Monday, June 2, 2014

Review of Dunson's Individual and Community in Paul's Letter to the Romans

Individual and Community in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. By Ben C. Dunson. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 332.  Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2012, xii+217 pp., $117.50.

Ben C. Dunson, Professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, in this revised thesis written under the supervision of Francis Watson at the University of Durham, argues that “the individual and the community belong together in Paul’s theology; there is no Pauline individual outside of community, just as there is no community without individuals at the heart of its ongoing life” (p. 1 emphasis removed). This goes against much of the recent work on Paul that sees the relationship between the individual and the communal in Paul generally, and in Romans specifically, as most precisely aligned with the communal. Dunson, on the other hand, is convinced that the individual and the community are closely intertwined concepts for Paul, since he views individuals in Christ as simultaneously members of Christ’s body.

The introduction highlights several reasons why the individual focus in Paul has fallen out of favor. First, Dunson points to the rise of social-scientific criticism and its anti-individual perspective. Here the work of several members of the Context Group is seen as problematic. Second, the rise of the New Perspective on Paul, with its lack of conviction with regard to Paul’s interests in an individual’s private relationship with God, polarizes communal and individual readings. Third, the rise of apocalyptic as an interpretive framework, with its focus on the cosmic and social dimensions of Paul’s discourse, leads to a further rejection of the importance of the individual in his writings. Though Dunson recognizes the recent work of Gary Burnett with regard to the individual and salvation in Paul, he finds his attempt unpersuasive and offers his monograph, with its close attention to several portions of Romans, as a way to explicate the idea that, “There simply is no individual in Pauline teaching on the believing life that is not at the same time embedded into the ongoing life of the believing community” (p. 16). Thus, Dunson is convinced that if scholars downplay or over-emphasize one of these approaches over the other, foundational aspects of Paul’s theology will be missed.

Dunson, in chapter 2, traces the separation of the individual and the community in Paul to the vigorous debate on this topic between Rudolph Bultmann and Ernst Käsemann. He seeks to bring to the fore the oftentimes overlooked communal aspect in Bultmann’s existential approach. At the same time, Dunson seeks to nuance Käsemann’s non-individualistic and apocalyptic understanding of Paul. After a thorough analysis of both scholars, he notes the way Käsemann’s legacy has been particularly felt, i.e., in the way scholars have adopted his apocalyptic understanding of the righteousness of God. For Dunson, Bultmann’s approach to God’s righteousness as “God’s saving action” is less problematic (p. 61). However, he sees both scholars as selective in their use of textual data and hopes to point out several gaps so that what emerges is not a simple synthesis of the two but the way that, for Paul, the individual and the communal imply one another (see p. 17).

One of the main lines of critique is that people in antiquity did not have a conception of the individual in the same way people do today. Thus, anyone researching from within a contemporary individualistic framework is open to the charge of anachronism. To counter this charge, in chapter 3, Dunson draws on the writings (i.e., the lectures transcribed by Arrian) of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. While resisting the parallel or influence approach often practiced among history of religions scholars, Dunson attempts to place another first century writer in the middle of an ongoing debate between the individual and society. He does not downplay the clear ideological differences between Epictetus and Paul; rather, he allows him to speak to his own concerns, which are primarily centered on moral progress. He offers a fairly persuasive set of data suggesting that Epictetus’s focus on the development of personal virtue has a vital and concomitant communal component to it (cf., Diatribai 1.4; 3.2; with 2.5; 2.10; and 2.22). Epictetus can, at the same time, focus on self-preservation and faithful communal living (Diatribai 4.10.12-13). This allows scholars such as Troels Engberg-Pedersen to set aside “the false assumption that the individual and the community are antithetical concepts” (p. 107).

