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Religious Experience in New Testament Research


Mark Batluck Currents in Biblical Research 2011 9: 339 DOI: 10.1177/1476993X10383201 The online version of this article can be found at: http://cbi.sagepub.com/content/9/3/339

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Article

Religious Experience in New Testament Research


Mark Batluck

Currents in Biblical Research 9(3) 339363 The Author(s) 2010 Reprints and permission: sagepub. co.uk/journalsPermission.nav DOI: 10.1177/1476993X10383201 cbi.sagepub.com

University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Abstract
Initiated by Gunkel in 1888, and again by Dunn in 1970, research on religious experience in the New Testament has developed into four distinct streams, all of which address the matter from a different vantage point. Mystical/revelatory experience examines early Christian texts that are ecstatic or disclose new information to the recipient. A second group equates religious experience with encounters of the Holy Spirit.Thirdly, historical Jesus studies investigates historical dimensions of the religious experience described in the Gospels. Fourthly, others address religious experience categorically, trying to account for the grand scope and effect of religious experience recorded in the writings of the New Testament. Each approach offers a great deal to scholars and will be a fruitful line of inquiry in studies to come.

Keywords
innovation, mysticism, pneumatology, religious experience, revelation

Religious Experience in Biblical Texts


Identifying the boundaries of religious experience in biblical texts is notoriously difficult. Ancient descriptions of experiential phenomena, which often lack crucial detail, can leave scholars wondering how best to define or categorize such accounts. Yet scholars readily acknowledge the creative force of such experiences, and therefore in recent years scholars have labored to understand religious experiences as they are recounted in extant texts (Dunn 1975: 4). Johnsons Religious Experience in Earliest Christianity recognizes the importance of such research and offers a working definition of religious experience: that which is perceived as ultimate, involving the whole person, characterized by a peculiar intensity, and issuing in action (1998: 60). Johnsons definition is

Corresponding author: Mark Batluck, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK Email: mark@markbatluck.com

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one among many and draws primarily on Wachs research in his 1958 The Comparative Study of Religions (pp. 31-40). However, biblical studies, with its consciously inductive approach, has yet to produce a textually derived definition. In NT texts, religious experiences come to us in various forms and therefore often defy definitions like Johnsons above. Pauls experience of being caught up in the third heaven in 2 Cor. 12, for example, is a lengthy description of a Pauline religious experience. Such an event describes his perception of the divine, has a peculiar intensity, and issues forth in the action of telling the Corinthian believers about it. Yet it is difficult to tell if Pauls experience involved his whole person or if it was reduced simply to his mind, emotions, or will. Despite the valuable information the apostle gives us, he does not tell the reader what the scope of this experience may have been, but only that the experience happened in some way. As another example, Jesus cry on the cross in Mk 15.34, ; (eloi eloi lema sabachthani, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) could appear to be an obvious example of a religious experience. However, Jesus is lamenting the absence of Gods presence, not experiencing the fullness of it. Johnsons definition above would need to be modified to accommodate apophatic experiences where the subject is experiencing a dark night of the soul (Johnson acknowledges as much; see 1998: 61, n. 37). Although passages like the ones above do not fit clearly into existing models or paradigms, numerous other passages fit Johnsons categories of religious experience quite well. The accounts of Jesus baptism in the Synoptic Gospels, for example, provide a classic example of a religious experience. In Marks baptism account, Jesus is spoken of as being in the water and looking up to heaven as the Spirit descended on him. He is engaged with the ultimate (the voice from heaven); his whole person is involved (i.e. physically, spiritually); the experience is characterized by a particular intensity (he is having visions and hearing voices); and it issues forth in action (the Spirit immediately leads him to the temptation event with Satan). All the elements Johnson expects to find in religious experience accounts exist in the narrative of Jesus baptism in Mark. Biblical literature is filled with such accounts and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of religious experience only aids scholarly research on these passages. The remainder of this article will outline the emergence and development of research on religious experience over the last century. It should also be noted that, though some scholars have undertaken study on early Christian religious experiences in extra-biblical literature (e.g. Cohn-Sherbok 1994; Verbeke 1945), this discussion will be limited primarily to research in the New Testament.

