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Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (Twentieth Anniversary Edition with a New Introduction)

by Peter Brown Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 568 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$77.39
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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.

''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 work of rediscovery and re-evaluation, written in luminous, heart-stopping prose.”

PrefaceIntroductionPart I. From Paul to anthony1. Body and City2. From Apostle to Apologist: Sexual Order and Sexual Renunciation in the Early Church3. Martyrdom, Prophecy and Continence: Hermas to Tertullian4. 'To Undo the Works of Women': Marcion, Tatian and the Encratites5. 'When You Make the Two One': Valentinus and Gnostic Spiritual Guidance6. 'A Faint Image of Divine Providence': Clement of Alexandria7. 'A Promiscuous Brotherhood and Sisterhood': Men and Women in the Christian Churches8. 'I Beseech You: Be Transformed': Origen9. 'Walking on Earth, Touching High Heaven's Vault': Porphyry and Methodius10. Church and Body: Cyprian, Mani and Eusebius of CaesareaPart II. asceticism and Society in the Eastern Empire11. The Desert Fathers: Anthony to John Climacus12. 'Make to Yourselves Separate Booths': Monks, Women and Marriage in Egypt13. 'Daughters of Jerusalem': The Ascetic Life of Women in the Fourth Century14. Marriage and Mortality: Gregory of Nyssa15. Sexuality and the City: John Chrysostom16. 'These Are Our Angels': SyriaPart III. Ambrose to Augustine: The Making of the Latin Tradition17. Aula Pudoris: Ambrose18. 'Learn of Me a Holy Arrogance': Jerome19. Sexuality and Society: AugustineEpilogue. Body and Society: The Early Middle AgesBibliographyIndex

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 Peter Brown's book is a great achievement. It will long be read, its insights studied and discussed, and its prose admired and enjoyed.... His work is a tour de force, showing a mastery of text and subject through six centuries of history. W. H. C. Frend New York Review of Books A profound exploration of the meaning of embodiment, celibacy, and chastity for early Christians. Christianity Today A work of rediscovery and re-evaluation, written in luminous, heart-stopping prose. Nicolas Rothwell The Australian A seminal work. Bryn Mawr Classical Review A truly magisterial work of historical scholarship by the greatest living authority on late antique Mediterranean civilization. It will be the definitive work on this subject for the foreseeable future. Choice compelling and human study of the depths and heights of sexual renunciation.... Brown's detached yet compassionate sympathy recreates the subtle and complex world of late-antique sexuality and renunciation with a skill which is uniquely his. This is not a history of the idea of virginity, but a sharpyly-focused series of pictures of its practice. London Review of Books Only Peter Brown could have written The Body and Society. The book... is the work of an acute and immensely learned mind soaked in the sources, with an enviable power to bring together widely scattered and recondite texts. Religion
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.