Covenant Economics: A Biblical Vision of Justice for All.
For the past half century, biblical research has kept as a major focus the notion of covenant. G. Ernest Wright saw in it a distinctive element of Israel's faith and organized his OT theology around the theme (e.g., The Old Testament and Theology, 1969). By comparing the covenants with ancient (Hittite) treaties, George Mendenhall enhanced knowledge of the historical and structural elements of the covenant (Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East, 1955), and Johannes Pedersen explored the anthropological dimension of covenant making (Israel: Its Life and Culture, in various editions).
Drawing on decades of research into the social setting of biblical documents, Horsley spells out further implications of covenant for the life and practice of ancient Israel, the early church, and the United States today. As he notes, "covenant economics" took multiple historical forms. For example, "the ten commandments were fundamental principles of social policy intended to protect people's rights that were basically economic" (31), and later, in describing Paul's collection for Jerusalem, "we detect the influence of the covenantal economics of mutual sharing and co-operation" (147).
H.'s two major sections deal with ancient Israel and the early Christian community, respectively. In section 1, he stresses that a covenant ideal of mutuality and cooperation always played in the background even as Israel's self-understanding shifted under the power of empire, the emergence of the monarchy, and prophetic criticism of the abuse of power and wealth. In his insistence on that covenant ideal, the familiar biblical texts to which H. appeals take on new significance. Section 2 continues tracing the theme through the first century C.E., demonstrating from references to Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls that the covenant ideal was vibrant when Jesus summoned people to covenant renewal, and that the ideal was kept alive in the Gospel of Mark, and in the communities of Matthew and Paul.
In a powerful conclusion, H. shows how the covenant ideal, which was central to the concerns of the founders of the United States, is necessary today amid avaricious misuse of economic power and denial of basic economic rights. Over 0the past decade I have taught "Biblical Foundations of Social Justice." Would that this book had been available!
JOHN R. DONAHUE, S.J.
Loyola University Maryland
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|Title Annotation:||SHORTER NOTICES|
|Author:||Donahue, John R.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2010|
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