De-Spiritualizing Pneuma Modernity, Religion, and Anachronism in the Study of Paul

Academic Article


  • This paper is one of several presented at the 2010sbl naasrsession in Atlanta concerning anachronism and translation in the study of early Christianity. It argues that the concept ofpneuma’s central importance to Paul’s thought makes it a prime candidate to remain untranslated in scholarship. Most scholarship onpneumatranslates this word ‘Spirit’, which imports normative Christian theological implications. This reflects a modern, Western understanding of religion that is derived from thinkers like Kant and Descartes, which privileges dualisms of mind/body and material/spirit, and which foregrounds the importance of a private, internal, subjective religious experience anachronistic relative to Paul. I redress this through a theoretical shift toward contextualizing Paul’s understanding ofpneumaas a physiological process with analogues in ancient Greco-Roman medical thought. This approach is briefly compared to other influential accounts ofpneumain New Testament studies, and subsequently treats several Pauline passages within this new lens.
  • Authors


    Publication Date

  • 2014
  • Has Subject Area


  • Paul's letters
  • early Christianity
  • pneuma
  • theory of religion
  • translation
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 365
  • End Page

  • 383
  • Volume

  • 26
  • Issue

  • 4-5