Refining Spirit Hermeneutics

Refining Spirit Hermeneutics

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PNEUMA 39 (2017) 198–240

RefiningSpirit Hermeneutics

Craig S. Keener

Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky


In this article Craig S. Keener participates in the roundtable dialogue on his book:Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in the Light of Pentecost. After responding individu- ally to the reviews of L. William Oliverio, Jr., Kevin L. Spawn, Hannah R.K. Mather, Ben Aker,JacquelineN.Grey,andKennethJ.Archer,Keenerrespondsmorefully tosomekey issues in the reviews and articulates elements of his hermeneutical theory that comple- ment the arguments in his book, including discussions on conventional hermeneutics, the role of subjectivity/objectivity in interpretation, and the relationship between pen- tecostal hermeneutics and evangelical hermeneutics.


Spirit Hermeneutics– Pentecostalism – historical criticism – literary context – cultural context – gender – subjectivity – objectivity – pentecostal hermeneutics – charismatic hermeneutics – evangelical hermeneutics

I am grateful to Pneuma for its attention to this contribution to a continuing dialogue. After a brief introduction, I will respond at first somewhat concisely to the individual reviewers, but because similar objections or issues that invite longer responses arose in a couple of the reviews, I will respond more themat- ically and fully to those in the following sections of my response.

Writers naturally approach the task of reviews differently, some more as a book review and others more as a critique. That I engage more fully the more critical objections than the many favorable affirmations should not reflect lack of appreciation for the affirmations. It is simply that criticisms require fuller responses, especially where some misunderstanding (or miscommunication on my part) is involved; and it would be awkward and self-serving for me to focus on reaffirming affirmations, much as I appreciate them.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2017 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03901011


refining spirit hermeneutics


I do want to make sure that all the reviewers know that I am grateful for their responses. Each of the respondents is my brother or sister in Christ; all whom I know personally (which is nearly all of them) are my friends, and one is my mentor. Even wounds from a friend are more trustworthy than the insincere adulations of enemies (Prov 27:6). (Admittedly, I doubt that the book will generate many adulations among enemies, most of whom will likely focus on and critique the more distinctively pentecostal and experiential parts of the book.) “Let the righteous strike me, let the faithful correct me” (Ps 141:5, nrsv).

Introductory comments

Spirit Hermeneutics seeks to bring together both textual and experiential dimensions of interpretation. We do not encounter God only in Scripture, but Scripture offers an anchor that keeps us on track with the word of the Lord from apostles and prophets through history as well as with the rest of the global church that shares this canon.

Spirit Hermeneutics

Ahermeneuticalvantagepointthathasbeencrystallizingformestillmorefully since writing the book provides a fresh way for me to articulate in a different way an aspect of Spirit hermeneutics already suggested in the book.

When I read a book by E.P. Sanders, Moody Smith, Stanley Horton, or another of my former professors, I consistently hear the work in their voice; I catch Ed Sanders’ dry humor, Moody’s gentle consideration of various views, or Stanley’s patient articulations. The same is true for books by friends whom I have heard often in person.

This is also how I hear God in Scripture: I hear the voice of the God who has already been revealing himself to me in Scripture and in prayer and in his faithfulness in my life over the years. When I read the Gospels, I am far less apt today than in my earliest years to sunder the Jesus I meet there from the Jesus of the epistles or from the Jesus who is Lord of my own life. I have a theological and personal context when I read the activity of Scripture’s main Character, and that provides a more holistic context for my reading. As Jacqui and Ken would appreciate, this comes as a cohesive experience rather than in successive methodological steps.

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My Early Experience with Interpreting Scripture

Although a Spirit hermeneutic is necessarily experiential,1as I have just noted, it is also textual, with all that implies. Although this observation is too ele- mentary to stress in some monographs on what is distinctive to pentecostal hermeneutics, it is something that a Spirit hermeneutic in practice dare not neglect. The Spirit did, after all, inspire Scripture in textual form.

As a new, previously unchurched convert from atheism some forty years ago, initially I came to the Bible with a science and mathematics mindset. I mem- orized disparate verses as formulas and linked them with such principles as the transitive property of equality. Both the absurdity and inconsistency of the consequent conclusions ruined for me that extreme proof-texting approach. In time, especially as I was reading forty chapters of the Bible a day, the shape of the literature forced me to contend with context, genre, and background assumptions. Recognizing that I could not claim to honor Scripture while iso- lating verses from their contexts also forced me to attend to the flow of thought in passages where (as in narrative or argumentation) this was particularly rel- evant.

Likewise, it does not take western culture or a “modernist” mindset to won- der, when we read Scripture, about customs, geographic names, and so forth that are foreign to us yet surface the historical particularity of the biblical texts. Such information is not always available, but its presence in the texts is inescapable and I find most learners in most cultures eager to acquire such information when it is available. God did not choose to give us Scripture in a supracultural, suprahistorical, or supralinguistic form; the Spirit who inspired Scripture is above all these limitations, but it is impossible for anythingtextual to exclude such contexts. God chose to reveal himself in historical particular- ities, and if we neglect these, we neglect the way in which God has chosen to reveal himself, whether in our lives, our churches, or the Bible.

My desire in the book is to embrace both the experiential and textual aspects of embracing Scripture. As some of the reviewers (such as Bill and Ken) point out, to impose as necessary a dichotomy between exploring the text’s historical dimensions and learning from the Spirit is to perpetuate (by imitating or by reacting against) the sterile Enlightenment agenda, furthered after Kant, of separating reason from faith. Earlier Christian thinkers, not shaped by such a

1 E.g.,Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost(Grand Rapids,mi: Eerdmans,

2016), 21–38 (esp. 25–27, 30–36), 40–44, 67, 116, 176, 199, 203, 238, 255, 260, 263, 268–269, 276,

277, 282, 286, 313 n. 34, 320 n. 75, 368 n. 16. Further references to this work will be made

parenthetically by page number within the text of this article.

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dichotomy, may have embraced faith as primary (an infinite God is not subject to human reason), but faith informed reason and reason informed faith.

Responses to Individual Reviewers

I did not conceive of this book project or volunteer for it; my good and wise friend Amos Yong persuaded me, despite my reluctance, to join the existing fray!2 I find myself in frays more often than I wish: sometimes as the defender of a charismatic position among cessationists or (more often) cautious evangel- icals; or an evangelical among skeptical scholars; or a socially active challenger of evangelical traditions. Now I have entered a fray among fellow pentecostal scholars!

Preliminary Comments about Responses

Throughout this essay I am responding to the draft forms of the reviews that I received, so my quotations could differ in some ways from the final product. Also I will respond using first names, signifying collegiality but not meant to diminish respect. At least in the drafts available to me, some reviewers used my surname whereas others preferred my first name; both conventions appear in academic societies today. Desiring to follow consistency throughout, I respond here to the reviewers less formally by their first names.

The range of reviews confirms that we read texts through the grids of our own preunderstanding. Whereas some of the reviewers felt that I should have emphasized contemporary or global appropriations more, some others felt that I emphasized them too much. I suspect that means that there remains some difference of opinion among interpreters.