The Emergence of Research on Religious Experience


Despite the prevalence of religious experience accounts in ancient texts or the need for research in this area, religious experience (or RE) in biblical studies

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has received comparatively little attention in the last century. Only in the last forty years have scholars begun a more serious effort to analyze the experiential dimension of ancient religious literature. The scholarly neglect prior to this time may be due to the fact that religious experience is rather difficult to pin down. Some have suggested that the lack of biblical research on religious experience is due to the tendency of scholars toward the study of theology in their work (Hurtado 2000: 184). Whatever the reason, since the end of the nineteenth century, biblical studies has begun to see a shift to include an emphasis on the experiential as well. This shift can be traced to the development of philosophical theology in the seventeenth century, when two influential philosophers-theologians began to assert the importance of experience in ones knowledge of God. The work of Schelling (1797) asserted that God is comprehended primarily through experience or perception (see also Marx 1984). And Schleiermacher (1799; 1821) wrote on the significance of God-consciousness and feelings as a fundamental element of Christian religion. These philosopher-theologians set the stage for Hermann Gunkels 1888, Die Wirkungen des heiligen Geistes (The Influence of the Holy Spirit,1979). In this landmark study, Gunkel analyzed the experience of the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul and the apostles, believing that New Testament pneumatology has its background in the Old Testament and Second Temple period. Wirkungen covers a number of topics related to religious experience of the Holy Spirit, including how such experiences affected the individual, how the apostles teaching about the Spirit was influenced by earlier Christians experiences, and how visions or appearances were particularly influential among early Christians. Gunkels research helpfully guides the reader through an analysis of the symptoms of believers experiences of the Holy Spirit, discussing the way early Christians were influenced individually, as a community, and the way they differentiated between the Spirit and demons. Gunkel then compares and contrasts these findings with what one reads in the Pauline corpus. Especially strong in the Epistles is a robust doctrine of the spiritual gifts. Gunkel discusses Pauls dichotomies between the Spirit and the concept of holiness and between the Spirit and the fleshelements common in the Epistles. Gunkels effort to view early Christian pneumatology through the lens of Judaism set the trajectory for RE research from that point forward. His suggestion that NT authors differed in their views of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit also guided scholarly inquiry and shaped the questions that researchers would ask in future work on spiritual experience in the Bible (Levison 2009: xxi). Nearly fifteen years after Gunkels work on the Holy Spirit, William James published The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902); a study that inaugurated a new era of research on religious experience in twentieth-century scholarship. The Varieties is widely viewed as the most influential book of

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the last 150 years in the field, in part because James was the first to suggest a definition and introduce categories for better understanding religious experience. The Varieties influences a great deal of later work in philosophy, psychology, and theology, yet its social-scientific approach limited its influence on biblical research (for social-scientific works that engage with James, see Bond 2005; Graham 1992; Proudfoot 1985; see also Starbuck 1899, a contemporary of James, that addresses religious experience from a psychological perspective). The remainder of this paper will be an analysis of major trends in New Testament research in religious experience.

Early Twentieth-Century Research


Two decades after Gunkels Wirkungen, Deissmann published Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History (1911). Deissmanns work located Christianitys early momentum in its identity as a movement of worship and experience, rather than theological formulations. Gardner in his The Religious Experience of Saint Paul (1911) and Swete in The Holy Spirit in the New Testament (1909) were also formative works. Gardner contended that the influence of Greek and Oriental mysticism on Paul had a profound influence on the development of Christianity. Paul, he argued, was primarily responsible for introducing the mystical into the early Christian church. Similarly, Swetes work aimed to expose the way in which New Testament authors wrote about the Holy Spirit in connection with their own experience (1909: vii). Leisegang followed ten years later with a two-volume work on the Holy Spirit in early Christianity (1919). Leisegang used the history of religions approach as well, concluding that Hellenistic mysticism, not Judaism, was responsible for Christianitys view of the Holy Spirit. Leisegangs work was largely unpersuasive to scholars, and gave way to Bchsels 1923 Der Geist Gottes im Neuen Testament (The Spirit of God in the New Testament). Bchsel supported Gunkels conclusions by situating the Spirit of early Christianity in Judaism; however, he differed from Gunkel by saying that the Spirit of Israel, Paul, and the apostles were unified by the experience of sonship the Spirit offered (1923: 165; for a more extended discussion on the above, see Levison 2009: xiv-xxvii, and Kuecker 2008: 3-4). In 1928, Robinson published The Christian Experience of the Holy Spirit, which covers religious experience in a variety of time periods and ways. The last half of the book is devoted to the role of spiritual experience in the New Testament. In this section, he demonstrates that the focus of Christian Scripture has always been on the experiential rather than the propositional. Robinson attaches great significance to believers rhetoric of their experience of the Holy Spirit throughout the Old and New Testaments.

