The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity

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9780674967588: The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity

Marking a departure in our understanding of Christian views of the afterlife from 250 to 650 CE, The Ransom of the Soul explores a revolutionary shift in thinking about the fate of the soul that occurred around the time of Rome s fall. Peter Brown describes how this shift transformed the Church s institutional relationship to money and set the stage for its domination of medieval society in the West.

Early Christian doctrine held that the living and the dead, as equally sinful beings, needed each other in order to achieve redemption. The devotional intercessions of the living could tip the balance between heaven and hell for the deceased. In the third century, money began to play a decisive role in these practices, as wealthy Christians took ever more elaborate steps to protect their own souls and the souls of their loved ones in the afterlife. They secured privileged burial sites and made lavish donations to churches. By the seventh century, Europe was dotted with richly endowed monasteries and funerary chapels displaying in marble splendor the Christian devotion of the wealthy dead.

In response to the growing influence of money, Church doctrine concerning the afterlife evolved from speculation to firm reality, and personal wealth in the pursuit of redemption led to extraordinary feats of architecture and acts of generosity. But it also prompted stormy debates about money s proper use debates that resonated through the centuries and kept alive the fundamental question of how heaven and earth could be joined by human agency.

"

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A Tablet Book of 2015

How did Christians come to believe that money spent by the living could benefit the souls of the dead? With characteristic verve and elegance, with unsurpassed scholarship, and with the deep moral sympathy that his readers have always admired, Peter Brown tracks the elusive answer to this question through four centuries, from 250 to 650 CE, and through all of Europe, from Spain to Babylon and from North Africa to Ireland and in doing so helps us understand our own deepest needs and anxieties. --Glenn W. Most, Scuola Normale Superiore"

[Brown s] latest book, relatively short in volume but very wide in scope, explores Christian attitudes to the afterlife [...] Brown is so good [at] imagining the lives of ordinary people who were not just early Christians , or slightly later Christians, but were also tradespeople, aristocrats, lawyers, soldiers and so forth. He is very skilful at extracting, from graffiti and funerary inscriptions, the lives of those who lived a hidden life and rest in unvisited graves [...] Whereas early inscriptions in and near the Roman catacombs reflect the early Christians praying to their dead, the Christians of late antiquity and beyond began to pray for their dead. And Brown shows brilliantly in this book how the future life of Christians beyond the grave was influenced in particular by money. --Spectator

The story of why Christians ceased to believe that most souls should, as it were, mark time before entering heaven , and how a recognisably medieval conception of the afterlife came to evolve, is the subject of Brown s slim but revelatory book. (...) With a lifetime of study and reflection behind him, there is no one better at tracing the process of such change than Peter Brown. The Ransom of the Soul shows him to be as sparkling as ever; and it takes us, as his books always do, on a tour of depths that he is uniquely qualified to explore. [...] How fortunate we are to have Brown as our guide Tom Holland, New Statesman

Peter Brown, the most erudite and elegant historian of Christian life in late antiquity, uses the Prognosticon as the vantage point from which to consider centuries of confrontation with the great mysteries of life and death in all their fullness and diversity... Brown is at his most insightful and eloquent when writing about Augustine, whose thought he has studied over a distinguished scholarly career... Peter Brown subtly explores the hopes and fears of those who lived through the revolution that was the spread of Christianity and the transformation of the ancient world into Christian Europe. -- Literary Review

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Descrizione libro HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. 211 x 145 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Marking a departure in our understanding of Christian views of the afterlife from 250 to 650 CE, The Ransom of the Soul explores a revolutionary shift in thinking about the fate of the soul that occurred around the time of Rome s fall. Peter Brown describes how this shift transformed the Church s institutional relationship to money and set the stage for its domination of medieval society in the West. Early Christian doctrine held that the living and the dead, as equally sinful beings, needed each other in order to achieve redemption. The devotional intercessions of the living could tip the balance between heaven and hell for the deceased. In the third century, money began to play a decisive role in these practices, as wealthy Christians took ever more elaborate steps to protect their own souls and the souls of their loved ones in the afterlife. They secured privileged burial sites and made lavish donations to churches. By the seventh century, Europe was dotted with richly endowed monasteries and funerary chapels displaying in marble splendor the Christian devotion of the wealthy dead. In response to the growing influence of money, Church doctrine concerning the afterlife evolved from speculation to firm reality, and personal wealth in the pursuit of redemption led to extraordinary feats of architecture and acts of generosity. But it also prompted stormy debates about money s proper use--debates that resonated through the centuries and kept alive the fundamental question of how heaven and earth could be joined by human agency. Codice libro della libreria AAC9780674967588

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Descrizione libro HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, United States, 2015. Hardback. Condizione libro: New. 211 x 145 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Marking a departure in our understanding of Christian views of the afterlife from 250 to 650 CE, The Ransom of the Soul explores a revolutionary shift in thinking about the fate of the soul that occurred around the time of Rome s fall. Peter Brown describes how this shift transformed the Church s institutional relationship to money and set the stage for its domination of medieval society in the West. Early Christian doctrine held that the living and the dead, as equally sinful beings, needed each other in order to achieve redemption. The devotional intercessions of the living could tip the balance between heaven and hell for the deceased. In the third century, money began to play a decisive role in these practices, as wealthy Christians took ever more elaborate steps to protect their own souls and the souls of their loved ones in the afterlife. They secured privileged burial sites and made lavish donations to churches. By the seventh century, Europe was dotted with richly endowed monasteries and funerary chapels displaying in marble splendor the Christian devotion of the wealthy dead. In response to the growing influence of money, Church doctrine concerning the afterlife evolved from speculation to firm reality, and personal wealth in the pursuit of redemption led to extraordinary feats of architecture and acts of generosity. But it also prompted stormy debates about money s proper use--debates that resonated through the centuries and kept alive the fundamental question of how heaven and earth could be joined by human agency. Codice libro della libreria AAC9780674967588

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