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Richard Hays: how is it that Jesus gets to pour out the Spirit of God?

Another questionable line of interpretation, if I may make so bold….

Jesus says to his disciples, “I will give you a mouth and a wisdom that none of those who oppose you will be able to stand against or contradict” (Lk. 21:14-15). Since his imminent death is in view, he must mean that he will have authority “to confer speech and wisdom in a supernatural manner” beyond death, in Richard Hays’ words. We may compare God’s promise to Moses: “Now go, I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak” (Exod. 4:11-12).

In Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness Hays asks how it is that Jesus has such authority (71). How is it that he can confer powers and blessing “that no one but God could confer”? How can he appoint disciples and give them authority over demons and diseases? How can he promise to send power from on high upon his followers and then “in the dramatic opening scenes of Acts, fulfil that promise by pouring out the Holy Spirit”? Surely the power to send the Spirit “is a prerogative that belongs exclusively to God”?

The answer, Hays thinks, is to be found in Peter’s Pentecost sermon: Jesus possesses divine authority at the right hand of God, as “prefigured” in the words of Psalm 110:1. ‘Simply put, Jesus has the authority to send the Spirit because, as David declared long ago, he is “Lord.”’ This is the Spirit, moreover, that God named as “my Spirit” in the prophecy of Joel 2:28. So we see here “the closest possible Verbindung of Jesus’ identity with the divine identity” (72).

I don’t think so….

1. Speaking about the future in Luke 22:28–30 Jesus explains the source of his authority or “kingdom”:

You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign (diatithemai) to you, as my Father assigned (dietheto) to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

He confers authority on the disciples because authority has been conferred—the same verb—on him by his Father. Similarly, Matthew 28:18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given (edothē) to me”; and John 5:27: “he has given (edōken) him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man”. These are all eschatological statements. They all presuppose the narrative of Daniel 7: kingdom is given to the Son of Man who suffers but is vindicated by God. You are not given something that you already have.

2. Jesus has the Spirit to pour out not because he participates in the divine identity but because, as Peter explains, he has “received (labōn) from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33). Yes, this is God’s Spirit, and yes, the prerogative to send the Spirit normally belongs to God alone. But this is not a normal situation. Because the day of God’s judgment is approaching, because in his death Jesus fulfilled the purposes of God, because God raised him from the dead, the prerogative to pour out the Spirit has been handed over to Jesus so that he can give it/him to his disciples for the sake of their mission to Israel (and beyond). It is mark of the continuing commitment of the resurrected Lord to his followers (cf. Jn. 16:5-15).

3. David could not have done this because he did not ascend into the heavens (2:34). The Lord greater than David (cf. Lk. 20:41-44) is the one who did ascend into the heavens, who was seated at the right hand of God to reign as king throughout the coming ages. That is what differentiates Jesus from David in this apocalyptic context, not a supposed divine identity.

4. Peter’s clear understanding is that the risen Jesus has authority not because he is Lord—a statement of identity—but because “God has made (epoiēsen) him both Lord and Christ”, by exalting him to his right hand (2:36). Hays omits to mention this detail. You are not made something that you already are.

Now it seems to me that we might reasonably use this fully coherent, fully biblical apocalyptic narrative as the starting-point for a redefinition of the godhead: God for us has become God-and-Jesus-at-the-right-hand-of-God, with Jesus exercising the full authority of the Father for the sake of his people. But I don’t see how we can make this apocalyptic outcome the premise for reading the passage. If we want to make divine identity a christological premise, then we have to look elsewhere.

Comments

A similar argument of conferred authority is seen when God gives Jesus authority to forgive sins and then Jesus later confers that authority on to his disciples in Jn 20. A theory of divine identity “behind” the text is completely unnecessary.

More specifically, in Jn 20:21-23 (a separate version/account of Acts 2:33?), Jesus is pictured breathing upon his disciples to send them, and the Holy Spirit is mentioned there also (empowering?).

To me, it makes the most sense to view Jesus’ “reception” of the Holy Spirit and “pouring out” not literally but figuratively in an honorarium sense. God (not Jesus) has inaugurated a new epoch of increased access to mankind of His Spirit in light of/ in honor of Jesus’ resurrection/ enthronement. Otherwise the literal imagery gets ridiculous (as if God hands Jesus a vat of H.S. liquid to pour out upon mankind?).