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The Lapse in Research on Religious Experience


Robinsons work above was the last publication on the subject for forty years. In the years between the great wars, much of the general populace became disillusioned with nineteenth-century Liberal Protestantism, which rejected metaphysical claims and focused on the historically conditioned nature of biblical texts (a movement of which Gunkel was a strong part). This post-WWI cynicism caused scholars to refocus their research more on the theological/propositional elements of Scripture than the historical. Crisis theology, as it has been termed, returned to a strong view of the transcendence of God and pursued the study of theologie over the religion preferred by nineteenth-century scholars. By their emphasis on the metaphysical, crisis theologians lost sight of the earthly and experiential dimension of the biblical texts, gravitating instead to research on the theological formulations of these authors.

A Resurgence of Research
In 1970, Dunn sparked new interest in the experiential nature of New Testament with Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This monograph continues to be cited as one of the more critical and timely works in religious experience research. Baptism demonstrates that the experience of the Holy Spirit was part of the process of becoming a Christianthis decisive and climactic experience in conversion-initiation became a defining mark of entrance into the NT community of faith (1970: 4). Dunns work was a reaction to those who separated the NT believers experience of the Holy Spirit from salvation. Spiritual experience, he says, is right at the heart of what it meant to be initiated into the community of faith. Baptism in the Holy Spirit fittingly begins with an exposition of the John Jesus interaction at the Jordan. He then works through the miracles at Pentecost and the other religious experiences in the book of Acts. The final half of his book probes the letters of Paul and the Johannine Gospel/letters. Dunn maintains throughout his research that NT texts show that personal interaction with the Spirit was necessary to early Christian spiritual experience and was part-andparcel to what they would call faith (1970: 226). Accordingly, Dunns research concludes that NT Christians held religious experience as the sine qua non of being a Christiana statement that significantly advanced the need for further research on religious experience in early Christian studies. Dunn followed Baptism with Jesus and the Spirit in 1975, a book written out of the conviction that religious experience is a vitally important dimension of mans experience of reality (1975: ix). Spurred on by his inquiry into the origins of Christianity, Dunn asks, what were those [religious experiences] which constituted a new faith of such dynamic and durable vitality and in particular, how did Jesus own experiences relate to those of his followers? (1975: 1-2). Dunn believes

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religious experiences in the earliest believing communities fell into one of two categories: (1) events where believers claimed to have seen the risen Lord, and (2) religiously ecstatic events in which believers experienced what they believed was the eschatological Spirit (1975: 357). Both types of religious experience were foundational to the deepening of conviction and the spread of the early church. In the Gospel of John and the Epistles, Dunn sees a wide-scale moderation taking place in the way the Apostle views religious experience. In the earlier epistles of Paul, spiritual experience was manifest in different ways, both in non-rational ecstasy and through the mind, both in experiences of dramatically effective power and in compulsion to serve, both in inspiration to pray and praise and in inspiration to preach and teach (1975: 357-58). The Pastorals preserve this moderation but emphasize the preservation of heritage over the practice of the charismatic. In Johns Gospel, the eschatological tension is gone and the confrontation of life and death has been simplified into the straight either-or of faith (1975: 358). The above observations on attitudes about religious experience in NT literature coalesce in the spiritual experience of Jesus in the Gospels. Were it not for Jesus experience of sonship through the Holy Spirit, the above may not be able to be called Christian at all. The resurrection, for Dunn, is the most critical of Jesus religious experiences, because through this event, the Spirit became the life-giving power of the crucified and risen Jesus (1975: 358). Dunn ends his work with an analysis of the corporate dimension of religious experience within the first two generations of the Christian movement (1975: 359). The corporate element that Dunn addresses here influences some of his conclusions. Lukes uncritical acceptance of spiritual experiences, for example, ignores the difficulties and tensions that arise in communities as believers have religious experiences. Therefore, Lukes model may portray the very inception of the Christian community and its apprehension of spiritual experience, but the evangelist provides no lasting paradigm or norm for Christian experience individual or corporate (1975: 359). The apostle Paul, Dunn asserts, is more discerning in light of his diverse and fledgling churches, seeking to balance spiritual experience and acts of service and love. He did so, however, using apostolic authority and charisma as the means of influence for the communitya model that could not last beyond the generation in which it was established (i.e. Pauls last generation; 1975: 359). In the post-Pauline NT writings, the preservation of tradition seems to be the utmost concern, as these writings deemphasized the need for the living voice of prophecy in the community of faith. Dunn believes this emphasis on tradition ran the risk of stifling the work of the Spirit and of institutionalizing the faith of secondgeneration communities. As an attempt to moderate the emphases of these postPauline influences, the Johannine writings firmly established that tradition was

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subordinate to the Spirit (1975: 360). John fought against the institutionalization of Christianity, intending rather to keep the focus on worship for the individual. Because religious experience was fundamental for early Christians and an integral part of early Christian communities, Dunn believes research on RE is critical to any study of New Testament theology. Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Jesus and the Spirit are modern classics on the subject and should be the starting place for anyone interested in researching religious experience in the biblical writings. The scope and depth of these two studies became a catalyst for further studies and paved the way for the next four decades of work on religious experience in the New Testament.

