Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
Craig S. Keener. The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts: Divine Purity and Power. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997. 282 pp. $24.95.
Keener’s previous publications include the IVP Background Commentary as well as various studies on marriage and the place of women in the church. In all of these publications his attention to detail merits careful consideration. This also holds true for the present work.
The dissertation from which the present work is developed is The Function of Johannine Pneumatology in the Context of Late First Century Judaism (Ph.D., Duke University, 1991). It shows Keener’s well-justified and developed interest in reading the NT against its background. It is also here that the present work displays its strengths: the author makes extensive and informed use of background sources (especially from Judaism).
Keener’s central thesis (cf. his introduction on pp. 1-5) is that pneumatology in Judaism (from about 300 BC-AD 300) features a dual emphasis on: (1) “purification” as a) regeneration, b) ethical conduct, c) the “indwelling Spirit mediating God’s presence”; and (2) “prophecy” as a) predicting the future, b) supernatural knowledge, as well as c) “inspired exposition of Scripture” (is speaking and writing God’s word not to be included?). According to Keener, this dual emphasis was absorbed into the pneumatology of John the Baptist and the early church and further developed both in experience (including “revelatory experience” and ethical life in the presence of Christ) and teaching (various aspects of “prophecy”). Early Christianity may thus be characterized as the community of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the community of the “new age.” And, while these two major strands identified by Keener are distinguishable, they are much more interconnected in the gospels and Acts than in Judaism.
In the following presentation and critique, I will focus on the “prophecy” part of Keener’s argument, since it is here that his thesis calls for major clarification. (The “purification” aspect is well argued and less complicated; note Keener’s emphasis on the presence of Christ in “purification”; “regeneration”; the fact that true cleansing occurs through the death of Christ [p. 162]; the Spirit that purifies [p. 215]).
Keener’s two-part approach may be simple, but his undifferentiated “prophecy”-category obscures the crucial distinction between “prophecy as speaking the Word of God” and “personal prophetic foreknowledge” or “insight,” not competing with Scripture, the latter of which Keener rightly shows to have existed among various groups in intertestamental and Rabbinic Judaism. There is no question that in intertestamental Judaism “prophecy” as “predicting” a future event, a...
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