If I were to respond to this post, from where I’m sitting, I’d say something like this.

The language of Jesus giving, or conferring on his disciples the Spirit, attributes and authority on the basis of what God the Father has given him, does point to “God for us (having) become God-and-Jesus-at-the-right-hand-of-God, with Jesus exercising the full authority of the Father for the sake of his people”. But this is not in contradiction, as far as I can see, with what Richard Hays appears to be saying.

First, there was a ‘before and after’ in relation to Jesus’s cross/resurrection/ascension. Before, there was a limited authority given to his disciples, on the basis of which they were able to do certain things which he himself had been doing (casting out demons, healing the sick etc). Afterwards, the authority to do such things (and more) became more general for believers, on the basis of Jesus having been given “all authority in heaven and on earth”. This was not simply an authority which was his by right “because he was God”, which was restored to him on his ascension - in other words, as if “normal service has now been resumed”. It was an authority given to him because of what his earthly ministry had accomplished, especially through the cross and resurrection (which points to a much greater authority than simply to ensure the survival or continuation of the people of God, within the limited story of the people of God at that time).

Does the reception of this authority from “God” then demonstrate that Jesus himself was something or someone less than God? The reception by Jesus of the Holy Spirit from “God” to pour out on those who believed in him is the strongest possible indication that Jesus was more than something or someone less than God. Before this, there is a sequence in the story, which demonstrates that Jesus as the divine Son was limited in what he was able to do until the key events of his ministry had been accomplished (hence, in my opinion, Luke 12:50). So Jesus as the divine Son placed himself by voluntary submission into the hands of the divine Father - eg John 5:19, John 5:30; Luke 23:46.

Continuing this voluntary submission, Jesus was raised from the dead by “the working of (the) mighty strength” of the Father - Ephesians 1:20, and by the Spirit - Romans 8:11. Does this mean he was anything less than God? On the contrary, it was the same voluntary submission of divine Son to the divine Father and divine Spirit. In the same way, the language of God giving or conferring on Jesus that which he in turn conferred or gave means the full recognition and accreditation of what Jesus had accomplished, which he as divine Son was now to give to those who believed in him.

I realise that you are trying to create a space in which to rewrite the story, so that what Jesus did or made available post-ascension is not simply collapsed into something like the full restoration of a divine nature. It’s not “he could do these things simply because he was God, and the post-ascension language is just a fancy way of saying that he is once again in the place of God which he was in before”.

I also realise that you believe that a non divine Son would be more appropriate to the texts in their historical context, as read and understood by you, by “looking forwards” rather than “reading backwards”.

However, I think there remain significant problems in the view that to describe Jesus as divine on the basis of the NT texts is unhistorical, untrue to the texts, or simply unnecessary. The most prominent problem, it seems to me, is the one you don’t have any difficulty with: that Jesus is given the Holy Spirit to pour out on believers. Another problem is that the language of giving/conferring (to Jesus then from Jesus to his disciples) does not in itself contradict that this could happen if Jesus was the divine Son, on the basis of his voluntary submission to God the Father. Another problem is the accumulated weight of evidence which Richard Hays cites, especially the unqualified application to Jesus of OT texts which unreservedly apply in context to YHWH. A corollary of this is that there is no explanation of or justification for this application, which leads to at least one conclusion: that Jesus was himself fulfilling the texts as YHWH.

A further problem with the “delegated authority to a human agent” views is that the accumulated weight of evidence from the earthly ministry of Jesus suggests something beyond “mere man” (as Alan Cole puts it - New Bible Commentary). The evidence is all going one way.

Then there is a further problem. The underlying question which the gospels are prompting us to ask, just as, in their own way, they prompted Jesus’s contemporaries to ask, is who was Jesus? That he was the messiah, Danielic son of man, is part of the answer. It does not answer the larger question of what kind of man was “the son of man”? Jesus seems to play with this question, and to model an answer in his lifestyle, actions and teaching, until the question answers itself, resoundingly I would say, with his ascension and Spirit out-pouring, when he was indeed “God for us has become God-and-Jesus-at-the-right-hand-of-God”, but now with the rider: ‘on the divine side of the equation’.

