Through the Eye of a Needle Wealth the Fall of Rome the

Through the Eye of a Needle Wealth the Fall of Rome the


  • Hardcover
  • 792 pages
  • Through the Eye of a Needle Wealth the Fall of Rome the Making of Christianity in the West 350 550 AD
  • Peter R.L. Brown
  • English
  • 04 August 2015
  • 9780691152905

10 thoughts on “Through the Eye of a Needle Wealth the Fall of Rome the Making of Christianity in the West 350 550 AD

  1. Clif Hostetler Clif Hostetler says:

    This book provides a virtual time machine fly through of the Western Roman Empire from 350 to 550 AD with special attention being given to the ways in which the Christian Church dealt with wealth This is a problem for the Christian religion because it is based upon the teachings of Jesus who is uoted in the New Testament as saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven For the first three hundred years of Christian church history there was no significant problem in interpreting the meaning of this statement because Christian membership generally consisted of urban artisans and trades people of the lower classes They certainly didn’t consider themselves to be rich and they had no difficulty in saying that rich people in this world wouldn't go to heaven in the next worldThings began to change in 312 when Constantine gave favored status to the Christian Church Today we generally imagine that things suddenly changed when Constantine came to power However these changes were complicated than perceived today and they were stretched out over many years Constantine set in motion changes that allowed ambitious Christians with their favored status to start becoming the “new rich” while the older established aristocratic rich remained Pagan It wasn’t until long after Constantine’s death that wealth began coming into the Church in a significant way“It was the gathering pace of the entry of the rich into the Christian Churches in the period after 370 and not the conversion of Constantine in 312 that marks the true beginning of the triumphant Catholicism of the Middle Ages” This book makes use of recent archaeological findings to modify conclusions reached by much of previous 20th Century scholarship on the subject of church history in this era At almost every point regarding history of this era the new understanding is complex and varied than previously understoodThis book traces the long process of changes that took place between the years 350 to 550 It begins with a hesitant age following the conversion of Constantine in 312 AD when the Christian churches of the West became privileged But they had not become wealthy Only in the last uarter of the fourth century did wealthy people enter the church in growing numbers often stepping into leadership roles as bishops and as Christian writers It was the entry of new wealth and talent into the churches from around 370 onward which marks the turning point in the Christianization of Europe From then onward as members of a religion that had been joined by the rich and powerful Christians could begin to think of the possibility of a totally Christian societyBut this new wealth brought problems There was conflict between the old believers new believers old wealth and new wealth Between around 370 and 430 there was an explosion of writing on the subject of wealth associated with writers and preachers such as Ambrose Jerome Augustine Paulinus of Nola and the supporters of Pelagius There was good reason for this explosion In the Christian church of the time distinctive traditions of giving and attitudes toward wealth reached back to before the age of Constantine They were often associated with low profile styles of leadership that drew their support from distinctly average congregations These low profile styles of giving and leadership freuently clashed with the expectations of those brought into the churches by the wealthy Ironically once the churches became used to being affluent by the end of fourth and early fifth century they needed to learn how to live in an impoverished world once the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century Radical critiues of wealth were then abandoned and instead emphasis was placed on how wealth could be used to consolidate the Christian community“The greatest surprise of all occurred in the late fifth century The leaders of the churches realized that they and not the great lay landowners whose fortunes had previously dwarfed the wealth of the church were at last truly wealthy The collapse of the traditional aristocracies left the church in a uniue position” Through it all the church managed to maintain a sense of the collective nature of the wealth of the faithful for the purpose of care for the poorThe main point of this book was not to discuss the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire However I was interested to see how this author addressed the subject He says it was caused by civil war among Roman generals fighting each other in an effort to make themselves Caesar These wars raged for a generation throughout Britain Gaul Spain and Africa The various competing Roman generals actually invited barbarian armies to fight for their side The barbarians were paid by allowing them to plunder the invaded areas In the end the barbarians found themselves in control of large areas that were then independent of any loyalty or taxes to Rome With depleted revenue from taxes the central Roman government was no longer able to maintain an army to retake control of the lost provinces From this description I have concluded that the fall of the Roman Empire was not caused by the rise of the Christianity at the cost of the traditional ways of the Pagans as was suggested in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


