Symposium Introduction

Dual Symposium

Having the Spirit of Christ (Giovanni Bazzana)

Signs, Wonders, and Gifts (Jennifer Eyl)




William Arnal
Peter Struck
Emma Wasserman
Annette Yoshiko Reed



Having the Spirit of Christ:

Spirit Possession and Exorcism in the Early Christ Groups

Giovanni B. Bazzana



A provocative reinterpretation of accounts of spirit possession and exorcism in early Christianity

The earliest Christian writings are filled with stories of possession and exorcism, which were crucial for the activity of the historical Jesus and for the practice of the earliest groups of his followers. Most critical scholarship, however, regularly marginalizes these topics or discards them altogether in reconstructing early Christian history.

This innovative book approaches the study of possession from a different methodological angle by using a comparative lens that includes contemporary ethnographies of possession cross-culturally. Possession, besides being a harmful event that should be exorcized, can also have a positive role in many cultures. Often it helps individuals and groups to reflect on and reshape their identity, to plan their moral actions, and to remember in a most vivid way their past. When read in light of these materials, these ancient documents reveal the religious, cultural, and social meaning that the experience of possession had for the early Christ groups.

Reviews and Endorsements

“This is perhaps the first, and certainly the most serious, work to take in earnest the fact that spirit possession and control of spirits are broadly attested cross-culturally, and should not be sidelined as peripheral and marginal features of human societies. This is a book that changes the game.”—John S. Kloppenborg, author of Christ’s Associations

“In this insightful and convincing book, Giovanni Bazzana skillfully treats the fascinating topic of spirit possession in earliest Christianity. His sure touch will make this the go-to volume on the topic.”—Lawrence M. Wills, author of Not God’s People: Insiders and Outsiders in the Biblical World

“Engaging contemporary anthropological theories, Bazzana focuses on the gospels and Paul’s letters, placing them with precision among a host of ancient texts. This book helps readers to rethink the worldview of the earliest Christ-followers, whose practices of spirit possession may have produced ideas about the past and about subjectivity that we haven’t yet comprehended.”—Laura Salah Nasrallah, author of Archaeology and the Letters of Paul

“Brilliant, sophisticated, and cutting-edge, this paradigm-breaking work uses the anthropology of spirit possession, combined with meticulous textual analysis, to solve some notorious interpretive cruxes in the New Testament. Bazzana completely transforms and illuminates our understanding of the first followers of Jesus.”—William Arnal, University of Regina

“Bazzana challenges readers to take exorcisms and possessions seriously as crucial, embodied, and practical features of Jesus’s and the Christ groups’ historical activity.”—Jennifer Knust, Duke University

“A watershed study of spirit possession and control of spirits among the first generation of Jesus followers, this is a book that will spur lively debate and repay attention for years to come.”—Harry O. Maier, author of New Testament Christianity in the Roman World

“Combining possessions in the stories of Jesus in the gospels and Paul’s rhetoric of being ‘in Christ,’ Bazzana has laid the groundwork for a completely new approach to the study of possessions in Early Christianity. A stunning achievement.”—Halvor Moxnes, University of Oslo

“A thoughtful and intelligent contribution to a subject too long ignored or explained away by modern rationalistic approaches.”—Donald Senior, Bible Today

“An invitation to theologians, and perhaps especially to Pentecostal ones, to explore the manifold ways in which spirit experience shaped early Christ groups and the texts of the New Testament”—Reed Carlson, Pneuma



Signs, Wonders, and Gifts:

Divination in the Letters of Paul

Jennifer Eyl


In much of the scholarship on Paul, activities such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miracle healings are either ignored or treated as singular occurrences. Typically, these practices are categorized in such a way that shields Paul and his followers from the influence of so-called paganism. In Signs, Wonders, and Gifts, Jennifer Eyl masterfully argues that Paul did, in fact, engage in range of divinatory and wonder-working practices that were widely recognized and accepted across the ancient Mediterranean. Eyl redescribes, reclassifies, and recontextualizes Paul’s repertoire vis-á-vis such widespread, similar practices. Situating these activities within the larger framework of reciprocity that dominated human-divine relationships in antiquity, she demonstrates that divine powers and divine communication were bestowed as benefactions toward Paul and his gentile followers in proportion to their faithfulness and loyalty.


Reviews and Endorsements

“In Signs, Wonders, and Gifts: Divination in the Letters of Paul, Jennifer Eyl provides a convincing and nuance analysis of Paul’s divinatory and wonderworking practices and the reciprocal relationship involved in the language of pistis. Theoretically savvy and empirically grounded, this is unquestionably a learned book that will become the standard work on the subject while being written in a style that will reward students as much as seasoned scholars.” — James Crossley, Professor of Bible, Society, and Politics in the Centre for the Social-Scientific Criticism of the Bible, St. Mary’s University

“Jennifer Eyl places Paul’s divinatory practices where they should be: front and centre. This is done in a way that is informed by the best thinking on ancient magic as a category, theory of religion, ethnicity, cognitive science, and social scientific description. This book challenges traditional Pauline scholarship in all the right ways.” — Zeba Crook, author of Reconceptualising Conversion: Patronage, Loyalty, and Conversion in the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

“Jennifer Eyl’s Signs, Wonders, and Gifts represents a major contribution to scholarship – not only Christian Origins scholarship on the Pauline letters, but scholarship on divination, miracle-working, magic, and the character of religious specialists in the ancient world more generally. Eyl makes sense of Paul’s views of, and practices around, miracles, “acts of power,” and prophetic predictions by situating his language within the often-unspoken but deeply held intuitive convictions of the ancients about the gods, how the gods work, and how they interact with people. Paul’s ideas, far from being unique or mysterious, are shown to be in harmony with the broader religious culture of the Roman Empire.” — William Arnal

“an effective, innovative, and provocative treatment of Paul in his religious milieu that will be of interest to many New Testament specialists. One can hope that scholarship increasingly participates in Eyl’s unflinching commitment to an analysis of Paul within the Greek and Roman world and in so doing produces an ever clearer and more penetrating assessment of the Apostle and his achievements.” — Courtney Friesen, Religion

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