Luke’s Charismatic Theology, Pt. 2

Image mural of Elijah/Elisha

Elijah’s spirit rests on Elisha,
as other prophets recognize

by David Bjorgen, CC-by-2.5 Generic
via Wikimedia Commons

In chapter 2 of The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, Roger Stronstad summarizes findings from an analysis of the Hebrew Bible’s narratives about the Spirit of wisdom or the Spirit of God.

In Old Testament times, the Spirit appears in five distinct historical periods: the foundation of the covenant community in the wilderness, the time of the judges, the institution of the monarchy (Saul, David), the prophets (so, Elijah, Elisha, others), and the prophet/priests of the exilic period (so, e.g., Ezekiel, Zechariah). 1 The Spirit being associated with the characteristic offices of these discrete time periods in the history of ancient Israel; the Spirit doesn’t manifest continuously – the periods are separated from one another in time, sometimes by a long time; the manifestation of the Spirit is what Stronstad calls “programmatic.” That is, it is linked to the accomplishment of specific work, e.g., Moses’ administration of the community, the tabernacle craftspeople’s exercise of artisanal skill, prophetic ministry, and the like.

The Septuagint uses specific language for manifestations of the Spirit, most frequently “to come upon,” “to take up” and “to come/leap upon,” “to lead,” “to rest,” “to fill.” 2

Stronstad sees three emphatic “motifs” or themes in the treatment of the Spirit in the Old Testament: the Spirit’s association with the transfer of authority and power (e.g., Moses to Joshua; Elijah to Elisha); the Spirit as a sign of empowerment or authorization (e.g., Saul being also among the prophets); and the Spirit as endowing “the recipient with the skills that are appropriate for this call to leadership.”3 Finally, the Old Testament records prophecies of a general outpouring of the Spirit, characteristic of the messianic age. Rather than creating individual charismatic leaders, it will give rise to a charismatic community.4

In the intertestamental period, by contrast, there is a perception of the cessation of outpourings of the Spirit, although with some exceptions. It seems the Qumran community identified itself with prophetic activity, for instance. The Pharisees, on the other hand, seem to have developed the expectation that a prophetic messiah would usher in the messianic age.5

In conclusion, Stronstad says

… the charismatic motifs of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, such as the transfer, sign, and vocational motifs, influence Luke’s theology of the Holy Spirit. In addition to the influence of these charismatic motifs, the Septuagint furnishes Luke with the terminology to describe the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. Finally, Luke-Acts contrasts with the intertestamental belief in the cessation of prophetic inspiration, rather, it reports the restoration of prophetic activity after four centuries of silence.6


1 Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 19.
2 Ibid., 22.
3 Ibid., 23-27.
4 Ibid., 4.
5 Ibid., 33-35.
6 Ibid., 35.

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About HAT

Heather Thiessen (HAT) is a happily married 60-ish, Bible-reading, Presbyterian Church Sunday School teaching and choir singing, small fuel efficient car driving, still pretty much 2nd wave feminist and generally out lesbian Hoosier mom. (There are no monochrome states.) From time to time she teaches religious studies to students at a small liberal arts college in Louisville, Kentucky.
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