The Power Of Saving Wisdom -- By: Cornelis Bennema

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 52:2 (NA 2001)
Article: The Power Of Saving Wisdom
Author: Cornelis Bennema


The Power Of Saving Wisdom1

Cornelis Bennema

Salvation is one of the most fundamental concepts of the Christian faith. Questions such as ‘What is salvation?’, ‘How does one enter into salvation?’ and ‘How does one stay in salvation?’ must be answered adequately in order to understand the Christian faith. To these important questions a further one is added, namely, ‘What is the role of the Spirit in all this?’ This thesis examines the Fourth Gospel to address these questions and looks especially at the concept of W/wisdom (wisdom being that what personified Wisdom possesses or gives) because this concept is found to be significant in explaining the relationship between Spirit and salvation.

Chapter 1 surveys the contribution of contemporary Johannine scholarship to our questions, and the major players are Bultmann, Porsch, Loader and Turner (but also Forestell and Hamid-Khani). It is concluded that a more complete model of Johannine soteriology is missing, that Johannine scholarship has not adequately explored the soteriological functions of the Spirit (in relation to W/wisdom), and that it is necessary to examine the extent to which the Jewish wisdom traditions may function as a possible background for the relationship between John’s pneumatology and soteriology. Hence, the aim of the thesis is to elucidate the soteriological function of the Spirit in the Fourth Gospel along the trajectory of W/wisdom.

In chapter 2, as a possible conceptual background for aspects of Johannine pneumatology, the representative Jewish wisdom writings are selected (Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, Philo and some Qumran literature) and their nexus of Spirit-W/wisdom–‘salvation’ examined. From this investigation it is concluded that Wisdom is the source of life/salvation, in that Wisdom’s revelatory teaching contains saving wisdom-knowledge-truth that leads to (eternal) life/salvation, and the Spirit is the agent of salvation, in that the Spirit mediates this life to people. It is suggested that sapiential Judaism understood

‘salvation’ as an intensification of that work of the Spirit that is already immanent to a person, namely, the mediation of life and wisdom. This saving work of the Spirit was sometimes/often experienced bringing new qualities of understanding, life and relationship with God. Hence, a model of salvation is proposed in terms of various degrees of intensity and/or quality of divine Spirit and W/wisdom. By virtue of their creation, people have Spirit, a certain measure of wisdom, and the cognitive ability to process wisdom (the ‘mind’). ‘Salvation’, then, is a sufficient...

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