Paul in Ecstasy: The Neurobiology of the Apostle's Life and Thought

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While many readers of Paul’s letters recognize how important his experience was to his life and thought, Biblical scholars have not generally addressed this topic head-on. Colleen Shantz argues that they have been held back both by a bias against religious ecstasy and by the limits of the Biblical texts: How do you responsibly access someone else’s experience, particularly experience as unusual and debated as religious ecstasy? And how do you account responsibly for the role of experience in that person’s thought? Paul in Ecstasy pursues these questions through a variety of disciplines – most notably neuroscience. This study provides cogent explanations for bewildering passages in Paul’s letters, outlines a much greater influence of such experience in Paul’s life and letters, and points to its importance in Christian origins.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Paul in Ecstasy is highly original. It contains a compelling analysis of the prejudices against the themes of ecstasy, mysticism, enthusiasm, and charismatic experiences in mainstream scholarship and a very solid account of neurological research. The latter is by itself worth the price of the book.” – Robert Jewett, Guest Professor of New Testament at the University of Heidelberg and Part-time Professor of Biblical and Historical Studies at the University of Wales Lampeter

“Shantz’s methodical and disciplined application of insights from cognitive neuroscience to the interpretation of Paul’s ecstatic experiences is insightful, balanced, and thorough. It takes a deserved place among similar contemporary studies of Paul and other biblical personalities such as Enoch, Ezekiel, and John. Her lucid and elegant style makes the application of complex scientific concepts to the interpretation of Paul easily accessible and pleasurable to read even for those entirely unfamiliar with or skeptical of this approach.” – John J. Pilch, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521866101
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2009
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Colleen Shantz is Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St Michael's College, and in Toronto School of Theology, the consortium of seven theological schools at the University of Toronto.

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. What ecstasy?: an assessment of the misregard; 2. Paul's brain: the cognitive neurology of ecstasy; 3. Paul's voice: parsing Paul's ecstatic discourse; 4. Paul's practice: discerning ecstasies in practice; 5. The whole Paul: a short course in (non-deterministic) complexity.

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