Four Streams Emerge in Religious Experience Research


Shortly after Dunns monographs were published, four discernible streams of research on religious experience developed in New Testament studies: (1) mystical/revelatory religious experience, (2) religious experience as an effect of the Holy Spirit, (3) religious experience in historical Jesus studies, and (4) religious experience as a broad category. These streams will be outlined in detail below and represent the different angles scholars have taken when analyzing biblical texts. Each of these approaches, however, makes valuable contributions to religious experience research and helps better explain such experiences in early Christian texts.

1. Mystical/Revelatory Religious Experience


Broadly speaking, the terms mystical and revelatory describe types of religious experience that are ecstatic or enlightening in some way, though these terms are not mutually exclusive (DeConick 2006b: 2). Mystical experiences are those that produce particularly intense feelings of joy or excitement (i.e. rapture) in the individual (DeConick 2006b: 2). Revelatory experiences are those that designate any divine disclosure communicated by visionary or prophetic means the manifestation of heavenly realities in a historical context (Bockmuehl 1990: 2). Mystical experiences often have revelatory properties illuminating the subject to divine wishes or intentions. And revelatory experiences often have mystical propertiesinvolving feelings of ecstasy or rapture. Because mystical and revelatory experiences have considerable overlap and describe specific types of religious experience, they will be treated here under the same subheading. (Merkabah mystical religious experience denotes texts that portray visits to the throne room [or throne chariot from Ezekiel 1] of God. Yet because these experiences are not prominent in New Testament literature, they will not be covered extensively in this article [see Elior 2006; Arbel 2003; Bauckham 1999; Bowker 1971].)

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New Testament research on mystical experience accelerated with the publication of Segals Heavenly Ascent in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity and their Environment (1980) and Rowlands The Open Heaven (1982). Segals article investigates how ascent patterns figure in mystical experience accounts. Rowlands monograph is a full-length treatment on mysticism where he argues that RE is the impetus for the apocalyptic worldview seen so clearly in the New Testament. He concludes that New Testament scholars have failed to recognize the effect that religious experiences of angels has had on christological formulations in the ancient world (other works that connect apocalypticism with mystical experience are Fletcher-Louis 2008; Kee 1972). In 1988, Hurtados One God, One Lord began to explore how such mystical experience mediated by heavenly/angelic figures influenced the development of Christology in early Christianity. Although One God, One Lord focuses on the emergence of early Christology and not on mystical experience per se, Hurtado cites such experience as a leading factor in the emergence of the cultic veneration of Jesus (1988: 17). Bockmuehls Revelation and Mystery in Ancient Judaism and Pauline Christianity (1990) deals with revelatory experience in the New Testament. Revelation covers a massive amount of material, beginning with Jewish apocalyptic literature, revelation in the Qumran documents, sages in wisdom literature, Philo, Josephus, the Targums, the Septuagint, and early rabbinic works before moving through the Pauline corpus. Bockmuehl sets out to show how the concept of revelation developed among the Jews and influenced the same in the writings of Paul. In the mid-90s, Collins and Fishbane edited Death, Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys (1995b), a volume on mystical texts that spans ancient to mediaeval texts. Chapters 39 feature prominent biblical scholars writing on mystical accounts in early Jewish and Christian texts, notably Segals Paul and the Beginning of Jewish Mysticism (1995) that covers how the apostle was influenced by Jewish mysticism. Segal details Pauls use of mystical vocabulary in his letters and traces these words back to their Jewish origins. He also compares Pauls mystical experiences (e.g. his journey to heaven in 2 Cor. 12) and demonstrates similarity with Jewish mystical ascents and showing Paul to be the first witness to Jewish mysticism (1995: 115). Eskola then published his Messiah and the Throne in 2001, which links Merkabah mysticism with messianic exaltation. The first section of his books relates Jewish mystical accounts to New Testament Christology (2001: 1-42). He then discusses the way the heavenly throne (i.e. Merkabah) is portrayed in Jewish eschatological texts, before suggesting messianic parallels (2001: 43-157). Eskola then concludes with two chapters that discuss the way New Testament texts depict an early enthronement Christology (2001: 158-375).

