Review of Max Turner’s “’The Spirit of Prophecy’ As the Power of Israel’s Restoration and Witness”

Posted: February 3, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews, Pentecost

Turner, Max. 1998. The ‘Spirit of Prophecy’ As the Power of Israel’s Restoration and Witness. In “Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts” edited by Marshall, I.H. & Peterson, D.

The essential background for Luke’s pneumatological material is Jewish and deeply rooted in the OT (Turner 1998:328).

Most folks tend to recognize the Gospel of Matthew as bearing the greatest testimony to the OT while overlooking the obvious OT allusions in Luke.

The Spirit is the uniting motif and driving force within the Lucan salvation history, and provides the legitimation of the mission to which this leads….In Luke 1-2, the Spirit brings about the birth of the Messiah who is to redeem Israel, affords prophecies relating to the saving events about to unfold, and empowers the Elikianic forerunner who prepares the way of the Lord. In Luke 3-4 the Spirit then comes as Jesus’ messianic empowering for the redemptive mission, while Pentecost brings a parallel endowment for the Church’s mission, over which the Spirit remains the initiator…(Turner 1998:329).

Luke is far more than a reporter of his investigations, but infuses his Gospel and Acts with a developed Pneumatology. Luke is more than a historian, but a theologian who conveys his message in a way that properly highlights the Spirit’s work in both Jesus and the Church.

Luke’s pneumatology develops beyond Judaism in giving the Spirit Christocentric functions. If Luke’s pneumatology owes much to the Jewish conception of the ‘Spirit of prophecy’, he goes beyond any usual Jewish ideas (a) in making the Spirit the chief witness to the Christ event, and (b) in casting the exalted Messiah as the one who ‘pours out’ this Spirit in God’s place as his own executive power, and as the one who becomes present and known to the disciple in the Spirit, and extends his influence through them (Turner 1998:332).

It only makes sense that the Spirit would testify of Christ, who is the mediator of this New and glorious covenant. Christ is anointed in the Spirit, ministers in the Spirit, and bestows the Spirit to all who call upon His name.

Does Acts imply that the Spirit given to all Christians is the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ promised by Joel? Two lines of evidence secure an unequivocally affirmative reply to this question. First, the nature of the gift of the Spirit promised to Christians in 2:38-39 is clear enough—it is Joel’s gift of the Spirit of prophecy. His audience will hardly expect Peter to be speaking of any other gift of the Spirit when he has so carefully explained Pentecost in terms of fulfillment of Joel (Turner 1998:333).

An under-examined reality of the NT people of God is their corporate “prophethood”. Moses desired a day when all of Israel would be prophets and that expectation is magnified in God’s promise in Joel to pour out the Spirit on all people, enabling His people to prophesy in the last days. All Christians are expected to be “witnesses” to God’s salvation by attestation in word and deed. Christians are told to encourage one another, to exhort one another, to be ready to give an answer to those who inquire about the faith. These imperatives presume a dynamic in the believer which enables God-glorifying speech. The NT people of God are therefore a “speaking” people.

Peter this draws on the wording of Joel’s prophecy not merely for the basis of the universality spoken of, but, consequently, for the very nature of the promised gift itself….(I)n the rest of Acts the Spirit is consistently portrayed as the source of the very gifts Judaism regarded as proto-typical to the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ (Turner 1998:334).

The fulfillment theme on Peter’s sermon therefore not only draws attention to the scope of the gifts, but to the nature of the gift. The very nature of the Spirit’s manifestation on Pentecost fulfills what was to take place when the Spirit had arrived. Is it not any different today—that many young believers can’t help but speak of the gospel to family, friends, strangers? Oh that such a flame would be evident in the full duration of our witness to the world.

Thus his affirmation that this ‘promise’ is offered ‘to you and to your children’ takes up and reaffirms Joel’s promise that the Spirit will be poured out ‘on your sons and daughters’. When Peter then insists that the promise is to ‘all’ called by God, the basis for his claim lies in Joel’s assertion, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and the amplifying phrase ‘to all those who are far off’ draws on Joel too. Finally, the assertion that the gift will be given to everyone ‘whom the Lord our God calls to him’ alludes to the last words of Joel’s oracle… (Turner 1998:334).

Acts 21:9 records that Philip’s four daughters all prophesied. Luke doesn’t just record this for the sake of mentioning it, but serves and aids his intent in penning Acts. Luke is affirming that the Spirit has indeed fell upon the next generation of sons and daughters. Philip himself was one who prophesied to the Samaritans in Acts 8 and we are told that his daughters also functioned in the capacity of prophesying. This is all a testimony of the Spirit’s work. The Spirit’s ministry not only extends to future generations, but to the ends of the earth, affirming that God is in fact “calling” people to His Son. This all fulfills the Joeline paradigm of the Spirit’s ministry: empowering witnesses of the Gospel through the Spirit, and extending the promise of salvation to all who would call on the name of the Lord.

