Levison, John R. (2009) Filled with the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: William BEerdmans Publishing Co.

According to Jack Levison it is a Greco-Roman understanding of prophets that depicts them as “Fiery-eyed, inflamed, drunk with the spirit, bounding and bouncing about, agitated by the onslaught of enthusiasm” while pre-exilic Israelite prophets have “no bristling hair, no ecstatic transport, no inflammation, no appearance of drunkenness”, save Ezekiel (p. 176) In Chapter Two of Part Two, titled “Spirit and the Allure of Ecstasy”, he shows that much like Ben Sira who had a “disdain for divination” so the early prophets of Israel (p. 154). It is the Greeks and Romans who are obsessed with possessed oracles like Delphi.

Philo and Josephus speak of Israel’s prophets in the same tone, but Levison sees this as their attempt to “import Greco-Romans conceptions of inspiration into Israelite literature” (p. 176).

But in the Hebrew Scriptures the prophetic inspiration was much more anthropological. It came from within the prophet. One juxtaposition of phenomenon would be how Greco-Roman prophets become possessed to the point of forgetting the oracles once they have been delivered (because the external spirit overrides the mind) whereas the Hebrew prophets recall their prophecies.

I found this chapter interesting because if I understand it correctly it seems to say that the pneumatology with which Christians are most familiar is more or less rooted in the Greco-Roman vision of pneuma rather than the Hebraic. Of course, I think Levison will show that post-exilic Jewish literature moves the direction of Greco-Roman literature. Nevertheless, this has important implications for our understanding of early Israel, her interaction with and influence from the pagan world, and how this may have come to impact later Judaism and Christianity.


See previous entries:
– Introduction (here)

– Prescript to Part One (here)

– Part One, Chapter One (here)

– Part One, Chapter Two (here)

– Part One, Chapter Three (here)

– Postscript to Part One and the Prescript to Part Two (here)

– Part Two, Chapter One (here)