Economics and Biblical Studies
- LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0053
- LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0053
In recent years, cultural anthropology, sociology, and psychology have been added to the tool kit of the historical-critical biblical scholar. Economics, and especially contemporary mainstream economics, has not been much utilized by biblical scholars for several reasons. For one thing, contemporary mainstream economics is less familiar to biblical scholars than Marxian or institutional approaches. It is also more mathematically demanding. A number of objections have also been raised to using economic models in this context. One is that the tools of economics are not neutral. However, this is true of any theoretical tool, including the alternatives to contemporary mainstream economic theory. Another one is that religion is a special domain outside the reach of economics. Economists would see this as an illegitimate claim by religion scholars to monopoly rights, and that granting it brings all the usual failings of a monopolized industry. The most common objection, discussed at length below, is that contemporary economic models are anachronistic and are not applicable to ancient societies. Rather than excluding contemporary economic analysis, however, one should see how it can offer new perspectives on texts. Economic tools have certainly illuminated contemporary religious behavior and institutions (see, for instance, Iannaccone 1998), so why not ancient religious behavior and institutions? The purpose of this bibliography is to make contemporary mainstream economics more accessible to biblical scholars, including the theoretical tools of rational choice theory, game theory, information economics, and behavioral economics, along with the most sophisticated empirical techniques in the contemporary social sciences. This bibliography excludes many important and interesting social scientific tools that economists have so far not engaged, such as work on cognitive dissonance theory (e.g., Leon Festinger, R. P. Carroll, Gerd Theissen), covenant rather than contract relations (Richard Horsley), kinship in Mediterranean culture (e.g., Bruce Malina, Kenneth Bailey), anthropological studies of taboos (e.g., Mary Douglas), sociological theories of revolution and large-scale social change (e.g., Weber, Durkheim, Norman Gottwald), and postcolonial theory (e.g., Mark Brett). This bibliography draws on a presentation titled “Using Economics in Biblical Studies,” which was presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco, a seminar at the Centre for Early Christian Studies at Australian Catholic University, and a seminar in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University in Sydney. Thanks to Julien Ogereau, Jacqui Grey, Chris Forbes, Mark Brett, and Roland Boer for discussions and suggestions, with the usual caveat that this does not imply agreement with the views expressed here.
There is little available specifically on economic approaches, and most of the works below discuss economics along with other social-scientific tools.
Backhouse, Roger E. The Penguin History of Economics. London: Penguin, 2002.
The best way into economics for non-economists is to read the history of economic thought. This book is clear and concise and covers recent developments in economics.
Elliott, John H. What Is Social-Scientific Criticism? Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993.
Balanced survey of the early phase of of social-scientific critcism, drawing on Elliott’s own work on I Peter.
Elliott, John H. “From Social Description to Social-Science Criticism.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 38.1 (2008): 26–36.
Update of the earlier survey in the context of an argument that theory is needed to move beyond description of the economic world and actually illuminate the biblical text.
Esler, Philip F. Community and Gospel in Luke/Acts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Esler’s Oxford PhD thesis, in which he applied social-scientific tools to Luke/Acts, especially the issue of table fellowship.
Esler, Philip F., ed. Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context. London: Routledge, 1995.
Collection of Esler’s essays.
Esler, Philip F., ed. Ancient Israel: Old Testament in its Social Context. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.
These works by the Australian biblical scholar Philip Esler are the most lucid and powerful defense of the legitimacy of social-scientific tools in biblical studies. His approach has now been extended well beyond his initial pathbreaking Oxford DPhil thesis on Luke/Acts.
Freyne, Sean. Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
Masterful discussion of Galilee from a social-scientific perspective. Important for other regions besides Galilee and texts besides the Gospels. His essay “Herodian Economics in Galilee: Searching for a Suitable Model” in Esler 1995, cited above, is an example of how to use models in biblical studies.
Longenecker, Bruce W., and K. Liebengood, eds. Engaging Economics: New Testament Scenarios and Early Christian Reception. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.
A thought provoking collection of essays about economic issues in the New Testament.
Oslington, Paul, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Christianity and Economics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Articles by leading economists and theologians on the relationships between the disciplines of Christian theology and economics. The sections on early economic thought and on the economics of religion are the most relevant to biblical studies.
Smelser, Neil J., and Richard Swedberg. The Handbook of Economic Sociology. 2d ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
Economic sociology is a strange field that owes its existence to the difficulty American scholars had in classifying Max Weber’s work—it is really economics. This book is full of ideas for biblical scholars. Original edition published 1994.
