He told them: "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things" (Gospel of Luke 24: 46-48)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Did the Apostle Paul corrupt or contribute to the New Testament doctrine of Pneumatology

The greatest contribution to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Bible derives from Pauline theology. Virtually no other writer enriches our understanding on the person and function of the Spirit more than Paul.
Certain questions are however raised as to the correctness of Paul’s description, whether his contribution involves merely a new humanly envisaged concept, or whether Paul provides a further insight of divine inspiration?
According to Turner, various issues may have led to Paul’s expounding contribution to Pneumatology: first and most, the wide time-span in which Paul managed to present his doctrine and furthermore the various circumstances and the themes which are related.[1] Heron proposes another vital issue, that Paul’s reference to the Spirit is richer than the Synoptic Gospels due his theological rather than narrative approach.[2] Others such as Menzies suggest that Paul’s doctrine on the Spirit, as evident from passages such as 1 Cor.6: 9-11, 15: 44-50 and Gal.5: 19-24 ‘find their origin in the mind of Paul.’[3]

The Spirit and Jesus Christ
It is Paul’s equation of Jesus and the Spirit which probably involves and causes the most significant ambiguity and discussion.
Both the Synoptic writers and Paul describe Jesus as being anointed and led by the Spirit (Matt.3: 13-7; 4: 1) (2 Cor.1: 21). Why is there a sudden shift in Pauline theology, from two separate beings to their oneness, the Spirit of Christ (Rom.8: 9) (Phil.1: 19)?[4] Guthrie points out that Christ’s Spirit signifies the duty of the Spirit ‘to act on behalf of the Son’[5] which indeed is in accordance with John 16: 14. But is that all? Paul seems much more explicit about the actual dwelling of Christ in the believer, which is why Dunn seems to imply a dynamic relationship between Jesus and the Spirit, in which the character of Jesus is somehow bestowed upon the Spirit.[6] Turner however, holds the view that the Spirit of Christ proposes Christ’s executive power, and self-revealing presence.[7]
The idea might be ambiguous, particularly in fitting interpretative frameworks as none of the explanations are explicitly found in the text. If Jesus was only a mere created being, the reference would be preposterous. If on the other hand Christ is a separated person within a Trinity, how do we avoid a mixing of Christ and the Spirit?
Here Menzies takes the negative approach and sees this as a sudden theological shift, an idea which was absent among the first Christians; he bases his conclusion mainly upon the silence of the synoptic writers;[8] hence he perceives the problem to be solved by accusing Paul of theological fabrication.
Yet all these propositions need to be assessed. In response to the theological ambiguity, their interpretations and Menzies criticism, Heron seems to present an effective picture in which Paul is not able to equate the Jesus-Spirit relationship more than he can dissolve it;[9] hence the relationship is correctly incomprehensible and the mixing is avoided.
Moreover, contrary to Menzies view, the Christ-Spirit concept was not alien to Matthew’s description. Here Montague makes an interesting observation, he points out that except for Matt. 10: 20 the Spirit is never mentioned as functioning within the disciples; elsewhere the authority, presence and person of Jesus proves sufficient. Even the commission, despite its reference to power and world-mission, does not refer to the Spirit but Jesus being present and all powerful. In other words, Matthew implies that ‘Jesus does not need the Holy Spirit to mediate his presence to the church, for he never really left it’.[10] This does not contradict Pentecost, but might confirm that Paul’s Spirit of Christ was not as remote from the early church as some might assert.
In John 14: 15-31 the same issue is brought up; here Jesus appears separated from the Spirit as he asks the Father to send him. Furthermore, Jesus refers to another ‘allos’ (counsellor), which confirms the Spirit to be another, but of the same kind.[11] Yet chapter fourteen reveals the same incomprehensible ambiguity as Jesus refers to his return to them, which is most probably a reference to the Spirit (v.18) and verse 23 in which Jesus and the Father take dwelling in the believer.
Also Luke, in Acts 16: 7 where he refers to the Spirit of Jesus, provides strong confirmation of this early concept. Here the possibility remains according to Menzies, that the Christian milieu had already been effected by Paul and simply alluded to his teaching.[12] Yet, considering Matthew and John, Menzies proposition is misleading. Indeed Paul himself was influenced by the early followers of Jesus.

