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The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (The Haskell Lectures on History of Religions) Paperback – February 15, 1982

ISBN-13: 978-0226076225 ISBN-10: 0226076229 Edition: New edition
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Brown's style is itself a feast, and he has a genius for making the past and present energize each other."
(Patrick Henry Theology Today)

About the Author

Peter Brown is the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Emeritus and Senior Historian at Princeton University and the author of Augustine of Hippo and The Making of Late Antiquity.
 
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Product Details

  • Series: The Haskell Lectures on History of Religions (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 204 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (February 15, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226076229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226076225
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Neely on March 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Peter Brown investigates the rise and function of the Christian "cult of saints" in late antiquity between the third and sixth centuries A.D. (1). In each chapter, he demonstrates a comprehensive framework of explaining how the cult of saints became prominent. He offers an original and alternative perspective that counters modern scholarship. He focuses on cemeteries, shrines, and relics, which embody the cult of the saints. He provides comprehensive explanations for the function of these powerful elements, which had a profound effect on the spread and growth of Christianity in the late Roman world. Chapter 1 is essentially a diatribe towards modern scholarship and the "armchair anthropology" that helped shape Enlightenment thought (13). He argues that modern scholars have inherited traditional attitudes that lack the sensitivity to understand the cultural contexts, which led to the cult of the saints' rise and expansion. He takes particular issue with the categories "true religion" and the "vulgar" which David Hume is famous for initiating (16). In addition, Brown offers an alternative to the "two-tiered" model offered by modern scholarship (17). The two-tiered model assumes that historically, changes arising in late antiquity were a grass-roots phenomenon. In this sense, the cult of the saints lies in the category of "popular religion" or vulgar religion, and that its rise is due to the capitulation of the enlightened Christian elites (18). Brown vehemently disagrees, arguing in the following chapters, that it is the exact opposite, which occurs during this time-period.Read more ›
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Michael Taylor on October 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This monograph has become the classic work on the cult of the saints, and is part of Peter Brown's monumental contribution to the study of early Christianity.
Brown takes on the complex phenomenon of the cult of the saints, countering the prevalent view, expoused by no less a thinker than David Hume, that the cult of the saints was merely a folk continuation of a pagan world view.
Indeed, just the opposite was true. The cult of the saints dramatically reversed the pagan view of the universe. In pagan thought, heaven and earth were distinctly separate, but now through the cult heaven and earth were linked by the physical presence of saints and their relics on earth. Rather than being a supersition of commoners, the cult was developed and perpetuated by the most educated and cultured elites of the church.
Brown shows that the cult was not "medieval." Indeed it developed from the classical values that permeated the late antique world. Saints become "spiritual friends," reflecting the warm sense amicitia that was so cherished Roman elites, and saints were said to be "patrons," who could intermediate before God in the same fashion that a patron would mediate for a client before a Roman official.
Brown paints a vivid picture of early Christian piety, a world filled with genuine emotion and profound spirituality.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stratiotes Doxha Theon VINE VOICE on March 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Dr. Brown's classic lectures on the source of the cult of the saints is an anthropological more than theological study of those sources. In the first lecture Dr. Brown demolishes the 'two-tiered' popular historical model that assumes a vast difference between the educated Christian elite and less educated members of the faith. He finds that the cult of the saints did not arise from the undereducated and superstitious as has been theorized by modern post-enlightenment biased historians. Indeed, there is evidence that the cult arose from the very elite with which the modern historian so quickly identifies. In this, Dr. Brown has done a great service to identify our tendency to project our modern bias in historical thought.

But, while Dr. Brown identifies modern bias he may hold some of his own. He consistently refers to the rise of the cult in the 4th century as so many have asserted in the past. But such an assertion ignores how fully developed the cult had already become from such early 2nd century writings as the martyrdom of Polycarp or the martyrdom of Perpetua. Dr. Brown talks little about the early development of the cult focused on martyrs of the early centuries. And, he makes no mention of some of the roots in Jewish traditions. Assuming a 4th century explosion of the cult on Christendom loses much of the continuity of earlier centuries and leaves us grasping for the theological mindset that could apparently create the cult as a theological reality from nothing. By focusing so much on the anthropological roots, Dr. Brown loses the continuity of the theological roots. His myopic approach to history results in many of the same historical biases he rightly decries.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on October 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Cult of the Saints is a scholarly look into how the saints, who were after all only human, came to occupy such exalted places in the minds of Catholics. The entire Christian world, it must be remembered, was nothing but Catholic for centuries. Peter Browns series of essays shows how, far from being a pagan holdover, the use of saints as mediators between earth and heaven became so popular and so accepted.

This is not a book to breeze through; rather, it requires careful, line by line reading. Recommended for readers who have the patience necessary to glean understanding from this scholarly material.
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