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Rich Poverty: 2 Corinthians 8.1–15 and the Social Meaning of Poverty and Wealth

Barclay, John M.G.

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This article, originally presented as the Presidential Address at the 2022 SNTS Meeting in Leuven, explores the ways in which Paul configures giving and ‘wealth’, both in relation to the Macedonians and Corinthians (as contributors to the Jerusalem collection) and in relation to Christ. Drawing on the dream-interpretations of Artemidorus, it illustrates how ‘wealth’ could be understood in antiquity as performance rather than possession: one is wealthy in giving and not (or not only) in having. In this light, Paul offers a striking image of the Macedonians who in their poverty were ‘rich’ in their unreserved commitment to the collection, fulfilling the dream of the poor by acquiring the dignity of giving. The Christological statement of 2 Cor 8.9 can also be understood (and integrated) in a new way: it was in his wealth (of self-sharing) that Christ became poor (in the weakness of the cross), so that the Corinthians, participating in this momentum, might become ‘rich’ in the same self-giving of Christ. Although grace and money are not identical, neither are they unrelated ‘economies’: the grace of the Christ-event transforms its beneficiaries into givers, rich in multiple forms of generosity, including material gift. The text thus evidences principles of a non-competitive mode of social relations operative in the material sphere, with the capacity to stimulate a theological challenge to dehumanising forms of capitalism.


Barclay, J. M. (2023). Rich Poverty: 2 Corinthians 8.1–15 and the Social Meaning of Poverty and Wealth. New Testament Studies, 69(3), 243-257.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 18, 2023
Publication Date 2023-07
Deposit Date Aug 30, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 30, 2023
Journal New Testament Studies
Print ISSN 0028-6885
Electronic ISSN 1469-8145
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 69
Issue 3
Pages 243-257
Keywords Religious studies; History
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Published Journal Article (243 Kb)


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Copyright Statement
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

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