Everything in common? The theology and practice of the sharing of possessions in community in the New Testament with particular reference to Jesus and his Disciples, the earliest Christians, and Paul
Gregson, Fiona Jane Robertson
This thesis examines the theology and practice of the sharing of possessions, including food, in community in the New Testament. A significant proportion of the New Testament addresses questions around money, possessions and sharing, and provides a range of examples of ways of sharing possessions. This thesis looks at six diverse examples of sharing possessions in the New Testament, from the Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline literature. It considers each example in its social context and then compares it to other examples of sharing in the surrounding cultures to find similarities and differences between the example and surrounding practice and thought. It then examines the comparisons to see whether there are ways in which Christians developed sharing possessions that were consistently similar to or different from surrounding practice. The thesis highlights a number of common characteristics across the New Testament examples of how Christians shared possessions. In the New Testament examples, sharing: is practical and responsive; is based on communal identity; includes people from different backgrounds and various ways of contributing; is voluntary and yet includes assumptions; is both individual and communal; often responds to need; and includes eating together. This thesis analyses similarities and differences between each example and its comparators. It also identifies ways that Christians were consistently distinctive from the surrounding culture in how they shared possessions, as well as areas where Christians were similar to, and may have been influenced by the surrounding practices. The consistent distinctives include: subverting patronage expectations; greater social diversity; more flexibility; a greater emphasis on the voluntary nature of contributing; each person being involved in giving; more frequent eating together; and stronger intra-community relational bonds. This thesis demonstrates a possible approach for examining areas where there is a diverse witness within the New Testament texts.
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