Social Construction of Paul's Public Image
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The authority of charisma entails a "devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism, or exemplary character of an individual person." In the sociology of religion it has long been held that the authority of institutions is legitimated by their identification with charismatic personalities. However, in this book which examines the construction of St. Paul's public image, Anthony J. Blasi argues that charisma "comes as much from us as it is projected by the personages." It is a work of the collective imagination and a fulfillment of a social need. Thus, the charisma of St. Paul is shown to emerge as much or more from the dynamics of early Christianity's institutionalization as from the person of Paul.While acknowledging the importance of certain features of Paul's actual biography, the principle focus of the book is on how Paul became an important personality in Christian tradition in the decades immediately following his death. The ability of the charismatic personality to make acts and creeds religiously legitimate is usually thought of by sociologists as producing normative organizations such as churches, but here it is shown that Paul's charisma was consciously fostered and promoted by the incipient Christian church.The book is divided into segments that examine the social construction of charisma; the role of St. Luke in fashioning Paul's posthumous image; the 'traditions and legends that grew up around Paul after his death (including inauthentic "Pauline" letters written in his name); and the dynamics of constructing the image in the religious and historical context of the time. The author concludes with a reconsideration of what is meant by charisma and how it is created. This is one of the few studies which takes advantage of the methods of literary criticism to explore the social processes at work in early Christianity. Making Charisma will be of interest to sociologists of religion and a wide range of scholars interested in the history of religion.