The psychology of prophecy in early Christianity

by Humm, Alan Douglas, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, 2008, 292 pages; 3328700


This dissertation attempts to analyze prophetic activity in early Christian communities (defined as through the mid third century, CE) with an eye toward understanding the psychological states which lay behind it. Most modern categorical systems fail to adequately describe the bulk of ancient intermediation, largely because they are based on modern observable phenomena in indigenous societies. This study begins by surveying and analyzing the categories which have been used, primarily in cultural anthropology, and then offering a new set of categories, which is largely based on the phenomenology of presenting forms. No effort is made to evaluate the historical subjects' psychological reality, largely because this could not be done with confidence. The language and categories used by the primary background communities (Greek and Hebrew) to describe intermediary activity are discussed. Most discernable cases of Christian prophetism from this period are noted, and some attempt is made to categorize them following to the system described in the first section. The material is reviewed statistically by date, sect, social context, psychological type, and region. A dominance of activity in Asia Minor is noted, as well as peaks during the second quarters of the first and second centuries. Peaks are more likely due to reporting than to increased activity. Not surprisingly, the largest psychological category is “unknown” although the second largest appears to have been “epipnoia.” Social categories are highest in “congregational.”

AdviserRobert A. Kraft
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsReligious history; Biblical studies; Social psychology
Publication Number3328700

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