Cover: The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity, from Harvard University PressCover: The Ransom of the Soul in PAPERBACK

The Ransom of the Soul

Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$20.00 • £17.95 • €18.95

ISBN 9780674983977

Publication Date: 06/11/2018

Trade

288 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

1 map, 2 tables

World

Also Available As

Jacket: The Ransom of the Soul

HARDCOVER | $25.50

ISBN 9780674967588

Trade

Add to Cart

Educators: Request an Exam Copy (Learn more)

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

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.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

A stack of five bestselling titles from Harvard University Press against a hot pink textured background

Ringing in the New Year with HUP’s 2022 Bestsellers

There is no better way for readers to usher in the new year than by looking back to the books that defined the last. For Harvard University Press, our 2022 bestsellers make up a diverse list of books across time and discipline.