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Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith.

Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith. By Jack Levison. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013. Pp. xiii + 246. $24.

This is an engaging text about a little-known area of information that is essential to deepening comprehension of the NT. The milieu with which the author is familiar is the Judaism within which the NT was constructed as well as the Greco-Roman literature contemporary with that era. Both cultures had an understanding of Spirit that the author sees as essential to appreciate early Christian Pneumatology's emergence and development. For example, Josephus and Philo were Hellenistic Jewish authors, and Diogenes Laertius, Seneca, and Cicero were Stoics. Stoicism was the regnant philosophy of the Greco-Roman culture at the time of the NT's compilation.

Levison has authored several books on the Spirit, one scholarly, the other more popular. The plus of this book is the above-mentioned area of the author's knowledge. The minus of the book is the absence of any attention to the development of the tradition of Pneumatology beyond the early NT era such as, for example, the Cappodocians in the fourth century. Theology is a discipline that takes account of both Scripture and tradition. If the reader's need is for knowledge of the first of these two components, the author's work is invaluable. If readers are looking for a theology of Spirit, they will have to look elsewhere, since L. does not include the history of its development after the Scriptures are written.

L.'s main interest is in emphasizing the connection between learning and the Spirit. His irritation is the mistake of uncoupling learning (or study or comprehension or communal discernment) from ecstatic claims about the experience of the Spirit. He therefore spends much time on the question of what ecstasy is and how it is essential for religious knowledge. Surprisingly, he claims that there is "much more about the character of ecstasy from Greek, Roman and Jewish literature" than there is in the Bible wherein it is virtually "suppressed" (73).

Looming in the back of L.'s mind is a worry that, on the one hand, "Christians in historic Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox traditions may lose the penchant for ecstatic experiences" and try to function "in a sort of spiritless void." On the other hand, Pentecostals "may be drawn to the transport of ecstatic experiences without the counterbalance of virtue and learning" (185). The result of the growing distance between the two groups is the strong possibility of "a global dichotomy in the Church" (226). Accordingly he believes that there must be a balance, because "ecstasy without intellect is impermissible and intellect without ecstasy is inconceivable" (117).

How L. understands ecstasy is perhaps clearer to him than is his explanation in the book. He claims it has been better "defined" by several who are not among the inspired authors of the NT such as Plutarch and Philo. Philo, the first-century Jewish philosopher from Alexandria, describes ecstasy as an inspiration that puts one momentarily out of his or her mind. "The mind is evicted at the arrival of the divine Spirit, but when that departs the mind returns to its tenancy." Why should this be? Because "mortal and immortal may not share the same home" (80).

Since L. spends much time in the book on the subject of glossolalia, I presume it must have something of the ecstatic about it. His analysis of glossolalia ends up where St. Paul did-preferring intelligibility to unintelligibility, and interpretation of tongues over tongues themselves, and inspired interpretation of Scripture over one that is simply textual.

Whether English translators are translating the Hebrew term for spirit or breath, ruach, or the Greek word for it, pneuma, they must decide whether to capitalize the term or leave it lower case. The same word in one context can convey the spirit that is in all human beings, or it can mean the special endowment of the Spirit. And in many cases it is not clear which sense is meant. In the initial text, another quandary faces the translator because the original texts do not have a definite article. So is it "she was filled with holy spirit" or "the Holy Spirit"? The difference is significant, both anthropologically and theologically.

L. believes the presence of the Spirit is coextensive with human birth, not something adventitious and reserved only for the few, or for special charismatic types. "The spirit that people receive from birth is no less divine or holy than the spirit they receive from charismatic endowments" (20). In this distinction he is inspired by or beholden to Frank Macchia's thesis about the "issue of subsequence," which Pentecostals use to give themselves a special identity that produces wonders rather than learning and virtue.

John C. Haughey, S.J.

Colombiere Jesuit Community, Baltimore

DOI: 10.1177/0040563914542314
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Author:Haughey, John C.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 31, 2014
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