Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

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ABuddhist
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Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by ABuddhist »

I being by quoting a discussion which I had with Neil.
neilgodfrey wrote: Mon Apr 18, 2022 3:34 pm
ABuddhist wrote: Mon Apr 18, 2022 3:03 pm
neilgodfrey wrote: Mon Apr 18, 2022 2:52 pm As for point 2, people like Aristides and Justin are writing as philosophers. Their beliefs come across as philosophically grounded and they are appealing to others with a similar respect for philosophical reasoning. I find it difficult to imagine that sort of Christianity arising from "charismatic and driven" preachers.
Why do you assume that the same religious impulse cannot be associated with both types of activity - even with the same person doing both types of deeds?

Xuanzang, for example, was learned in Buddhist philosophy/reasoning/debate, but also had a deep and abiding faith in Maitreya Buddha of the sort that we would associate with less sophisticated thinkers.
I don't know that we have any evidence that the philosophical mind of the Greco-Roman era we are talking about were favourable towards those sorts of ecstatic practices. As far as I recall, they never make any appeal to such practices as signs of the spirit in their midst, and all their appeals are to reason. Justin's account of his conversion is an entirely "rational" one.

If the faith was spread only a few short years before Aristides and Justin I again find it quite difficult to imagine such calmly intellectual expositions appearing so soon and without a trace of reference to the ecstatic expressions of "the movement".

That is not to discount the charismatic types of practices from the earliest days. There surely were. Paul's letters speak of them -- even if they are second-century products they are early second century. And Tertullian fitted right in with them for a time.
And I wonder what justification there is for assuming that early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics. True, they might have presented themselves as purely sober and logical philosophers, but such must be understood as part of their efforts to appeal to philosophically inclined non-Christians, who might have been repelled by ecstasy.

Is it a mainstream view that the early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?
andrewcriddle
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by andrewcriddle »

ABuddhist wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 4:21 am I being by quoting a discussion which I had with Neil.
neilgodfrey wrote: Mon Apr 18, 2022 3:34 pm
ABuddhist wrote: Mon Apr 18, 2022 3:03 pm
neilgodfrey wrote: Mon Apr 18, 2022 2:52 pm As for point 2, people like Aristides and Justin are writing as philosophers. Their beliefs come across as philosophically grounded and they are appealing to others with a similar respect for philosophical reasoning. I find it difficult to imagine that sort of Christianity arising from "charismatic and driven" preachers.
Why do you assume that the same religious impulse cannot be associated with both types of activity - even with the same person doing both types of deeds?

Xuanzang, for example, was learned in Buddhist philosophy/reasoning/debate, but also had a deep and abiding faith in Maitreya Buddha of the sort that we would associate with less sophisticated thinkers.
I don't know that we have any evidence that the philosophical mind of the Greco-Roman era we are talking about were favourable towards those sorts of ecstatic practices. As far as I recall, they never make any appeal to such practices as signs of the spirit in their midst, and all their appeals are to reason. Justin's account of his conversion is an entirely "rational" one.

If the faith was spread only a few short years before Aristides and Justin I again find it quite difficult to imagine such calmly intellectual expositions appearing so soon and without a trace of reference to the ecstatic expressions of "the movement".

That is not to discount the charismatic types of practices from the earliest days. There surely were. Paul's letters speak of them -- even if they are second-century products they are early second century. And Tertullian fitted right in with them for a time.
And I wonder what justification there is for assuming that early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics. True, they might have presented themselves as purely sober and logical philosophers, but such must be understood as part of their efforts to appeal to philosophically inclined non-Christians, who might have been repelled by ecstasy.

Is it a mainstream view that the early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?
Justin does claim (Dialogue with Trypho chapter 82)
For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time.
I'm not sure how relevant that is.

Andrew Criddle
Stuart
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by Stuart »

I think we misunderstand what a charismatic preacher was and importantly where they came from.

