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William and Robert Menzies: Spirit and Power, Empowered for Witness, and The Development Of Early Christian Pneumatology

 

The above work by Menzies does set a new standard for those who are keeping up with recent works on pneumatology. There are three sections. The first provides an overview of the pneumatological perspectives of intertestamental Judaism. This includes literature from the Diaspora, Palestinian, Qumran and rabbinic sources. The conclusion made is that with rare exception, this literature “consistently identifies experience of the Spirit with prophetic inspiration,” (p.112). The second and largest section provides an in-depth study of the prophetic pneumatology of Luke. Here, Menzies presents a careful argument showing that while Paul attributes soteriological functions to the Spirit, Luke does not. For Luke, the purpose of the gift of the Spirit is to equip the church for their prophetic vocation. Luke describes the church as a prophetic community empowered for witness by the Spirit (p.279). The final and shortest section discusses the origin of Paul’s pneumatology, which differs from Luke and the early church, but is complementary.

William Menzies (1931-2011)

Menzies first work was later published as a monograph in the Journal of Pentecostal Studies Supplement Series 6. This made the work available to a larger audience, at a more affordable price, and less daunting for the non-specialist. Almost all of the foreign language material has been translated, the footnotes and discussion of secondary literature greatly reduced, and, most important, the two chapters on Paul have been replaced with chapters addressing contemporary questions. The new material covers the issues of subsequence, and evidential tongues. One is surprised at the creative insight Menzies provides to these areas!

As significant as the above works are, it may well be the third publication (Spirit and Power) which will impact the average believer. While Dr. Robert Menzies wrote almost all of the chapters, his father wrote the opening chapter as well as the postscript in chapter 13 and the conclusion. Of the 15 chapters, 8 are revisions of previously published material, and seven are new. There are two sections. The first provides theological foundations for the Pentecostal view. Included are replies to both Dunn and Turner. For those with a theological education, chapter three will come as a surprise (“Hermeneutics: The Quiet Revolution”). There has been a distinct change in evangelical attitudes towards biblical narrative, as can be seen by the documentation provided.

Part two covers theological affirmations. One finds Menzies at his best, demonstrating creative insight, spiritual counsel and sound research. Here, one can find material on such areas as subsequence, tongues, signs and wonders, spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit.

Having a graduate degree in biblical studies I found this to be a most unusual book. Spirit and Power is the best presentation of a full orbed biblical theology, from a classical Pentecostal viewpoint, that I have come across. The scholarship is balanced with a pastoral heart. Dr. Menzies honors James Dunn and Max Turner for their contributions before discussing areas of disagreement. In other places Menzies takes great care to explain why other parts of the evangelical world hold the views they do. There are a surprising number of wonderful spiritual insights (I would often share these with my wife as I read through the work). The documentation is superb, leading me to read every footnote and look up almost every biblical reference. The pastoral heart and presentation of scholarly material sets a new standard for the body of Christ. He models how to interact with opposing viewpoints and yet leave the reader sensing Christ’s love (Not an easy feat!).

 

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2002

About the Author: Grant Hochman, a teacher with the Surrey School District in B.C. Canada, wrote his Master of Christian Studies thesis (Regent College, 1992) on “A Christian Response to the Cults: An Aid for the Lay Person.” He gives guest lectures and Sunday school courses on cult apologetics as well as on every member ministry (Eph. 4:11-16).

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