Both of the two more critical reviewers are friends who are cited in my endnotes far more often in agreement than in disagreement. They raised major concerns, however, even as to whether I support a pentecostal hermeneutic (although advocacy of a pneumatic hermeneutic is the primary thesis of the book). Ironically, outside pentecostal circles many reviews will surely decry my apologetic for what they will consider unbridled subjectivity and departure from appropriate academic epistemology.

At points I believe that they understood the opposite of my contextual sense (elaborated below). The book was as long as it was precisely because I was struggling to be clear and to qualify what I thought were my fairly basic claims,

2 See Amos Yong, “Foreword,” xvii–xxi in Spirit Hermeneutics. Not that Amos is to be blamed

for my content!

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but apparently my communication failed in these instances. Their concerns concentrate on the third of six sections. That section, on the “designed sense,” seems to have hit a nerve—despite my emphasizing (and even titling a chapter in that section) “both-and.”3 Since all or nearly all the reviewers also support the both-ands that I noted, I hope that my explanations below will clarify our agreement.

L. William Oliverio, Jr.

Bill’s fair, encouraging, and comprehensive review is a fitting introduction to discussion of Spirit Hermeneutics, and my reply will not be longer than it is primarily because of our many areas of agreement. (And despite his humility in the footnote on other major works on pentecostal hermeneutics, his monograph is among them.)

I find Bill’s insights helpful, including his observation that my own approach is closer to Jürgen Habermas and especially Kevin Vanhoozer than to some other writers I engage more fully. Reading the range of perspectives in the sphere of contemporary hermeneutics, including pentecostal hermeneutics, also leads me to appreciate and affirm Bill’s observation (followingVandevelde) “that hermeneutic camps tend to talk past one another.”

Bill also suggests that it might be helpful to “have a hermeneutics of culture as a companion.”This is a welcome suggestion for missiologists and theologians to undertake, but I am grateful that Bill graciously excuses me from needing to write that myself. Granted, much of my life is invested in the particular issue of race that Bill brings up, as the only white member and only u.s.-born member of an interracial, intercultural family. Nevertheless, there are many, includingChristenaCleveland,YolandaPierce,CherylSanders,andothers,who understand the growing secondary literature and can articulate these issues in ways far superior to mine. I write commentaries more efficiently than other sorts of works (I am writing a commentary on Galatians for Cambridge at the moment). My mounds of research may take decades to publish and I am already fifty-six years old (cf. Ps 90:12), so I readily relinquish other areas of work to other more capable scholars.

Bill kindly suggests the value of this hermeneutic for addressing some prob- lems on a popular level. I do offer a free but basic hermeneutics primer address- ing primarily contextual and genre matters,4 but will be happy for younger

3 Spirit Hermeneutics, chap. 10 (142–151), citing also numerous pentecostal and charismatic

scholars on various points, e.g., Arden Autry, Mark Cartledge, Howard Ervin, Lee Roy Martin,

Kevin L. Spawn, Robby Waddell, Archie Wright, and John Wyckoff.

4 See

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scholars to follow up Bill’s suggestion further. I did seek to include in Spirit Hermeneutics a corrective element for the popular hermeneutical problems our students often experience. In Spirit Hermeneutics, however, I mainly attempt to articulate how I have learned to engage Scripture through grappling with texts and finding what approaches seem to work most consistently with both the character of the language and commitment to Scripture’s ultimate authority in our lives.

The hermeneutic in the book is thus closer to the way I preach (where I high- light only the elements of background relevant to hearing the text’s message, including in our contemporary settings). It also provided the opportunity to guard against readers viewing my commentaries as an end in themselves, with their generally heavy emphasis on background more difficult to obtain else- where. I instead intend those commentaries as resources so readers can engage better with the biblical text itself, where they will more directly hear from God. Nevertheless, I am grateful to have those other resources to which to point read- ers; it is difficult to apply to our settings analogously the portions of Scripture that one does not first understand. I wrote the background resources as the sort of resources I desperately desired before I became a scholar, tools to aid in engaging and understanding Scripture.

Kevin L. Spawn

Kevin suggests how my foray into global perspectives could aid in advanc- ing hermeneutics. Primary sources matter more than secondary sources, and describing multiple perspectives does not excuse neglecting firsthand exege- sis, but these perspectives do enrich exegesis by providing a greater range of options and issues to consider. I believe that the more perspectives we get on the table, the better we can discern and guard against our own blind spots.5This function of global readings can serve the same purpose as reception history or surveying the views of other commentators.

The text itself and knowledge of its ancient contexts help us hear the ancient meaning. Yet, we will also hear that ancient meaning far more concretely when we seek to recontextualize the message’s comfort and demands for our various and no less concrete settings today. Of course, some cultures yield more direct insights on the text than others; an anthropologist with extensive experience in

5 See, e.g., Craig S. Keener and Daniel Carroll Rodas, eds., Global Voices: Readings from the

Majority World (Peabody,ma: Hendrickson, 2013), collecting the lectures and responses from

the 2011 Institute for Biblical Research plenary program, which I organized; this is also my

primary subject in Craig S. Keener, “Scripture and Context: An Evangelical Exploration,”

Asbury Journal70, no. 1 (2015): 17–62.

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the Middle East is a member of my small group from church, and her insights regularly help us understand not only the dynamics in the text but ways in which we act analogously in our own culture.

Kevin asks which sort of canonical narratives or biblical theologies a Spirit hermeneutic might highlight. Examples surely include the sorts of hermeneu- tical grids offered by Jesus, such as justice (Matt 23:23), mercy (Matt 9:13; 12:7), and love (Mark 12:29–31). Such grids do not invite us to dispense with other bib- lical teaching, but they do point to the sort of central emphases that we should highlight.

Kevin poses a key question that, even after writing the book, I struggle to answer: pedagogic advice for disseminating such a methodology. I feel some- what like I felt when I was invited to hold a chair of evangelism at one seminary: I have led many people to faith in Christ, but that does not necessarily qualify me to teach others, in an academic venue, how to do it. Others are more skilled in formal pedagogic methodology than I.

Nevertheless, we can both model for our students this holistic approach to interpretation and trust the Spirit to speak through us as we teach. That is, a Spirit hermeneutic, pedagogy, or homiletic must be more than a method. If we are men and women of God gifted by the Spirit as teachers, we trust that the Spirit will make the difference in many of our students (2Cor 3:7–18). Time and again I witness this experience as whetting their appetite for Spirit-guided interpretation and proclamation by giving them a fuller taste, an experience, of its reality.

Hannah R.K. Mather

I am grateful for such kind reviews as Hannah’s. These first three reviews cap- ture many of the most important dimensions of the book, and reading their rehearsals of these points confronts me with these points afresh. Although I wrote the book, I often need to be reminded of some of the principles I artic- ulated, particularly to do everything in light of God’s presence. I do not know whether it is because I amadhdor it is simply a more pervasive human frailty, but sometimes I forget just how active the Spirit is in my life and my study.

