Paul
in Making and remaking saints in nineteenth-century Britain
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‘Experience’ became a keyword in the science and history of religion and in Protestant apologetics during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, allowing Christian teachings that had been discredited to be restated as a ‘direct rendering in intellectual terms of religious experience’. This chapter argues that Paul became a particularly suggestive symbol of this turn to experience. All debates about sainthood involve the question of how to relate the experiences of exceptional individuals to human beings as a whole. Paul was both within and outside such debates, because his name was shorthand not just for a human being but for a cluster of proof texts and by extension for the authority of Scripture. The more that Paul’s mind could be understood as the product of a particular time and place, the harder it became to present him as a timeless authority. This chapter tracks the shift away from Protestant enlightenment views of Paul that portrayed him as a sensible man to whom extraordinary things had happened. By the later nineteenth century Paul disappeared as an authority but was reinstated as a more complex figure whose experiences bespoke the ways in which the seen and unseen, the finite and infinite could mingle in human experience.

Editor: Gareth Atkins
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