James R. Harrison

Paul and the Ancient Celebrity Circuit

The Cross and Moral Transformation

[Paulus und die Kreise antiker Prominenz. Das Kreuz und moralische Verwandlung.]

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Published in English.
In this study, James R. Harrison compares the modern cult of celebrity to the quest for glory in late republican and early imperial society. He shows how Paul's ethic of humility, based upon the crucified Christ, stands out in a world obsessed with mutual comparison, boasting, and self-sufficiency.
The modern cult of celebrity, commencing with Garibaldi, Byron, and Whitman, is compared to the quest for glory in late republican and early imperial Roman society. Studies based on the documentary and literary sources – including the »great man,« the elite quest for civic honour, the Mediterranean athletic ideal, the ethical curriculum of the gymnasium, and local association values – provide the basis for James R. Harrison to assess the ancient preoccupation with fame, hierarchy, and status. He shows how Paul's gospel of the crucified Christ stood out in a culture obsessed with mutual comparison, boasting, and self-sufficiency. It departed from the self-exalting mores of classical culture and enshrined humility and other-centeredness in the western intellectual tradition. As such, the soteriological power of the cross became an impetus not only for individual moral transformation but also for social change.

James R. Harrison Born 1952; 1976 BADipEd; 1989 MA; 1997 PhD (Macquarie University); 2002–12 Head of the School of Theology, Wesley Institute, Sydney, Australia; currently Research Director, Sydney College of Divinity, Macquarie Park, Australia.


The following reviews are known:

In: The Bible Today — March 2020, S. 138 (Donald Senior)
In: Bulletin for Biblical Research — 31 (2021), pp. 111–114 (Eckhard J. Schnabel)
In: Religious Studies Review — 47 (2021), pp. 379–380 (Philip Richardson)
In: New Testament Abstracts — 65 (2021), p. 141
In: Theologische Literaturzeitung — 145 (2020), pp. 1077–1079 (Martin Ebner)
In: Jahrbuch f.Liturgik u.Hymnologie — 60 (2021), p. 123 (Helmut Schwier)
In: Themelios — (Jackson Wu)