Here I respond to one point in particular. She notes her surprise “that the role of prophecy does not feature more prominently in this book, especially as Keener refers to having ministered in the gift of prophecy during periods of his life.” She raises a valuable point that merits my (and hopefully others’) further attention.6

6 The book does feature prophecy, though in various roles; my index lists it inSpirit Hermeneu-

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Prophecies and dreams often do drive me back to Scripture with new ques- tions or a new perspective. Sometimes when I am working on a book something relevant will come to me in a dream and I will write it down and use it in the book. Often the insights seem fairly self-evident but I would have missed them otherwise.7And, probably more to Hannah’s point, the Spirit of prophecy that inspired Scripture is surely active in how we hear God’s voice in Scripture.

There are times when I have given prophecies that incorporated biblical language in ways that surprised me and led me to rethink my approach to or embrace fresh insights on those passages. Of course, one must nuance such an approach carefully. Prophecy must be evaluated, and I must test what I hear against what others hear (1Cor 14:29) and, most of all, against the cumulative prophetic message of Scripture.

Likewise, prophecy can reuse the words and imagery of Scripture in different ways, sometimes merely evoking it or using distant analogies—as frequently in the intertextuality of Revelation, for example.8Such prophetic reappropriation

tics, 11, 15, 44, 52, 55, 61, 63, 94, 106–107, 114, 136, 178, 188, 239, 256–257, 272, 275, 321 n. 84, 324

n. 30, 324 n. 36, 343 n. 36, 350 n. 15, 375 n. 42, 378 n. 7, 379 n. 30; for biblical prophecy, 133, 136,

209, 210, 237, 247, 248–249, 258, 268; false prophecy in 106, 108–111, 112, 118, 260, 268, 280, 343

n. 35, 367 n. 4, 382 n. 11; and limitations of prophecy in 42, 110, 118, 126, 129, 253, 289, 343 n. 35,

343 n. 36; also, for inspiration, 44, 45, 64, 327 n. 9, 350 n. 23, 365 n. 32; inspiration of Scripture, 12,

45, 105, 109, 111, 126, 133, 134, 142, 167, 189, 192, 198, 247, 250, 278, 286, 364 n. 14, 364 n. 17, 364 n. 18,

365 n. 31, 375 nn. 47–48; its difference from mere spontaneity in 113–114, 147, 265, 346 n. 38. I

address the subject elsewhere, e.g., Keener,The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts: Divine Purity and

Power (Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 1997), 12–26;Gift & Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today

(Grand Rapids, mi: Baker Academic, 2001), 119–121; idem, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, 4

vols. (Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 2012–2015), 523–524, 534–537, 886–911. 7 Oftenin mydreamsIfind myself withinbiblical narratives,experiencingasense of whatsome

of the actors in those narratives may have felt. On dreams, see briefly, e.g., Craig S. Keener,

Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Grand Rapids, mi: Baker Academic,

2011), 870–884.

8 Forsomepentecostal/charismaticapproachestoRevelation,aconspicuouslypropheticwork,

see, e.g., Melissa L. Archer, ‘I Was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’: A Pentecostal Engagement

with Worship in the Apocalypse (Cleveland, tn: cpt Press, 2015); John Christopher Thomas

and Frank Macchia,Revelation,Two HorizonsntCommentary (Grand Rapids,mi: Eerdmans,

2016); Robby Waddell, The Spirit of the Book of Revelation, jpt Supplement Series 30 (Bland-

ford Forum, uk: Deo, 2006); Waddell, “Hearing What the Spirit Says to the Churches: Profile

of a Pentecostal Reader of the Apocalypse,” 171–203 in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader,

ed. Lee Roy Martin (Leiden: Brill, 2013); Waddell, “Choose Your Own Adventure: Teaching,

Participatory Hermeneutics, and the Book of Revelation,” 178–193 in But These Are Written

… Essays on Johannine Literature in Honor of Professor Benny C. Aker, ed. Craig S. Keener,

Jeremy S. Crenshaw, and Jordan Daniel May (Eugene,or: Pickwick Publications, 2014); Craig

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is welcome, but it differs from teaching Scripture. Prophets and teachers will serve the body of Christ better by working within their respective giftings, not by usurping the others’ roles.9Hopefully Hannah and others will develop these ideas further.

Ben Aker

Ben asks whether I treat the gift of the Spirit in Acts 2 as temporally distinct from salvation; he suggests that it can, against some, apply both to prophetic empowerment and to the coming of a new age. I agree; I believe that Luke zeroes in especially on one aspect of the Spirit’s work (prophetic empower- ment),10 but of course we recognize that the Spirit’s activity is not limited to this aspect.11

When examining Acts 1–2 in the book (39–66, esp. 39–56), I approach the gift of the Spirit in terms of empowerment for mission (42–43); in Acts we some- times see this experienced subsequent to conversion.12 But I also recognize that “baptism in the Spirit” has a broader sense in some other parts of the nt. John the Baptist’s proclamation of the one who would baptize in the Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16) envisions the entire eschatological work of the Spirit, contrast- ing it with eschatological fire (3:9, 17).13 Complementary to Luke’s emphasis on prophetic empowerment, I thus see the language of Spirit baptism devel- oped more soteriologically in John 3:5 and 1Cor 12:13.14At least one pentecostal scholar friend seemed disappointed with my treatment of Johannine pneuma-







S. Keener, “One Thousand Two Hundred Sixty Days: A Charismatic-Prophetic Empower- ment Reading of Time and God’s People in the Book of Revelation,” 235–246 in But These Are Written; idem, Revelation(nivac: Grand Rapids,mi: Zondervan, 2000), e.g., 57. Though of course some people are gifted in both ways; cf. Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 2012–2015), 1982–1983. See Keener, Acts, e.g., 523–524, 678–681, 689, 713, 780–783, 804–806, 823–824, 827–830, 881, 985–986.

Ibid., e.g., 785 n. 30, 958, 1038. Answering Ben’s question most fully, see 985–986; for the question of subsequence and separability, see 1522–1527.

Ibid., 1522–1527; cf. also Craig S. Keener, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today (Grand Rapids,mi: Baker, 2001), 147–169 (chap. 8: “When Are We Baptized in the Holy Spirit?”). Keener,Gift and Giver, 143–146; Keener,The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts: Divine Purity and Power (Peabody, ma: Hendrickson, 1997; repr. Grand Rapids, mi: Baker Academic, 2010), 94–96.

Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 2 vols. (Peabody, ma: Hendrickson; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 546–552; Keener, 1 and 2Corinthians, NCamBC (Cambridge,uk: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 103; Keener,Spirit in Gospels and Acts, 143–151; Keener,Gift and Giver, 139–140.

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tology, but hopefully my treatment of Lukan pneumatology compensated for this!

I do describe the experience in Acts 1–2 as baptism in the Spirit, but once we get past semantics, the strong majority of Christians today agree that we receive the Spirit in some sense at conversion but may also have experiences of the Spirit subsequent to conversion. Not wishing to argue semantics (2Tim 2:14), I often seek to explain my terminology. I do, however, stand firmly in the pentecostal tradition of understanding baptism in and reception of the Spirit in Acts as primarily empowerment for mission. Believers receive access to all the Spirit’s work at conversion, but do not always experience all of this work at once (see, for example, Acts 8:16–17; 9:17). Indeed, all of us should continue to remaindependent on the Spirit (for example, Gal 5:16–25).

