the contemporary church's growing awareness of economic injustice in today's world, all the more useful. . . . This is an informative and provocative collection of studies, of interest to pastors and professors alike."--James R. A. Merrick, Theological Book Review

"Offers a helpful overview of recent research on complexities and dynamics of riches and poverty in Christianity in the first nine centuries. . . . In this global age where contemporary mission scholars and practitioners inevitably encounter and attempt to tackle poignant and multiple dimensions of local and global poverty and injustice, this book helps rediscover and recover the socioeconomic and theological visions, insights, and actions of the early church for today."--Helen Rhee, Missiology

"This collection of essays has a number of strengths. Clearly, the study is driven by a serious interaction with key patristic texts addressing wealth and poverty. . . . A second area of notable strength in Wealth and Poverty is that a concerted effort was made to define poverty in the patristic period. . . . Susan Holman has done a noteworthy job of editing a volume of diverse essays that address an important question in patristic studies. As an academic resource, this text might be used in a graduate-level patristics seminar. In the very least, it should be listed as a useful secondary source for early Christian research projects."--Edward Smither, Journal of Early Christian Studies

"This volume should contribute to studies in poverty and patristics as a reference work. . . . In a seminary level study of poverty several of the essays would be quite helpful."--Jonathan Marshall, Trinity Journal

"[This collection] contains insightful questions and informed and thoughtful discussion of them throughout. The book is aimed at Protestant and Catholic seminarians, pastors and theologians and relevant to patristic studies, but it has immediate relevance to a broad range of readers, both those working in an academic setting as well as those engaged in social justice and social action that serves the world through the ecclesia. The studies reveal a great deal of variety in antiquity in how the church community treated moral issues. The thorough theological analysis pays careful attention to complexity and should lead to a reassessment of the scholarship in this field."