Jesus the fighting lamb.

Over the last year or so I have become interested in Jesus’ messianic identity as it relates to the Holy Spirit. Now we have places where the Apostle Paul speaks of Jesus as the Spirit-Giver, especially as it relates to the resurrection of the saints (e.g. Romans 8.1-17; 1 Corinthians 15.42-49). The Gospel of John makes a strong connection between Jesus and the coming Spirit (see 14-17). Whenever we see Jesus and John the Baptist juxtaposed in the Synoptic Gospels or the Book of Acts there is language regarding John’s inferiority in relation to Jesus’ superiority being the result of Jesus as Spirit-Baptizer. It has become quite evident to me that early Christianity saw Jesus as Messiah because (1) they affirmed he rose from the dead and (2) they equated him with the impartation of the Spirit.

I have taken to studying this subject as it relates to how the early church frames Jesus in contrast to John, but I think there is a lot more to investigate. Jesus and the Spirit may seem like something Pentecostals want to study, but that others avoid. This is a mistake. There is a lot to learn about Second Temple pneumatology.

After reading John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit I decided to engage him in a couple conversations over the last year, one at the SBL PNW meeting and one about a month ago when I was in Seattle, WA. He gave me a few leads and he suggested that messianic identity’s relation to the Spirit is likely based in that many saw both the coming of the Messiah and the S/pirit as eschatological advents.

Craig A. Evans mentioned how in The War Scroll of Qumran there is a sense in which Israel fights the Kittim, but there is a spiritual battle there as well. Messiah is present, but the battle is more than physical (though no less). When we talked he connected this to Jesus’ exorcisms. One can think of Jesus tossing the swine into the sea as a metaphor for casting paganism out of the land, except Jesus fought demons not centurions. Jesus was seen as being at war with Satan speaking of Satan falling from the sky and even teaching his disciples how to be exorcist so that by the time we get to the Book of Acts they have continued Messiah’s “war” as they are victorious over demons and other workers of magic like Simon Magnus. He has more to say that I cannot possibly convey here.

In Anthony Le Donne’s book Historical Jesus he made similar connections. He discusses how Jesus’ transition from John was surprising because while John used language that seemed to indicate his support of God’s forceful entry into the world Jesus turned his task toward defeating Satan. Jesus thought his very words could bring down the evil forces of the world because his words were supported by the God of Israel.

Again, back to Paul: We find in places like the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Ephesians (a great work here is Tim Gombis’ The Drama of Ephesians) the emphasis that Christians as engaging warfare with Satan. It seems that the is a large motif in early Christian literature that willingly adopted the concept of some form of holy warfare like Qumran expected, but they made the enemy someone other than the “flesh and blood” pagans.

I think the Apocalypse grabs this motif as well. I don’t know that we should interpret Jesus as coming to physically slaughter the pagans or not, but what we do find is he defeats the enemy by defeating Satan through the word of God. There is amazing consistency in this interpretation of Messiah that I think is rooted in Jesus’ self-understanding as a Messiah figure/prophetic figure who thought that the enemy to be defeated was Satan first and foremost. If Satan is bound then everything else will domino after that.

I know this is a bit of a ramble but I thought I’d share where some of my current thinking/research is aimed.