Did Marx get his idea for socialism from the Gospels?

Does Acts 2-5 command socialism?

Having been born and raised in a communist country, with first hand knowledge of the impact of socialism, I found this article very interesting and on target. It is an article posted on the Gospel Coalition website, in which Art Lindsley discusses the claim made on a Washington Post blog, by writer Gregory Paul that ‘Marx likely got the general idea for socialism from the Gospels’.

„A truly strange thing has happened to American Christianity,” Gregory Paul writes for The Washington Post’s „On Faith” blog. He claims that Christians who defend the free market are in a profound contradiction because Acts 2-5 is „outright socialism of the type described millennia later by Marx—who likely got the general idea from the Gospels.”

Acts 4:32-35, referring to the early congregation, says,

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Though these passages may sound like socialism to the average reader, such a superficial reading may miss what a closer examination of the text reveals. There are three major reasons why Acts 2-5 does not teach socialism. 

Lindsley quotes Craig Blomberg from his study  Neither Poverty nor Riches, in which Blomberg comments on  Acts 4:34b-35 and states:

The periodic selling of property confirms our interpretation of Acts 2:44 above. This was not a one-time divesture of all one’s possessions. The theme „according to need,” reappears, too. Interestingly, what does not appear in this paragraph is any statement of complete equality among believers.

Lindsley also points out that –

John Stott affirms Blomberg’s conclusions on property in the early church, also underscoring Luke’s use of the imperfect tense:

Neither Jesus nor his apostles forbade private property to all Christians. . . It is important to note that even in Jerusalem the sharing of property and possessions was voluntary . . . It is also noteworthy that the tense of both verbs in verse 45 is imperfect, which indicates that the selling and giving were occasional, in response to particular needs, not once and for all.

Finally, Lindsley gives 2 reasons why, even if  all believers sold all their possessions and redistributed them among the community, this still would not prove socialism is biblical.

  1. The act in Acts was totally voluntary — Socialism implies coercion by the state…
  2. The narrative was not a universal command. — To prove Acts 2-5 commands socialism, you would have to show that this historical precedent is a mandatory prescription for all later Christians.

Click here to read the entire article at the Gospel Coalition website.

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