Theology And Economics In The Biblical Year Of Jubilee -- By: Michael LeFebvre
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Theology And Economics In The Biblical Year Of Jubilee
Pastor at Christ Church in Brownsburg, Indiana
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Board President
It is curious that a book on Christian Theology and Market Economics (CTME) begins with Aristotle and not with Moses. Despite a discussion of Old Testament texts on usury (pp. 29-31), the entire historical section of this volume (chapters 1-4) lacks interaction with the economic patterns woven into the festivals and temple operations of ancient Israel.1
This is not, however, an oversight on the part of the editors of CTME. The book accurately reflects the unfortunate fact that western society has historically looked to Greece for models of civilized institutions to the neglect of ancient Near Eastern institutions. Thus, it is accurate for this book to trace the history of western economic thought as interacting with Greece. Nevertheless, this is a hole in western economic thought that a study on Biblical theology and economics should address.
For millennia, western scholarship has continued under the spell of prejudices against the intellectual value of the “barbarian” societies the Greeks conquered. There were important innovations that fueled the narrative that Greece was “civilized” compared with their “barbarian” neighbors. The Greek invention of vowels gave rise to the first truly literate culture capable of conceptual discourse.2 Related to that innovation, the development of democratic institutions and the first “rule of law” society sparked a revolution in Greece deserving historical wonder.3 To some extent, Greece deserves accolades for “inventing civilization.” Add to such achievements the stunning success of Alexander’s armies, humbling the great empires of the east, and it is no wonder the charm of Hellenism has cast its spell so effectively over the world—and over history.
Although the scholars of the late antique and medieval west had little access to, and little interest in, the economic wisdom of the ancient world beyond Greece and Rome, these scholars did possess and reverence the library of ancient Hebrew society: the Bible. As reported in CTME, early scholars did use biblical texts when addressing economic topics (like usury), but it seems
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there was never an attempt to draw upon the economic institutions of biblical Israel for western economic wisdom.
Consider, for example, the biblical Year of Jubilee (
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