James C. Hanges, Paul, Founder of Churches: A Study in Light of the Evidence for the Role of “Founder-Figures” in the Hellenistic-Roman Period. A Review Essay

In: Religion and Theology
Heidi Wendt Department of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics, Wright State University Millett Hall 370, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy, Dayton, OH 45435 USA

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James C. Hanges’ new book raises a number of important questions about what it means to situate Paul’s religious activities within his own historical context, and also models one possible methodology for doing so. In this review, I interrogate some of the assumptions underpinning Hanges’ approach, namely, ones having to do with the cultural particularity of certain discourses and religious practices, as well as the utility of the concept “identity” as it pertains to the study of religion. I also attempt to draw the author’s conclusions into wider and ongoing efforts to theorize ancient Mediterranean religion by proposing that many of the actors whom he introduces as comparanda for Paul fall within a discrete class of religious activity, populated by varieties of freelance experts.

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