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The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: A Narrative-Critical Response, Part 1

3 Concerning the second part of Fee’s statement, I would ask, How can a reader get to Luke’s intentions before settling on the possibilities that the language allows? It is as though Fee has already decided what Luke is saying before he examines the Greek.

4 Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1984), 57; cf. Roger Stronstad, The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 68-70.

5 Eduard Schweizer, “Pneuma, pneumatikos, k.t.l.,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 6. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968), 412.

6 “In Joel’s prophecy the Spirit comes as the source of prophetic inspiration, a point that again Luke highlights by altering the Greek text of Joel by inserting the phrase ‘and they will prophesy’ (Acts 2:18). Another alteration, Luke’s transformation of Joel’s “slaves” into ‘servants of God’—effected by his double insertion of ‘my’ in Acts 2:18 …—highlights what is implicit in the Joel text: The gift of the Spirit is given only to those who are members of the community of salvation. Thus Luke’s explicit definitions (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-8) and his use of the Joel citation indicate that “the promise” of the Spirit, initially fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), enables the disciples to take up their prophetic vocation to the world.

“Although the Lukan ‘promise’ of the Spirit must be interpreted in light of Joel’s promise concerning the restoration of the Spirit of prophecy, Acts 2:39 does include an additional element, insofar as Luke extends the range of the promise envisioned to include the promise of salvation offered in Joel 2:32 (as well as the promise of the Spirit of prophecy in Joel 2:28). As Dunn notes, Acts 2:39 echoes the language of Joel 2:32/Acts 2:21: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ In Acts 2:39 Luke extends the range of ‘the promise’ to include this salvific dimension because the audience addressed is not disciples.

“Yet we must not miss the fact that ‘the promise’ of Acts 2:39 embraces more than the experience of conversion. Consistent with Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33, the promised gift of the Spirit in Acts 2:39 refers to the promise of Joel 2:28, and thus it is a promise of prophetic enabling granted to the repentant. The promise of Acts 2:39, like the promise of Jesus in 1:8, points beyond “the restoration of the preserved of Israel”: Salvation is offered (Joel 2:32), but the promise includes the renewal of Israel’s prophetic vocation to be a light to the nations (Joel 2:28). …

“Acts 2:39 does not indicate that the Spirit comes as the source of new covenant existence. Rather, it simply reminds us that the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 includes two elements: the gift of the Spirit of prophecy (v. 28) and the offer of salvation to those who call on the name of the Lord (v. 32). Acts 2:39 refers to both, but it does not suggest the two are identical. Indeed, this sort of equation runs counter to Luke’s explicit statements (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-8), his use and redaction of the Joel citation … and the broader context of his two-volume work. …

“There is simply no evidence to support the notion that by referring to Joel 2:28-29, Luke intended his readers to think of some commonly expected, all-embracing soteriological bestowal of the Spirit, the details of which were pieced together from a variety of Old Testament texts. … [T]he most that can be gleaned from the text [of Acts 2:38] is that repentance and water baptism are the normal prerequisites for reception of the Spirit, which is promised to every believer.” William W. and Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 77-80; cf. Robert P. Menzies, Empowered for Witness: The Spirit in Luke-Acts (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 171, 182, 203-204.

7 Having explored the interpretation of lēmpsesthe as dilatory, I recognize that the Pentecostal interpretation that the three thousand were baptized in the Spirit and spoke in tongues is also feasible. How this could happen without Luke’s recording it is covered later.

8 Douglas A. Oss, “A Pentecostal/Charismatic View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views, ed. Wayne A. Grudem (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 239-283; Donald A. Johns, “Some New Directions in the Hermeneutics of Classical Pentecostalism’s Doctrine of Initial Evidence,” in Initial Evidence: Historical and Biblical Perspectives on the Pentecostal Doctrine of Spirit Baptism, ed. Gary B. McGee (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 145-167. Interestingly, Fee sides with Stronstad and against Walston’s view, writing, “I strongly agree with … Stronstad, on the ‘charismatic nature’ of Lukan theology. . .” (Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991] 101).

9 William W. and Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 89; Robert P. Menzies, “Spirit-Baptism and Spiritual Gifts,” in Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W. Menzies, eds. Wonsuk Ma and Robert P. Menzies (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 52-56.

10 James B. Shelton summarizes the Lukan data succinctly and accurately: “Although Luke is not averse to associating the Holy Spirit with conversion, this is not his major pneumatological thrust. Some misunderstanding has arisen when the role of the Holy Spirit in empowering for witness is confused with conversion. … Luke associates the Holy Spirit with conversion to some degree, but he does not clearly describe that role since his attention is centered on another major role of the Spirit: inspired witness” (Mighty in Word and Deed: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991], 127, 148.)

11 For critiques of Dunn’s work see Howard M. Ervin, Conversion-Initiation and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Critique of James D. G. Dunn’s Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1984); Menzies, Empowered for Witness; E. A. Russell, “‘They believed Philip preaching,’ (Acts 8.12),” Irish Biblical Studies 1 (1979), 169-176; J. Giblet, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles,” One in Christ 10 (1974), 162-171; William Atkinson, “Pentecostal Responses to Dunn’s Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Luke-Acts,” JPT 6 (1995): 87-131; and Shelton, Mighty in Word and Deed: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts. Interestingly, even Dunn concedes that “Luke intended to portray ‘speaking in tongues’ as ‘the initial physical evidence’ of the outpouring of the Spirit,” Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament (London: SCM, 1975), 189-190 (italics his).

12 For an assessment of Fee’s outdated ideas see William W. and Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power 109-118 and Menzies, Empowered 237-239.

13 Cf. Menzies, Empowered 204-213; Anthony Palma, The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2001), 119; and J. L. Hall, “A Oneness Pentecostal Looks at Initial Evidence,” in Initial Evidence 178.

14 Cf. Menzies, Empowered 215-218 and Johns 163.

15 Cf. Elbert, “Towards,” 19-25; Paul Elbert, “An Observation on Luke’s Composition of Questions,” CBQ 66/1 (January 2004): 107-108; Palma 128; and Menzies, Empowered 218-225.

16 However, as Pentecostals, we would do well to remember these words from Oss: “… Pentecostals historically have emphasized that this experience is available from the moment the Holy Spirit indwells the believer, and their testimonies often speak of being both saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit all at once, while responding to an invitation for salvation,” 242.

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Category: Fall 2005, Spirit

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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