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A History of Charisma by John Potts (auth.)

By John Potts (auth.)

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A consideration of these factors will assist our inquiry into the original meaning of charisma. Specifically, why did Paul feel the need to adopt this obscure term, imbuing it with religious significance and granting it importance within the fledgling Christian communities? 23 24 A History of Charisma The early Christian church The earliest Christians were Jews whose mother church was at Jerusalem. They differed from other Jews in their conviction that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ (a Greek translation of the Hebrew ‘Messiah’) as foretold by the Jewish prophets.

Early converts came from Jewish sects such as the Pharisees, as well as from gentiles – but it was the relationship with Judaism that most occupied the early Christians. From Judaism the Christians took the act of baptism as an initiating rite, as well as the symbolism attached to bread and wine in the Passover ceremony. An ethic of chastity, respect for family and acts of charity were also adopted from Judaism. The Christians accepted the Jewish scriptures as a holy book, used in the version known as the Septuagint (made by 70 translators from Hebrew to Greek in the third century BC).

In his mission to the gentiles, Paul advocated not subversion of the state but the maintenance of stability and order, which would allow the Empire to serve as a vehicle for the spread of the Christian religion. Nevertheless Christians suffered periodic persecution by Roman authorities. Popular suspicion that 28 A History of Charisma the Christian cult practised black magic, even incest and cannibalism, was prompted by the Christians’ private nocturnal meetings,6 while Emperors could always capitalise on this suspicion if in need of a public scapegoat.

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