Date of Award:
Master of Arts (MA)
Patrick Q. Mason
This paper examines how Greek Christian authors engaged with the topics of poverty and wealth during the second and third centuries CE - a period of major transition for the Christian Church. Beginning with the latest documents in the Greek New Testament (c. 90 - 120), this study traces these themes through the works of the Apostolic Fathers, including Clement of Rome (c. 35 - 99), Ignatius of Antioch (c. 34 - 108), and Polycarp of Smyrna (c. 69 - 155). It then addresses to the apologetic authors Justin Martyr (c. 100 - 165) and Irenaeus (c. 130 - 202). In the works of all these authors, “the poor” were considered to be a privileged class in the eyes of God. However, this status came to be questioned by Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 215), whose work The Rich Man’s Salvation is demonstrated to have fundamentally deviated from the traditional understanding of wealth and poverty. Clement eschewed the notion of an inherently “blessed” class of the poor in order to make Christian doctrine welcoming to more wealthy individuals. Clement’s work altered part of the character of Christian theology, but in doing so, he helped the movement expand throughout the Roman Empire.
Hayden, Jacob D., "Blessed Are the Poor (in Spirit): Wealth and Poverty in the Writings of the Greek Christian Fathers of the Second Century" (2021). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 8181.
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