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Then in 2006, DeConick edited a volume called Paradise Now, the opening chapter of which contains an essay defining early Jewish and Christian mysticism. This compilation is one of the more comprehensive that has been published to date on mystical experience in biblical studies, though not all the research presented here is confined to canonical literature. Chapters cover visionary experiences (Rowland et al. 2006: 41-56), ancient apocalypses and Hekhalot literature (Davila 2006: 105-126), mysticism in dream literature (Flannery-Dailey 2006: 231-48), and baptism and mystical experience in the book of Revelation (for more on mystical experience, see Gieschen 2006: 34154; see also Deutsch 2008; Afzal 2006; Bautsch 2006; Boustan 2006; Deutsch 2006; Lesses 2006; Morray-Jones 2006; Orlov 2006; Sullivan 2006; Boustan 2005; DeConick 2004; Arbel 2003; Fanning 2001; Draper 1997; Tabor 1986; Schfer 1984; Aune 1983; for more on revelatory experience, see Miller 2008; Thompson 2007; Guillet 1982; Kim 1981; Hagner 1971).

2. Religious Experience of the Holy Spirit


The second stream of RE research is that which views spiritual experience primarily as an expression of the work of the Holy Spirit. This approach to RE research is significant in the study of Christian origins, since the success of earliest Christianity and its appeal and credibility in the eyes of converts seem to have been very heavily connected with its ability to provide religious experiences that correspond to its rhetoric of being gifted, filled, anointed, and empowered by the Spirit of God (Hurtado 2000: 183). Though these experiences figure more prominently in some texts than others (e.g. LukeActs contains a disproportionate number among other New Testament books), one may still claim that the New Testament is full of language about the filling(s) of the Holy Spirit (Levison 2009: xxv). The works below comprise some of the most substantial in this field and have contributed a great deal to research on religious experience in the New Testament. F. W. Horns Das Angeld des Geistes (1992) and Fees Gods Empowering Presence (1994) are each rigorous treatments of the Holy Spirit in the Pauline corpus. Fees work is particularly exhaustive (nearly 1000 pages) and traces references to the Holy Spirit throughout the Epistles and concludes that experience of the Spirit is crucial to Pauls theology in his letters. In the same year, Welkers God the Spirit (1994) addresses the role of the Spirit both in the New Testament documents and also as a central motif in the modern Charismatic movement. The author calls this work a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit (1994: xii), discussing spiritual experience in the testimony of biblical authors. A large part of Welkers work is given to the liberating function of spiritual experience in ancient culture. New Testament pneumatologist Max Turner published both Power from on High (1996a) and The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts (1996b). The latter cites the

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development of NT pneumatology from its background in Judaism, through the works of the New Testament, and finishes by showing how language of the outpouring of the Spirit is proto-Trinitarian (1996b: 1-184). Turner then interacts with specific categories of spiritual experience in the New Testament (e.g. tongues, healings, etc.), before discussing their relevance for Christians today (1996b: 185-361). The former begins with an overview of research on the Spirit in Lukan scholarship and continues with an in-depth analysis of the way Luke Acts describes the experience of the Holy Spirit throughout the narrative (1996a: 20-81). His treatment is topical, however, covering gifts of the Holy Spirit (1996a: 82-139), the messianic implications of the Spirits work (1996a: 140317), and how the disciples interact with the Spirit (1996a: 318-418). Most recently, Levisons Filled with the Spirit (2009) builds on Gunkels 1888 work and explores in greater depth the way Israelite and Jewish literature may have influenced the way NT authors view the Holy Spirit. Levison divides his book into three sections: the first interacts with Israelite literature and the way themes of wisdom, Spirit, and new creation are related. Part two addresses Jewish literature and the way themes of knowledge, visions, and ecstasy are emblematic of spiritual experience in Judaism. Part three takes up New Testament literature and discusses the way the topics of the first two parts are evidenced in these early Christian authors. Levison argues that the experiential language of being filled encompasses more about the way early Christians understood the ministry of the Holy Spirit than any other (2009: xxv, 62-67, 278-79, 328). He sees this spirit-filling/breathing language throughout Israelite, Jewish, and early Christian literature and therefore builds his case in part on this assertion (other works in this category are Kuecker 2008; Levison 2007; Gaventa 2004; George 1953).

