Cover

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Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

I am grateful for the support of many people who have encouraged me in the writing of this book. ...

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Introduction: What Can Wash Away My Sin?

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pp. 1-26

This personal and penetrating question opens Robert Lowry’s (1826–1899) popular nineteenth-century hymn, “Nothing but the Blood.” The title of the song portends the author’s response to this query, an answer, spelled out in clear terms in the song’s first and fourth stanzas, that offers a classic articulation of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement in early evangelical hymnody: ...

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1. Redeem Your Sins with Acts of Mercy: Charity and Reward in the Hebrew-Aramaic Bible and Its Greek Translation

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pp. 27-56

Care for the poor is an integral component of Jewish religion—both past and present. The virtues and practices of Jewish charity are rooted in biblical traditions that emphasize God’s special concern for the powerless and marginalized, coupled with the covenant community’s responsibility to imitate God by demonstrating justice and refraining from oppression. ...

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2. Merciful Deeds Deliver from Death: Charity and Reward in the Apocrypha

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pp. 57-82

In the middle of the third century CE, perhaps shortly after his election as bishop of Carthage in 248, Cyprian penned what is probably the most important early Christian treatise on atoning almsgiving, an essay entitled De opere et eleemosynis. Throughout the discourse, Cyprian draws deeply upon the language of Scripture in order to develop his claim that almsgiving serves to purge the post-baptismal sins of those who show mercy. ...

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3. Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice: Cult Criticism and Atoning Almsgiving?

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pp. 83-102

In a discussion of “acts of loving kindness,” the post-Tannaitic rabbinic text entitled Abot de Rabbi Nathan (AdRN) tells a story about an encounter between Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Joshua. As Johanan was walking down the road, Joshua ran after him and said, with reference to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, “Woe to us because the house of our life has been destroyed, the place which used to atone for our sins.” ...

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4. Give Alms with Respect to the Things Within: Charity and Reward in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts

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pp. 103-142

Given the strong connection between caring for the poor and divine recompense in numerous Jewish scriptural and apocryphal texts, it might seem likely that these traditions would have shaped reflection on the relationship between charity and reward in the New Testament. Yet at least one strand of New Testament interpretation would aim to sever any association between material care of the needy and recompense in the earliest forms of the Jesus movement. ...

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5. Storing Up the Treasure for a Good Foundation: Almsgiving and Reward in the Pauline Epistles

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pp. 143-174

Sometime around 49 or 50 CE, the apostle Paul, as a delegate of the church in Antioch, traveled to Jerusalem to meet with leaders of the early Jesus movement located there. Paul was accompanied by two associates from Antioch: Barnabas and Titus (a Gentile). According to Paul’s recollection of this visit in Gal 2:1-10, the meeting ostensibly addressed and affirmed Paul’s circumcision-free mission to the Gentiles, ...

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6. Love Covers a Multitude of Sins: Atoning Almsgiving in 1 Peter 4:8 and Its Early Christian Reception

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pp. 175-202

Outside of the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles, several New Testament texts urge or allude to practices of caring for the needy (Heb 13:1-5, 15-16; cf. 10:34; Jas 1:27; 2:1-13, 14-17; 5:1-6; 1 John 3:16-17; cf. 1 Pet 2:11-17; 3:13-17).1 Yet if there is one saying from New Testament that figured as significantly in the emerging Christian concept of atoning almsgiving as Luke 11:41, it is a dictum found in 1 Pet 4:8: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” ...

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7. Merciful Practice Is Good as Repentance for Sin: Resurrection, Atonement, and Care for the Poor in Second-Century Christianity

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pp. 203-232

At some point in first half of the second century, Ignatius was arrested in Syrian Antioch, where he served as bishop of the nascent Christian community. After his arrest, Ignatius was transported in chains by guards to Rome in order to face his execution at the seat of imperial power. ...

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8. By Alms and Faith Sins Are Purged Away: Almsgiving and Atonement in Early Christian Scriptural Exegesis

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pp. 233-272

Cyprian of Carthage was unquestionably one of the most influential ecclesiastical leaders of Latin Christianity in the third century. Perhaps no figure did more to guide the North African church through a tumultuous period of external persecution and internal conflict than Cyprian, who served as bishop of Carthage from 248 until his martyrdom in 258. ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 273-286

This book has attempted to tell the story of the emergence of atoning almsgiving in the first two centuries or so of the Christian movement, from the writings of the New Testament to Cyprian’s De opere et eleemosynis. By and large, the earliest Christians, shaped as they were by a scriptural imagination that valued practices of charity, cared for the poor among their communities. ...

Bibliography

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pp. 287-324

Index

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pp. 325-340