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A Spiritual Economy$
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Thomas R. Blanton

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300220407

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300220407.001.0001

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Summary and Conclusions

Summary and Conclusions

(p.134) Eight Summary and Conclusions
A Spiritual Economy

Thomas R. Blanton, IV

Yale University Press

This chapter summarizes the previous chapters and notes that Paul’s letters shift the temporal framing of the classic formulation do ut des, “I give so that you might give.” Paul’s reformulation was rather “I give because you have given”; in his view, the preeminent gifts—God’s gift of his son, and Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross—had already been given. The effect was to render members of early Christian assemblies and other potential converts in the role of recipients of divine gifts, to which they were to respond with thanksgiving, gratitude, and reciprocal gifts of labor time, money, and other material goods. In this way, religious myth served as the catalyst for an entire system of exchange in the sociopolitical realm of the early Christian assembly: it facilitated the creation of a “spiritual economy.” Today, Paul’s letters facilitate the elaboration of a number of theoretical perspectives on gift exchange developed within the fields of anthropology and sociology; the conjunction in Paul’s letters of “religion” and “gift” provides significant opportunity for interdisciplinary study.

Keywords:   do ut des, gift exchange, reciprocity, academic study of religion, interdisciplinarity

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