Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
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 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 antiquity.
Brown examines the rise of the church thru the lens 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 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 ability to resist the barbarian invasions & offers a fresh perspective on the social history of the church in late antiquity.