Power from on High: The Spirit of Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts

By Fee, Gordon D. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Power from on High: The Spirit of Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts


Fee, Gordon D., Journal of Biblical Literature


Power from an High: The Spirit in Israel's Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts, by Max Turner. journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 9. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996. Pp. 511. E30.00/$45.00 (paper).

This engaging study is a culmination of the nearly twenty years that Max Turner, Senior Lecturer in New Testament at London Bible College, has devoted to Lukan pneumatology. Picking up the main thrust of his own dissertation (1980), but now in light of the debate in the intervening years, Turner is a sure guide through both the pneumatological texts in Luke-Acts and the massive secondary literature. His primary conclusions take a somewhat middle road in the debate: (1) that Luke indeed understands the Spirit as the "Spirit of prophecy," promised in Joel 2:28-30 and reflected in pre-Christian Judaism; (2) that although the Spirit plays a primary missional role in Luke-Acts (Acts 1:8), this includes the (multifaceted) ongoing life of the people of God in the world (proclamation, prophecy, communal joy, miracles, holy living, etc.); (3) that Acts 2:38-39 functions as a norm, in the sense that all believers are expected to receive the Spirit as part of the conversion-initiation process (and is thus not a donum superadditum); and (4) that underlying all of this is the Spirit's role as a key player in Luke's larger theological concern that sees Christ and the church as fulfilling the promised restoration (salvation) of Israel-in this sense thus including a soteriological dimension as well.

To get there Turner leads us first through a helpful discussion (chapters 1-2) of the literature from the history of religions school up to the present. At issue in the debate, stemming from H. von Baer's 1926 response to H. Gunkel and H. Leisegang, is whether the Spirit in Luke-Acts is to be understood primarily as missional or as offering "eschatological sonship" (= soteriological/ethical), which tended to evolve into a "both/and, either/or" debate as well. Since Turner's conclusions are "both/and," he chooses J. D. G. Dunn (soteriological/ethical through Pauline eyes) and E. Schweizer and R. Menzies (missional = prophetic speech but not miracles) as his primary sparring partners (although by no means exclusively)-especially Menzies, both because of his thorough analysis of the intertestamental texts, and because he arrived at what his thesis aimed at: that the traditional Pentecostal understanding of the Spirit as a donum superadditum is Luke's own theological outlook.

We are then led (chapters 3-5) through a (re)examination of the "Spirit of prophecy" in pre-Christian Judaism, in which Turner demonstrates the significant, but finally unsatisfactory, handling of these data by Menzies. The evidence seems clear that the "Spirit of prophecy" cannot be limited in these texts to only prophetic speech.

The rest of the book (pp. 140-427) is a methodical trek over the much-traveled turf of the texts themselves. Chapters 6-10 take up the question of the Spirit and Jesus (including Pentecost, because of the "enthronement" of the Messiah in Acts 2:33-36, who pours out the Spirit on the church), while chapters 11-13 explore the texts in Acts once more. …

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