I’m not trying to be difficult, or even mounting a last-ditch defence of evangelicalism (or any other ism). I believe that the story, and what it had (and has) power to accomplish, is severely compromised if we do not maintain a view of Jesus’s divinity, as part of the narrative as a whole. On the other hand, if push came to shove, and we were simply talking about exegesis in isolation from praxis, I’d say that the arguments for a divine sonship of Jesus stack up just as impressively as those against, with the balance tipping strongly in favour of the former on the basis of at least some of the aforementioned factors.

This was not simply an authority which was his by right “because he was God”, which was restored to him on his ascension - in other words, as if “normal service has now been resumed”. It was an authority given to him because of what his earthly ministry had accomplished, especially through the cross and resurrection (which points to a much greater authority than simply to ensure the survival or continuation of the people of God, within the limited story of the people of God at that time).

Yes! And God could have accomplished his will for his people, irrespective of whether Jesus succeeded in his ministry or not. Jesus’ receiving holy spirit and authority is a reward for his faithful service on earth (Php 2:11, Heb. 12:2). That authority is functional and NOT ontological; it is inherited, not inherent to him.

Does the reception of this authority from “God” then demonstrate that Jesus himself was something or someone less than God? The reception by Jesus of the Holy Spirit from “God” to pour out on those who believed in him is the strongest possible indication that Jesus was more than something or someone less than God. Before this, there is a sequence in the story, which demonstrates that Jesus as the divine Son was limited in what he was able to do until the key events of his ministry had been accomplished (hence, in my opinion, Luke 12:50). So Jesus as the divine Son placed himself by voluntary submission into the hands of the divine Father - eg John 5:19, John 5:30; Luke 23:46.

And here the machinery of dogma starts to turn. There is NOTHING in any of these texts that even hints at Jesus being inherently divine. The miracle of Jesus’ high exaltation, which by extension would also become faithful Christians’, is precisely the miracle that those who are utterly human would be exalted as the ones who truly reflect God’s (SOMEONE ELSE’S) glory faithfully (John 17:22, 24, Ro. 8:29, 2 Pet. 1:4, Rev. 3:9). If the restoration of God’s image in his people was the aim of the authors, then insisting that theophoric members (with Jesus as forerunner) HAS TO BE MORE THAN HUMAN is a denial of those authors’ intent. Worse, it’s a dogma-driven denial thereof.

On the contrary, it was the same voluntary submission of divine Son to the divine Father and divine Spirit.

No, your presuppositions have clouded your interpretation.

I also realise that you believe that a non divine Son would be more appropriate to the texts in their historical context, as read and understood by you, by “looking forwards” rather than “reading backwards”.

“More appropriate,” given the alternative acrobatic doctrine-driven interpretation, is an understatement. “No-brainer” is more appropriate.

However, I think there remain significant problems in the view that to describe Jesus as divine on the basis of the NT texts is unhistorical, untrue to the texts, or simply unnecessary.

I think your (and every other Trinitarian cherishing their inherited doctrine) emotional investment in the issue is the actual issue. And resolving the issue can be painful. But the earth IS NOT flat, whether we WANT it to be flat or not.

The most prominent problem, it seems to me, is the one you don’t have any difficulty with: that Jesus is given the Holy Spirit to pour out on believers.

There is no problem if the miracle of someone TRULY HUMAN accomplishing it, is precisely what the writers had intended to show.

Another problem is that the language of giving/conferring (to Jesus then from Jesus to his disciples) does not in itself contradict that this could happen if Jesus was the divine Son, on the basis of his voluntary submission to God the Father.

It does, precisely since ontologically-God assumes being the Source of holy spirit, while the necessity to receive and to be authorized to pour out holy spirit BY DEFINITION precludes ontological divinity. Your explanation necessitates ignoring explicit and normative use of language proving the contrary anyway.

Another problem is the accumulated weight of evidence which Richard Hays cites…

If it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it looks like a duck; if each feature fails to prove it to be a duck, no amount of accumulated evidence will suddenly make the thing a duck. Deal with your cognitive dissonance instead.

It does not answer the larger question of what kind of man was “the son of man”?

And no answer will satisfy a person who has pre-determined what the answer should be. For what it’s worth, the answer is that Jesus was the real human, the Second, but true Glory-bearing Adam. However much Jesus plays with this question, however much a theme of mystery surrounds this question; it by no means defaults to the indigenized inventions of Nicaea and Chalcedon.

