Wohltätigkeit und Armenpflege im vorchristlichen Altertum. Ein Beitrag zum Problem 'Moral und Gesellschaft'.
Oosthoek, Utrecht, 1939. XVI,492p. Cloth. Cover a bit stained. Spine yellowed. Signature and date on free endpaper. ‘The author seeks to answer the question as to what was the status of the poor in the social ethics, politics, and religion of the ancient pre-Christian Orient (Egypt and Palestine) as compared with that in the West (Greece and Rome). His general thesis is that, in the Orient, philanthropy is emphasised with special reference to the poor, and almsgiving and poor relief are praised as supreme virtues; in pre-Christian Greece and rome, on the other had, the object of well-doing was not the poor bit one’s fellow-citizens (‘Mitbürger’, ‘Mitmenschen’). The true contrast as regards the attitude to the poor, then, is not between heathendom and Christendom, as is popularly supposed, but between East and West. This essential contrast is emphasized by extensive analyses of the Greek and Roman terminology itself. The terms for philanthropy and beneficence among the Greeks and Romans, for example, had no special reference to the poor and were by no means identical with the ‘ charity’ (‘caritas’) of the New Testament, which connoted love to God, including love to man, especially expressed in service to the poor. In the pre-Christian West, all such terms stressed neither religion nor the poor but an attitude of well-doing to one’s fellows (…) In the social ethics of the Egyptians and Hebrews, however, both religion and the poor are emphasized. The notion that these ethical attitudes were original with Christianity is essentially unhistorical. The basic ethical ideas in Christian philanthropy and service to the poor were largely of Jewish, or better, of general oriental origin. (…) In investigating the attitude of each of the four peoples toward the poor, the author carefully distinguishes between the general socioethical practice (‘ gelebte Moral’) and the teaching of the moralists and philosophers (‘gepredigte Moral’). Chapters ii and iii are devoted to classical Greece and Rome, and chapters i and iv to Egypt and the Hebrews before and after their Hellenization through Alexander’s conquests. Each of these four chapters includes an analysis of the sources and discussions on philanthropy as a virtue, the palce of the poor in social and political ethics, individual, state, and temple aid - including the right of asylum - and the motives of well-doing and the resulting forms of philanthropy in each of the four nations. (…) Chapter v summarizes the results of the investigatio (…). Finally, chapter vi explains the basic causes of the difference in conception and attitude between East and West and the bearing of this explanation as ‘ interpreting the relation of any phenomenon to a group of other phenomena.’ He finds the essential cause of the contrast, not in religion as was once supposed, but in the diversity in economic, social, and political conditions between East and West, especially in the difference in attitude in relation to poor and rich. In Egypt and Palestine, the mass of the population were serfs and without civic rights, and slavery was not highly developed. In Greece and Rome, on the other hand, there was a large number of small citizen landowners, and slavery was very highly developed. Thus the free masses in the East were entirely dependent on the landowners, and hence were objects of mercy, while in the West they were independent and more able to take care of themselves. Later, however, through oriental and Christian influence, roman society and the state in the West as well as in the East were orientalized, and hence the status of the poor changed to that of the Orient. (…) The work is rich in interesting points of view and discussions as by-products of the main subject of investigation. (…) The work is scholarly, well documented, critical, sane and well balanced in interpretation. (…) The author has placed all students of ancient social ethics in his debt by his thorough investigation of a fundamental problem in the history of pre-Christian moral and social ideals and practices.' (ALBERT A. TREVER in Classical Philology, 1941, pp.82-85).