Restricted generosity in the New Testament

Murray, Timothy J. (2017) Restricted generosity in the New Testament. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with when, how and why the first Christians restricted their material generosity, according to the evidence of the New Testament texts. Its central argument is that restricted generosity in the early church was inseparable from the church’s self-conception as a fictive family. It is divided into two parts: the first discusses generosity, and its restrictions, in other first-century CE social structures (the oikos, voluntary associations and Jewish groups); the second turns to the New Testament itself.

The first part argues that reciprocal material solidarity and generosity was expected within the oikos; this duty was restricted in cases where one party had failed to perform their obligations to the household. Against the current majority view, it is argued that there is not sufficient evidence to claim that voluntary associations cared for their poorer members. It is further argued, again, against the majority view, that there is not sufficient evidence to claim that organised poor-care was widespread in first-century CE Jewish groups. Although all three social structures are considered to have relevance to the investigation of the early church in general, on this specific issue the most illuminating comparisons can be drawn between the oikos and the early church.

The second part examines the New Testament. One chapter analyses the extensive use of fictive-kinship language in the New Testament, arguing that the texts not only present the church as a family, but that this conception is repeatedly associated with the normal ‘family duty’ of reciprocal material generosity and support. This infers a restriction: there is a difference between how the early church was generous to insiders and outsiders. The following two chapters address the Thessalonian correspondence and 1 Timothy 5.3-16 respectively, the two places in the New Testament where the author(s) command the restriction of generosity. In both chapters, it is argued that the ethical logic relates to the self-conception of the church as a family and it is this paradigm that renders the encouraged restrictions most explicable.

Restricted generosity in the early church, according to the New Testament documents, was inseparable from the church’s self-conception as a fictive family. The reciprocity expected within an ideal oikos was also expected within the church; in both cases familial benefits were restricted for those who failed to fulfil their own duties to the family.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Deines, Roland
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 48131
Depositing User: Murray, Tim
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2021 12:12
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/48131

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