I also appreciate Ben’s suggestion about taking more account of the new covenant aspect of Pentecost. I do agree that Acts 2 shows both empowerment and the new covenant idea, and I address some of those biblical allusions in my Acts commentary.15 In this book, however, I mainly reserved discussion of the new covenant for discussion of 2Corinthians 3.16 I feared that I was already rehashing too much of my Acts commentary in this book! But as I have been working on a Galatians commentary, I have been realizing that, while my emphasis on continuity was appropriate given the other nt books I have worked on, I have not always allowed sufficient room for an appropriate emphasis (in other respects) on discontinuity, on the radical newness of the kingdom, and on the widerntexperience of the Spirit.

In addressing my emphasis on contextualization, Ben emphasizes that a “western reading surely needs to learn from other non-western cultures, but all other cultures also need correction—sin knows no favorites.” Since my own context is western, I can afford to speak most critically of western culture, but since my Congolese wife and I together are intercontinental, together we can safely affirm that we agree about the need to evaluate positive, negative, and neutral elements in all cultures!

Jacqueline Grey

Jacqui agrees that we should not devalue the context, but asks whether the right criterion for validity in meaning is authorial intention (or, I might prefer to say simply, the shape and inferred design of the text in its ancient setting)17or “the

15 16


E.g., Keener, Acts, 783–784.

SeeSpirit Hermeneutics, 257–258; on the new covenant, see 220, 223, 231, 241, 250, 251, 257, 372 n. 3, 375 n. 35.

Cf. discussion of texts’ implied (rather than psychologically reconstructed) authors and

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theological worldview to which the text points be the determiner of a valid reading.”

Jacqui is certainly right about biblical theology, but I would ask whether a choice between biblical theology and the text’s literary design in its original context is a necessary choice. I agree fully with the importance of theologi- cal worldview in approaching Scripture (thus my emphasis on reading with faith, the element that I saw as perhaps most central to a Spirit hermeneutic). Ken, for example, argues, “Spirit Hermeneutics falls into the new genre called theological hermeneutics,” albeit without me recognizing it. Yet I do support a theological reading of Scripture18 (often citing Joel Green to this effect and emphasizing reading with faith).19 I also appreciate the diverse postbiblical contexts in which Scripture is and has been read, provided we recognize all these readings as contextual and illustrative (positively or negatively) rather than universal.20

Nevertheless, insofar as our theological worldview is (or I believe at least should be) constructed from Scripture, we must still do our homework in reconstructing what Scripture was addressing. Here I do not refer to redac-




readers in Spirit Hermeneutics, 99, 100, 133, 328 n. 33, 345 n. 31, 352 n. 53, and esp. 139–140. See further discussion in, e.g., James D. Hernando, Dictionary of Hermeneutics: A Con- cise Guide to Terms, Names, Methods, and Expressions(Springfield,mo: Gospel Publishing House, 2005), 26 n. 24; David R. Bauer, “The Literary and Theological Function of the Genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel,” 129–159 inTreasuresNewandOld:RecentContributionsto MattheanStudies,ed. DavidR.Bauer and MarkAllan Powell(Atlanta:ScholarsPress,1996), 131; Jeannine K. Brown, Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, mi: Baker Academic, 2007), 69–72; Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove, il: Inter- Varsity, 1991), 393–395; more extensively, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text?The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge(Grand Rapids,mi: Zon- dervan, 1998), 201–280.

On theological interpretation, seeSpirit Hermeneutics, 14–56 (esp. 19), 83, 101, 125, 146, 237, 238, 315 n. 54, 345 n. 11; for a christological center, see also 160, 209, 217–218, 237–243, 253, 260, 287, 288, 368 n. 16, 369 n. 42, 370 n. 55, 372 n. 1, 373 n. 12, 374 n. 20, 383 n. 2, 387 n. 18. On faith as an epistemic commitment, see Spirit Hermeneutics, 162–171, 174–177, 284, 358 n. 18, 358 n. 23, 358 n. 24, 359 n. 48, 361 n. 5, 361 n. 10, 366 n. 40, 367 n. 46, 380 n. 40, 381 n. 45; on reading with faith, 11, 13, 24, 25, 28–29, 48, 54, 55, 168, 170, 172, 173, 177, 186, 188, 192, 198, 199, 200, 201–205, 219–220, 254, 260–261, 273–274, 287, 361 n. 4, 363 n. 34, 363 n. 1. Cf. also Craig S. Keener, The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking (Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 2016), passim.

Universalizing particular historical or cultural constructions quickly becomes sectarian. Thus one generation’s apologetic becomes the next generation’s tradition and sometimes the following generation’s legalism.

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tional speculation, but simply to what we can know of the cultures and lan- guages in which it was originally framed. Scripture comes to us in a particular shape because it was formed in response to particular cultural situations; its message is universal, but its form, like its use of ancient languages, is par- ticular. It is precisely its concrete historical particularity that summons us to (and provides analogies for us to) recontextualize it concretely in new set- tings.

For example, as a young Christian I adopted as spiritual many “biblical” phrases that I later discovered were simply Greek or Hebrew idioms wood- enly preserved in my translation. Particular phraseology I once assumed preg- nant with profound theological implications I sometimes subsequently recog- nized as widespread ancient figures of speech. Such discoveries liberated me to express biblical theology in idioms more intelligible for my own contexts. Recognizing how many liturgical formsin the psalms resembled other ancient Near Eastern models encouraged me to contextualize worship in forms con- temporary for my own culture.21

I believe that my differences with Jacqui, however, remain largely a matter of emphasis or details. (Subsequent to our essays for this issue of Pneuma Jacqui and I also discussed some of our thoughts and I do believe that we are not far apart.) Thus, for example, Jacqui notes that our understanding of ottexts must not rest on “the Old Testament corpus alone, but through an analysis of the whole of Christian Scripture.” I fully agree, as my chapters on Jesus’s and Paul’s readings of theotshould suggest (207–236).

JacquiofferstheexamplethattheChristianmeaningof Isaiah7:14“isderived by reading the text in the light of Christ.” I agree that we should read backwards in light of fuller, subsequent revelation in Christ. Still, I do not believe that Matthew’s Christian use of the passage was arbitrary. In Isaiah’s larger context, his children are “signs” (Isa 8:18), and the sign of God being with us in Isaiah 7:14, referring directly to a child born to Isaiah in the reign of Ahaz, prefigures a royal child who will more fully embody God being with his people in Isaiah 9:6–7 (241–242).22Although I am a Matthean scholar,23I recognize that readers




Not usually controversial today, but addressed in Craig S. Keener, “The Tabernacle and Contextual Worship,”Asbury Journal 67, no. 1 (2012): 127–138.

I think that the nt avoided exploiting Isaiah 9:6–7 largely because the lxx translates it in a way that would complicate the interpretation, though Matthew seems to know Hebrew and does refer to Isaiah 9 three chapters after his use of Isaiah 7:14 (Matt 1:23; 4:14–16).

Craig S. Keener,The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary(Grand Rapids,mi: Eerdmans, 2009); see here 87.

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should probably pay more attention to anotscholar’s interpretation of Isaiah 7 than to mine.