3. Religious Experience in Historical Jesus Studies


Historical Jesus scholarship also examines religious experience in the Gospels, albeit in a more limited way. Approaching the texts anthropologically and asking about the historical significance of Jesus religious experiences, Historical Jesus scholars wonder if Jesus drew people to himself and his ideas by virtue of his superior experience rather than his divine identity (McKnight 1995: 58). Historical Jesus studies, then, see Jesus as a religious genius that offered his followers a prototypical experience of God. Following the publication of Dunns Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Jesus and the Spirit, Bauckham The Sonship of the Historical Jesus in Christology (1978), contested some of Dunns Historical Jesus arguments on the significance of Jesus religious experiences for his sense of sonship. Bauckham argues that Jesus sonship can be understood both as a statement of divinity and a product of his

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religious experiences. He states, While the Fathers tended to restrict the meaning of his sonship to his divinity, many modern writers have restricted it to the religious experience of the man Jesus But in the light of the interconnexions of being and mission, and of uniqueness and representativeness in Jesus sonship, this dilemma is unreal (1978: 260). For Bauckham, the interplay between Jesus being and mission requires that his divinity and religious experience both be entertained as appropriate categories for understanding Jesus concept of sonship. OCollinss Luminous Appearances of the Risen Christ (1984) argues that the resurrection appearances were religious experiencesnot with a ghost or apparitionbut with a physical being (1984: 249). Luminous Appearances is a polemic against the idea that, by the time of the writing of the Gospel of Mark, Gnostic ideas had already permeated the early Christian community as a reflection of the incorporeal resurrection appearances of Jesus (see Robinson 1957: 9-12). Bauckhams and OCollinss articles illustrate the burgeoning effort of scholarship in that time to situate religious experience within a historical and christological framework (see Evans [ed.] 2004). Stevan Daviess Jesus the Healer (1995) takes a psycho-anthropological approach and sees Jesus as a spirit-possessed exorcist and healer who was not aware of his Spirit-Son of God status prior to his religious experiences. Daviess work is a full-length treatment of Jesus religious experiences in Historical Jesus scholarship, covering exorcism, baptism, healings, sayings of the spirit, prophecy, and other matters in religious experience. He contends that, although most scholars see Jesus teaching ministry as central, his ministry as a spirit-filled healer is more defining for Jesus and his followers than anything else. Borg in his Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship (1994) sees Jesus God-intoxicated religious experiences as that from which everything else flowed. His ministry of healing, teaching, his death, and his vision were all a product of Jesus personal experience of God (1994: 152). Borg asserts that the religious experiences both of Jesus and his followers were integral in generating the tradition from which Christianity flowed (1994: 137). Margaret Barker in The Risen Lord (1996) contends that Jesus resurrection was the most fundamental of his experiences, upon which everything else is built. Barkers argument hinges on two premisesfirst, she classifies the resurrection itself as a religious experience for Jesus and, second, she argues that the Gospels are a record of the life and teaching of the risen Lord (1996: xii). For example, Barker suggests that the Markan account of Jesus baptism is his resurrection (1996: 35, 41, 55). That is, she wonders whether these two religious experiences, linked in literature outside the New Testament, should be seen as one. If so, the events that come after are a record of a risen Son of God. To substantiate her claim, she draws on the Odes of Solomon, Ps. 74.13, Cyril of Jerusalem, Shepherd of Hermas, 2 Esdras, and Gospel of Peter, all of which

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connect the concepts of baptism and ascent. Furthermore, Barker believes that early Christians may have understood their own baptisms similarly, as a resurrection and identification with their risen Lord (1996: 27-41). Other Historical Jesus research on the messianic consciousness or self-understanding of Jesus is tangentially related to the religious experience work done above, yet will not be covered in depth here. Birds 2009 Are You the One Who is to Come? is one recent example. Birds stated aim is to argue that Jesus did understand himself to be the messiah, contrary to much of the research that had gone before (Wrede 1971 is his primary dialogue partner). Bird does address the more significant of Jesus religious experiences (i.e. the baptism and transfiguration), but does not discuss these at length. Instead, he draws out what is most pertinent to his study (namely, the significant Son of God language) and moves on to other pericopae (see also Lee 2005; Jonge 1993; Blevins 1981; Betz 1963; Harnack 1912).