Chapter 5 unpacks the first four kinds of individuals found in Romans. Within the larger scholarly debate surrounding the nature of these characters, Dunson’s view clearly sympathizes with a Lutheran approach. The characteristic individual, found in Rom 2:1-5, 17-25; 3:1-9, helps to abolish any “Jewish soteriological privilege” (pp. 114, 127). The generic individual, seen as the most pervasive type in Romans, emerges as Paul addresses humanity’s plight without regard to individual ethnic identity, revealing his anthropological universalism. The binary individual, found most predominantly in the Jew-gentile distinction, is employed by Paul, according to Dunson, in a way that radically relativizes existing identities, especially “the covenantal boundaries of Israel” (p. 128). The exemplary individual, i.e., Abraham in Romans 4, is seen as one that other individuals are expected to emulate. This section provides substantial textual argumentation as Dunson seeks to cast doubt on the covenantal definition approach to Romans 4.

In chapter 6, Dunson continues developing his typology by bringing to the fore the communal aspect of the individual. The representative person, differentiated from the exemplary one by the vicarious nature of the description, is found in the Adam-Christ parallel in Romans 5. Dunson argues that the individual has been brought into a communal relationship by the actions of Adam and Christ (p. 154). The negative exemplary individual is found in Romans 7, understood by Dunson both as describing Paul’s own past experience and indicating his role as a representative Israelite (p. 164). The somatic individual is a member of the body of Christ and develops Paul’s “principle of unity-within-diversity” and “individual-within-community” (p. 169; Rom 12:3-8). The final category in Dunson’s typology is the particular individual; this describes real persons in the context of their existing social identities and in relation to other community group members (Romans 16). The conclusion details differences between Paul and Epictetus with regard to the individual and summarizes Dunson’s findings concerning the inseparability of the individual and the community in Romans.

Overall, Dunson has made his case, and scholars should not overlook the significance of the individual for Paul in Romans. There is considerable improvement here on Burnett’s earlier work on the individual in Paul. However, a few questions still remain. First, the generic individual is a crucial part of Dunson’s thesis, but can Paul really conceive of abstracted, non-historicized individuals to the exclusion of their existing identities in such a substantial way? Second, has the move from rhetoric to anthropology been made too quickly? A literary trope may not be that useful for discerning Paul’s concept of the individual. Third, while Dunson readily acknowledges that he is being selective in his choice of sections in Romans to discuss (pp. 110, 147), one wonders if the almost complete avoidance of Romans 9-11 limits the significance of his conclusions. With these questions in mind, Dunson’s work is recommended for scholars working on identity formation in Paul. 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review of Kobel's Dining with John

Dining with John: Communal Meals and Identity Formation in the Fourth Gospel and its Historical and Cultural Context.  By Esther Kobel. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2011. Pp. xx + 370. Cloth, $176.00.

In Dining with John, Esther Kobel, at the University of Basel, is interested in the role communal meals played in the experience of the earliest Christ-followers and the ‘historical’ Johannine community. To uncover this role, she pays particular attention to the rhetorical function of food, drink, and meals in the Gospel of John and offers an imaginative context, informed by the concept of hybridity, by allowing the text to function as an indicator of a plausible Sitz im Leben that arises from key discursive pointers in John’s Gospel. Koebel’s socio-rhetorical approach, as practiced by Vernon Robbins, recognizes the way these discourses mutually inform one another and, more importantly, draws from both the Jewish and non-Jewish context and cultural codes. After an introduction and a state of the question, the study is broken into two parts: the first pays close attention to metaphorical use of food and drink in the Fourth Gospel, while the second brings to the fore selected themes from the narrative world of the Gospel that were likely important to the negotiation of the group’s identity.   