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- 2 Baruch
- 1 Clement
- Acts of the Apostles
- Adam and Eve
- Aelia Capitolina
- Afterlife and Immortality
- Alexander the Great
- Altered States of Consciousness in the Bible
- Ancient Christianity, Churches in
- Ancient Israel, Schools in
- Ancient Medicine
- Ancient Mesopotamia, Schools in
- Anti-Semitism and the New Testament
- Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
- Apocryphal Acts
- Apostolic Fathers
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Moab and the Moabites
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Phoenicia and the Phoe...
- Art, Early Christian
- Astrology and Astronomy
- Barnabas, The Epistle of
- Bible, Election in the
- Biblical Criticism
- Biblical Studies, Cognitive Science Approaches in
- Caesarea Maritima
- Canon, Biblical
- Children in the Hebrew Bible
- Christian Apocrypha
- Chronicles, 1 and 2
- Cities of Refuge
- Clement, 2
- Clement of Alexandria
- Corinthians, 2
- Cosmology, Near East
- Covenant, Ark of the
- Daniel, Additions to
- Death and Burial
- Deuteronomistic History
- Domestic Architecture, Ancient Israel
- Early Christianity
- Economics and Biblical Studies
- Epistles, Catholic
- Epistolography (Ancient Letters)
- Esther and Additions to Esther
- Evil Eye
- Exodus, Book of
- Feminist Scholarship on the Old Testament
- Flora and Fauna of the Hebrew Bible
- Food and Food Production
- Friendship, Kinship and Enmity
- Funerary Rites and Practices, Greco-Roman
- Genesis, Book of
- God, Ancient Israel
- God, Greco-Roman
- God, Son of
- Gospels, Apocryphal
- Great, Herod the
- Greco-Roman World, Associations in the
- Greek Language
- Hebrew Bible, Biblical Law in the
- Hebrew Language
- Hermas, Shepherd of
- Historiography, Greco-Roman
- Holy Spirit
- Honor and Shame
- Hosea, Book of
- Idol/Idolatry (HB/OT)
- Imperial Cult and Early Christianity
- Interpretation and Hermeneutics
- Israel, History of
- Jesus of Nazareth
- Jewish Christianity
- Jewish Festivals
- John, Gospel of
- John the Baptist
- Jubilees, Book of
- Judaism, Hellenistic
- Judaism, Rabbinic
- Judaism, Second Temple
- Judas, Gospel of
- Jude, Epistle of
- Judges, Book of
- Judith, Book of
- Kings, 1 and 2
- Letters, Johannine
- Letters, Pauline
- Levitical Cities
- Literacy, New Testament
- Literature, Apocalyptic
- Lord’s Prayer
- Luke, Gospel of
- Maccabean Revolt
- Maccabees, 1–4
- Man, Son of
- Manasseh, King of Judah
- Manasseh, Tribe/Territory
- Mark, Gospel of
- Matthew, Gospel of
- Medieval Biblical Interpretation (Jewish)
- Midrash and Aggadah
- Miracle Stories
- Modern Bible Translations
- Myth in the Hebrew Bible
- Nahum, Book of
- New Testament and Early Christianity, Women, Gender, and S...
- New Testament, Feminist Scholarship on the
- New Testament, Men and Masculinity in the
- New Testament, Rhetoric of the
- New Testament, Social Sciences and the
- New Testament Studies, Emerging Approaches in
- New Testament, Textual Criticism of the
- New Testament Views of Torah
- Numbers, Book of
- Nuzi (Nuzi Tablets)
- Old Testament, Biblical Theology in the
- Old Testament, Social Sciences and the
- Orality and Literacy
- Passion Narratives
- Paul's Opponents
- "Persian" Period, The
- Philo of Alexandria
- Poetry, Hebrew
- Priestly/Holiness Codes
- Pseudepigraphy, Early Christian
- Qumran/Dead Sea Scrolls
- Revelation (Apocalypse)
- Samuel, 1 and 2
- Sects, Jewish
- Sermon on the Mount
- Sin (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament)
- Solomon, Wisdom of
- Song of Songs
- Succession Narrative
- Synoptic Problem
- Tales, Court
- Temples and Sanctuaries
- Temples, Near Eastern
- Ten Commandments
- the Dead, Egyptian Book of
- the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Egypt and
- Thomas, Gospel of
- Twelve Prophets, Book of the
- Virtues and Vices: New Testament Ethical Exhortation in I...
- War, New Testament
- Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testa...
- Worship in the New Testament and Earliest Christianity
- Worship, Old Testament