In this thread on “charity” in early Christianity I’ve been discussing what the Christian writers said about the importance of giving money to those in need. But did all this preaching have any real-life effect on anything?
In his classical discussion of wealth in antiquity, Paul Veyne pointed out that it is important to “distinguish carefully between the ethic that a society practices…and the ethic that this society professes. The two ethics usually have little in common.” (Bread and Circuses, p. 25) To this point I have been discussing early Christian rhetoric. But what about its practice?
There is solid evidence that the rhetoric had at least some effect on the ground, and I will be arguing that over time the effect was highly significant. I have already mentioned Paul’s collection for the poor in Jerusalem. This was a real action in real time, and it set a pattern for times to come. Some fifty years after Paul the
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