Introduction: Paul, Founder of Churches. Cult Foundations and the Comparative Study of Cult Origins

In: Religion and Theology
Gerhard van den Heever Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa P. O. Box 392, UNISA 0003 RSA

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In this introduction to the discussion on James C. Hanges, Paul, Founder of Churches, the significance of the comparative work on the cult founder-figure and typology of cult foundations is discussed. The essay argues that this serves to ground any interpretation of the cult founding work of the apostle Paul in an understanding of the materiality of religion. This gives impetus to a more concrete conceptualisation of Christian origins. Further reflection on this comparative enterprise is offered by means of three discussion foci, namely Discourse, imperial context, spatiality; Diaspora religion; and New Religious Movements. It is argued that the pervasiveness of imperial discourse and its spatial encoding allows us to see Paul’s cult foundations as sites of imperial resistance. Diasporas and diasporic religions provide key illuminations for understanding the broader context of the foundations of cult groups by Paul. Study of new religious movements will also aid in concrete descriptions and analysis of the making of early Christian groups and their organisation.

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