Joint Straus/Tikvah Fellow

Academic Year 2010-2011

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

Gary A. Anderson received his Ph.D from Harvard University in 1985.  He has taught at the University of Virginia, Harvard and most recently at Notre Dame.  His work focuses on the Hebrew Bible and its history of interpretation in both Jewish and Christian sources.  He has received numerous awards including: Fulbright Scholar at the Hebrew University, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Hebrew University, and a Starr Fellow at Harvard.  His most recent books include:  The Genesis of Perfection:  Adam and Eve in Jewish Imagination, and Sin: A History.

Research Project

Charity: A History

I intend to write a history of almsgiving (tsedaqah) and acts of corporate charity (gemilut hasadim) in early Judaism and Christianity.  The work focuses on the fiduciary element of almsgiving and how it is related to habits of issuing a loan.  In brief, the giving of alms was likened to a loan made to a poor person.  Normally one would be reluctant to lend under these conditions, but according to Israelite wisdom traditions, God was the guarantor for such transactions (so, Proverbs 19:17).  Giving to the poor, in Second Temple Judaism, was thought to fund "a treasury in heaven."   In the New Testament, Rabbinic and Patristic writings this idea became a site for exploring the nature of faith in God.  It should also be noted that at the time the concept of the treasury in heaven was being developed was also the time in which "fiduciary" or fiat coinage appeared.   No doubt the trust required to accept coinage in place of bullion was part of the explanation for why the treasury in heaven became such a powerful index of faith in God.