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The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity [Paperback]

Peter Brown

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Hardcover, Special Edition £53.95  
Paperback £13.60  
Paperback, 21 May 1990 --  

Book Description

21 May 1990
Examines the practice of permanent sexual renunciation that developed among the early Christians. This book evokes the preoccupations of an era, and contributes to our understanding of sexuality and the family in the ancient world.

Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New Ed edition (21 May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571143989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571143986
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,238,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The reader of Peter Brown's work is always uncertain which to admire most, the grace and clarity, the scope and erudition, or the ability to bring diverse and complex units into a meaningful whole. These merits are all fully on display in The Body and Society." -- New York Times Book Review "A profound exploration of the meaning of embodiment, celibacy, and chastity for early Christians" -- Lauren F. Winner, Christianity Today --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Peter Brown, formerly professor of classics and history at the University of California, Berkeley, is the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University and the most prominent scholar of late antiquity (between 250 and 800 A.D.). He is the author of a dozen books, including Augustine of Hippo, Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianization of the Roman World, The Rise of Western Christendom, and Poverty and Leadership in the Late Roman Empire. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Encouraging to see Christianity's newness and continuation of Roman Society. 31 Dec 2012
By Arnold Miller - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found Brown's honesty about the emphasis on continence in both Roman society and the abiblity to be as such a sign of a true prophet in Christianity to be edifying. I just took Christopher West's Theology of the Body workshop and found many of the truths in this book to be found in John Paul II's writings on the Theology of the Body. The natural weakening of the ability of the sexual act was seen as an ability to turn toward the union with the divine instead of as something that had to be fought off with Viagra! I found it to be a book that will encourage people to the resourcement that the Second Vatican Council has called us to. I was fascinated to see in the Roman Empire how giving birth was a duty just to keep society functioning as the life span was only 25 years old. Love had to be stronger than death or the Roman Empire would have collapsed!
Rev. Arnold J. Miller Jr.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book, limned with a broad brush 11 May 2013
By B. Marold - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First, I suggest a counter to the review which said the book was dense reading. I don't think so (caveat - I have a degree in Theology, so I read this stuff all the time). Brown's presentation is more lucid than many writers of similar works in technical journals, and he is a world class expert on "Late Antiquity", a subject he virtually invented. He is also the author of the best biography of St. Augustine (short of reading the "Confessions").

I also suspect the reviewer's claim that the Christians took on the ascetic ethic of the Stoics. The only reference to the Stoics of any substance is their influence on Clement of Alexandria, who was not a major advocate of asceticism and against concupiscence. Asceticism grew on the fringes of the empire, in the Syrian and Egyptian deserts. The emphasis on abstinence from all sex except for procreation for the general faithful was stressed most strongly by St. Augustine in several books, and argued strongly against heretics who discounted "original sin".

I have two main comments which scholars may find useful. The first is that it deals primarily with Latin Christendom, and with very little attention given to the Greeks (Origin, the Cappadocians, and John Chrysostom) of Egypt and Anatolia, for example. The second is that it tends to see things from a very broad perspective, giving lots of background. This has the advantage of pulling in a lot of names and places who are important to someone studying the subject. I heard, for the first time, of the major Pelagian heretic, Julian of Eclanum.

It is this broadness which makes the book appealing to the non-scholar. It is important to remember that the subject is both "the body" and "society". That's a big canvas to fill. But, if all you want is ancient views on "the body", you may need to wade through a lot of ancient history. But, for school work, the footnotes and the bibliography are worth the price of admission.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic 16 April 2014
By Anton Untiedt - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A classic! Brown is still relevant and provoking. Broad overview of the development of sexualiy and gender in early Christianity.
3.0 out of 5 stars Educational, but DIFFICULT to understand. 15 Aug 2014
By SupremeLogic - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was pretty dry and the authors writing style made it difficult to understand his sentences. I was constantly looking up words. However, the book was really educational, and reading it felt like back thru time.

The author really gives us a good understanding of the early ascetic views of distorted sexuality.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book! 14 Feb 2014
By M. Leung - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book came on time in great condition. I bought it for my religious studies class called "Varieties of Christianity". This book is dry and can be a bit long, but I actually learn a lot about early Christianity from this book! If you have the motivation and interest in learning about early Christianity, this is a great book to go!
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