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By John Potts (auth.)

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Christian gatherings were sustained by an oral tradition, recounting the time of Jesus and his disciples (the four gospels of the New Testament were not written until the period c. AD 65–100 ). The Greek word used in the New Testament, translated as ‘church’ or ‘congregation’, was ecclesia. This word literally meant ‘assembly’ or ‘meeting’, which more accurately conveys the gatherings of Christians at the time of Paul. The Christian communities had no public buildings in which to congregate: enduring public churches were not built until after Emperor Constantine’s conversion in 312.

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.

By this he means prophecy, but only when supplemented by the ‘still more excellent way’ of love. Paul contrasts the selfless nature of love with behaviour he terms jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude and resentful (13: 4–6). He then proceeds to link such self-centred behaviour with the practice of speaking in tongues: For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. (14: 2) Paul Invents Charisma 41 This restricted spiritual communication is contrasted with the greater communal benefit flowing from prophecy: he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

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