Austin Seminary Book Club discussion

March 2016 > March 2016 Book of the Month: "Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation," by Helen Rhee

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message 1: by AustinSeminary (new)

AustinSeminary | 66 comments Mod
March is coming in like a lion and we're happy to present the new Book of the Month with it! Rev. Margaret Aymer, Ph.D., associate professor of New Testament, will be leading the conversation.

The Baker Publishing Group describes the book as such; "The issue of wealth and poverty and its relationship to Christian faith is as ancient as the New Testament and reaches even further back to the Hebrew Scriptures. From the beginnings of the Christian movement, the issue of how to deal with riches and care for the poor formed an important aspect of Christian discipleship.

This careful study analyzes the significance of wealth and poverty in constructing Christian identity in the complex socioeconomic situation and cultural milieu of the early Roman Empire. Helen Rhee shows how early Christians adopted, appropriated, and transformed the Jewish and Greco-Roman moral teachings and practices of giving and patronage. She examines how early Christians developed their distinctive theology and social understanding of wealth and the wealthy on one hand and of poverty and the poor on the other, demonstrating that this understanding impacted early Christian identity formation. She also explores the vital role wealth and poverty played in the construction of eschatology, soteriology, and ecclesiology in the social and cultural context of the time. In addition, the book draws out relevant implications of early Christian thought and practice for the contemporary church. Professors and students in courses on Christian origins, early Christianity, church history, and Christian ethics will value this work."

Please give a warm welcome to Margaret Aymer and let's get the discussion going!

message 2: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Hey there, everyone! I hope everyone is ready for some history. Since Rhee's book is a little dense, we're going to take this a chapter a time. Tomorrow, I'll post a question or two about chapter 1. For now as you're reading it think about the Roman, Greek, and Jewish systems of wealth and poverty in light of the New Testament.

When James condemns favoritism shown to the man in fine clothes wearing a gold ring (James 2) what is he critiquing?

What might Jesus mean by "blessed are the poor" but "woe to you who are rich" in Luke?

How might we understand Paul's critique of the Corinthians, when he calls them to remember that "not many of you are wise, not many of noble birth..."?

In other words, what do Helen Rhee's descriptions of poverty and wealth cause us to see about the New Testament?

Also, feel free to post comments or questions on chapter 1. I'll attend to them in a few days.

Peace and happy reading,

message 3: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Have you finished chapter one yet? The book provides a lot of detail, but can we see the big picture?

What does wealth look like to Roman pagans? What do we make of laws against "luxury" that are both passed and ignored?

What does wealth look like to Christians and Jews? Do you see the tension between the Deuteronomic understanding that wealth is a sign of blessing, and the wisdom/prophetic understanding that the poor are the pious ones?

How is this Jewish understanding imported into Christianity? How does it affect the gospels? Paul? Christian apocalyptic writing?

At the end of the chapter, Rhee points out the spread of the gospel into primarily Gentile community. How do you imagine the disparate pagan and Christian concepts of wealth and poverty interacted?

In a few days, I'll post some questions and thoughts about chapter 2.


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