Gunkel, THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Gunkel, THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Hermann Gunkel, The Influence of the Holy Spirit: The Popular View of the Apostolic Age and the Teaching of the Apostle Paul, translated by R.A. Harrisville and P.A. Quanbeck II (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008). (Amazon.com)

Hermann Gunkel’s Die Wirkungen des heiligen Geistes nach der populären Anschauungen der apostolischen Zeit und der Lehre des Apostels Paulus (Göttingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888) has been made available in English by translators R.A. Harrisville and P.A. Quanbeck II. This book “shattered the reigning images of the New Testament idea of the Spirit” (from the blurb) when it was originally published in the late nineteenth century. In spite of being written over a century ago it remains one of the most insightful, short books on Pneumatology even today. Gunkel doesn’t waste any space. Each page is filled with insightful and thought provoking interpretations of the New Testament, especially the Pauline Epistles.

The book is divided into two parts: the first examining the broad Pneumatology of the apostolic Church and the second focusing more narrowly on the Apostle Paul. Gunkel shows an awareness of the Pneumatology of the Hebrew Scriptures, early Jewish literature, and early Christian literature, including the Apostolic Fathers. He does not deal much with Graeco-Roman Pneumatologies.

If the book has a weakness it would be that it was written prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). Many of Gunkel’s arguments regarding the novelty of early Christian Pneumatology prove false when compares to the DSS. For example, Gunkel doesn’t find a connection between the Spirit and ethics/virtue in early Judaism, whereas 1QS has a list of virtues that all but parallels the fruits of the spirit in Gal. 5. Other examples could be provided, but there is no reason to critique Gunkel’s oversight when he couldn’t avoid it because of his place in time. I do recommend reading this book and then following it with a close reading of John R. Levison’s The Spirit in First-Century Judaism and Filled with the Spirit. Levison’s work is essentially an updating and correcting of Gunkel’s in light of Graeco-Roman and Qumranic Pneumatologies. Similarly, those who have read Gordon D. Fee’s God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul may enjoy juxtaposing these two scholar’s interpretations of the Apostle Paul.

Special thanks for Paul Bruggink who sent this book to me as a gift.

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