Her comments about gender warrant fuller discussion and I thus address these in connection with my thematic treatment of background in a later section of this essay.

Kenneth J. Archer

I am grateful to be in dialogue with Kenneth Archer. So far as I recall, every occasion on which I have conversed with Ken I have sensed that he is a man of the Spirit, bathed in prayer. That is the kind of person I respect and like to seek out as a friend and person to pray with regardless of differences on other points. Subsequent to the present response, Ken and I followed up somewhat further on this exchange, expressing further our mutual appreciation for the other’s work.24

Regarding principlization, case studies, and analogies, I really do not dis- agree with Ken.25 I think that the difference here is merely semantic. Nor do I disagree with his emphasis, in the same connection, on being “formed through story rather than by cognitive timeless universal principles.” Indeed, part of my emphasis on historical context is to keep matters concrete and storied rather than simply a list of principles. My own point about principlizing is hearing the message of the text in ways that are not bound to the original historical context—a point on which I believe we strongly agree. I am in complete agree- ment with his concluding paragraph.

Nevertheless, I admit to being surprised by how Ken has understood some of my statements (or at least how I have understood his understanding), and I hope that this process of dialogue will help clarify what I am and am not saying. For example, he suggests at one point that I believe that “neutral unbi- ased historical investigation is possible.” He seems to refer to my claim that I felt (worded there in the past tense) that a “neutral” observer, examining solely the level of the research, would deem my historical Jesus research supe- rior to that of skeptics (such as the Jesus Seminar) critiqued in the book



Unity is also important in the kingdom—not always agreeing in every point, but unity in the gospel (Rom 15:6; 2Cor 13:11; Phil 2:2). Division opens doors for the enemy (e.g., 2Cor 2:10–11; Eph 4:26–27) and hinders prayer (Matt 6:11–15; 1Pet 3:7–12).

Certainly I agree with his warning against privileging epistle over narrative (Kenneth J. Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic: Spirit, Scripture and Community[Cleveland,tn:cpt Press, 2009], 204). See Spirit Hermeneutics, e.g., 22, 24, 32–34, 64, 69, 139, 144, 150, 166–167, 184, 200, 204, 239–240, 244–245, 252–255, 256, 282, 358 n. 28, 359 n. 28, 359 n. 30, 359 n. 32, 359 n. 33, 359 n. 36, 376 n. 52, 376 nn. 56–57, 383 n. 2.

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(16).26 My reference to a “neutral” observer is hypothetical, referring to some- one academically competent yet with a low degree of personal investment in the given subject, who could sift documentation, recognize use of primary sources, and evaluate the cogency of arguments. In any case, I then noted my subsequent work that engaged “metahistorical questions” “outside the historical-critical box” (16).

Yet I regularly, perhaps almost tediously, affirm in the book that every- one works from presuppositions and preunderstanding.27 I emphasize that “[p]resuppositions are inevitable” (182); “[n]o one comes to texts without pre- suppositions” (26); “[p]reunderstanding shapes how we come to texts” (40); “[e]veryone brings presuppositions and thus an interpretive grid to reality” (175); and so forth. I note my agreement with Anthony Thiselton on the duality of “historical conditioning …the modern interpreter, no less than the text, stands in a given historical context and tradition.”28

In a related way, I refer to blind spots (10, 66, 70, 79–80, 81, 82, 87, 88, 97, 295, 341 n. 13)29 and even include an entire section on “examples of hostile bias” (180–182) in a much larger section advocating a Christian epistemology that starts from Christian premises (153–204).30 Already in the introduction I suggest, “Because charismatic experience is an important part of New Tes- tament experience, it provides a much more adequate starting point or pre- understanding for engaging the text than does the lack of such experience” (6).31

Nevertheless, I do also believe that academic fairness is a valuable goal, not least in grading papers. (God knows that it would certainly be helpful in







Referring in context to myThe Historical Jesus of the Gospels(Grand Rapids,mi: Eerdmans, 2009).

Addressed, e.g., in Spirit Hermeneutics, 6, 16, 26, 40, 148, 156, 163, 169, 174–175, 180–182, 186, 255, 290, 292, 312 nn. 27–28, 344 n. 8, 358 n. 19, 358 n. 24, 362 n. 18, 377 nn. 66–67, 384 n. 2, 384 nn. 4–5, 385 nn. 14–15.

Anthony C. Thiselton, The Two Horizons: New Testament Hermeneutics and Philosophical Description (Grand Rapids, mi: Eerdmans, 1980), 11; cf. also 12, 15. I cite this in Spirit Hermeneutics, 26.

SeefurtherAaronChalmers,“TheInfluenceof CognitiveBiasesonBiblicalInterpretation,” bbr26, no. 4 (2016): 467–480.

Some would deem postmodern my observation that epistemologies are rarely self- justify ing (156, 163) and my appeal to a specifically Christian hermeneutic.

Noting Roger Stronstad, “Pentecostal Experience and Hermeneutics,” Paraclete 26, no. 1 (Winter 1992): 14–30 (here 17, 25–26), as cited in Kenneth J. Archer, “Pentecostal Herme- neutics: Retrospect and Prospect,” 131–148 in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader, ed. Lee Roy Martin (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 144.

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today’s polarized political climate.) This is why I remark, following Joel Green, on the distinction “between neutrality of personal commitment, which on issues important to a person is often self-deception, and the scholarly ideal of objectivity, by which he [Joel] means honesty, fairness, openness to other views, and realistic self-appraisal” (306 n. 26).32 I also believe that Scripture, rather than any single Christian movement’s tradition, remains the ultimate norm (148).

Initially more astonishing to me, Ken suggests, at least in the draft that I have, that “Keener dismisses a pentecostal hermeneutic.” The entire book supports a pentecostal hermeneutic, so at first I was shocked by his claim. There is a very wide range of approaches to pentecostal hermeneutics, but even more narrowly defined, my approach easily falls within the field’s usual parameters, as most of the reviewers recognized. Indeed,Spirit Hermeneuticsis being used, for example, this spring in a Ph.D.-level hermeneutics course at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, and has been proposed for such a textbook atoru.

But I gather that Ken means that I deny a uniquely pentecostal hermeneu- tic. If this is what he means, he may have correctly pinpointed unfortunate ambiguity in my language. I do affirm that a pentecostal hermeneutic can contribute what is distinctively pentecostal the way a Lutheran or Reformed or Catholic hermeneutic can contribute their distinctive perspectives for dis- cussion by the wider Christian community. But usually elements of those dis- tinctive hermeneutics, such as discontinuity, continuity, or listening to subse- quent tradition, will resonate in some ways with the Christian movement more widely.

What I really mean to deny is a sectarian approach that dialogues onlywith fellow Pentecostals; I contend that the distinctively pentecostal contribution should be ecumenical, underlining a Spirit hermeneutic for Christianity as a whole.The original vision of Pentecostalism was for the renewal of Christianity as a whole, and the Spirit hermeneutic this book urges is a hermeneutic that invitesall believers to heed the Spirit’s voice (4, 53, 287–288).

