Though "community" has become a common byword in the contemporary Western church, the practice of communal sharing has effectively fallen by the wayside. Unfortunately, it is often the poor who are left wanting because we no longer come together.
Reta Halteman Finger finds a solution to this modern problem by learning from the ancient Mediterranean Christian culture of community. In the earliest Jerusalem church, in holding the responsibility for preparing and serving communal meals, women were given a place of honor. With the table fellowship and goods sharing of the early church, Luke says, "there were no needy persons among them" (Acts 4:34). Finger thoroughly examines this agape-meal tradition, challenging traditional interpretations of the "community of goods" in the Jerusalem church and proving that the communal sharing lasted for hundreds of years longer than previously assumed. Of Widows and Meals
begins a discussion of need in community that can revolutionize the contemporary church's interaction with the world at large.
— University of Heidelberg
"Of Widows and Meals is a first — the only comprehensive analysis and unbiased interpretation that I have seen of the references to koinonia in Acts 2 and 6. Reta Halteman Finger surveys everything written about this issue and shows that the Jerusalem church was sharing resources of its members to support daily communal meals, and that the widows played a decisive role in this ministry. A brilliant, provocative, and courageous study, with revolutionary implications for the contemporary church."
Rosemary Radford Ruether
— Claremont Graduate University
"With impeccably detailed scholarship, Reta Finger examines the traditions in the book of Acts about shared property and daily meals in the early Jerusalem church. She shows that this tradition represented a real commitment to a new community in Christ that cut across class divisions and extended food and support to the poorest. For Finger, those traditions are not just a historical footnote on a curious and short-lived practice at the beginning of Christianity, but are an ongoing legacy that must be taken seriously as central to living out the Christian gospel today."
— Phillips Theological Seminary
"Written by the foremost feminist New Testament scholar from the Mennonite-Anabaptist tradition, Of Widows and Meals demonstrates, once and for all, the historical actuality of sharing common meals and other possessions in the earliest Christian communities. Finger masterfully utilizes a multidisciplinary approach, drawing on the results of the most recent scholarship pertaining to meals in the ancient world. . . She clarifies that the widows mentioned in Acts 6 were not the poor recipients of 'handouts' but important members of the Christian community in Jerusalem who, themselves, had a significant role in the production of the daily meals for that community. This well-written and fascinating book, full of carefully nuanced corrections to earlier inadequate theories, is a treasure trove of enlightening new insights."