In a recent article in Commonweal, the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart responds to a rebuttal article written last year by Acton research director Samuel Gregg. Hart say that “on at least one point Gregg did have me dead to rights: I did indeed say that the New Testament, alarmingly enough, condemns great personal wealth not merely as a moral danger, but as an intrinsic evil.”
What is Hart’s basis for the claim? That he can read the koine Greek. He believe the “actual biblical texts” are “so unambiguous that it is almost comical that anyone can doubt their import.”
Well, Dylan Pahman, an Acton research fellow and managing editor of our Journal of Markets & Morality, most certainly does doubt their import:
He claims, like a caricature of the Protestants he unfairly dismisses, that the New Testament is on his side because he can read it in Greek. Well, so can I, and so can basically every theologian who has ever disagreed with Hart’s position. Fluency in Greek does not make one an authority on the New Testament or early Christianity.
The poverty of Hart’s hermeneutic can be seen by examining the sparsely substantiated claims he makes about the earliest Christians. Hart believes that “the New Testament … condemns great personal wealth not merely as a moral danger, but as an intrinsic evil.” Hart dismisses every New Testament qualification of this claim as being countered by a more absolute reading of other passages that has apparently escaped all other Christian readers for the last 2,000 years. In reality, Hart’s view cannot be found among early Christians.