Jesus taught his followers that it is easier for a camel to go
through 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. "Through the Eye of a Needle" is a sweeping intellectual
and 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 antiquity.
Peter 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, Brown 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 and their growing influence in an empire
beset with crisis. 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.
"Through the Eye of a Needle" challenges the widely held notion
that Christianity's growing wealth sapped Rome of its ability to
resist the barbarian invasions, and offers a fresh perspective on
the social history of the church in late antiquity.
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