A central premise for Koebel is that the Johannine community’s regular meals had a deeper significance than just bodily sustenance. Chapter 1 provides the reader with her understanding of the foundational issues. Her assumption concerning the Gospel is that it “was written for and directed to a specific section of the Christ-movement, a ‘textual community’ which I will call the ‘Johannine community,’” though this should not be construed to provide “a direct window into a historical Johannine community.” Rather it describes a “context” a “living environment” and “practices of the Gospel’s addressees and/or authors” (33). She follows what has come to be the dominant social-scientific approach to understanding identity (Tajfel, Turner, Jenkins, and Hall). Chapter 2 surveys the existing scholarship dealing with the sociological perspective on meals within the broader field of biblical studies and the Fourth Gospel specifically.

Chapter 3 overviews the narrative structure of the Fourth Gospel and the way meal scenes, food, and drink emerge throughout. She makes a strong case for the centrality of meal settings and their associated discourses as an interpretive key for the Gospel of John (especially in comparison to the Synoptic tradition). The primary and oft repeated point is that Jesus provides food for his believers, and those who accept this food and partake of him/it show themselves to be his followers and make concrete their Christian identity (at least in its embryonic form). The meal scenes in John 6 and 13–17 provide the pivot points for the entire Gospel, the first with regard to the significant reduction in participants as the story continues, and the second (with the removal of the betrayer) as the occasion for the formation of the ingroup, “the true community that is marked by mutual indwelling of the disciples with Jesus even after his death” (107).

The strength of this study emerges in the socio-rhetorical intertextures evident in part 2. Chapter 4 sets a clear context for the way meals form identity; this chapter alone makes a significant contribution to NT studies. Chapter 5 studies the eucharistic discourse in John 6 and the way footwashing decenters it. Chapter 6 surveys the way non-Jewish (and non-Christian) discourses influenced meal practices. Kobel is particularly interested in the framework mystery cults may provide for understanding John 6:51-58, described as a “Jesusphagy/Christophagy” (247). If some of the members of the Johannine community were former participants in the Dionysian tradition, then eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood would have been particularly allusive. Chapter 7 reads the same pericope in the context of accusations of cannibalism. She sees this practice in the light of Greek and Roman groups who bound themselves together by eating flesh and drinking blood. This is not meant to imply this was actually occurring but that those who might have come from this background needed to be reassured that “chew[ing] on the flesh of Jesus” was an acceptable way to “continue bonding around their leader” (270). Chapter 8 addresses the betrayal meal scene and places the context in the reoccurring Roman persecutions of voluntary associations. The Christ-believers might have been afraid that some of the Jews would betray them to the Romans. If the earliest Christ-movement was seen as a type of voluntary association, this could provide a plausible context for fearing the Jews, since the Romans relied on betrayal by an insider for their prosecution of group members (292).

Chapter 9 provides a summary and is followed by an appendix on Jesus’ avoidance of food in the Gospel of John. Kobel notes that the interpretive pluralism that her study reinforces should not deflate contemporary interpreters but should be an encouragement that this Gospel is a fine example of cross-cultural communication and one that could be understood by both those from a Jewish and a non-Jewish background. Kobel is quite convincing with regard to her claim that the meal accounts are central to the Gospel’s rhetorical purpose to create belief in Jesus and to form a distinct social identity within his followers. While one could quibble with some of the exegetical choices made in this work or whether meals have this type of identity-forming power, it stands out as an excellent example of the way social scientific criticism (here in its socio-rhetorical guise) provides fresh insights into several long-standing debates within NT studies.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review of Celebrating Paul

Celebrating Paul: Festschrift in Honor ofJerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., and Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. Edited by Peter Spitaler. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 48. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2011. Pp. xxviii + 439. $25.00.

Celebrating Paul brings together a number of papers presented at Villanova University (and several additional essays) from the 2008 celebration of the Jubilee Year for the Apostle Paul, where Professors Murphy-O’Connor and Fitzmyer received honorary degrees. The honorees open the volume with studies addressing recent themes in Pauline studies generally and the “eucharist” in Corinth specifically. The rest of the work moves from broad-ranging studies on Paul to those focused on individual texts, with a major focus on Romans. Suggesting new trajectories in Pauline studies, W. S. Campbell in “‘I Rate All Things as Loss’” convincingly shows that Paul does not disparage his Jewish identity now that he is in Christ, and M. D. Nanos in “Paul and the Jewish Tradition” supports the contention that Paul remains within the bounds of Judaism. J. D. G. Dunn, in an essay likely requiring further scholarly engagement, argues that Paul was a “convert” from Judaism. This volume is a major contribution to NT studies and admirably reflects the influence of its honorees.