The Spirit of prophecy and Soteriology
The main theory depicts the Spirit as the Spirit of prophecy; according to Menzies the Spirit was not necessary for salvation in pre-Pauline theology, but was merely meant for empowering the believer. He proposes that a Spirit of soteriology was virtually unknown even in Jewish writings prior to Paul’s era,[13] who was the first to ‘articulate a soteriological pneumatology’.[14] Horn however, points out that soteriology in relation to the Spirit is clearly perceived through various Old Testament passages, particularly Ez.36: 25-7 which describes, cleansing from sin, a transformation of the heart and the entering of the Spirit.[15] Menzies challenges this argument by pointing out that the context of Ez.36: 25-7 relates to the restoration of Israel and its eschatological bestowal of the Spirit, which alludes to the Spirit of prophecy instead of soteriology and should be seen in the light of Joel 2: 28; hence the renewal alludes to the renewal of the Spirit of prophecy only.[16]
It is indeed a fact that Pentecost is related to Joel 2; furthermore, the Synoptic writers do not particularly relate the Spirit to soteriology but to prophecy, mission and manifestation; this might conclude that Paul has deliberately added to the original doctrine. However, Menzies fails to elaborate on the fact that the context of Ez.36: 25-7, the spiritual transformation, such as the cleansing, the removal of a stubborn heart and the new heart (v. 25-6), is equated with the Spirit that moves the believer to follow the Divine decrees. Here we need to ask whether the Spirit is the Law or whether he secures and increases the effort to complete it. Here Turner seems to be of the opinion, that the prophets predicted a Spirit of prophecy who was also a Spirit of transformation, which in the context appears to be the most accurate view.
Hence what we see in the New Testament is a focus on the Spirit of prophecy, particularly in the Synoptic writings and Acts and the focus on a pneumatological soteriology, which is the focus of Paul. [17]
However Menzies also points out that the context of the prophets (Is.44: 3) indicates that the renewal is located in Israel not gentile territory.[18] Turner responds to this allegation by proposing that Paul described a three-fold renewal, which included personal transformation (2 Cor.5: 17), a share in the blessing of Israel (Rom.11: 11-32) (Eph.2: 11-22) and finally the future glory (Phil.3: 20-21).[19] Hence we may assume that Paul had in mind the future national restoration, yet understood the individual restoration to be the beginning that leads to its culmination.[20]
The reference to the outpouring of the Spirit and Pentecost in the Gospel, in the Acts and Jesus’ own reference to Isaiah 61: 1-3 (Luke 4: 18-9) in which the essentiality of the Spirit is included as a source for restoration, seems to allude to this same renewal; this confirms that Paul was not the inaugurator of this concept.