  2. Margaret Sankey Margaret Sankey says:

    This is the kind of book for which the word magisterial was intended I've been reading Brown's work on the late Roman Empire since undergraduate classes and this is the culmination of immersion in the big ones Augustine Jerome Ambrose as well as the many congregants faction leaders bishops donors and well educated widows of the imploding Roman world This book traces the fascinating process by which a church founded on humble poverty came to be an Imperial religion and then a replacement authority over the course of three hundred years in the west Pre Christian status through civic service and donations to public games and temples guaranteed fame and Roman honor which the new Christian ideas of donation to the poor and treasure in the next world significantly uestioned Gradually as Roman law adjusted so that revocation of wealth took into account relatives clients and standing obligations becoming a monk or nun opened up new social and political leverage especially for women and middling provincial nobles Eventually as the empire itself ebbed and the church accumulated property bishops took on the administrative and authoritative mantle of Roman officials in the west completing a process of cross over unimaginable in the early centuries of the faith


  3. Melora Melora says:

    This was fascinating I didn't know much about the topic but the author provided very adeuate background regarding attitudes towards wealth in the late Roman Empire The changes in Christian thought on wealth were well explained The various people profiled were described in a very engaging way which illustrated the changing views on wealth over hundreds of years My only complaint was that as a non expert I was unfamiliar with the scholars the author freuently uoted and also that the level of detail was a little excessive Overall though this was very interesting and I learned a lot


  4. Jo Walton Jo Walton says:

    Readable insightful thoroughly at home with his subject and truly interesting I loved reading this and was sorry to finish it


  5. Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin says:

    What is interesting about Christianity is that it is the first universalist ideological movement to take over an empire It was also anti materialist and many of Jesus teachings were against the rich and worldly wealth Being an ideological movement it was prey to doctrinal dispute Obviously these doctrinal disputes were entangled in earthly wealth and power dynamics No matter how otherworldly we claim to be we must contend with worldly affairs if we are to have an effect on them so the dynamics of power are going to play in these disputes no matter how ethereal appearing they seem One of the issues was the place of the wealthy in the movement Early on when the movement appealed to outsiders it could easily dismiss the wealthy as heading to perdition but as the movement grew and gained wealthy and powerful adherents the antimaterialist doctrine inevitably had to be modulated This early anti materialist banner was taken up by the Pelagians but had to be moderated by thinkers like Augustine who had to deal with the world's influence on Christian affairs and Augustine shifted the ire from wealth to pridewhich helped with this impediment to a growingly wealthy and powerful church Meanwhile the worldly Roman Empire was also imploding around this time which added to the complexity of the intellectual environment of the growing Christian Church Definitely this ideology was seasoned with some rough weather which made it ever so durable


  6. Siria Siria says:

    This is the kind of massive authoritative tome that could only be produced after decades of intensive study In Through the Eye of a Needle Peter Brown looks at wealth and Christianity in the late Empire of the Latin West He tracks how the collapse of centralised state authority accompanied by a gradual fading of the idea of the populus Romanus as a living entity allowed the Church to evolve into an institution built on corporate wealth Wealth was given a higher purpose—not used simply to pay for bread and circuses for entertainment in gilded buildings it was now used to construct churches and monasteries full of light At several hundred pages this will not be the book for anyone without a pre existing interest in the history of wealth patronage or the development of the early Christian Church While Brown writes fluidly and lucidly as always this is densely written and very detailed perhaps at times overly so Still this is a wonderful attempt at a recreation of a mindset at once very familiar and very alien and I found it well worth the investment of time


