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The Liminal Spirit and Early Christian Experience

MCCOLLOUGH, DAVID,JOHN (2021) The Liminal Spirit and Early Christian Experience. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This dissertation consists of narratological, discourse analysis, and literary exegesis of texts in Paul and Luke-Acts relevant to the question of Holy Spirit experience and initiation in the Pauline and Lukan stream(s) of Christianity, followed by interpretation of the resultant data with social anthropological approaches. It is not a theological study. Nor is it a psychological study of ‘conversion’ per se, though implications for conversion will be addressed. It is a social anthropological analysis of the initiation rituals of a historically significant new religious movement through literature of that movement. It does not attempt to understand all sectarian variants of early Christianity but focuses exclusively upon the Pauline and Lukan version(s).

The salient result of the critical exegetical and social anthropological analysis is that the Lukan variant of early Christianity, at the time of Luke’s writing, circa 70-130 CE, was a glossolalic spirit-possession cult and that the earlier Pauline churches of the 50s differed little if at all. For both Paul and Luke, God’s Spirit was imparted separate from water immersion but nevertheless both water baptism and Spirit baptism were united as integral elements of Christian initiation, both preceding admittance to the Christian sacred meal.
Spirit reception will be analysed anthropologically in terms of experience, rituals, beliefs, and texts. At initiation, holy spirit possession functions to signal commitment to the group, to symbolize the Christian ritual/moral ‘purity’ system, to establish the sectarian emotional regime, i.e., the expected emotional habitus, to legitimate the sacred values of the group, and to bind the individual group members together through a process of ‘identity fusion’ so that sect members become willing to radically sacrifice for the group and its ideology. Christian initiatory spirit-possession, in synergistic combination with the sacred belief system, is the primary factor – even more than social networks – in the growth of the new religion.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:liminal, holy spirit, possession, Lukan exegesis, Pauline exegesis, Luke-Acts, 1 Corinthians, social anthropology, narratology, discourse analysis, cognitive frames
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Nov 2021 09:25

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