Religious Experience in Mediterranean Antiquity

Introduction to the Special Issue


  • István Czachesz University of Heidelberg



Cognitive Historiography, religious experience


This Special Issue of the Journal of Cognitive Historiography presents studies of religious experience in the ancient world, with an emphasis on textual interpretation and biblical literature. The papers were originally presented in a thematic session co organized by the “Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Early Christianity” and “Mind, Society and Religion in the Biblical World” programme units of the Society of Biblical Literature at the 2014 Annual Meeting (San Diego, California, November 22-25).

Author Biography

István Czachesz, University of Heidelberg

István Czachesz is Heisenberg Fellow and Privatdozent of New Testament at the University of Heidelberg.


Apud Peláez, I. E. 2015. “Ayahuasca from Peru to Uruguay: Ritual Design and Redesign through a Distributed Cognition Approach”. Anthropology of Consciousness 26(1): 1–27.

Batluck, M. 2011. “Religious Experience in New Testament Research”. Currents in Biblical Research 9(3): 339–63.

Cole, M., and Y. Engeström. 1993. “A Cultural Historical Approach to Distributed Cognition”. In Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, ed. G. Salomon, 1–46. Cambridge; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Craffert, P. F. 2008. The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books.

Curci, A., and T. Lanciano. 2009. “Features of Autobiographical Memory: Theoretical and Empirical Issues in the Measurement of Flashbulb Memory”. Journal of General Psychology 136(2): 129–52.

Czachesz, I. 2012. “Filled with New Wine? Religious Experience and Social Dynamics in the Corinthian Church”. In Experientia, Volume 2: Linking Text and Experience, eds. C. Shantz and R. A. Werline, 71–90. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature.

—2013. “Jesus’ Religious Experience in the Gospels: Toward a Cognitive Neuroscience Approach”. In Jesus – Gestalt und Gestaltungen: Rezeptionen des Galila?ers in Wissenschaft, Kirche und Gesellschaft: Festschrift fu?r Gerd Theissen zum 70. Geburtstag, eds. P. Gemu?nden, D. G. Horrell and M. Küchler, 569–96. Go?ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

—2016. “Religious Experience Behind the Account of Isaiah’s Ascent to Heaven: Insights from Cognitive Science”. In The Ascension of Isaiah, eds. J. N. Bremmer, T. R. Karmann and T. Nicklas, 235–57. Leuven: Peeters.

Davila, J. R. 2002. “Shamanic Initiatory Death and Resurrection in the Hekhalot Literature”. In Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World, eds. P. Mirecki and M. Meyer, 283–302. Leiden; Boston: Brill.

Flannery, F., C. Shantz and R. A. Werline. 2008. Experientia, Volume 1: Inquiry into Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Early Christianity, eds. F. Flannery, C. Shantz and R. A. Werline. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature.

Hurtado, L. W. 2000. “Religious Experience and Religious Innovation in the New Testament”. The Journal of Religion 80(2): 183–205.

Johnson, L. T. 1998. Religious Experience in Earliest Christianity: A Missing Dimension in New Testament Studies. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

McCauley, R. N. 2001. “Explanatory Pluralism and the Co-evolution of Theories of Science”. In Philosophy and the Neurosciences: a Reader, eds. W. Bechtel, P. Mandik, J. Mundale and R. S. Stufflebeam, 431–56. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell.

McNamara, P. H. 2009. The Neuroscience of Religious Experience. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Moulines, C. 2006. “Ontology, Reduction, Emergence: A General Frame”. Synthese 151(3): 313–23.

Pilch, J. J. 1996. “Altered States of Consciousness: A ‘Kitbashed’ Model”. Biblical Theology Bulletin 26: 133–38.

—2011. Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak Experiences in the Biblical World. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Pyysiäinen, I. 2011. “Reduction and Explanatory Pluralism in the Cognitive Science of Religion”. In Changing Minds: Religion and Cognition Through the Ages, eds. I. Czachesz and T. Biró, 15–29. Leuven: Peeters.

Räisänen, H. 1999. “Tradition, Experience, Interpretation: A Dialectical Model for Describing the Development of Religious Thought”. In Approaching Religion, ed. T. Ahlbäck, 215–26. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International.

Räisänen, H. 2000. Beyond New Testament Theology: a Story and a Programme (2nd edn). London: SCM Press.

Schacter, D. L. 1995. Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Schacter, D. L., and D. R. Addis. 2007. “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Constructive Memory: Remembering the Past and Imagining the Future”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 362(1481): 773–86.

Schacter, D. L., and S. D. Slotnick. 2004. “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Distortion”. Neuron 44(1): 149–60.

Shantz, C. 2009. Paul in Ecstasy: The Neurobiology of the Apostle’s Life and Thought. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Shantz, C., and R. A. Werline, eds. 2012. Experientia, Volume 2: Linking Text and Experience. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature.

Sørensen, J., and K. L. Nielbo. 2013. “The Experimental Study of Religion: or There and Back Again”. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion 1(2): 215–32.

Stone, M. E. 2003. “A Reconsideration of Apocalyptic Visions”. Harvard Theological Review 96(2): 167–80.

Theissen, G. 2007. Erleben und Verhalten der ersten Christen: Eine Psychologie des Urchristentums. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus.

—2013. “Paulus und die Mystik: Der eine und einzige Gott und die Transformation des Menschen”. Zeitschrift Für Theologie Und Kirche 110(3): 263–90.

Walmsley, J. 2010. “Emergence and Reduction in Dynamical Cognitive Science”. New Ideas in Psychology 28(3): 274–82.

Wimsatt, W. 2006. “Reductionism and Its Heuristics: Making Methodological Reductionism Honest”. Synthese 151(3): 445–75.



How to Cite

Czachesz, I. (2016). Religious Experience in Mediterranean Antiquity: Introduction to the Special Issue. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 2(1), 5–13.