Monday, February 10, 2014

IBR Call for Paper 2014: Identity Formation in the Pauline Letters

Identity Formation in the Pauline Letters: Call for Papers 2014 IBR Meeting

We will be holding two halves to our session at the IBR Annual Meeting on Nov. 21, 2014 in San Diego. The first half, for which we would like to receive paper proposals, will concentrate on the theme of Identity Formation and Paul’s Jewish Context. We welcome papers examining the Pauline letters in their contingent and coherent Jewish contexts, or analyzing them by means of relevant Jewish literature, or incorporating relevant Jewish archaeological, historical, or literary evidence in order to construct more precisely Paul’s identity-forming work. 

The second half will be a book review session. We are delighted to be able to concentrate on the Pauline letters and methodological sections of The T and T Clark Handbook to Social Identity and the New Testament, edited by J. Brian Tucker and Coleman A. Baker (Bloomsbury T and T Clark, 2014). We will be inviting respondents to ensure a dynamic and multi-faceted discussion ranging across social theory, social history, and Paul’s approach to identity formation. Please contact J. Brian Tucker brian.tucker@moody.edu and/or James Miller james.miller@asburyseminary.edu for more information.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review of Ehrensperger's Paul at the Crossroads of Cultures

Ehrensperger, Kathy. Paul at the Crossroads of Cultures: Theologizing in the Space-Between. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. xiv + 224 pp. £65.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0567046369.