I get the strong impression from this forum that the common belief is they miraculously sprung up from the boonies, like a vast army of Joseph Smith's and had visions and callings of one form or another. Something is missing here, much like the illiterate fisherman myth, that resembles the old comic short about making a proof (for those of you with mathematical or engineering backgrounds like me) below:

Image

But I think a little bit more is involved than miraculous magic to get to the Far Side of the lake (couldn't resist).

Image

In truth these itinerant "charismatic" preachers --no doubt with a some divination and astrological skills any religious shaman, be they Zoroastrian, Celtic, Mithra, Jewish or from any other cult possessed (stiff competition)-- were trained, well versed in scripture (the LXX anyway) and the sectarian theology they professed. That training came from a school, probably a monastery setting (monastic compound originally, then likely replaced by larger churches/synagogues in towns where sects took root), where the most devout and promising were taught to read and to write, and how to interpret scripture to the sects understanding. These were the preachers.

But these training grounds or home bases for the sects, had something else, whether we are talking about those with orthodox or heterodox leaning; and that is a leader. The leader is the one who would direct the training, explain the doctrines and be able to debate. This is what your church fathers were, this is what you sect leaders were. Those in charge might be called overseers (Bishops, who in the early church seem interchangeable with Apostles), those aspiring might be called elders (Presbyters), and those with the ability to gain insight from the scripture and write new interpretations for the community would be called prophets.

Of course the leaders and their inner circle could debate and philosophize, and were more learned. These writers are very different from the preachers they sent out. We have hints of this division of labor in the lists of positions found in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (see also 12:4-11). It should come as no shock that the philosophically speaking church fathers come from these leadership posts.

Anyway, I just hope this myth of the illiterate fishermen and the spontaneously miraculous common messaged peasant preachers can be put to rest. The early preachers were in all probability similar to the original Jesuits, hand picked from an early age and intensely trained to be the shock troops for evangelism.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by neilgodfrey »

ABuddhist wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 4:21 am
And I wonder what justification there is for assuming that early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics. True, they might have presented themselves as purely sober and logical philosophers, but such must be understood as part of their efforts to appeal to philosophically inclined non-Christians, who might have been repelled by ecstasy.

Is it a mainstream view that the early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?
Is it appropriate for me to chime in?

Would not the lack of evidence for Christian philosophers engaging in charismatic/ecstatic experiences be justification for "assuming" that they did not engage in those practices in the construction of any hypothesis? Of course, it goes without saying that should one discover evidence then that changes everything.

But as for the proposition that they might have been charismatics but spoke as if they weren't in order not to turn off their target audience -- are we not here piling up hypothesis upon hypothesis to rationalize the lack of evidence? If they were charismatics why would they be so concerned to target readers whom they knew would oppose that practice once they found out?

I can understand philosophers, both Christian and non-Christian, having some respect and awe for those who become "possessed" by a spirit (Plato had unkind things to say about those "preachers" but I think he also respected the Delphic oracle) -- but also that both types of philosophers, Christian and non-Christian, also admitted to charlatans or worse among those who had such "gifts". My point here is that though philosophers might have respected those who displayed gifts of a divine spirit of some kind, I don't know if we have any evidence that tells us those philosophers themselves experienced that sort of "possession".

But I'm open to learning otherwise -- let the spirits speak.
davidmartin
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by davidmartin »

ABuddhist are you saying this is like the difference between going to woodstock in 1969 and reading a book about going to woodstock in 1969?
ABuddhist
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by ABuddhist »

Stuart wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 1:21 pm I think we misunderstand what a charismatic preacher was and importantly where they came from.