Paul the Spirit and Law
According to Turner Paul’s teaching on the Spirit and personal sanctification alludes to Jer.31: 31-4, in which the new covenant was to be written on the hearts rather than tablets. It would result in the people knowing God and making the necessity of teaching each other redundant; further it would lead to obedience. Equating Jeremiah’s renewal with Ezekiel 36: 26 provides further insight which elucidates that this renewal will not merely provide information or standard but the inner transformation, which includes a new heart and a new spirit. Interestingly the cause behind the standard and obedient will be the Spirit of God dwelling in them that moves them toward obedience.[21] Hence the context of Ez.36: 27 alludes not only to soteriology but equally to sanctification, that the holy state of the believer will be sustained and productive. Paul makes a great deal out of this in Romans 6-8 and Galatians 4-5, in which the Mosaic Law appears to be excluded. Paul proposes that the Spirit produces holiness rather than the personal effort to abide by the Law. A negative comment from Menzies suggests that Paul may have attempted to undermine the function of the Law.[22] Certainly by assessing the Gospels and Acts, it seems that the Law was still practiced at least among Jewish Christians (Acts 21: 20). However, the Law was not strictly required to be performed by gentile believers (Acts 15: 6-11); furthermore, those acquainted with Scripture knew that the Sinai covenant would initially be succeeded by the New Covenant. Hence contrary to Menzies statement, Paul simply confirms Old Testament teaching and does not undermine the Law.[23]
Thus what is stressed in Paul’s letters is not the rejection of the Law but the vitality of the New Covenant, in which the Spirit somehow succeeds the Law; which indeed is the context of Ez.36: 27.
This is why Paul in the epistle to the Thessalonians describes the Spirit as the Spirit of holiness (1 Thess.4: 8)[24] who easily is grieved by deeds that contradict his nature (Eph.4: 30).
The passages depict therefore the Spirit as morally guiding and teaching. This might also allude to John’s epistle and the reference to the teaching effect of the anointing (1 John 2: 20, 27); which is the factor that distinguishes between a true and false Christian (1 John 3: 10). Indeed Paul states that only those led by the Spirit are the children of God (Rom.8: 14); this alludes strongly to the teachings of John (1 John 3: 4-10), and confirms that Paul and the apostle of John are in agreement.
Furthermore by referring to the Spirit of Jesus indwelling the believer, Paul proposes that the Spirit gradually transforms the Christian into the likeness of Jesus.[25] This might again be a further elaboration on the Spirit’s function, which is less visible in the Gospels. Interestingly here, Jesus described himself to fulfil the Law (Matt.5: 17). The wording ‘I have come’ has often been understood as describing the Christological aspect, someone with the authority even to succeed the Law. Yet if that being the case, the balance becomes obvious, he did not come to destroy the Law, yet he came to succeed it.[26]
Furthermore the call of discipleship which included the baptism into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt.28: 19-20) certainly confirms that religion of God now involves the Son and the Spirit as foundational for the new standard. John’s Gospel in connection to the Spirit of holiness and the believer’s transformation into the likeness of Jesus also points out that the Spirit and holiness are inseparable. In addition the duty of the Spirit is to glorify Christ (John 16: 14); is this an allusion to Jesus’ reference to being glorified in the believer (John 17: 1-2, 10, 24). It is not difficult to perceive certain allusions to Pauline theology here, that something new that impacts internally has succeeded the previous function which simply required the effort of every individual to obey.

The Spirit, the Giver of Life
Paul maintains that the Spirit secures us as a guaranty deposit until glorification (Eph.1: 14). In addition as we have seen, the Spirit also produces holiness (Gal.5: 16-8), hence it becomes obvious that the Spirit is involved in our glorification, which may explain Paul’s wording: ‘…the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life’ (Gal.6: 8). Kregal points out Paul’s illustration of the believer being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.6: 19) to imply that the completion of the temple results in the dwelling of God, a state and inclusion of glory.[27]
Menzies however, seems to maintain that the Spirit being the source of resurrection and glory was an idea founded by Paul as it is absent from the Synoptic Gospels and Acts; furthermore, passages such as Acts 2: 33 only reveal that God was the source of Christ’s resurrection.[28] Paul certainly includes the function of the Spirit to be involved in the resurrection of Christ (Rom.1: 3-4) and the resurrection of the believer (Rom.8: 11) (Phil.3: 31).[29] Hence if Menzies is correct then Paul did envisage a new idea. However Menzies reference to the Synoptic Gospels does not provide explicit proof to confirm his case; particularly since the reference to the actual resurrection is fairly lesser than in the rest of the New Testament. Furthermore, neither the Synoptic Gospels nor the Book of Acts expound on the doctrine of the resurrection, as in the Epistles; indeed this was Heron’s proposition which envisaged that Paul’s description was richer, since Paul’s contribution was doctrinal rather than a narrative approach.[30]
We also need to consider that the Spirit in relation to the resurrection was not a foreign idea to the early Jews. Both Menzies and Turner confirm that the Spirit was linked to the resurrection in inter-testament texts. Here Menzies refers to the book of Wisdom 8: 17; 9: 17 in which the righteous make it to immorality by receiving the Spirit and rabbinic sources which base the concept upon Old Testament texts such as Ez.37: 14.[31] Hence the Spirit as the source of resurrection is an Old Testament idea and not a matter conjectured by Paul.