Kathy Ehrensperger, Reader in New Testament Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, provides a new paradigm for understanding Paul’s theologizing, one that builds on the emerging fields of bilingualism and biculturalism. She concludes that these frameworks provide a better understanding for the way Paul engages the diverse contexts evident in his mission among the nations. Thus, she calls into question key aspects of standard scholarly constructs and provides a more convincing way forward, one that sees Paul as a cultural negotiator in the space between Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultural discourses.
The introduction (chapter 1) highlights the focus of the study, which is to look at Paul’s role as an intercultural communicator, one who is a mediator between Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultural and ethnic traditions. However, Ehrensperger rejects any claim of fusion or assimilation with regard to these processes. This last point is a crucial and most convincing insight from her work as she builds on the findings of bilingualism and biculturalism to understand more clearly Paul’s approach to communication (e.g. as one embedded in Judaism but conversant in multiple universes of discourse). Chapter 2 interrogates the concepts of Hellenism and hybridity. The former is rejected as a useful way of describing the interaction between Greek and Jewish culture. The source of the problem relates to Johann Gustav Droysen’s original development of the concept and Martin Hengel’s later appropriation of Droysen’s work. The aspect of Hellenism that is most problematic for Ehrensperger is the idea of cultural fusion. Her rejection of that naturally leads her to critique the use of the postcolonial concept of hybridity. Within Pauline studies, Ehrensperger notes two tendencies: (1) a lack of clarity with regard to what is being implied and (2) an expectation of blending in the intercultural encounter. Both concepts are found to be less than useful for Pauline studies specifically. Hybridity contributes to an assumption that the Christ-movement resulted in a third race while Hellenism, with its problematic ideological roots, often posits Hellenistic Judaism as that which paved the way for the universal and higher religious ideals of Christianity.
Having questioned the continuing validity of two crucial concepts in NT studies, chapter 3 outlines Ehrensperger’s suggested way forward, namely the use of bilingualism and biculturalism in an alternative paradigm for understanding Paul’s intercultural interaction.  This chapter convincingly connects language, culture, and identity via the resources of sociolinguistics. The contribution of Pierre Bourdieu is clearly evident, especially his concept of habitus. Ehrensperger navigates the challenges associated with defining culture and ethnicity and concludes that Farzad Sharifian’s idea of cultural conceptualizations connects well with Bourdieu’s work while Floya Anthias’ distinction between ethnic and cultural groups is probative. Of particular interest with regard to Paul is the idea of relational ethnicity; this properly recontextualizes Jewish particularity within wider on-going cultural discourse during the first century CE. The chapter continues by outlining the research into bilingualism and biculturalism especially as it relates to ethnic diversity. It is evident in this section just how pervasively the monolinguistic context of NT scholars has contributed to the premature closing off of certain interpretive options. The chapter concludes with a nuanced discussion of the way a lingua franca does not necessarily lead to cultural blending; rather, localized diversity is more often evident in such a cultural context.
Chapter 4 highlights linguistic, ethnic, and cultural diversity within the Roman Empire. This wide-ranging survey further substantiates Ehrensperger’s claim that blending and fusion of collective identities was not the norm. The preponderance of literary and inscriptional artifacts in Greek and the comparative lack of vernacular languages for these is a challenge to the thesis put forth in this monograph. Thus, this chapter seeks to deconstruct the standard view for the significance of this evidence. Particularly problematic for the standard view are the elite fallacy and the power dynamics associated with provincial collaborators and Rome. Here Ehrensperger’s feminist hermeneutic proves quite useful in discerning problematic interpretive trajectories. A few highlights from this chapter include: (1) a reminder that the use of Greek language does not necessarily imply the acceptance of Greek culture; (2) Jewish literature of the period, identified as barbaric literature, provides an important interpretive lens for understanding ways to respond to Roman and Greek hegemony; (3) since there was no blended ‘Graeco-Roman’ cultural construct during the Early Principate this term should only be use cautiously and with ‘definitional clarity’ (p. 77 n. 72); and (4) bicultural mediators (e.g. Manetho, Lucian, Josephus, and Philo) perform vital functions in any situation of cultural contact and the Early Principate was no exception. These combine to support Ehrensperger’s developing thesis, that ‘Paul and his co-workers…embarked on a mission which included the mediation/translation of an alternative to the dominating imperial discourse rooted in the Jewish alternative tradition that had developed over centuries of interaction with others’ (p. 101).
