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Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition.

Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition. By Gary A. Anderson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-3001-9883-6. 222 pages. Cloth. $30.00.

Anderson does both more and less than his title and sub-title promise. He does not discuss at length the poor as objects of concern in primitive Christianity. He does not discuss in any profound sense the biblical stress on social justice. Rather he discusses charity as the means of securing God's favor through a form of commercial transaction.

In the first seven chapters Anderson's starting point is two passages from the deuterocanonical (i.e., apocryphal) books of the Old Testament: Sirach 35:1-2 and Tobit 4:7b-10. He cites additional material from both books and supports his interpretation from both Testaments. He concludes that charity is a sort of loan made to God that establishes an account from which one can draw to escape death in the final judgement.

The second, shorter part of the book discusses whether merits can be transferred (the answer is yes). He applies this conclusion to the Roman Catholic understanding of purgatory. Thus the book turns out to be a defense of the classical Catholic doctrine of purgatory and the means of leaving it. Anderson's consistent use of commercial language is supported by extensive ancient and modern documentation. But it falls short in paying scant attention to the great prophetic tradition of the Old Testament and makes no use of Paul, Hebrews, Peter, or the Johannine tradition. It is thus an interesting, but disappointing, interpretation of biblical and Jewish materials. It calls for a good Sachkritik approach that would set it into the biblical framework of grace, forgiveness, and love. It is ultimately a deeply disappointing book.

Edgar Krentz

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

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Author:Krentz, Edgar
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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