New Book on the Spirit by John R. Levison

I just picked up John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit (Eerdmans, 2009), a book written by a real expert on the Spirit in early Judaism and early Christianity.  While I have not read the book yet, the argument he is attempting to make is quite paradigm-shifting:

The initial endowment of God’s spirit at birth must not…be understood as an inferior presence, a merely physical reality, in comparison with charismatic endowments, but rather in its own right as a vital and powerful presence with its own supernatural effects…

Gunkel was absolutely justified in identifying early Christian conceptions of the holy spirit with miraculous and mysterious effects. Early Christianity did believe that filling with the spirit was a special endowment, a superadditum, which brought extraordinary abilities in the swells of its powerful wake…

While early Christians put their stock, even their self-definition, on the line in a subsequent experience of the spirit, Israelites did not.  In their narratives, the spirit which effected extraordinary insight was not necessarily the product of a charismatic endowment…

What may be true of early Christian belief cannot be said to characterize all Israelite claims to inspiration, particularly those claims in which the spirit is said to reside within or to fill an individual.

Here is a line from Max Turner’s endorsement: ‘Anyone writing seriously on the spirit in the biblical literature needs now to start with this book…’ – Coming from a leading expert on biblical pneumatology — WOW!

Having looked at Levison’s discussion of NT texts a bit (especially Spirit + cultic imagery in Paul), I wish this book had come out a year earlier so I could have worked through it for the benefit of my doctoral research.

Do check it out HERE.

Insight on Philemon from POxy 1423

I have been thinking about Philemon lately and I was browsing through some documents on the internet and came across a translation of the oxyrhynchus papyri by Grenfell and Hunt (see HERE).  Did Philemon run away having commit some injustice against his master?  Or did he go out to seek mediation for a dispute under appropriate legal guidelines?  Most scholars nowadays lean towards the latter (I think?), but there is some evidence of the commonality of the former.  See this text from POxy. 1423:

‘Flavius Ammonas…to Flavius Dorotheus, officialis, greeting.  I order and depute you to arrest my slave called Magnus, who ran away and is staying at Hermopolis and has carried off certain articles belonging to me, and to bring him as a prisoner together with the head-man of Sesphtha.  This order is valid, and in answer to the formal question I gave my consent.  I, Flavius Ammonas, officialis on the staff of the praefect of Egypt, have made this order.’