  7. David David says:

    Way back when I was in college and first learning about the history of the Christian church there was a common refrain I heard Constantine converted to Christianity gave the Church privileges and the Church took over I've read and heard the same thing over the years since Constantine and his conversion is a sort of bogeyman for all sorts of people especially those who desire a simplistic understanding of history that confirms their own suspicions or moral superiority?For example because Constantine endorsed the Trinity it became doctrine Except it didn't In the years after Nicea the Arians were winning Constantine's successors some of them even favored Arians The barbarians who conuered the western empire were Arians and for the record lest anyone accuse me of hypocrisy I recognize the barbarians were not as barbaric as we might think and that story too is complex In this book Peter Brown tells a complex story The common story of wealth is that once Constantine converted the churches became rich and privileged Brown shows that for whatever privilege they got riches did not immediately follow It was a much slower process Further it was fraught with conflict Many Christians would have argued that the only thing to do with wealth was to renounce it How did the church handle its growing wealth? In telling this story we also read the story of a transition from Late Antiuity into the Early Medieval eraThis is a thorough book There is so much here Its not the sort of book for people new to history; you probably want an elementary grasp of the era The benefit here is that Brown shows that the western empire was not monolithic Things were different and how wealth was handled by Christians was different from Rome to Gaul to Carthage We take for granted that Augustine's theology and view of wealth triumphed But in the background or even foreground of his battle with Pelagius was a battle over how to handle wealth Augustine's view won out Brown shows that there was little concern with where the wealth came from The uestion for the Christian was how to use the wealth This echoes down to today as Christians are called to give generously Until recently there was not much concern in the Church with where your wealth came from except for extreme cases It'd be interesting to read a book a sort of seuel for when Christians began to show concern for how one gets wealth You don't have to be a Marxist to wonder about human trafficking in the global supply trade The growing concern for fair trade and fair pay for workers might reveal a shift away from what took route after AugustineThe other thing sticking in my mind was how the Roman mindset influenced the church In Roman times not all poor were eual There were the deserving poor the people who were citizens of the city We might call them something similar to middle class today These were the people who received handouts from the government in Rome Then there were the lower poor the ones who might be kicked out of the city of Rome when things got tough I did not realize there was such a division before but it does strike me how this plays into how we read ancient sources Find a text from 200 300 AD that speaks of helping the poor Who were these poor? We can't take for granted we know exactly who they were speaking ofOverall this is a pretty great book for people into history and a Christian worldview


  8. Gary Beauregard Bottomley Gary Beauregard Bottomley says:

    With this book you will learn something you did not already know and importantly discover things you believed to be true but probably weren’t true Whether the nature of the Roman town structure the elite the distribution of wealth within the republic the rise of the Christians after Constantine or why ‘most Idealist thinkers Enlightenment and Romantic were Pelagians’ that’s a uote from ‘Culture and the Death of God’ by Terry Eagleton most readers will learn things they didn’t know and even better will unlearn things they thought to be true but weren’tThis is a smart book with a narrative tying a complex story together coherently How we understand history and interpret it is always changing As history is being written it is using the beliefs at the time which were depended on the prior beliefs and filtered by the expectations of what’s currently happening A great historian such as Peter Brown knows this and has a way of telling the story such that he will almost certainly destroy the false beliefs you had about this incredibly interesting period of time the Roman Empire from 350 550 AD and provide a new narrative to understand that world after all who among us doesn't love Roman History from this time period? I know I do and I know this book stripped away many of my false beliefs about the period that I used to have but no longer do because of this bookThe author realizes how we thought about our world determines how we presently think about our world and also will frame how we see the world in the future as well as our now The particular can determine the general and the specific or in the terms the author is speaking about the Roman citizen will love his city and the citizen will be part of the Empire Similarly the Church will redefine itself through its members and grow beyond the local Bishop and become a universal 'catholic' church even though universal at first meant anyone was allowed to join it not that it was everywhere as the word ‘Catholic’ now connotes Augustine of Hippo is at the center of this story Before him the thought even among Christians and some Pagans would have been ‘If there were no rich there would be no poor’ because the rich only exist off the sweat of the poor after Augustine and because of him it becomes ‘eliminate pride then the rich would be justified’ Augustine according to the author takes Cicero’s civic duty and combines that with Plotinius’ metaphysics and the teachings of St Paul and makes a religion Pelagius will say prayers make a difference we aren’t born in sin we have free will and that the rich need to share their wealth with the poor Augustine and his later allies will say differently This book will delve into those kinds of things and It will take St Auinas 850 years later to reverse the Augustinian trajectory and then Martin Luther and Calvin to reverse course again by valuing faith over works and letting us all know that we are born in sin because of Adam's pride and defianceThe writer is not always a fluent writer but he has a narrative that really works and it would be a rare person who could read this book and not learn something new and worth knowing about and importantly unlearn something they thought they knew but were wrong about


