The Jewish Roots of Catholic Charity

May 7, 2015
Jenner & Block, 45th Floor
353 N Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
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Gary A. AndersonUniversity of Notre Dame


Gary A. Anderson (University of Notre Dame; author of Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition)

It has long been acknowledged that Jews and Christians distinguished themselves through charity to the poor. Though ancient Greeks and Romans were also generous, they funded theaters and baths rather than poorhouses and orphanages. How might we explain this difference? In this significant reappraisal of charity in the biblical tradition, Gary Anderson argues that the poor constituted the privileged place where Jews and Christians met God. Though concerns for social justice were not unknown to early Jews and Christians, the poor achieved the importance they did primarily because they were thought to be “living altars,” a place to make a sacrifice, a loan to God that he, as the ultimate guarantor, could be trusted to repay in turn. Contrary to the assertions of Reformation and modern critiques, belief in a heavenly treasury was not just about self-interest. Sifting through biblical and post biblical texts, Anderson shows how charity affirms the goodness of the created order; the world was created through charity and therefore rewards it.

Hosted by Jenner & Block. Cosponsored by The Lumen Christi Institute, The Catholic Lawyers Guild, The Decalogue Society of Lawyers, The Jewish Judges Association of Illinois, and The National Center for the Laity.

Gary A. Anderson is the Hesburgh Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a PhD from Harvard University. An expert in all aspects of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible theology and history, Anderson’s research focuses on the reception of the Bible in early Judaism and Christianity, the book of Genesis, the Pentateuch, and the book of Tobit. He has won numerous awards including grants from the American Philosophical Society, Lilly Endowment, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Hebrew University. He is author of the critically acclaimed Sin: A History and most recently Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition.