Filled with the Spirit by John R. Levison

As I read through the first chapter of John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit there was several occasions when I realized there are important aspects of Pneumatology that many of the scholars that I have read have overlooked altogether. In this chapter he emphasizes how the spirit is essential to the life of human, animals, and creation in general. He begins by noting the connection between the adam (human) and the adamah (earth/dust). What makes Adam more than dust is the breath of God (Gen. 2.7).

Both humans and animals (Gen. 2.19) have their source and destination from and toward the earth. The pattern is “dust then life then dust” (15). In part, what makes humans live is the spirit. When God determines that the life span of humans will shorten it is because “my spirit shall not abide in mortals forever” because “they are flesh” (Gen. 6.3). This is so for all creation for “everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen. 6.17) (16).

Rarely does it seem that many think of the sustaining force of humanity and all creation as the S/spirit of God. It is most evident in early Israelite Pneumatology that this was so. Levison does a good job at pointing out the seemingly obvious. As a reader it immediately made me think about specific elements of Pauline and Johannine Pneumatology that it seems many New Testament scholars overlook–but that is a subject for a later post.

The remainder of this chapter is dedicated to showing how the spirit = life for humans, animals, and all creation theme reappears in places like the Book of Job, the Book of Ecclesiastes, and in several Psalms; most notably Ps. 104.29-30. In each of these instances nothing can survive without the spirit. Often many theologians have made distinctions between the human spirit in an anthropological sense and the S/spirit of God. It seems to me that Levison wants to narrow the gap and he is justified when using these passages.

For Levison, “Death is nothing less than the hiding of God’s face, the extraction of God’s spirit, and a return to dust.” The spirit of God brings life back to humans. Likewise, “The sending of God’s spirit creates the animals and renews the face of the ground.” (26)

I won’t go into each and every passage that Levison explores but I will say there is a theme in Israelite literature that he has spotted that is impossible to ignore. God’s S/spirit is what determines the sustainability of humanity and creation in general. It will be interesting to see how he traces this theme from here into the Wisdom literature.