Before the reader can enter into Part 1 of the book (which I have aforementioned as the section on Israelite Literature) there is a prescript to set the stage. In this prescript Levison once again returns to Gunkle’s context. He notes how unpopular some of Gunkle’s conclusions were at that time. There were scholars like Albrecht Ritschl who understood the spirit to be “the moral sphere of human attainment” (3) and F.C. Baur who understood the spirit to be “The Principle of Christian Consciousness” (4).
Gunkle on the other hand understood the activities of the spirit as reference to something “supernatural and hence divine.” (5) In other words the spirit was not something that could be co-opted into language supporting human advancement. It had to do with an act of the divine.
The spirit was in a relationship of “cause and effect” rather than simply for “grasping God’s plan for the world”. (5-6) This was most evident in the act of glossolalia. This did not come from human origins or potential but rather was an “effect of the spirit”. (6) According to Levison it was an accomplishment of Gunkle to cause “the transference of the spirit from the realm of the know to the mysterious, from the arena of human potential to that of an overwhelming force”. (7)
This caused a problem for Pneumatology that Levison sought to address. It is evident that there is an association with the “spirit of life, the spirit that gives breath”. (7) This assertion will become more evident at Levison works through Israelite literature. Unfortunately, it seems that since Gunkle (and I am more than willing to be corrected on this since I am trying to recount Levison’s history rather than primary sources, which may in turn lead me to misrepresent Levison himself) the pendulum swung to far away from the spirit in association with a life-principle. There became a “bifurcation” between the spirit as life-giving and the spirit as “charisma and ecstasy”. (11)
Levison asks, “Did Israelites believe that the spirit which inspired Samson to slay enemies with the jawbone of an ass or ecstatic prophets to writhe upon the ground was not as physical as the breathing within?” (Levison does not think so. He sets the discussion with this question: “What is the relationship between the spirit that human being possess by dint of birth–the life principle or breath within–and the spirit that exhibits awesome effects? (11)
In part 1 Levison hopes to answer this question from the perspective of Israelite literature. This begins with his desire to “redraw the relationship between the initial endowment of the spirit and what Gunkle would refer to as the mysterious effects of the spirit”. For Levison, “The two, the so-called life principle and the spirit of God, I am convinced, were understood to be one and the same.” His second goal is “to reframe Israelite conceptions of the spirit without recourse to anachronism”. In other words, he want to let Pneumatology unfold without reading Israelite literature through later Jewish and Christian literature (especially patristic literature). He disagrees with the assertion that “anyone said to be filed with God’s presence or to have God’s spirit within must have received a charismatic endowment or a superadditum”. (12)
I know this sketch of Levison may come across as vague and unreadable. I hope you will stick with me. In some sense unfamiliarity with the scholars who Levison is interacting with have handicapped me. It makes it hard to expand with addition, explanatory comments. Hopefully, once he begins to actually engage the biblical literature, I will find more comfortable footing for my own comments.
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