THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE
Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD

PETER BROWN
792pp 21 ILLUS (12 COLOUR) 4 MAPS 2014 LIST PRICE: £16.95 (P) G356

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Description
This is a sweeping intellectual and social history of the church in late antiquity and the vexing problem of wealth in Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire. Brown examines the rise of the church through the lens of money and the challenges it posed to an institution that espoused the virtue of poverty and called avarice the root of all evil. Drawing on the writings of major Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Ambrose and Jerome, he examines the controversies and changing attitudes toward money caused by the influx of new wealth into church coffers, and describes the spectacular acts of divestment by rich donors. He shows how the use of wealth for the care of the poor competed with older forms of philanthropy deeply rooted in the Roman world, and sheds light on the ordinary people who gave away their money in hopes of treasure in heaven.

It is a privilege to live in an age that could produce such a masterpiece of the historical literature. NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS