During the Post Classical Period, from their respective religious origins to the 1500s, the Christian anti – merchant attitude sharply contrasts with the Islamic pro – merchant attitude towards trade. Both Christianity and Islam’s attitudes gradually became more neutral, more moderate towards the end of the Post – Classical.
The sharpest contrast between the views of Christians and Merchants towards trade can be seen during their respective religion’s origins, as exemplified in Documents 1, 2 and 3. Document 1 illustrates the founder of Christianity, Jesus’ negative view towards merchants and trade, along with Document 3 illustrating the early Church’s suspicion and negative attitude towards trade. Document 2 illustrates the founder of Islam, Mohammed’s positive view towards merchants and trade. For example, in Document 1, Jesus, founder of Christianity, proclaims, “A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven (Doc. 1).” Early on, even from the foundations of Christianity, riches and wealth were deemed incompatible with the Christian ideal, the entrance to the kingdom of heaven.
Early Christianity, therefore, viewed trade and riches as inherently evil and exploitive. The official Christian view, coming from it’s authoritative source, the Bible, decrees that the rich man, usually affiliated with the mercantile lifestyle, cannot possibly truly and correctly follow the faith, thus alienating merchants and traders, a harshly anti – merchant, anti – trade paradigm. In accordance with Jesus’ view, St. Godric in Document 3 “lived sixteen years as a merchant” but gave up his merchant livelihood to “[take up] the cross as a pilgrim to Jerusalem.”
Thus, St. Godric becomes holy by giving up his material, mercantile possessions and instead, becomes a pilgrim to give himself to “God’s service.” St. Godric, in the Christian tradition is venerated not for his mercantile skills or his keen trading proficiency, but rather for his decision to give himself to God’s service. Thus, the Church, by virtue of canonizing St. Godric, emphasizes the “hermit” part of his life, much more so than his merchant livelihood.
Courtney from Study Moose
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