Peter Brown 2Peter Brown, Through The Eyes Of The Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD

This book will not make the best-seller lists, I suspect, but what a remarkable read it is. The focus is sharp, perhaps narrow, with a penetrating eye on the fourth through the sixth centuries AD. These are the pivotal years when the Roman empire finally collapsed. This was the time as well when the Christian church gained its stabilizing foothold for the future of European civilization.

Even narrowing more, the topic of the book is money, how wealth was regarded and used by both pagan and Christian Romans. We watch with fascination as Brown masterfully unfolds the changing notions of power, all driven by wealth. All of this is messy and conflicted, but the final story is one of an emerging Christian church that ultimately provides both financial and spiritual guidance for a chaotic world.

But narrow is not the way to describe this incredible book. The research is deep, making use of all the latest archeological findings and the most recent interpretations. No stone is left unturned. There are two hundred pages of endnotes and bibliography. We are in the hands of a master scholar.

The enervating dangers of taxation, the developing mission for the poor, the threat of barbarian forces, the unraveling of the unity of the empire—all of this is the story of the decline of Rome. We take heart, that out of that chaos, the Christian voice began to shape the culture in positive ways for the future.

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