The Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles


James D.G. Dunn is Lightfoot Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Durham University, England, and one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world today. His many other books include the New International Greek Testament Commentary volume on Colossians and Philemon; The Oral Gospel Tradition; Jesus, Paul, and the Gospels; The Theology of Paul the Apostle; and the Christianity in the Making trilogy.


Some years back I was invited to Rustenberg in South Africa to preach a series of sermons during Pentecost. in preparation for that series, I landed upon one of my favorite quotations about the Holy Spirit and made it central to the sermon series. I found the quotation to be from my doctoral supervisor at the University of Nottingham, James D. G. Dunn:

The Spirit of God “transcends human ability and transforms hu
man inability.”

When I wrote down the quotation in order to use it as an important reminder in each of the sermons, rather than recording the source of the quotation carefully, as I would have done if writing a book, I jotted it down in the margin of my notes for the first sermon. Unfortunately, that page got wet, and the citation went invisible behind a smear of the ink from my fountain pen. Later, when I was writing a book in which I wanted to use that quotation again, I spent a couple hours combing through one Dunn book after another and then spent more time in one of them, convinced as I was that it came from Jimmy’s big fat book on Paul’s theology. It was not to be found, and it was frustrating because I had put the line to memory (not that I didn’t have to pause at times to make sure I got it right).

My last effort to locate the precise spot was to write to Jimmy and see if he could recall where he had written the line. His response:

Good question, but one I can’t recall. I said quite a lot along the
same lines in Jesus and the Spirit, and probably also in my early
ExpT pieces on “Rediscovering the Spirit” (1972, 1982), which
come from our time together in Nottingham, when it is likely that
you heard me on the subject. Sorry I can’t be more help.

His response still makes me chuckle, for if the author can’t remember his own lines, how could I? I gave up, hoping I could somehow . . .

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