Open Your Hand to the Poor: How We Hear the Bible’s Many Voices

“Open Your Hand to the Poor: How We Hear the Bible’s Many Voices explores the reception history of biblical texts about poverty and wealth, exploring how, on one hand, the Gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 25:19) while, on the other hand, certain contemporary preachers use the biblical texts to justify asking their followers for donations to purchase $54 million dollar ”

Team Members/Contributors

Kelly Murphy Central Michigan University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Why does the Bible have so many voices and opinions on poverty and wealth? How have different interpretive communities used these many voices over time? "Open Your Hand to the Poor: How We Read the Bible’s Many Voices" (Fortress Academic/Lexington Books 2020) advances public understanding of the historical and continuing role the biblical texts have played in one of the most pressing contemporary concerns of our world: poverty. Framed by two approaches, the book first employs the historical-critical method, asking how the contexts of the authors and later editors of the biblical texts shaped what they wrote about poverty and wealth. For instance, who were the “scribes” that wrote the book of Proverbs and did their presumed place among the elite of ancient Israel influence their thoughts on the less fortunate? Or how was the worldview of the gospel authors swayed by Roman imperialism? Second, the book explores the reception of the relevant biblical texts to chart how they were interpreted and used in different historical moments and by different communities. For example, how did Maimonides employ the various biblical laws on poverty as he wrote in the context of Muslim-ruled Spain? How did the Reformation change earlier Christian views on charity? And how do we make sense of the conflicting perspectives on poverty and wealth in the contemporary church—from the prosperity gospel, charity models, social justice, moral dismissing, and others? This work focuses on the often-overlooked fact that there is no such thing as “The Bible,” but rather many “Bibles,” whose texts have been read and applied in varying ways by Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and other communities. In so doing, the book will help readers to appreciate the histories of various faith groups when it comes to questions of economics and the right relationship between poverty and wealth. Moreover, the book also illustrates how such communities have treated both their own members and others.