Book Review of Larry R. McQueen’s “Joel and the Spirit: The Cry for a Prophetic Hermeneutic”

Posted: January 2, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Book Reviews, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests
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The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic (JPT Supplement)

This is a rough bibliographic entry based on my research of this monograph as it relates to my particular interests. Do not consider it a scholarly review of any sort. Where McQueen is not directly quoted, the comments are my own and the thoughts are my interaction with the material researched.

McQueen, L.R. (1995). Joel and the Spirit: The Cry for a Prophetic Hermeneutic. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic.

A Pentecostal, who approaches the Joel text with a desire to read it on its own terms rather than through the lens of Acts 2, which he says too many Pentecostals are guilty of. He presumes a single author of Joel, a postexilic date of 500 to 450 BCE. Sees a threefold movement in Joel: 1:1-2:17 (Lamentation), 2:18-3:5 (Salvation), 4:1-21 (Salvation). These three themes also involve dialogue between the prophet and Yahweh. There are speeches to Yahweh and from Yahweh throughout the book.

The genre of lament is recognized as a distinct literary genre that contains a structure of address, lamentation, turning to God, petition, and vow of praise (27). The genre of an oracle of salvation is also distinct in that it differs from a word of coming judgment. Joel 2:18-3:5 is an announcement of salvation. This follows a call to lament. Communal lament would lead to covenant renewal and restored blessing…which is promised to occur from Yahweh. Another genre is that of judgment upon the nations. God is said to judge both Israel and the enemies of His people Israel. This all culminates in the “Day of Yahweh”. This day is said to be a day of gloom and judgment for the people of Yahweh in Joel 1:15 and 2:1, 11. The plague upon the land was a symbol of coming judgment. The call to lamentation and return is based on the coming day of Yahweh in 2:11-14.  After lamentation and salvation, the day of Yahweh then becomes a day of escape or salvation. Only those calling on Yahweh’s name will be spared in the coming day, when all the nations will be judged.

The promise of the Spirit comes in response to the people’s lament and repentance. The land’s fruitfulness will be restored, Judah will be delivered from her enemies, and God’s presence will be among His people. This all occurs in response to calling upon the name of Yahweh, in which one will be saved and receive the Spirit. These ideas are not new, but found in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Numbers. Joel’s emphasis is well within the overall soteric work of the Spirit, but makes particular note of the empowering prophetic work of the Spirit. God’s people will become a prophetic community, in which “Everyone will be a messenger of the word of Yahweh” (42). Thus, “the giving of the spirit to all of God’s people is a sign and means of their salvation in terms of the immediate knowledge of Yahweh which it enables” (p. 42).

 McQueen concludes that there are three broad movements in Joel: lamentation, salvation, and judgment. The pouring out of the Spirit corresponds to the these three themes in that (1) “The spirit of Yahweh will be poured out on all the people of Judah in response to their lament. The immediacy of knowing Yahweh…answers directly the people’s lament concerning the absence of God. Thus, lament may be viewed as a prerequisite for the pouring out of the spirit of Yahweh” (p. 43).(2) “Salvation is seen primarily as the presence of Yahweh among his people, and the giving of the spirit of Yahweh is the guarantee of his presence…The pouring out of the spirit of Yahweh will create a prophetic community since all will be granted the gift of prophecy. Thus, the outpouring of the spirit is both a sign and means of salvation” (p. 43)

(3) “Reception of the prophetic spirit is a precursor to universal judgment. Those who repent and receive the spirit will escape the judgment to come….(T)he pouring out of the spirit upon the people of Judah may be viewed as a sign which announces the Day of Yahweh as judgment upon all who do not call upon his name” (p. 43).

 Chapter 3 deals with the appropriation of Joel in the New Testament. McQueen states that Luke

“sees the renewed activity of the Spirit as ushering in the messianic age. Jesus is the eschatological prophet to Israel, and with him dawns the eschatological age of salvation. In this light, the church which receives the promised Spirit may be termed ‘the eschatological Israel—the Israel of the new age” (p. 45)

 The transfer motif of Spirit in the Old Testament, in which the Spirit was given from one person to another for vocational use, is also present in the New Testament, as Jesus anoints his followers with the Spirit. Jesus is the eschatological prophet, the last one sent by God, and in Him culminates all that has been promised to Israel. He ushered in the “last days” and his name is a means for salvation before the “day of the Lord”. He has transferred His Spirit upon all who call upon His name, thus constituting a prophetic community, which serves as a sign to the nations of coming judgment and also as a witness and herald to the salvation that comes in Jesus from the coming day of the Lord. McQueen comments,

“The account of the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 sets the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in an eschatological context. The event is one of the signs of the last days…This, the eschatological framework in the book of Joel remains essentially the same. There is, however, a major alteration in the meaning of the Day of the Lord as this now refers to the second advent of Jesus, the eschatological prophet who has been made Lord and Christ…Jesus is now the Lord on whose name everyone must call to be saved, for Jesus is both savior and judge. The last days are framed by the past and future appearances of Messiah” (p. 55).

It can thus be argued that Jesus and Pentecost are pivotal in redemptive history as it relates to what is promised from the prophet Joel. McQueen’s development of the idea of a threefold movement in Joel of lamentation, salvation, and judgment correspond well to the New Testament witness. My real interests in reading McQueen’s monograph were the connections between Luke/Peter on Pentecost and the use of Joel. I would say that McQueen’s conjectures of the three main themes in Joel accord well with Luke-Acts.

 Lamentation can be seen clearly in John the Baptist, who is the last prophet before Jesus, and is a forerunner paving the way. How does he prepare the way? By calling for repentance in light of the coming judgment. This was a communal call for lamentation to escape the coming judgment. The spirit had also been silent for some time and John pointed to renewed work of the Spirit through Jesus, which would assure Yahweh’s people of His favor. Luke records the activity of the Spirit in connection with Jesus, even at his infancy, where we see the Spirit working in several people: Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, and Anna. The lamentation found in John the Baptist paves the way for the salvation found in Jesus. Jesus himself understood his mission in accordance with Isaiah 61, a herald of the favorable time of the Lord. Jesus didn’t quote the oracle of judgment found in Isaiah because that was not his mission. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. The motif then shifts to the idea of coming judgment after Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension, when he pours out the promised Spirit on Pentecost. This marked the beginning of the end as salvation is offered before the coming day of the Lord. The nations are no longer allowed to walk in blindness, but will be given a witness and judged accordingly. The Spirit has come in power to attest to the salvation offered in Christ. We are a prophetic last days’ community pointing people to the cross in the past as a means to escape the “Day of Yahweh” in the future.



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