They Who Give From Evil: The Response of the Eastern Church to Moneylending in the Early Christian Era

By Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen

An intriguing analysis of how the early Eastern Church dealt with the theological and social implications of debt and usury.

ISBN: 9780227173985


They Who Give From Evil is a stimulating exploration of the response of the Eastern Church in the Early Christian Era towards moneylending, with a detailed reference to Greek and Roman societies and Christian and Jewish scripture. Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen’s analysis focuses on the Greek Fathers who were foundational to the Byzantine and Eastern Christian theology and historical traditions, to offer a nuanced understanding of sermons concerning the reality of debt, alongside the responsibility of Christian wealth. Ihssen contemplates Basil’s Homilia in psalmum 14 and Gregory of Nyssa’s Contra usurarios, exploring how the two bishops take usury as their primary subject and compose sermons around it.

They Who Give from Evil offers a fresh perspective on a complicated theological and social issue and will be of great interest to both students and academics alike.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 220

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University, where she teaches courses in the early and medieval history of Christianity and Islam, and Eastern Orthodox theology.



1. Basil and Gregory’s Sermons on Usury: A Simple Historiography
2. Usury in Greek and Roman Society
3. Usury in Jewish and Christian Scripture
4. Greek Theologians and Usury
5. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa: Credit Where Credit is Due
6. Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

Ihssen’s patient study describes Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa’s teachings on usury against the backdrop of the ancient world, of biblical teaching, and of other Christian voices in late antiquity. The result is a book that is both timely in its warnings against economic injustice, and illuminating in its elucidation of early Christian teachings on usury. Most importantly, Ihssen shows that Nyssa’s approach to usury has its own unique emphases.
Hans Boersma, Regent College

Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen performs a real service, therefore, in producing, in a very accessible form, an examination of the Eastern Church’s response to moneylending.
Church Times, 19 July 2013

Ihssen is able to shed fascinating insight on Roman life and illustrate the rich social justice theologies of the patristic world.
Theological Book Review, Vol 25, No 2

As a work in patristics, Ihssen’s monograph completes necessary spadework about one aspect of the social teaching of two major Eastern church thinkers. As a guide to social response for Christians today, Ihssen makes a further down-payment on a valuable and difficult project – to discover what sort of economy a self-consciously Christian civilization barely free of the era of the New Testament church did adopt or create once free of persecution.
Timothy Patitsas, in Journal of Theological Studies, Vol 65, No 2