Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

Studies in the Bible and Antiquity


Biblical studies, religious scholarship, Early Western Christianity, afterlife


In The Ransom of the Soul, Peter Brown explores how early Christians conceptualized the relationship between wealth and the afterlife. He limits his study primarily to the writings of Christian authors living in the Latin West between 250 and 650 ce and traces the evolution of the idea that “heaven and earth could be joined by money” in such a way as to affect the fate of souls after death (p. ix). Brown situates these developing discourses within their socioeconomic context and asks, How, when, and why did variations occur? How long did they take? And to what extent do they represent departures from previously established Christian or non-Christian religious systems? He argues that gradual changes in the social and economic context of the Western church were “reflected in changes in Christian representations of the other world and in the religious practices connected with the death and afterlife of Christian believers” (p. ix).