By John Potts (auth.)
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Additional resources for A History of Charisma
Many factors contribute to the social and cultural setting bearing on Paul’s invention of charisma as a religious concept. These include the blend of Greek philosophy and Judaism informing Paul’s intellectual milieu; the political system of the Roman Empire; and the character of the early Christian church, to which Paul’s letters were addressed. Another significant element is the prevalent belief in miraculous feats performed by spiritually empowered individuals, whether prophets or magicians; this belief provided part of the background for Paul’s definition of charisma.
The criterion for the ranking of spiritual gifts is community benefit. 56 The nine charismata identified by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 are distributed throughout the congregation in interlocking ways, as with the power to interpret, which supplements – and validates – glossolalia. This dispersal of charisma operates as a spiritual layer on the communal basis of the church emphasised throughout Paul’s letters. 1 Corinthians implies that all in the community have access to a charisma, although the precise nature of that charisma will vary.
Such prayer or desire may not be granted, however, and an individual may instead be gifted with one of the other charismata. Paul exhorts every individual to be satisfied with the charisma he or she may possess, as it has been granted by divine will and is intended to serve the greater good: the Spirit ‘apportions to each one individually as he wills’. Paul Invents Charisma 43 His metaphor of the community as body, composed of many parts of differing dimension, is designed to illustrate the importance of all gifts, whether of the highest register (prophecy), lowest (glossolalia) or the seemingly mundane (interpretation, administration).