A Treasury in Heaven

Team Members/Contributors

Gary A. Anderson University of Notre Dame Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Almsgiving was one of the most distinctive elements of the early church and synagogue. The pagan emperor Julian (4th century) once remarked that “it is disgraceful that when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans (sc. Christians) support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.” But in spite of his urging of pagan priest to do likewise, pagan temples did not become locations for the distribution of charity. This was because there were no doctrinal basis within traditional Greco-Roman religion for this sort of thing. In contrast, rabbinic Judaism – and by extension the church – had made the giving of alms a marker of religious faith itself. It is this central doctrinal point that I wish to explore. My work will focus on the fiduciary element of almsgiving and how it is related to the issuing of a loan. In brief, the giving of alms was likened to a loan to a poor person. Normally one would be reluctant to lend under these conditions, but according to wisdom traditions, God was a trustable guarantor. Giving to the poor funded a treasury in heaven. In early Jewish and Christian writings, this idea became the site for exploring the nature of faith in God. Later, in the period of the Reformation, almsgiving became a point of major disputation as almsgiving appeared to be a human “work” that contributed to one’s salvation. Yet I will argue that a careful examination of the early Christian data on this problem will reveal that such concerns overlook the way in which faith and works function in the very act of giving alms to the poor. I hope that this study will of value to ecumenical relations between Catholics and Protestants as well as provide a new theological template for viewing acts of charity toward the poor.

Image Title Year Type Contributor(s) Other Info
  “Did Jesus Confess His Sins at Baptism? Evidence from the Book of Tobit” 2011 Book Chapter Gary A. Anderson
in Andrew B. McGowan and Kent H. Richards (eds), Method and Meaning: Essays on New Testament Interpretation in Honor of Harold W. Attridge, pp. 453-464.
  “Is Purgatory Biblical?” 2011 Magazine Article Gary A. Anderson
November 2011: 39-44
  “Tobit as Righteous Sufferer” 2011 Book Chapter Gary A. Anderson
In A Teacher for All Generations: Essays in Honor of James C. VanderKam. Edited by E. Mason et al., Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, (2 vols); vol. 2: 493-507.
  Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition 2013 Book Gary A. Anderson