Along with the specific references to the Baptist’s promise (1:5; 11:16) and references to believers receiving this gift of the Spirit (specified explicitly as Joel’s gift at 2:17-18, 33; 38-39 and as ‘the same Spirit’ at 10:44,45,47; 11:15; 15:8), the above include nearly all of the references to the Spirit in the book of Acts. Luke then evidently regards ‘the promise’ made to believers to a christianised version of Joel’s ‘Spirit of prophecy’…he does not synthesise some more composite ‘promise of the Spirit’ by adding other OT prophecies of the eschatological Spirit (such as Ezekiel 36) alongside Joel’s. In that sense Acts 2:14-39 is genuinely programmatic for the pneumatology of Acts (Turner 1998:335).

It is very telling that Ezekiel 36 gets no play whatsoever in Lukan pneumatology, whether it be in Luke or Acts. I would contend that Ezekiel’s themes of the eschatological Spirit undergirds John’s Gospel, with an emphasis on new life in the Spirit and the imagery of water. Luke, however, views the Spirit as a harbinger of charismatic activity and less in a soteriological fashion. The Spirit, for Luke, is a manifesting presence in the life of a believer. I would say that John and Luke complement each other in showing the Spirit to be both a saving and empowering agent, both implementing different, but complementary themes (John=Ezekiel, Luke=Joel).

It is probable that the Baptist’s promise that the coming one will baptize with Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16-17)…develops Jewish reflection on Isaiah 4:4 and 11:1-4. The Baptist himself has sifted Israel in preparation for the Messiah who will finally cleanse Zion through a righteous fiery and purgative rule empowered by the Spirit. For Luke, Jesus’ ministry inaugurates this. It is an appeal to all sectors of Israel to participate in the transformation of Israel…(Turner 1998:343).

The enthronement of Jesus and outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost is the very foundation for the transformation of God’s newly defined Israel in the “last days”. The kingdom of God is made more intensely manifest in the Spirit’s outpouring and its effects in the community, especially seen in the commendable description of the Church in Acts 2:42-47 as a vibrant and society-impacting people that were daily growing in number. The Spirit is therefore empowering, purifying, and expanding Israel under her enthroned Messiah Jesus Christ.

Turner (1998) reckons the apparent paradox for Israel of a restored Davidic kingdom being ruled by one who dwells in heaven:

But how is this restorative Davidic rule over the house of Jacob to be implemented from the heavenly throne? And how is the ‘salvation’ begun by Jesus in the ministry to be continued and intensified amongst the disciples? Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 1:3-8 provide only one possibility: viz. the one means by which Jesus had already inaugurated that salvation, namely the Spirit, now poured out as Messiah’s executive power. The same ‘Spirit of prophecy’ which will enable the Twelve and the community around them to fulfil the destiny of Isaiah 49:6 as a light to the nations, bringing the message of salvation to ‘the end of the earth’, will thus also be the power to raise up Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel. Accordingly, Luke redactionally identifies ‘the promise of the Father’ (1:4) with the Baptist’s logion; Jesus will now ‘baptise’ them ‘with the Holy Spirit’ as John promised…and the question in 1:6 shows the disciples rightly perceive this concerns the cleansing/restoration of Israel, and so even possibly her promised ‘rule’ over the nations…And this Spirit is to ‘come upon them’ ‘from on high’—clear allusion to Isaiah 32:15 and to the promise of the restoration of Israel through the Spirit. In short the redactional gateway texts into Acts suggest the gift of the Spirit is not merely empowering to witness, but that varied activities of the Spirit of prophecy in the individual and in the congregation will together also constitute the purging and restoring power of God in the community which effects Israel’s transformation/salvation (344-345).

Peter’s sermon includes the reference of Joel to the salvation offered to those who “call upon the name of the Lord” (Acts 2:21). It is proclaimed that Jesus is the Lord who brings salvation. As such, Jesus is being preached as the enthroned Messiah and Davidic king to the gathered Jews in Jerusalem, attesting that the kingdom had in fact arrived in the person of Jesus and is now being offered to all who would embrace this ‘promise’ by calling upon His name and receiving the promised Spirit. Jesus is thus enthroned over Jerusalem in particular, and establishing a ‘last days’ kingdom through the agency of the Spirit. The Spirit’s outpouring begins in Jerusalem, is offered to the gathered house of Jacob, and affects the restoration of the kingdom to those who embrace the enthroned Davidic king, Jesus. God is not content to restrict the kingdom to Israel, but extends His rule to all of the nations through the Spirit’s outpouring. It is not a reign of Israel over the nations, but rather a reign of Christ over the nations, offering the same ‘promise’ to all, Jew and Gentile.

  1. […] My first post can be read at’s-“’the-spirit-of-prophecy’-as-t… […]

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