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The Body and Society [Paperback]

Professor Peter Brown
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 15, 1988 0231061013 978-0231061018 Reprint

In his monumental book Peter Brown addresses the practice of permanent sexual renunciation--continence, celibacy, and life-long virginity--that developed in Christian circles from the first to the fifth centuries A.D.

Brown vividly describes the early Christians and their strange, disturbing preoccupations. He follows in detail the reflection and controversy these notions generated among Christian writers. Among the topics covered are marriage and sexuality in the Roman world, Judaism and the early church, Origen and the tradition of spiritual guidance, sexuality in the desert fathers and Augustine and sexuality. The Body and Society is a significant study on sexuality and the family in the ancient world by a renowned scholar. Besides being of great interest to readers in ancient history and early church history, and to classicists and medievalists, it will engage readers concerned with women's studies and the history of sexuality.

Editorial Reviews


"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

About the Author

Peter Brown, formerly professor of Classics and History at the University of California, Berkeley, is now Rollins Professor in the Department of History at Princeton University. His previous books include Augustine of Hippo, The World of Late Antiquity, The Making of Late Antiquity, The Cult of The Saints, Religion and Society in the Age of Saint Augustine, and Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity.

Product Details

  • Series: ACLS Lectures on the History of Religions
  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (April 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231061013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231061018
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent, scholarly study May 13, 1999
By A Customer
Brown's book is the finest study available on sexuality and the body in the early Church. This book sheds great light on the classical, Jewish , and Christian conceptions of the body and how important those conceptions were in early Christianity, especially for early Christian asceticism. This is a must read for anyone interested in gaining a serious appreciation of the early Church. Many histories focus primarily on the Development of Christian Doctrine and Ecclesial structures. An understanding of early Christian spirituality and asceticism illuminates early Christian doctrine and church structure even more.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent History of Early Christianity December 11, 1998
By A Customer
This is a marvelous book and Peter Brown is a master of his field. _The Body and Society_ provides one of the best histories available of the human body and its relationship to Christianity in late antiquity. Brown traces early Christian ideas on the body and sexulity to their roots in the Classical world and Roman views of gender and sexual practice. Then, the Christian idea of sexual renunciation is explored through the ideas of major Christian theologians, dealing especially well with the complex views of Augustine of Hippo. This is a beautifully written masterpiece of historical research and is likely to be a modern classic.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
This book is an introduction for those who are just approaching the ancient world of early christianity, and a guide full of insight for those who already have had a look of it. It is as important to philosophers as to historians, and to all those who are interested in the <<origins>> of Christianity and all the trouble it had before becoming one of the most expanded religions and cultures on our world. Moreover it makes an important step in linking the history of religion and of thought to the history of the human body. Mr. Brown wrote an excellent history book where any person seriuosly interested in the ancient world can find important information. Information, though, is not the only important thing in History, and in this book we can find much more: useful anecdotes are beautifully depicted in the very right place in order to make the thinking and the more practical need of our ancestors more undersandable to our western technological eyes. Also let me add, that this book is the result of some thirty years of reserch and extensive, but deep reeding of the writings and deed of the Fathers of Christianity. This book is, for us, an exceptional chance to read not only the translations of a very experienced translator of ancient literature but also his comments and crossed inquiries.
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