[Elijah's spirit] : the Elijah-Elisha succession in light of Max Weber's understanding of charismatic authority and institution building.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Building on Max Weber's understanding of charismatic authority and its relationship with institution building, this study investigates the features of the immediate prophetic succession of Elijah by Elisha, the only clear case of prophetic succession reported in the Hebrew Bible. The contrast and comparison of the Elijah-Elisha succession with other kinds of succession, such as the emphasis on hereditary succession for kingship and the priesthood, point up other aspects of the Elijah-Elisha succession as it relates to the classic charismatic character of Israelite prophecy. In the Introduction, the basic issues in connection with prophetic succession are delineated. The following brief review of the history of research sets the stage for the careful analysis of the charismatic succession of Moses by Joshua and Elijah by Elisha. Chapter Two addresses Weber's special association of charisma with institution building, while taking into consideration various critiques and modifications of Weber's theory as offered by social theorists such as Reinhard Bendix, Edward Shils, S. N. Eisenstadt, and Julien Freund, as well as the work of the biblical scholar, Rodney R. Hutton. Chapter Three applies Weberian theory to the matter of charismatic succession. The biblical tradition uses the terminology of apprenticeship as a basis for the preparation of a potential successor, particularly in the traditions of the relationship between Moses and Joshua. In Chapter Four, the prophetic bands from the time of Samuel and again associated especially with Elisha, suggest attempts to institutionalize prophecy that had limited success. The careful delineation in the tradition of the successful succession by Elisha to the prophetic role of Elijah, presented in Chapter Five, begins with Weber's own discussion of the relationship of the Elijah to Elisha and presents a careful analysis of the way the tradition depicts the relationship of Elijah to Elisha. As the comments in the concluding chapter indicate, the tradition also carefully presented the Elijah-Elisha succession as a one-generation matter, as there is no suitable candidate to succeed Elisha. This study provides a preview of the continuing fragility of charismatically endorsed institutionalized leadership in the subsequent developments of biblical religion.