4. Religious Experience in General


Those who have published studies on religious experience in general are scholars whose research on religious experience examines, the topic as a whole and its influence in New Testament texts. For example, L.T. Johnsons Religious Experience in Earliest Christianity (1998) examines the spiritual encounters of Christians in the first few decades after the life of Jesus and investigates the influence of religious experience on the broader movement. He begins by asserting that RE study in early Christianity is a missing dimension from research on Christian origins and New Testament studies altogether (1998: 1-37). Johnson believes that understanding the spiritual experiences of early Christians is the key to understanding the power of this new faith and its community. Johnson approaches the topic by taking up three case studiesbaptism, tongues, and common mealsto show how much can be learned from analyzing the above phenomenologically. He writes, power [is] a key element in religion, both as a component of experience, and as the organizing point of the social expressions of experience (1998: 46; emphasis original). Therefore, he also believes that RE research is necessary to understand many ancient texts (as opposed to simply historical or theological treatments) because many such texts are fundamentally religious documents. The capacity of these religious texts to surprise scholars by their peculiarity and their innovative power is precisely what is minimized by systematic/theological and/or historical approaches. Johnsons phenomenological reading of NT literature attempts to allow the uniqueness of each religious experience to stand on its own and speak for the way in which ancients were accustomed to apprehending their own faith. As Johnson begins his book by making a case for RE as a missing dimension of research on Christian origins, he analyzes how and why the academy has unsuccessfully held together Christianitys world of formal discourse [i.e.

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theology] and the world of informal power [i.e. religious experience] (1998: 1-37). He then discusses the language used in texts to describe religious experience and how different schools of thought (i.e. religionsgeschichtliche Shule or history-of-religions school) approached RE (for classic examples of this approach, see Eliade 1965; Otto 1917). In this chapter, Johnson shows that scholarship has both been (1) unduly focused on theology and propositions in New Testament studies and (2) that many in the history-of-religions school asserted all too quickly the dependence of Christianity on Hellenism, which colored its conclusions about experiential Christianity (1998: 12-22). Johnson not only addresses approaches which wrongly take account of religious experience in the New Testament; he also addresses those that dismiss accounts of spiritual experience altogether. Two such methodologies cited are social-scientific criticism and ideological criticism (1998: 24-26). Social-scientific criticism is rich with ideas and yet has a tendency to analyze biblical texts etically not emically (that is, from an outsiders position, not an insiders). What this means is that social-scientific criticism, with its interest in explaining sociological phenomena using contemporary scientific models, fails to account for experiences that do not fit their scientific framework. Such religious experiences must be analyzed by taking the text on its own terms rather than by allowing modern criteria to determine ones conclusions (other examples of social-scientific research on RE are Rohrbaugh 2003; Horrell 1999; Elliott 1995; Esler 1995; Stark 1991; Theissen 1983; Batson and Ventis 1982; Stark 1965; Glock 1959). The second unsympathetic approach that Johnson highlights is what he calls ideological criticism (1998: 24-37). This hermeneutically suspicious approach views New Testament power language as a veiled claim to political authority. He writes:
If religious symbols generally are taken to be epiphenomenal to human struggles for social and political position, then power, rather than a transcendental reality that is encountered as Other is invariably an instrument of control wielded in behalf of interested parties. Claims to the experience of transcendent power should be demystified as camouflage for political position-taking within religious traditions (1998: 24-25).

Johnson mounts three arguments against the above methodologies. First, he believes these methodologies to be anachronistic, using modern categories to prop-up ostensible ancient ideologies. Second, these approaches are simplistic literary production is not entirely and fundamentally ideological. Third, the above hermeneutical paradigms are reductionistic in their claims that religious experience accounts are little more than a code to be cracked or unlocked to find the real meaning of the experience. This reductionism misses the consciously religious dimension of early Christianity (1998: 26).

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Johnsons analysis above is a good reminder that all scholars must be aware of the limits of their methodologies. His criticism also shows why and how the experiential dimension of biblical research may have been missed in recent research. Johnsons book proceeds from this basis to explain why research on religious experience in antiquity is so important for the future of biblical scholarship. The experiential is the world in which ancient persons inhabited and that from which Christianity first began to grow. Notwithstanding the problems and pitfalls of research in this area, Johnson examines baptism, tongues, and religious meals in an effort to contribute to the way ancients participated in the spiritual. Hurtados Lord Jesus Christ (2003), coupled with his Religious Experience and Religious Innovation in the New Testament (2000), have made significant headway in research on religious experience and Christian origins. Hurtados work suggests that religious experience in the early church was one of the most significant factors in generating Christian religious innovation, namely the cultic veneration of Jesus. The scholarly study of Jesus, he says, should therefore include the recognition that among the important chief historical factors that helped generate the religious innovations of the movement were powerful religious experiences perceived by the recipients as revelations (2000: 183). Though Hurtados work is not limited to RE, his elevation of the importance of religious experience in the development of Christianity stands in stark contrast to much research that has gone before. The best extant evidence shows that Christianity grew at an astonishing rate early on and that Jesus came to be worshipped as God in these Christian circles. Accounting for such phenomena, Hurtado notes that religious experiences, which corresponded very closely to their language of being indwelt by the divine, are the best explanation for the rapid development of this movement (2003: 65). Most studies published to-date deal more with the origins of written sources, the circumstances that prompted the texts, or the sociological characteristics of early churchesmuch of which fails even to comment on the existence/significances of religious experiences in early Christian communities. Rather than viewing religious experiences as significant factors in religious practice and innovation, these approaches tend to see REs as derivative phenomena, the (dysfunctional) outcomes of stressful social circumstances and the manifestation of psychopathologycharacteristically, social science approaches assume one or another form of deprivation theory where an individuals or communitys personal and social stresses give rise to religious delusion (2003: 66-67). Hurtado continues by examining early Christian sources for the evidence of significant religious experience in these texts, demonstrating that these sources show religious experiences were perceived by recipients to have a new quality and frequency in their lives (2003: 71). Hurtado uses RE as one of the lenses through which he examines these texts and evaluates the role of these