Chapter 5 places Paul on the first century map with regard to cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Ehrensperger cleverly weaves in and out of existing debates within Pauline studies as they impinge on Paul’s identity and practices as an intercultural meditator. She begins by discussing the way Paul would have been viewed from the perspective of Roman imperial discourse. She then moves into an important review of ethnē from a Roman perspective and provides an overview of the important work done on this topic from the research of Davina Lopez and Brigitte Kahl. Ehrensperger concludes that Paul would have been viewed as a member of a subjugated ethnē; however, he does not describe himself or his own people with the same term –for that he uses the term genos. Thus, Paul’s ‘us and them’ categorization is different than that practiced by the Romans. In the discussion of genos, Ehrensperger see Paul as one who continues to identify with his ‘descent group’, values his Jewishness, and maintains full Torah observance (p. 130). Next Ehrensperger discusses the Jewish perspective on ta ethnē and rejects the idea that such universalizing discourse suggests that Paul thought existing identities were obliterated. The collective identity of members of the nations is not problematic for Paul in the main but only when it results in idolatrous practices. One of the fascinating interpretive moves that Ehrensperger makes is that Paul’s view of Jews and the people from the nations may have not developed in a significant way. Thus for Paul, there was no ‘third kind’ within the Christ-movement; there were ‘those of the peritomē and those of the akrobustia in Christ, but no mixture between them’ (p. 131). This chapter concludes with a profile of Paul’s Jewish identity: he was at least bilingual, received a Greek Jewish education, and would have continued to be identified as one of the peritomē, one embedded ‘in the alternative Greek discourse of his people (genos)’ (p. 137).
Chapter 6 focuses on the role of Israel’s scriptural tradition and its interpretation as it moves between cultural contexts. The development of the LXX serves as an exemplar of the way ideas written within the Hebrew symbolic universe are transformed when translated into Greek. This model serves as a helpful comparison for the challenges Paul, as part of the polyglot Jewish interpretive tradition, dealt with when communicating his gospel since it is sourced in a similar symbolic universe. The influence of Israel’s apocalyptic tradition is also seen in Paul’s writings, especially as it interacts with Roman threats of violence and totalitarianism. Thus, Ehrensperger rightly places the Christ-movement as part of an ‘existing Jewish resistance tradition’ (p. 151). However, this resistance did not lead Paul to conclude that all aspects of one’s former life had been obliterated in Christ. One of the important contributions of Ehrensperger’s work is the recognition of aspects of life among the nations that continue in Christ. The chapter concludes with two examples of the way paying attention to various cultural scripts results in interpretive clarity; these include the unity of Israel and the nations, and the understanding of the social implications of pist- related words. The former reveals Paul as one seeking to achieve unity among the nations in ways that challenged the approach of the Romans, while the latter, emphasizing faithfulness, trust, and loyalty, reveals a stark difference between pist- discourse and Roman fides discourse. Taken together, these two examples show the interpretive value of Ehrensperger’s new paradigm.
Chapter 7 provides an analysis of the challenges associated with everyday ritual life within the Roman Empire. Ehrensperger offers a convincing reading of 1 Corinthians 8-10, one that reveals the difficulty of negotiating the existing ritual experiences of those from the nations. This chapter brings to the fore the significance of the bicultural paradigm and shows Paul to be open to aspects of the cultural life of the nations, as long as these align with God’s glory (1 Cor. 10.31). Also, in her discussion of the table of the Lord, she makes a compelling argument that Paul was not critiquing the Jerusalem Temple but still viewed it as the centre of the cult for the God of Israel, with differing implications for Christ-followers from the nations and from Israel both of whom Christ links in ‘peace’ and ‘mutual empowerment’ (pp. 211, 213). 
Chapter 8 highlights the key components of bilingualism and biculturalism that were relevant to Ehrensperger’s study and synthesizes many of the arguments developed in the preceding chapters. She reminds her readers that, in light of her new paradigm, ‘any attempt to emphasize one dimension involved in this translation process, Jewish, “Greek or barbarian”, at the expense of the other, is inadequate’. Ehrensperger is calling for clear attention to all the narratives of belonging and cultural encyclopedias in existence in the first century CE as a way to better understand the ‘loss and gain’ evident in Paul’s mission as an intercultural mediator (p. 219). For Paul, his gospel discourse remains ‘to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (Rom. 1.16b) and this paradigmatic statement takes on seminal significance in Ehrensperger’s approach. This is not merely a salvation historical statement but one of embeddedness and belonging. Paul’s message required cross-cultural communication which necessitated some familiarity with non-Jewish cult practices, though there is also a distinct lack of integration of existing philosophical or mythic traditions because his ‘narrative framework is entirely Jewish’ (p. 221). The book concludes with an important call to contemporary Jewish-Christian dialogue as a direct implication of Paul’s theologizing at the crossroads of cultures.
I found very little to disagree with in this monograph, though one wonders if we can discern with any level of specificity the presence of former God-fearers within Paul’s addressees or the extent to which non-Christ-following Jews are part of Paul’s theologizing. These each deserve further investigation, especially since the latter is crucial for this approach to Paul. What Ehrensperger has presented in Paul at the Crossroads of Cultures is nothing short of a paradigm shift. Her approach, which I see as completely on target, will – in due time – change the way Pauline scholars engage Paul and his diverse contexts. The lenses of bilingualism and biculturalism genuinely move the interpretive discussion forward – a rare achievement in an era of ever-increasing monographs dealing with the apostle Paul. This work is highly recommended and one that Pauline scholars will have to respond to since the implications of her work touch almost every current debate within the field. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Identity Formation in the Pauline Letters

