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 following the official acceptance of Christianity by Constantine the church slowly began to accumulate mass amounts of power-and wealth. Through the Eye of a Needle is a sweeping intellectual and social history of the vexing presence of wealth in post-persecution Christianity in the waning days of the Roman Empire.
Peter Brown, one of the world's leading scholars of late antiquity, examines the rise of the church through the lens of money and the challenges it posed to an institution that, at times, espoused the virtue of poverty and believed avarice to be a dreadful 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. Brown 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.
Along the way Through the Eye of a Needle fundamentally challenges many widely held notions about the 4th Century AD and with them the belief that Christianity's growing wealth sapped Rome of its ability to resist the barbarian invasions. A remarkable study offering a fresh perspective on the social history of the church in late antiquity and its influence on the Roman Empire.
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