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

In Part Two, Chapter Three “Spirit and Inspired Knowledge”, Jack Levison shows us that not all works of spirit were understood to be ecstatic. Often spirit was perceived as more like enlightenment. The recipient remains aware of everything while spirit increases his knowledge.

The prophet par excellence was Moses. Levison notes that in the Life of Moses there is a sense in which Moses inspiration was not some sort of rapture away from logic, but instead heightened insight. (pp. 178-180). The same can be said of Socrates’ daimonion whose inspiration does not remove Socrates from reality, but helps him to better perceive it (pp. 180-181). Others with similar experiences include accounts of Abraham, Daniel, Qumran’s Teacher of Righteousness, the prophet Ezekiel (who is often to proto-type of ecstatic prophets), Philo of Alexandria, and the “Ezra” of 4 Ezra. (pp. 178-198)

This characters show that in both Greco-Roman and Jewish literature we find an inspiration of spirit that is very calm: a sense of philosophical awareness, an enhanced ability to understand and interpret holy Scripture, and so forth. This contrast the idea that all prophetic experiences must be mystical and other worldly.

As I read this I thought a lot about 1 Cor. 12-14 (which Levison will eventually address). It seems that for Paul he was open to experiences like glossolalia that seem to be ecstatic as well as things like “word of wisdom” and “word of knowledge” that are very simple and that may include something as common place as deep philosophical insight, a enhanced skill in interpreting and applying Scripture, or even the ability to peer into the life of another with guidance and care.

Did early Christian Pneumatology grasp many of the various pneumatological understandings of both the Jewish and the pagan world? Did the Spirit move in such a way that many across the Roman Empire would have understood their experiences to reflect various “spirit” moments, yet Paul ties these into the work of the Spirit of God? This is one of the great benefits of reading Jack’s book (even if I did begin in May, 2010): It causes you to think deeply about Pneumatology.  I don’t think there is a better scholarly introduction to the subject than this book (though overall, for most people, I’d still point to works by Gordon Fee because they are often more relevant).


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)

– Part Two, Chapter Two (here)