I get the strong impression from this forum that the common belief is they miraculously sprung up from the boonies, like a vast army of Joseph Smith's and had visions and callings of one form or another.
I make no such assumptions. Buddhist history and traditions are filled with charismatic preachers with other backgrounds.
ABuddhist
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by ABuddhist »

neilgodfrey wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 12:00 am If they were charismatics why would they be so concerned to target readers whom they knew would oppose that practice once they found out?
Various new religious movements (and old religious movements!) do this sort of thing all the time - cf., for example, the Church of Scientology with the story about Xenu and various modern movements centred around a guru who demands extreme devotion from followers. Generally, the hope is that
neilgodfrey wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 12:00 am My point here is that though philosophers might have respected those who displayed gifts of a divine spirit of some kind, I don't know if we have any evidence that tells us those philosophers themselves experienced that sort of "possession".
But such a thing an be inferred, I think, from the fact that much other evidence about Early Christianity - including the letters of Paul and Montanism - strongly suggest that Early Christianity was dominated by charismatics/ecstatics.
Stuart
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by Stuart »

ABuddhist wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 4:09 am
Stuart wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 1:21 pm I think we misunderstand what a charismatic preacher was and importantly where they came from.

I get the strong impression from this forum that the common belief is they miraculously sprung up from the boonies, like a vast army of Joseph Smith's and had visions and callings of one form or another.
I make no such assumptions. Buddhist history and traditions are filled with charismatic preachers with other backgrounds.
I think we are talking about two different groups of people.

The studied leaders whose charisma is largely confined to the teaching world where they oversee the central compound. These leaders would have been well versed in words and logic and teaching.

On the other hand the itinerant preachers who depended upon charismatic skills where the ones who went "door to door." They would have been on the road and energizing and doing all the things roaming monks do. But writing great philosophical pieces would not have been in their job description, nor a very good use of their time.

It's a division of labor thing. What I am saying is you are conflating the two positions into one. Sure there almost certainly were charismatic itinerant preachers who would wind up taking a "desk job" as they reached say age 40, then shifted to the role of teacher to new monks and preachers.

By the late 2nd century, when the character of Justin was invented and used for a dialogue, a different ideal had arisen, the student philosopher. The authors (yes plural) of the works called Justin from the 2nd and 3rd century, created this fictional Justin (perhaps a name drawn from legend) as a philosopher who haunted the libraries like those of Ephesus and perhaps Athens, who is genteel, sophisticated, obviously from money and education, who can while away his time debating the ins and outs of his religion, revealing a deep knowledge even of the internal sects, as he carefully disowns the non orthodox, as if an official. Of course this is completely artificial, with an anachronistic setting, but it represents a certain ideal. The various Acts of Paul present a different ideal, that of the charismatic preacher. Neither likely existed close to the ideal.

What I'm trying to say is we are talking about two different job descriptions, two different roles. The Pauline letters provide glimpses into an existing division of labor. What I am saying you are doing is conflating the roles. What I am saying about others on this forum is that they seem to think the charismatic preachers popped up spontaneously from the earth. Neither is true.
robert j
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Re: Is there such certainty that Early Christian philosophers were not also charismatics/ecstatics?

Post by robert j »

robert j wrote: Fri Aug 02, 2019 1:47 pm
I think Paul is best understood in the wider world of, as Heidi Wendt described it, entrepreneurial “freelance religious experts”. In the introduction of her Ph.D.dissertation, Wendt described the widespread phenomenon of activity in the ancient world that included exorcists, diviners, oracles, magicians, necromancers, mystery cultists, astrologers, Pythagoreans, promoters of esoteric wisdom, interpreters of sacred Jewish texts, and those who cast knuckle-bones. Wendt wrote that many of these used “signs and wonders” including speaking in tongues and prophesying (sound familiar?). Wendt included “the self-appointed apostle Paul” in her study, and chapter five of her dissertation is titled “Paul, A Rare Witness to the Religion of Freelance Experts”. 1/

...

1/ Heidi Wendt, At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in Early Imperial Rome, Ph.D. Dissertation, Brown University, 2013.

note: Wendt has more recently published her work in a book --- At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in the Roman Empire, 2016.
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