Nasrallah’s book is a valuable contribution to the study of prophecy and ecstatic manifestations in early Christianity, for its reading of representative Christian texts within the larger context of debates about such phenomena in the Greco-Roman world, and for viewing the materials through the lens of rhetorical criticism. Nasrallah focuses on three texts or authors: Paul’s discussion of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians, Tertullian’s defense of prophecy in De anima and related texts, and the Anti-Phrygian source, Nasrallah’s name for the late second—early-third-century source probably embedded in Epiphanius’ Panarion. Nasrallah argues that taxonomies of forms of ecstasy or ways in which one can communicate with the divine are not neutral or objective claims; rather, they are rhetorical constructions that serve both to limit authority of some and to grant it to others (usually the speaker or writer). Claims about the periodization of history are likewise not neutral; they serve to delimit who can know the divine in what way. Tertullian, for example, understood prophecy to be a viable mode of communication with the divine, while the contemporary Anti-Phrygian source argued it had ceased after the apostolic age. Nasrallah strongly criticizes modern scholarship for too quickly accepting some texts’ claims without questioning their rhetorical contexts. A revision of the author’s dissertation, the book is sometimes difficult to follow, and somewhat repetitive. On the whole, however, it is a fine book, one that will be of interest primarily to specialists already familiar with the primary texts and the debates about prophecy in early Christianity.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Dupertuis, R. R. (2006). [Review of the book An ecstasy of folly: Prophecy and authority in early Christianity, by L. Nasrallah]. Religious Studies Review, 32, 49. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0922.2006.00036_4.x
Religious Studies Review