The Holy Spirit and religious experience in Christian literature c.90-200 AD
The thesis explores whether religious experience and the Spirit are linked in Christian literature between c90 and 200. Three spheres of religious experience were chosen as illustrations - a sense of being personally encountered/overwhelmed by the divine; of divine illumination/guidance; and of being divinely empowered for ethical conduct. The Introduction reviews previous research: since Weinel. There has not been a comprehensive survey covering both the New Testament and early Patristic evidence, in what is the transition period between the subapostolic church and the emergence of the Catholic Church by the early third century. A brief survey of the evidence before c90 sets the background for the study. Thereafter, the thesis is divided into a further seven parts, surveying the literature on a geographical basis, viz Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, Southern Gaul, Northern Africa and Egypt. The final part draws together the conclusions of the study. Whether the Spirit was at different moments a part of Christian distinctiveness over against the world, Judaism and internal opponents, whether deemed "heretical" or not, is explored. The evidence for a continuing sense of being overwhelmed by an encounter with the Holy Spirit is patchy, and no uniform type of experience necessarily emerges within any given geographical area. Throughout the period Christians were confronted by the need to test claims to inspiration by the Spirit. None of the various tests proposed really centred on the actual experience itself but all were external ones. Claims to possess the truth took various forms, and again there was no necesary uniformity with any given area. Generally, the ethical demand and the Spirit's help was less held together than was characteristic of Paul. Some writers may mention both aspects but these were not expressed in an integrated way; others came close to moralism. The variegated picture which emerges probably faithfully reflects second century Christianity.