That is, I am not reducing the sphere of the Spirit but inviting much wider attention to the Spirit. “If not all Christians—including not all Pentecostals— currently do experience God’s living voice in Scripture, we can recognize that Scripture now invites us to even greater treasures of knowledge and reve-


Following Joel B. Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation: Engaging Biblical Texts for Faith and Formation(Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 2011), 101–102.

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lation about God” (288). The ideal would be for our distinctiveness to be superfluous because of “most of active Christendom becoming charismatic” (284).

Conventional Textual Hermeneutics

Two of the reviewers less inclined to emphasize (yet not opposed to) histor- ical context felt that I overemphasized it. Since all of us agree that historical context matters, however, in practice our approaches might be complemen- tary rather than contradictory. In the book I sought to balance conventional textual hermeneutics with experiential embrace of the text in faith. I merely argue that they should be connected, so that what we embrace in faith is really the message of the text.33

Literary and historical context is not a distinctive aspect of pentecostal her- meneutics, but reducing Pentecostalism to what is most distinctive about it would be like calling it the “tongues movement,” as our early critics did. A balanced pentecostal hermeneutic needs to include both what is necessary for any biblical hermeneutic as well as what is distinctive to Pentecostalism (some of which, of course, has now leavened the church more broadly).

In my brief chapter on Spirit hermeneutics for a new book on global herme- neutics, I spend less than two full pages addressing the value of matters related to historical context34 and seven pages on what is more distinctively pen- tecostal.35 In the book Spirit Hermeneutics I needed to be better rounded, since my interest there is more prescriptive for a more comprehensive Spirit hermeneutic, based on what Scripture teaches about it rather than descriptive of current practice or focused only on distinctive aspects.

Mere description of current practice cannot, in any case, prescribe what should be. Indeed, if the description were prescriptive, one would still be left with diverse and sometimes competing pentecostal hermeneutical perspec- tives and practices. The use of historical context, however, surely should not




Granted, we may, without harm to our theology, sometimes read something theologically true into a text that is not teaching that truth. But making a habit of this practice not only renders us vulnerable to something theologically false but also renders us immune from learning something theologically true that we did not already know.

Craig S. Keener, “Pentecostal Biblical Interpretation/Spirit Hermeneutics,” 270–283 in Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible, ed. Michael J. Gorman (Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 2017), spanning parts of 273–274, 281. Keener, “Pentecostal Biblical Interpretation,” 274–280, 281–282.

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be excluded from a pentecostal hermeneutic. This use was modeled for me by most of my professors at an Assemblies of God Bible College and seminary, including the premier Assemblies of God theologian of the twentieth century, Stanley Horton, whose roots go back to the Azusa Street Revival.

Historical Criticism versus Historical Context

One major matter of confusion appears to be semantic. My emphasis in the disputed chapters was not historical criticism but historicalcontext, taking into account the concrete way in which God inspired the Bible. Ken speaks of my “concern for historical criticism” and even avers, “historical criticismcoupled to experiential reading is the sustained focus of the work.” I find these remarks surprising, though not so much as his suggestion that my book “is a polemic for the necessity for modern historical criticism as well as a defense for reading Scripture experientially.”

Ken emphasizes that he and most other pentecostal interpreters already rec- ognizethevalueof historicalcontext.CertainlyIneverimpliedotherwise,since I cite Ken and others accordingly in my endnotes. (I wrote these as footnotes but the publisher felt they would be better as endnotes). Ken suggests, “I believe it would have been beneficial for Keener to differentiate traditional historical criticism from his understanding of historical studies.” While I agree fully with his distinction, it seems strange to me that he missed it inSpirit Hermeneutics. The distinction is in fact an entry even in my subject index, listing a number of pages on which I emphasize it. They include:

– 84: “Extreme historical criticism’s undue speculation further compounds

irrelevance,” yet “[r]eactions against historical criticism’s preoccupation

with sources (often hypothetical) are thus no excuse to reject concern for a

text’s historicalcontext, a concern that long predated modern apologetic and

critical concerns.” For those blurring the distinction I cite Andrew Davies (at

least in the article in question); for those maintaining it I cite Joel Green—

and Kenneth Archer.

– 124: I note that Ken “does reject historical-critical methodology as a way of

discovering what the text means … but he does appreciate social-cultural

context and values both horizons.” I cite here my own correspondence with

him, and in view of the context (the two preceding paragraphs) I am directly

defendinghim against the charges of some of his critics.

– 125: I affirm the value of “modern literary-theological approaches” to hear the

text as over against historical critical speculation, while affirming the value

of the first horizon for filling “many lacunae that the text did not answer

because, at the time of its writing, the answers were obvious.”

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– 132 (the chapter conclusion): “Interest in ancient meaning is neither a purely

modernist nor historical-critical way of thinking. It is demanded by the

shape of the texts themselves, a shape recognized by interpreters even in


– 346 n. 55: “On the Enlightenment origins of ‘pure’ historical criticism, as

opposed to the earlier Renaissance and Reformation interest in histori-

cal context (on which see e.g., Bartholomew, Hermeneutics, 195–196), see

Bartholomew, Hermeneutics, 208–224.”

Ken’s review suggests that I should consider Joel Green’s distinction among different forms of historical criticism. I cite Green approvingly for this very pointon p. 146.36

Moreover, when I do address historical-critical approaches, I often critique their value for appropriation, while recognizing their value, when used appro- priately, for historiography.37 Thus, for example, I note that “[t]raditional historical-critical methods … focus on historical questions rather than preach- ing or theological ones,” and they “can become … irrelevant” for other purposes (83).

If historical criticism is an especially modernist interest, historical context has much broader appeal. Reading texts in their cultural setting was practiced long before modernist criticism (including in the nt era).38 Reading them in theconcretelinguisticandsituationalcontextinwhichtheSpiritinspiredthem is simply according them (and the Spirit who addressed their concrete settings) the same respect we want to accord the concrete settings in which we seek to apply the texts anew for our generation.

Basic Literary Context

Insofar as the textual focus of my approach may be linked with “grammatical historical” exegesis,39 what I mean by this is not a detailed “scientific” pro-



38 39

Green, Practicing Theological Interpretation, 45. I cite also Joel’s affirmation of both hori- zons inSpirit Hermeneutics, 146.

Contrary to what some claim about historical or philosophic apologetics being useless, it is making a difference for thousands of students on secular campuses today, largely because of issued raised by radical atheists misinformed about religion. Of course, the different, social critiques that Christianity is racist, sexist, and imperialist would be easier to answer if more Christians today would seriously follow Jesus’s kingdom message.

See, e.g.,Spirit Hermeneutics, 117, 119, 129–132, 136, 146, 347 n. 54.

I may not specify this link explicitly in Spirit Hermeneutics, but clearly I am interested in grammar and historical context. I mention this as one approach among several on 10,

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cedure that excludes experiential appropriation of the text in faith.40 What I mean is that since we are engaging texts we must engage them in a tex- tual way (12, 114, 117, 132): paying attention to literary context and background. What is distinctive about a Spirit hermeneutic complements and informs tex- tual approaches but does not supplant this (106, 142, 263, 284). This contex- tual approach to the texts is basic to anyone who reads the Bible book by book—the form in which God provided us Scripture. Though elementary, the observation is nevertheless essential, given the prevalence of proof-texting in churches and on the internet, often by people more ready to promote their opinions than to immerse themselves in the biblical text (Prov 18:2; cf. 8:17; 15:14; 21:5).