I’m not trying to be difficult, or even mounting a last-ditch defence of evangelicalism (or any other ism).

Maybe you are, but you’re not aware of it. What you’re also not aware of, is how obvious your pushing for a cherished doctrine is. THEN evidence is pointless and logic is futile.

“The answer, Hays thinks, is to be found in Peter’s Pentecost sermon: Jesus possesses divine authority at the right hand of God, as “prefigured” in the words of Psalm 110:1. ‘Simply put, Jesus has the authority to send the Spirit because, as David declared long ago, he is “Lord.”’ This is the Spirit, moreover, that God named as “my Spirit” in the prophecy of Joel 2:28. So we see here “the closest possible Verbindung of Jesus’ identity with the divine identity” (72).”

Psalm 110:1 is probably the worst text to use in favor of Jesus’ divinity. It had never been understood to be Yahweh speaking to another who is also Yahweh. In fact, the Targummim, the LXX, the MT and pseudepigraphal texts consistently distinguish between Yahweh and the second lord and consistently present the second lord to be nothing else but human.

Furthermore, I’m not so sure whether Hays is that up-to-date with scholarship on midrash. Scripture is applied in new ways to highlight a point the writer/redactor wants to highlight. To insist on the exact application of a text, such as Joel 2:23, and to ignore the reality of contemporary and alternative midrashic applications thereof, is a stunning display of the kind of presuppositional streak pro-Trinitarain scholarship still has. It’s fallacious and flawed, and it needs to be hightlighted for what it truly is.

As I understand it… IF Caesar was divine then logically “the Son of Caesar” was likewise “divine”. The contention came down to “WHO was the real LORD… Caesar or Jesus?

As has been noted, apart from being declared Israel’s Messiah, through faith]full obedience Jesus was ALSO “appointed” (exalted) as the world’s LORD, i.e., Jesus was God’s man, not only of the hour (AD30-70) but of the ages to come.

Andrew,

I think there is a misunderstanding on your part, and everyone elses (in cluding Hays’) too.

2. Jesus has the Spirit to pour out not because he participates in the divine identity but because, as Peter explains, he has “received (labōn) from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33). Yes, this is God’s Spirit, and yes, the prerogative to send the Spirit normally belongs to God alone. But this is not a normal situation. Because the day of God’s judgment is approaching, because in his death Jesus fulfilled the purposes of God, because God raised him from the dead, the prerogative to pour out the Spirit has been handed over to Jesus so that he can give it/him to his disciples for the sake of their mission to Israel (and beyond). It is mark of the continuing commitment of the resurrected Lord to his followers (cf. Jn. 16:5-15).

When Peter says that “he has received the promise of the Holy Spirit” he is not referring to Jesus getting the Spirit. He is referring to something the Spirit had promised (in the OT) that He (the Spirit) would give. Now that Jesus had received the “promise” he could now offer it to those who were His. Peter, states this down in Acts 2:38, when he says “…and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Peter is telling the people they too were to receive the “gift” that came from the Holy Spirit. He could say this because the “promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).

What was the promise/gift? Paul summed it up in Acts 26:6-8.

6 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, 7 to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! 8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Hi Rich,

Ac. 2:33 has the genitive of apposition. If we read, for instance, “the gift of the holy spirit,” we do not understand it as the gift given by the holy spirit, but the gift (which is) the holy spirit. Likewise, the promise of the holy spirit is understood to be the promise (which is) the holy spirit. Check out footnote 71 here: https://net.bible.org/#!bible/Acts+2:27

Andrew is correct in his assessment.

It’s an interesting line of interpretation, Rich, but I think that two things tell against it:

1. As Jaco points out, this is easily read as a genitive of apposition. We find the same construction in Galatians 3:13–14 in a passage that addresses the question of how the Galatians received the Spirit:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit (τὴν ⸀ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ πνεύματος) through faith.

2. Like Paul in Galatians, in this sermon Peter is explaining how it has happened that the disciples have received the Spirit. It seems unlikely, then, that in verse 38 he calls people to repent, be baptized and receive the gift of resurrection. He is talking about the much more immediate experience of the Spirit, whereas for Paul the resurrection is a more remote “hope” to which the twelve tribes “hope to attain”.