The claim that Paul invented new ideas might be an overstatement! Certainly Paul extends the matter like no other Biblical author; yet when we relate the Pauline doctrine of the Spirit to the Gospels and the Old Testament, it might be more correct to conclude that Paul who expounds upon the theology of the Spirit, engages not in conjecture but particularly in elaboration and utilizes Old Testament terminology and ideas as well as concepts already known among the early Jews and Christians.
Thus while Paul provides a much deeper and extended insight into the realm of the Spirit, there is no reason to conclude that his teaching was merely a product of his own motive, mind and reason.

[1] Max Turner, The Holy Spirit and the Spiritual Gifts Then and Now, England, Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1996: 103
[2] Alasdair Heron, The Holy Spirit, London, Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1983: 44-5
[3] Robert P. Menzies, The Development of Early Christian Pneumatology: with special reference to Luke-Acts, England:
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991: 302
[4] James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, XPRESS Prints/SCM Press, England, London, 1995: 318-19
[5] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology, England, Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press: 1981: 551
[6] Dunn, 1995: 325
[7] Turner, 1996: 133-4
[8] Menzies, 1991: 295
[9] Heron, 1983: 47
[10] George T. Montague, Holy Spirit: Growth of a Biblical Tradition, Peabody, Hendrickson Publisher: 1998: 308
[11] Turner, 1996: 79
[12] Menzies, 1991: 294
[13] ibid, 1991: 282-3
[14] Turner, 1996: 109
[15] Turner, 1996: 110
[16] Menzies, 1991: 300-1
[17] Max Turner, Power from on High: The Spirit of Israel’s Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts, Sheffield: Sheffield
Academic Press: 1996: 351-2
[18] Menzies, 1991: 300-1
[19] Turner, 1996: 120
[20] ibid, 1996: 120
[21] ibid, 1996: 114-5
[22] Menzies, 1991 295
[23] George A.F. Knight, A Christian Theology of the Old Testament, England, Carlisle, Cumbria, 1998: 330-1
[24] Montague, 1998: 128-9
[25] Dunn, 1995: 320-21
[26] Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew, Vol.1, The Christbook Matthew 1-12; Dallas, London, Vancouver, Melbourne,
Word Publishing, 1987: 166-7
[27] Bickersteth, Edward, Henry, The Holy Spirit and His Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501, Kregel
Publications: 1976: 189-97
[28] Menzies, 1991, 294
[29] Turner, 1996: 124-5
[30] Heron, 1983: 44-5
[31] Menzies, 1991: 294; see also Turner, 1996: 124-5



Bickersteth, Edward, Henry, The Holy Spirit and His Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501, Kregel Publications: 1976

Bruner, Frederick, Dale, Matthew, Vol.1, The Christbook Matthew 1-12; Dallas, London, Vancouver, Melbourne: 1987

Dunn, James, Jesus and the Spirit, XPRESS Prints/SCM Press, England, London, 1995

Guthrie, Donald, New Testament Theology, Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1981

Heron, Alasdair, The Holy Spirit, London, Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1983

Knight, George A.F, A Christian Theology of the Old Testament, England, Carlisle, Cumbria, 1998

Menzies, Robert P, The Development of Early Christian Pneumatology: with special reference to Luke-Acts, England: Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991

Montague, George T, Holy Spirit: Growth of a Biblical Tradition, Peabody, Hendrickson Publisher: 1998

Turner, Max, Power from on High: The Spirit of Israel’s Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press: 1996

Turner, Max, The Holy Spirit and the Spiritual Gifts Then and Now, England, Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1996

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