Paul the Apostle has traditionally been viewed as a thinker and theologian, and scholars have focused almost exclusively on his ideas rather than on his religious experience. In this book, a leading New Testament scholar challenges this view of Paul. John Ashton demonstrates how closely Paul’s own career resembles that of a typical shaman, and he shows how every important aspect of Paul’s life and ministry may be illuminated by focusing on his experience.
Drawing not only on Paul’s letters but also on contemporary writings in the Jewish and Hellenistic worlds, Ashton discusses a number of important issues relevant to the understanding of Paul and to the origins of Christianity: whether Paul is properly described as a convert, a mystic, an apostle, a prophet, or a charismatic; what his attitude was to the Jewish traditions he inherited; why he felt called upon to preach, not to his fellow Jews, but to the Gentiles; what accounts for the remarkable success of his strange new Gospel; and how we can explain his language of spirit-possession (“Christ lives in me”). In addressing these issues, Ashton demonstrates that to regard Christianity simply as a religion of the word is to ignore a vital truth about its origins.
John Ashton is Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.
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