"Earn the Grace of Prophecy": Early Christian Prophecy as Practice
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CitationChoi, Jung Hyun. 2016. "Earn the Grace of Prophecy": Early Christian Prophecy as Practice. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Divinity School.
AbstractThis dissertation explores discussions of prophecy in early Christianity focusing on Origen of Alexandria’s works. It argues that Origen engages the contested terms of prophetic activity to persuade his audience(s) toward the cultivation of a particular moral self.
The dissertation situates early Christian discourse on prophecy within a larger philosophical conversation in the Greco-Roman world from the first to fourth centuries C.E., in which cultivating a properly religious self involves discipline or askēsis. Some early Christian debates about prophecy are predicated on the idea that certain practices are necessary to be considered worthy of the indwelling of the divine/the Holy Spirit. Using Pierre Hadot’s insights, the dissertation contends that discourses on prophecy in early Christianity call for training in a particular way of living, and thus could be influential to early Christians regardless of whether they would ever attain the status of prophet or not.
By encouraging his Christian readers to participate in reading and studying the Scripture as a way to purify their souls, Origen argues that everyone needs to cultivate himself or herself to be worthy to receive spiritual gifts such as prophecy. In his Commentary on Romans, Origen turns Paul’s exhortation to “strive for spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1) into a more general call to cultivate virtue through scriptural study. In Contra Celsum and the Homilies on Numbers, Origen invites the readers to participate in disciplined training so that they may become worthy instruments of the divine, just as the prophets are. The dissertation also compares Origen’s arguments with those of the Shepherd of Hermas and Iamblichus’s De Mysteriis, demonstrating that the ancient discussions of prophecy deploy similar strategies to persuade the audiences to participate in particular disciplined training, even if they have different ideas about what the best form of prophecy may be.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:32108298