Original Research - Special Collection: Festschrift for Prof Stephan Joubert

From timely exegesis to contemporary ecclesiology: Relevant hermeneutics and provocative embodiment of faith in a corona-defined world – Generosity during a pandemic

Scot McKnight
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6426 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6426 | © 2021 Scot McKnight | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 December 2020 | Published: 10 May 2021

About the author(s)

Scot McKnight, New Testament Department, Northern Seminary, Lisle; and Department of New Testament Studies and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, United States


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Abstract

In a world where economies have no moral conscience, biblical theologians can challenge local cultures with ancient wisdom about generosity and equity. Systemic solutions require changes in the habits of virtue, and this study focuses on the habit of generosity. Building on the work of Stephan Joubert’s Paul as Benefactor, this study concentrates on Paul’s collection in one notable instance: what he says about generosity in 2 Corinthians 8-9 and, in particular, what he means by isotēs in 2 Cor 8:13–15. Does it mean “equality” or “equity”? Beginning with a reinvigorated interest in the economic vision of the apostle Paul about what is meant by “weak” and “good works” and what the Pastoral Epistles communicate with eusebeia (not “godliness” but “social respectability and civility”), we reconsider the collection as an act on the part of the Pauline mission churches to express more than ecclesial unity. This act embodied a theology of grace in mutual reciprocity and in equitable provision on the part of the wealthy for the poor, not least and not limited to those in their own Christian assemblies. The term isotēs is too easily glossed over when translated as “fair balance”, “fairness”, and so the translation of the term with “equity” or “equality” comes closest to the vision of the apostle. Too few studies on this term baptize it sufficiently in the economics of the ancient world and the early Christian radical vision of siblingship and family.

Contribution: From the perspective of the Historical Thought and Source Interpretation of the work of Paul, the question of systemic equality or equity is as crucial to navigating the current economic climate as it has ever been. Equality or equity is not limited to Christian communities but following the early church in embodying a theology of grace.


Keywords

Paul; church; generosity; equality; manna; equity; biblical economies; rich and poor.

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