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experiences in early Christian innovation. He spends a great deal of time in Pauls epistles, Q, canonical and non-canonical Gospels, and other first- and second-century Christian texts (2003: 79-649). Many of these texts contain accounts of religious experiences themselves and others of experiences that have inspired a characters understanding of biblical texts (e.g. 2 Cor. 3.12-16; Lk. 24.27, 31-32, 44-47). The corpus of early Christian texts illustrates the validity of Hurtados approach and the need to make religious experience a foremost consideration when researching Christian origins. Perhaps the most recent and comprehensive work on religious experience is Flannerys (ed.) Experientia, Volume 1, in the SBL Symposium Series (2008). Experientia is the first sustained, collective scholarly inquiry into the topic of religious experience in the field of early Jewish and early Christian studies (2008a: 1). The volume is a compilation of essays from biblical scholars researching biblical religious experience accounts. These scholars generally approach RE research sympathetically, aiming to emically explore the textual reasons and methods for including the religious experiences under consideration. In the first section, Flannery, Segal, Horsley, and Werline cover body and self in religious experience (Flannery 2008b: 13-18; Segal 2008: 19-40; Horsley 2008: 41-58; Werline 2008: 59-71). In these four essays, scholars research the way the notion of self fits into the biblical authors views on religious experience. The afterlife, Pauline mysticism, demon possession in Mark, and prayer experience are all explored in these chapters as these experiences incorporate the physical body. In the second section, Wasserstrom, Deutch, Griffith-Jones, and FletcherLouis discuss how certain authors record their religious experience accounts (Wasserstrom 2008: 75-82; Deutsch 2008: 83-104; Griffith-Jones 2008: 105-24; Fletcher-Louis 2008: 125-44). These essays investigate how scholars interpret vision and mystery accounts in Philo and Clement, the Gospel of Johns portrayal of Jesus, and apocalyptic REs. In this section scholars also look at the most appropriate ways for historians to treat textual representations of spiritual experiences. In section three, Engberg-Pedersen, Peerbolte, Miller, Shantz, and Ramsaran conclude the volume with five essays on Pauline RE (both in Pauls epistles and in LukeActs; Engberg-Pedersen 2008: 147-58; Peerbolte 2008: 159-78; Miller 2008: 177-92; Shantz 2008: 193-206; Ramsaran 2008: 207-12). Some of these articles consider Pauls concept of religious experience, as well as how Paul described his own experiences in specific texts. Others discuss Pauls view on trauma across the Pauline corpus and how the author of LukeActs describe Pauls religious experiences. The efforts of Flannery et al. in Experientia, Volume 1 (2008) represent a major step forward in organized efforts to address religious experience in

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biblical texts. These essays make a certain contribution to the secondary literature on RE and move scholarly inquiry in this field forward.

Conclusion
The research outlined in this article is an excellent foundation for future work on religious experience in New Testament research. Still, a vast amount of research remains to be done. Early Christian studies has yet to propose an inductively substantiated definition for religious experience. Although social-scientific definitions and models for religious experience may be a helpful place to start, if these conclusions are not corroborated by textual data, such a definition is only a provisional solution for New Testament researchers. Furthermore, research on the panorama of religious experience in the New Testament badly needs attention. In 1965, Stark produced a taxonomy of religious experience in the sociological study of religion where he identified four major types of religious experience: confirming, responsive, ecstatic/mystical, and revelatory. It remains to be seen if Starks taxonomy can be supported by NT data. But no attempt within biblical studies has been made to inductively reconstruct the religio-experiential worldview of New Testament authors. New Testament scholarship needs to clarify terminology and bring together the data from the varying streams to develop some consensus on the presence, use, and effect of REs in early Christian literature.
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