Although cultural background enriches our appreciation for the text throughout, perhaps in only 20 percent of cases does it compel us to revise sig- nificantly readings not informed by background. Even if one does not know the background, understanding how to take background into account—namely, recognizing the principle of historical contingency and the historical situated- ness of all texts—can give one the sense of how to handle such passages. One does not have to know the function of head coverings in the ancient Mediter- ranean world41to be cautious about universalizing the practice, attested in just a single passage. Without fully understanding the passage or its background, one can at least recognize that there may be a particular cultural function to these instructions, and therefore follow wider canonical principles (as Jacqui rightly notes).

Because of the shape of our texts, however, literary context is essential throughout the Bible, except in a few genres such as proverbs (the closest ancient equivalent to sound bites). Again, this is basic for biblical scholars, but not so for all our students. In today’s Twitter-saturated age, it is easy to forget that thenormalway to read most genres, such as narrative and argumentation,

40 41

126; I note how Luther and others valued this approach before the Enlightenment (13, 131, 257). I also note how, in contrast to the radical Enlightenment, Luther, Zwingli, evangelical interpreter F.F. Bruce, and others explicitly supplemented this approach with the Spirit’s illumination and/or theological reading (13–14, 129, 308 n. 51; cf. Bultmann on 291), as often do pentecostal interpreters (357 n. 17).

E.g.,Spirit Hermeneutics, 40, 257, 357 n. 17, 363 n. 34.

For such background, see, e.g., Craig Keener, “Head Coverings,” 442–446 in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove, il: InterVarsity, 2000); discussion in idem,1–2Corinthians, 90–94; idem,Paul,Women&Wives: Marriage&Women’sMinistryintheLettersof Paul(Peabody,ma: Hendrickson, 1992;Grand Rapids,mi: Baker Academic, 2004), 19–69.

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is in context.42 That is also the form in which God provided us most of the sacred texts.

To ignore the genres in which the Bible is written and proof-text randomly, blaming our selection and interpretation on the Spirit, runs counter to the forms in which God’s Spirit inspired Scripture. Historically such proof-texting has sometimes functioned as bibliomancy.43 At times, this approach can pro- duce counter readings that actually undermine the biblical message, offering false hope and comfort to those with itching ears when the true biblical mes- sage is far more demanding (see, for example, the false prophets and teachers in Jer 6:14; 8:11; 2Tim 4:3–4). Thus in ancient Israel, some considered it blas- phemous to suggest judgment on the temple (Jer 7:4; 26:8–11) or the Davidic dynasty (2Chron 24:20–21), neglecting conditions of the covenant (cf. 2Sam 7:14; Acts 6:11–14).

To render academic succor to such readings (cf. Jer 8:8) would be irrespon- sible. None of us would countenance such irresponsibility, but because I am so familiar with such readings on a popular level I prefer to bend over backwards to warn against them (as Kevin seems to appreciate).

Background/Cultural Context

I know of very few pentecostal exegetes who would deny the importance of a passage’s literary context or cultural background, but some articulations of pentecostal hermeneutics give little attention to them. This apparent neglect is understandable and not really inappropriate, since these books typically discuss what is distinctive to pentecostal hermeneutics rather than more basic and widely accepted hermeneutical principles that may be assumed.

I have found, however, that on a popular level these principles are not always assumed. Students, therefore, reading a work focused exclusively on what is distinctive to pentecostal hermeneutics can sometimes be at risk for assuming that they are receiving a fully rounded Spirit hermeneutic. We do need monographs that focus on what is distinctive, but we also need books that provide a fuller balance for pentecostal interpretation. I have tried to redress the potential imbalance by emphasizing both the ancient and the



Even more, western culture predisposes us to focus on instant gratification, but what profits us in Bible study is not always the inspiration of the moment but the building of God’s truth into our lives over the long haul.

Pieter W. van der Horst, “Bibliomancy,” 165–167 in Dictionary of New Testament Back- ground, noted in Spirit Hermeneutics, 309 n. 65; see also van der Horst, “Ancient Jewish Bibliomancy,” JGRChJ 1 (2000): 9–17. Random verses can still be helpful if we know the context, but context is difficult to learn if we treat Scripture as a series of tweets.

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modern, both the exegetical and the experiential dimensions of interpreting and engaging the text.

My defense of the use of ancient contexts responds to some of the herme- neutical approaches in which I was schooled at the doctoral level, which emphasized an intrinsic approach to the exclusion of extrinsic information (141–142). Against such exclusivism, I argued for “both-and” (142–144) (hence the title of a chapter addressing this complementarity) (142–151),44 though I recognize that the both-and approach is indeed the dominant approach among biblical scholars today—even though some of us may contribute more in one area or another (146, 151). Ken notes that besides the grammatical his- torical approach evangelicalism also includes literary, theological, redemptive- historical, and canonical approaches. Although I do not devote equal attention to all of these, I nowhere reject any of them.45Like most, I accept a hermeneu- tical circle that constructs its theology from the fuller canonical context while also adjusting my understanding of that wider canonical theology based on inductive study of the texts.

Ken rightly notes that scholars today often view the text in terms of three worlds: the worlds behind, in, and in front of the text. I do not think that we can separate the first and second worlds any more easily than I think Ken would want to separate the second and third: for example, the alphabetical symbols in the text cannot communicate meaning apart from the linguistic and social contexts in which they were composed.46 I think that Ken and I agree that to the extent that they are separable the second world has priority over the first. The text’s closest contexts merit first attention: hence the immediate literary context, the context in the biblical book, the use of similar language in the same writer, and usually only then wider extrinsic contexts.47

44 45



The chapter also addresses the value of both the ancient and modern meanings (147–151). For valuing both literary and historical approaches, see, e.g., Spirit Hermeneutics, 141–145; for theological interpretation, see, e.g., 19–56; for salvation history, see 55, 103, 167, 200, 221, 251, 254, 256–257, 354 n. 42, 365 n. 36, 367 n. 47, 368 n. 16, 373 n. 14; for canonical readings, see, e.g., 239, 315 n. 55, 358 n. 28, 368 n. 10.

Ken and I do not differ here; as he writes, “All human languages are concerned with referential signification.” The world “behind” the text is often applied to historical-critical reconstructions of sources for the text, but the shared milieu of the author and audience is also “behind” the text in a different sense; cf. comments in Green,PracticingTheological Interpretation, 50–56, 126–127.

Of course, common sense about lexical and cultural limits does prohibit applying such “circles of context” mechanically. Allusions to earlier texts are also both intrinsic and extrinsic.

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Fundamentalists sometimes ignore the concreteness of God’s revelation in Scripture, forcing the Bible into how they expectrevelation rather than examin- ing how he has provided it. If we ignore the shape of the text, including implicit information it takes for granted as understood by its original Greek- or Hebrew- understanding audiences, we no longer stand fully under the measuring stick of prior revelation that God has given us to test our own (hopefully frequent) hearing of the Spirit in our historical situations. I do not think any of us engaged in the present discussion is a fundamentalist, but periodically I and perhaps others encounter students and friends who are.

