- KAESTLI Jean-Daniel, STOLZ Jörg, BRANDT Pierre-Yves - Regards psychologiques et sociologiques sur le christianisme primitif : cinq études de Gerd Theissen ( Introduction)
- THEISSEN Gerd - Franchir les frontières de façon paradoxale. Propositions pour une psychologie religieuse du christianisme primitif
- THEISSEN Gerd - La conversion de Paul et celle Nasir Khusraw. Un rencontre au musée imaginaire de l’histoire
- THEISSEN Gerd - La nouvelle perspective sur Paul et ses limites. Quelques réflexions psychologiques
- THEISSEN Gerd - Eglise ou secte ? Unité et conflit dans le christianisme primitif
- THEISSEN Gerd - Du Jésus de l’histoire au Fils de Dieu du kérygme. L’apport de l’analyse sociologique des rôles à la compréhension de la christologie du Nouveau Testamen
The psychology of early Christianity which is here outlined is mainly characterized by the developing of the concept of transgression of limits in the areas of myth, ethos and rite. The Christological « myth » transgresses the limits between God and human beings. According to the cognitive approach in psychology of religion this is « counterintuitive representation ».
The ethos of renouncing violence and loving one’s enemies is in psychological terms a « paradoxical intervention », i.e., an infringement of the usual rules of learning: undesired and negative behaviour is positively strengthened in order to be overcome. The sacraments represent a taboo-transgressing symbolism, chich psychoanalysis reveals very early in the case of the Lord’s Supper. For a durable ability of early Christian religion to assert itself, it mattered that it was both disruptive and foundational to the world of daily life. Beside the counterintuitive myth intuitively illuminating wisdoms can be found, beside the radical commandments the Golden Rule and beside symbolic taboo transgression the duty of sharing. The « religiously extreme » elements of transgression of limits are tightly intermingled with the « moderate » elements. Breaking up the ontology of daily life is the foundation of the order of daily life. Extreme aspects of early Christian religion are not only intended to call attention to them but they ground religion in transcendence.
Knowledge of Nasir Khusrav allows one to discover in Paul many things that would otherwise pass unnoticed. Both have experienced a conversion. Both belonged to a minority in their own religion. Both have become missionaries. Both endured persecution. Both have added to their missionary activity a literary activity. And both have produced a non literal exegesis, of the Bible for one and of the Koran for the other. Each of these points would deserve a comparative study. However, the present essay focuses on the issue of conversion. Nasir Khusrav reports unique and extraordinary experiences, a vision in particular. Yet the two stories of his conversion suggest a lengthy quest for orientation in relation to his journey to Cairo and Mecca, although it must have started before. We might describe this as a gradual conversion. Il contrast, Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus has been commonly pictured as the perfect illustration of a sudden conversion. Beside various studies in psychology of religion dedecated to the forms of conversion, some analogies with Nasir Khusraw’s conversion draw our attention to aspects of Paul’s story which hint at a fairly long period of reorientation related -as in the case of Nasir Khusraw- to a journey to the centre of his religion. It started with a more intense practice of traditional Judaism, with commitment to pharisaic thought and with the study of Law. This has been carried on and increased into »zeal » and has found its fulfilment in Paul’s conversion to Christianity. We might speak of a gradual conversion for Paul too, although it does not follow a linear progression. The stories he tells about his conversion are performative texts. They emphasise unique events in order to promote allegiance to the values of the new community and abandonment of the old values. We have no reason to question the authenticity of Paul’s experience of the suddenness of his conversion, but it is doubtful that this experience can be isolated from the entire context of his life. The event on the road to Damascus could be seen as the culmination and resolution of a crisis of reorientation which had probably been going on for some time. To be sure, Nasir Khusraw’s fascination for the Fatimid rulers and Paul’s conversion to the crucified Messiah also display differences and oppositions. It can then be illuminating to make these two figures meet in the imaginay museum of history.
The article summarises the interpretation of Paul in the « New Perspective on Paul » in five theses and offers a series of counter-theses based on arguments belonging to the historical psychology of religion. In spite of the fact that the traditional interpretation of Paul in the Lutheran tradition and its renewal in the Bultmann school by existential hermeneutics emphatically refused a psychological approach. The results of these psychological considerations are in line with Luther and Bultmann. They are a revised protestant interpretation of Pauline theology, but they take into account the social dimension of the Pauline theology that was discovered int the « New Perspective on Paul ».
The church is not only a sociological form among other religious groups, but it is characterised by an inclusive structure. It grans a place within itself to sects, worshiping groups and denominations. Plurality inside and easy relationships with the outside are the sociological criteria defining a church. On this basis, we can observe in early Christianity the structures and mentalities of a church. Since the Assembly of Jerusalem, it includes a plurality of groups with various structures: a Hellenistic worship movement, a movement of renewal internal to Judaism and an intra-ecclesiastical denomination close to Gnosticism.
By its profane methods the « third quest » for the historical Jesus can contribute to clarify a theological problem which has always been at the heart of scholarship on Jesus: how does the historical Jesus relate to the kerygmatic Son of God? A sociological analysis of roles allows us to understand Christological titles as expectations about roles in the context of social interactions. The « implicit Christology » is derived from the rôle of teacher with its didactic charisma and of prophet with its prophetic stigmata. The « evoked Chritology » explains the title of Messiah as an expectation awaken in others by Jesus’ activities and thus relates him to the historical Jesus, even if this title does not fit with the understanding he had of himself. The « explicit theology » is marked by uncertainty. We do not know what title Jesus gave himself and if so how he interpreted it. This uncertainty is due to the fact that for Jesus and his followers, in accordance with ancient mentality, a status could only be given and revealed by a superior authority. This « contingency of the status » is what makes the difference between the understanding of roles in ancient mentality and modern theories of roles. In the case of Jesus, this contingency leads him to trust God. Only God can give him his role-he is the « Son of Man »-, a rôle he does not want to claim for himself, and that he does not want to reveal. The uncertainty today is quite different. It is the uncertainty of modern research when it is trying to reconstruct the understandin Jesus had of himself.