Science & Tech

The inside scoop on the Apostle Paul

2 min read

Laura Nasrallah plumbs the “gossip pages of early Christian history”

Laura Nasrallah’s newest book, “An Ecstasy of Folly: Prophecy and Authority in Early Christianity,” argues that, in early Christian communities, dreams, visions, and prophecies were often central to communication and to people’s understanding of the way things were — far different from the prevailing modern notion that such occurrences are always part of the fringe. In early Christianity, debates often centered on whether a mystical or a rational approach was correct — debates that resonate today. “Obviously, some Christian communities today violently disagree about whether tongues and prophecies are still possible in the present or whether those are delusions on the part of other Christians,” Nasrallah says. “So even today we find rhetoric of madness and accusations of misunderstanding God’s plan for history. In terms of contemporary politics, even on NPR and in other news media since September 11, 2001, you hear a lot of language that characterizes Islam or Arabs (certainly problematic categories, which aren’t synonymous!) as stuck in a certain time period, as underdeveloped, as needing help. And today’s widespread rhetoric of introducing people to democracy is undergirded by a certain understanding of history and the inevitability of historical progress; it can function covertly as a critique of Arabs or of Muslims as people who need to modernize, who need to ‘get with the program’ of globalization.”