The four main papers for our 2013 IBR research group Identity Formation in the Pauline Letters are now available online.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review of Atkinson's Baptism in the Spirit

Atkinson, William P. Baptism in the Spirit: Luke-Acts and the Dunn Debate. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011. Pp. x + 154. ISBN 978-1-60899-971-2. $19.00 paper.

William P.Atkinson, Vice-Principal Academic, Director of Research, and Senior Lecturer in Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at the London School of Theology, reviews critiques of James D. G. Dunn’s Baptismin the Holy Spirit by various Pentecostal scholars and concludes that the Pentecostal understanding of the doctrine is correct. The reception of the Spirit is not related to the inception of new covenant life; rather, it is an empowerment for service in the life of the church.
Chapter one surveys Dunn’s work and outlines the six key scholars who have engaged his arguments. Here Atkinson defines baptism in the Holy Spirit as “a charismatic empowering for Christian service distinct from and thus, potentially, chronologically subsequent to initial regenerating faith in Christ” (p. 3). Dunn clearly rejects this definition, following instead a conversion-initiation understanding of Spirit baptism. Thus, Pentecostal scholars (or ex-Pentecostal in the case of Max Turner) have responded, since they see the doctrine of subsequence as central to Pentecostal identity. Their critiques are outlined in chapter two: Dunn reads Luke-Acts through the lens of Paul and assumes an identical pneumatology. Furthermore, the terminology was much more fluid at this early stage than Dunn is willing to admit. Dunn brings together what Luke kept separate, i.e., salvation and the gift of the Spirit. Finally, it is clear that different understandings of salvation history, especially the three pneumatological epoch distinction, result in diverse readings between Dunn and his debaters. Taken cumulatively, Atkinson concludes that Dunn’s debaters have cast doubt on his claim that to become a Christian is to receive the Spirit (p. 65).
Chapter three then provides an assessment of the various intra-Pentecostal alternatives. Atkinson’s most significant disagreement is with Max Turner’s view, one closely aligned with Dunn. He thinks Turner has missed the subtlety of Luke’s idea that “the Spirit may be directly at work in the process of people’s coming to faith; that these new converts, despite such prior ‘soteriological’ work of the Spirit, still need to receive the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit” (90). At this point, Atkinson’s approach may neither be convincing among Pentecostals (his primary audience) nor non-Pentecostals (though he is not trying to convince this group).
Chapter four addresses the canonical context of the debate by looking specifically at the writings of Paul and John (1 Cor 12:13; John 20:22). While Atkinson’s reason for choosing these two verses based on his engagement with Turner is clear, it seems that a test case from Romans 8:9, the putative “‘killer blow’ to Pentecostal doctrine” would have been in order and that more than a restating of various Pentecostal interpreters would have strengthened Atkinson’s argument. However, his claim that Dunn has misread Pentecostal doctrine is well placed since the majority of Pentecostal Pauline interpreters maintain some sort of soteriological pneumatology. Atkinson contends that John 20:22 provides the strongest evidence for “two distinct experiences” of receiving the Spirit (p. 118).
Chapter five summarizes and offers several practical suggestions for contemporary expressions of the present-day work of the Holy Spirit. Atkinson suggests using the term “Baptism in the Spirit” to describe an equipping for service that is experienced by modern-day Pentecostals. This book is quite useful for those seeking to understand this distinctly Pentecostal doctrine. It is not designed to convince non-Pentecostals; rather, it is a fine survey of intra-Pentecostal discussions using Dunn’s work as a dialogue partner. In this way it meets its stated goal (p. 1).