  9. Ethan Ethan says:

    An excellent magisterial investigation into the history of Latin Western Christianity from 350 550 through a focus on material wealth its handling and its influenceThe author demonstrates well how this time period is crucial to explain the shifts that take place between ancient and medieval Christianity He uses modern research recently discovered texts and archaeological evidence to uestion the prevailing narratives about the rise of prominence of Christianity in the Latin West and presents a complex nuanced and ultimately contextual and feasible explanation of that riseThe author analyzes both pagan and Christian views of wealth in late Roman antiuity describes the major historical events immediately before the mid fourth century and then begins his analysis of the role of wealth as it impacted many of the disputations and personalities of Western Christendom from 350 550 including Ambrose Augustine Jerome Pelagius Paulinus of Nola Salvian and Gregory of Tours The author convincingly demonstrates the process by which wealth eventually moved toward the church as the Roman empire disintegrated and how changes in the place of wealth and conceptions of giving in terms of penance and to the poor were major forces in the shift from ancient to medieval Christianity The character studies of Ambrose and Augustine as well as the rest of the major characters are of excellent uality and uite instructive firmly contextualizing the men not only as theologians but as full fledged members of the late Roman world This work is useful since it shows the social political and cultural dimensions of the major theological disputes regarding Augustinianism vs Pelagianism Catholics vs Donatists and even the late phase of the Arians vs Trinitarians This is an excellent work of history and very worthwhile for anyone with an interest in the history of late antiuity andor the development of Christianity and Christian doctrine galley received as early review edition


  10. Adam Shields Adam Shields says:

    Short Review Long but interesting look at the variety of ways that the church of the Late Roman Empire looked at wealth and how it should be used Interesting to reflect in the different ways we currently think about wealth My knowledge of the history of this period is pretty weak But Brown does take some alternative views from others that I have read His understanding of Augustine especially around celibacy and Agustine's desire to turn all clerics into monks is different from what I read in Augustine A Very Short Introduction and some of his history on the rise of the church countered Rodney Stark's The Triumph of Christianity How the Jesus Movement Became the World's Largest Religion This did not make a huge difference to the main point of the book but it always does make me pause to realize that I just have to that the author's word on so many things that I can't independently verify That being said I think his take on Augustine makes sense than in the Very Short Introduction and Stark was really taking a pretty broad view and Brown is of a narrow look Click Through for the full review on my blog at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Through the Eye of a Needle Wealth the Fall of Rome the Making of Christianity in the West 350 550 AD❰PDF❯ ✩ Through the Eye of a Needle Wealth the Fall of Rome the Making of Christianity in the West 350 550 AD Author Peter R.L. Brown – Larringtonlifecoaching.co.uk Jesus asserted it's easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven Yet by the fall of Rome the church was becoming rich beyond measure Thru the Eye of a Needle i Jesus asserted it's easier for a Eye of Kindle Ô camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven Yet by the fall of Rome the church was becoming rich beyond measure Thru the Eye of a Needle is a sweeping intellectual social history of the vexing problem of wealth in Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire written by the world's foremost scholar of late antiuity Brown examines the rise of the church thru the lens Through the Epub / of money the challenges it posed to an institution that espoused the virtue of poverty called avarice the root of all evil Drawing on the writings of major Christian thinkers such as Augustine Ambrose Jerome Brown examines the controversies changing attitudes toward money caused by the influx of new wealth into church coffers describes the spectacular acts of divestment by rich donors their growing influence in an empire beset with crisis He shows how the use of wealth for the care of the poor the Eye of PDF Ç competed with older forms of philanthropy deeply rooted in the Roman world sheds light on the ordinary people who gave away their money in hopes of treasure in heaven Through the Eye of a Needle challenges the widely held notion that Christianity's growing wealth sapped Rome of its the Eye of a Needle PDF/EPUB ² ability to resist the barbarian invasions offers a fresh perspective on the social history of the church in late antiuity.


About the Author: Peter R.L. Brown

There is than one author with Eye of Kindle Ô this namePeter Robert Lamont Brown FBA is Rollins Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University His principal contributions to the discipline have been in the field of Late Antiuity His work has concerned in particular the religious culture of the later Roman Empire and early medieval Europe and the relation between religion and societyNB This is.