Prof. John Barclay

Reciprocity and Co-Interest at the Roots of the Christian Tradition

This project challenges the modern assumption that Christian charity is top-down and optimally non-reciprocal. It will investigate the earliest Christian sources, not least the New Testament, to highlight overlooked practices of gift-giving among the poor, together with their assumption of reciprocity whereby gifts properly elicit some return, human or divine. Placing this material in its ancient philosophical and social context indicates how Christian gifts created reciprocal relationships whose conjoint participation in divine generosity benefitted both giver and receiver. Such co-interest escapes the modern antithesis of egotistic self-interest vs. self-negating disinterest, with significant implications for contemporary civic virtues and our configuration of ‘altruism’.