Last week a conference was held in Jerusalem to honor the memory of Hebrew University professor David Flusser (1917-2000). An expert on the New Testament and Early Christianity, Flusser was a colleague of Jerusalem pastor Dr. Robert Lindsey.
Jointly sponsored by the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel, Tantur Ecumenical Institute and The Pontifical Institute of Ratisbonne, the conference (“David Flusser: Innovator and Leader in New Testament Studies”) took place on May 23-24, 2001. Members of the Jerusalem School (Prof. Shmuel Safrai, Prof. Brad Young and Halvor Ronning) delivered three of the conference lectures.
The conference opened with Prof. Safrai’s lecture: “Early Jewish Evidence in the New Testament.” Malcolm Lowe lectured on “The Characteristics and Correctness of Flusser’s Approach”; Prof. Young on “David Flusser’s Influence on Researching the Parables”: Halvor Ronning on “David Flusser and the Jerusalem School”: and Martin Majer on “David Flusser as a Linguist.” Other participating lecturers were Frederic Manns, Guy Stroumsa, Serge Ruzer, Hans Joachim Blocher, Neri Arieli and Yohanan Flusser, one of Prof. Flusser’s two sons.
In his lecture, Prof. Safrai pointed out that in the time of Jesus, by rabbinic ruling, the giving of alms, or charity, was an acceptable substitute for sacrificial offerings. Jesus seems to have preferred the giving of alms. There is no mention in the New Testament that Jesus or his disciples offered sacrifices in the Temple; however, we do hear of them distributing alms to the poor. One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, was responsible for the moneybox that held Jesus and his disciples’ common funds from which donations to the poor were made (John 12:6; 13:29).
The story of the widow who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-4) may be an example of someone who brought an offering of alms to the Temple rather than an animal sacrifice. The widow was very poor and could not afford to purchase an animal, or even small birds, to be sacrificed.