"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
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"Through the Eye of a Needle" by Peter Brown. A Review
Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in
the West, 350-550 AD
Princeton, New Jersey 08540 USA
Jesus remarked, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person
enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”
(Matthew 19.23-24, ESV), how did earlier Christians perceive his statement and
engage it? And in what ways would this have coincided or conflicted with their
cultural environment? These, and other questions, are addressed in sizable
detail by Peter Brown, the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History (Emeritus)
and Senior Historian at Princeton University, in his voluminous 792 page
paperback, “Through the Eye of a Needle:
Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550
AD”. It is a work written for the experts, the informed, the interested and the
“Through the Eye of a Needle” is delineated in its
subtitle. The primary focus is on how wealth was perceived in earlier
Christianity and in its contemporary Roman culture. Wrapped around this
investigative evaluation will be the story of Rome from its golden age to its
demise, and how and why Christianity remained standing amidst the ruins. To
guide along this path Brown introduces the reader to Roman and Christian
leaders in delightful detail, allowing us to see them in fresh light: Quintus
Aurelius Symmachus, Ambrose, Ausonius of Bordeaux, Paulinus of Nola, Augustine,
Pelagius, Jerome, Melania the elder, Melania the younger, Salvian, and Gregory
the Great, to name only a few of the cast. The thread that holds this troupe
together like a beaded bracelet is wealth. As Brown recounts their biographies
through the lens of wealth, it adds hues and shades to the familiar backdrop.
For example, the tale of Augustine and Pelagius becomes livelier when the role
of affluence is drawn in and given its place. For Pelagius “touched on two
central issues: on Augustine’s particular notion of sin and penance, and on
more general notions, current in the African churches as elsewhere, on the
expiatory nature of religious gifts…Augustine placed behind the largely
unreflecting practice of expiatory giving the heavy weight of a view of human
nature that made daily expiation a necessity” (362-3).
Woven into this history of wealth are innumerable aspects
of society and social structure, church and monasticism, imperial rule and
episcopal power. Brown’s “concern throughout has been to do justice to the pace
and to the diversity of developments that do not fit easily into conventional
narratives of political and ecclesiastical history…by concentrating on a series
of distinctive figures, each of whom was placed in a distinctive landscape”
Instead of being a droll dictation of facts, figures
and philosophical foci, “Through the Eye of a Needle” chronicles a credible account
that draws from many causes and draws in multiple characters. Upon completing
the volume, the reader will have gained a broad and buxom picture of late Roman
antiquity and earlier Church history. Yet the memoir moves purposefully toward
its destination. It remains clear throughout that the “majority of the
upper-class inhabitants of the Roman West were encouraged by long tradition to
show generosity to their cities and to their fellow citizens—not to the
churches and still less to the poor. Only in the last quarter of the fourth
century did the wealthy enter the church in growing numbers…It was the entry of
new wealth and talent into the churches from around the year 370 onward…which
marks the turning point in the Christianization of Europe. From then onward, as
members of a religion that had been joined by the rich and powerful, Christians
could begin to think the unthinkable—to envision the possibility of a totally
Christian society” (527-8).
“Through the Eye of a Needle” fills in many gaps,
and highlights a number of important themes. I have employed it as supporting
material in the Church History class I have been teaching at my congregation.
The volume could well be used as the primary textbook for college and seminary classes
that are covering the Roman millennia. Academic libraries, religious and
secular, should likewise obtain copies. But anyone interested in Roman history
will find Brown’s book valuable and engrossing. I happily and heartily
recommend the book.
When I was 20 years old, I was stationed in a Muslim country for two years. During that time I read the Quran (in an English translation from Oxford), interacted with Muslim acquaintances, and saw Islam lived out in it's communal context. Therefore I was excited when my mother gave me a copy of "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus". With bazillions of reviews already plastered on the various sites and venues, mine will be short and succinct.
Nabeel Qureshi has woven together a very personal and personable volume written to give "an insider's perspective into a Muslim heart," as well as equip readers "with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel contrasted with the case for Islam," while chronicling his own inner struggles, sacrifices and doubts when grappling with the Christian faith. The style of writing is autobi…
"When evil looms and darkness falls And tragedy is breaking When all that's good seems overturned By God I'm not forsaken For though I fall or wander far I'm not too far for saving And when my Shepherd seeks and finds How can I keep from singing" (229)?
So cantillates Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, mother, wife, writer, musician and abuse survivor, in her new 240 page hardback "Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse". This volume is the tale of her terrors and troubles at the hands of an abusive father, and it is far, far more. It is truly a story of life after abuse, abundant life found only in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. An easy to read book, it is ideally suited for those who have been traumatized and those who long to help the trampled! "I am not my abuser. I have a choice. I aspire to heal and grow by God's grace" (82).
It's a memoir, a series of journal entries telling a very human set of stories in a very friendly, personable way. It's not fully polished, but it's real, sometimes raw, and always forthright and frank! Holly Rench, Executive Director and co-founder of The Welcome Mission, has penned a touching series of real-life exploits, escapades, agonies and adversities of the women she has been involved with for over twelve years in this 231 page softback "At Home: The Incredible Story of The Welcome Mission".
Rench unravels the tangled lives of several of her and Marcus's "adopted" adult children describing their destructive pasts and how many of them, through love and hospitality, have moved further up and further on. But the tales are also filled with pitfalls and potholes that will jar the reader's suspension system's and rattle any self-righteous lug-nuts s…