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Charism, from Greek χαρίσμα "charisma", singular χαρισμάτον charismaton, means "gift", a special endowment or ability. The plural form is χαρισμάτα charismata, from which comes the term "charismatic".

The ancient peoples interpreted charisms as not originating in the person having such a gift or gifts, but as given from another source outside the person, as usually having a supernatural origin.

Charismatic persons have an uncommon personal gift of attractive magnetism or charm which inspires admiration, and sometimes also confident trust, and occasionally an influential social charisma, a personal quality usually attributed to persons with natural leadership ability who have a gift of arousing fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm by their personal appearance, their dress and manner, and their rhetorical skills, a power the ancient Romans called auctoritas, and which sometimes included extraordinary, even astonishing, abilities, physical or mental, or both combined. Such persons are highly gifted, having special gifts.

Powerful positions of authority have been believed to endow persons appointed or elected to their position or office with the charism of power of government and even dictatorship in organizations, politics, organized labor and organized crime. Many ancient monarchs were believed to be, or believed themselves to be, gods, descendants of gods, or possessed by the genius of a sponsoring tutelary god or spirit which bestowed on them extraordinary authority and ability to command. Unusually talented and inspiring military commanders, both good and evil, have been styled "charismatic" leaders of thousands and millions.

In Judaism special persons were anointed by the One true God with extraordinary authority and powers of prophecy and working of miracles. These are meshiach in Hebrew, and christos in Greek, both terms meaning "specially anointed" by chrismation of the Lord, being thus "christed" and appointed. Examples from the Old Testament are the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph; Moses and Joshua; the High Priests, Aaron and his sons, and the twenty-four courses of priests designated by Zadok and Ahimelech[1]; skilled artists, such Bezalel and Oholiab[2], and Hiram of Tyre[3], and singers, such as the sons of Asaph and Heman[4]; the Judges, such as Ehud, Deborah, Gideon and Samson; Prophets[5], such as Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and The Twelve; and Kings, such as Saul, David and Solomon, and Cyrus the Great[6]; also Esther, Judith, and the Maccabees[7].

In Christianity, the one supremely Anointed One, the Christed One, is Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, Who has sent his Holy Spirit on his Church[8]. Various charismatic gifts, charisms, are firmly believed to be bestowed on baptised believers by God the Holy Spirit as unmerited gifts differently distributed by Him freely to the various members of the body of Christ, not all having the same gifts, but all as from the one Spirit of God. Saint Paul gives a detailed listing and treatment of the charisms of the Holy Spirit in his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapters twelve through fourteen (1 Corinthians 12–14).

Representatives of the Charismatic movement and the Holiness Movement claim that worshipers can be specially "anointed" with the Holy Ghost in an ecstatic outpouring of speaking in tongues and miracles of healing, and that persons specially chosen by God are anointed with charisms empowering them to be able to fulfill various missions of service, being "called" by God. Such callings vary from the extraordinary, such as evangelist, missionary, Christian apologist, to the mundane, such as research, medicine, health care, counselling, business and politics, even the calling to be married and raising children, including adoption.

In the various denominations and churches of Christianity, those men and women who feel called by God to ministry, priesthood, and religious life as a Brother or Sister, Monk or Nun, are usually guided by a Vocations Counsellor, to carefully discern the genuineness of their calling from God, as a safeguard against self-deception[9].


  1. 1 Chronicles 24
  2. Exodus 31:1-11
  3. 1 Kings 7:13-14
  4. 1 Chronicles 25
  5. The Hebrew word for prophet is "Navi" / "Nebi" נביא. The section of the Hebrew Tanakh containing the Prophets is called (plural) Nevi'im.
  6. Isaiah 45:1-6
  7. 1 Maccabees 5:55-62 "the family of those men through whom deliverance was given to Israel"
  8. 1 Peter 1:10-12; John 14:15-17; 16:12-15
  9. See 1 John 4:1

See also


Star Scout


Idiot savant




Personality cult


Routinization of charisma



Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Fruits of the Spirit

Baptism in the Holy Spirit


Anointing of the Sick