That some people do not have access to background information does not mean that we should not do our best to provide them such access. That would be like sixteenth-century theologians contending that because most people do not have good vernacular translations available, we should not provide such translations. Whether such background is available or not, readers face historical questions when they read the Bible. In every culture in which I have taught, I find students and pastors eager for background and how it helps illumine the text.

Craig’s Background

Theinterpreter’sbackgroundinevitablyentersintointerpretation,soImention here some of mine. As I noted in my introduction, I could approach the discus- sion only from my own set of skills. I lack the skills that some other scholars have, but undertook the project on the condition that I could approach the sub- ject primarily inductively, from my own work in biblical studies. Any reviewers’ observations of this limitation, then, would be correct and entirely agreeable to me.

As a young Christian, I felt that the Lord wanted me to go to a pente- costal Bible college and to learn Greek and Hebrew. My own plans were that I would do that for two years and then just preach. My reading of Scrip- ture itself, however, often for forty chapters a day, increasingly forced me to grapple with the situations implied in Scripture and not simply with lexi- cography. Thus I gave up my notion of greeting others with holy kisses and began researching background in order to understand the Bible better. Even- tually I realized that this was going to require more education than I had planned.

My hope, however, was to provide resources that would save others from having to repeat all the same work. My personal focus on the ancient context is never meant to imply that everyone must spend as much time in extrabiblical ancient sources as I do. (If they did, however, I could happily relax and quit publishing books!)

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Had my ivp Bible Background Commentary or the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible already been available, I might have followed through on sim- ply preaching without further study after my second year of Bible College. (Still, perhaps I would have gone on in scholarship anyway: Ben Aker’s exam- ple subsequently influenced me profoundly and moved me to begin praying about whether I could fulfill my calling best as a professor.) In any case, I felt (and expressly noted) that I could offer more valuable contributions in Spirit Hermeneuticsby working from my strengths.48

When I preach on a popular level, I elaborate the ancient context primarily where it is relevant to show more clearly how the text applies to us. By reading the text in its concrete settings (to whatever extent possible), I find that I better hear the text’s original evocative impact. Because of this, I can appropriate it more concretely than otherwise for settings today.

Background and Gender

When I first began working in background, the biggest difference that it made for me, besides understanding the symbols in Revelation, was in how I under- stood Paul’s texts about women in ministry. It was examining the cultural situ- ation that Paul actually addressed that happily converted me to an egalitarian. I thus made the latter one of my first published case studies of the usefulness of background.49

As an egalitarian, I am very sympathetic to Jacqui’s observation, “[H]ow much should my contemporary application of the text reject any limitations based on my gender as a first-century situation that is not analogous to my context,” preferring instead what illustrates “kingdom culture”?

I suspect that our interpretive approach may be similar here and that we differ primarily in how we express it. To me, her very observation of the texts’ first-century setting invites an appeal to use of background—without which we do not readily see the extent of the difference between the ancient culture and our own, or recognize the degree to which such texts address concerns within their cultures.



Ken paraphrases my sense that God called me to “bring back to Christianity an experien- tial-dynamic subjective reading along with the grammatico-historical method.” I said that I understand my calling as bringing the church back to Scripture, but I recognize that I share that calling with others in the past and present also called to teach the Scriptures (Spirit Hermeneutics, 18). I emphasize particular elements only because I see them as teachings of Scripture.

Keener, Paul, Women & Wives. For most of what follows, see documentation there. For my more current treatment of first-century gender roles, see Keener, Acts, 597–638.

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It is in fact recognition of the embedded cultural setting of the authors that allows us to read texts from a patriarchal setting in a nonpatriarchal way. Recognizinghowfarbeyondtheirtraditionalculturalsettingwere,forexample, Paul’s instructions, invites us to look for where the trajectory of his teaching, vis-à-vis his culture, pointed. Paul was not out to upset the social order, but like some other biblical authors he laysthe groundworkfor an egalitarianapproach.

If we ignore the cultural setting of his teaching, we are left with either the option of duplicating that teaching without taking into account the cultural differences (a common fundamentalist approach), or with rejecting the Spirit inspiration and thus authority of those parts of Scripture (a common liberal approach). It seems to me that each of these approaches minimizes the par- ticularity of the contexts in which the Spirit’s inspiration worked in Scripture, sometimes perhaps even while claiming the Spirit’s inspiration in our own par- ticular contexts.

Because gender roles differ so vastly among cultures and in different eras, I made an exploration of the “problem passages” regarding gender in Paul my first significant case study of how to use cultural background in understanding Scripture. InPaul,Women&Wivesin 1992,50I argued that while Scripture’s mes- sage is relevant for all time, it should be applied specifically to analogous cir- cumstances. Thus we should apply 1Timothy 2:11–12 universally not to women, but to those susceptible to false teaching. Paul, Women & Wivesbecame one of the major academic egalitarian arguments in that decade and nonegalitarian scholars regularly had to (and did) engage it.

Nonegalitarian evangelicals criticized that book more than the next twenty of my books put together. Its publication excluded me as theologically suspect from many conservative evangelical venues to which my quieter egalitarian friends were invited. Early in my teaching career, it barred me from teaching positions in perhaps half of evangelical seminaries that might have otherwise considered me. Nevertheless, I believe that it follows consistently the same hermeneutic that I have used in all my research. Most biblical scholars who argueforanegalitarianpositiondosoinpartbytryingtoreconstructthesetting that Paul’s “problem passages” addressed.51



Keener, Paul, Women & Wives (the publisher is responsible for the title). See also Keener, “Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry?”Enrichment 6, no. 2 (Spring 2001): 82–86; Keener, “Women in Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective,” 203–248 in Two Views on WomeninMinistry,rev.ed.,ed.JamesR.Beck(GrandRapids,mi:Zondervan,2005);Keener, “The Role of Women in the New Testament,” 38–53 inWomen’s Issues and Reflections, ed. Christina Manohar (Delhi, India:ispck, 2012); Keener, “Gender and Bible-Believers: What Some Evangelicals Are Missing,”Huffington Post (August 16, 2012).

See, e.g., most of the biblical arguments in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity

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Even though not all egalitarians reconstruct the setting the same way, we nearly all share the same hermeneutic, also shared by nineteenth-century abolitionists, that the original setting must be taken into account. By contrast, the usual approach of complementarians is to deny that knowledge of the original setting can be allowed to change our understanding of what the text should mean—an approach that I believe no one can hold consistently for all biblical texts (see, for example, 1Cor 16:2; 2Tim 4:13).

Jacqui notes that theological background can help us even where we do not have the ancient background. A reader of Spirit Hermeneutics will recognize that I do value theological reading. I thus fully agree with Jacqui that what we know about God can shape the way we read texts even if we do not understand the particularities of the background.

It should be recognized, however, that an interpretation based on broader theological considerations is often even more vulnerable to critique from those who do not share one’s assumptions, as is an interpretation informed by cul- tural background for the text. Evangelical theology in the United States, at least, continues to debate whether egalitarianism or complementarianism better reflects appropriate theology. Theological presuppositions continue to domi- nate that debate, but appeal to the common canon of the biblical text in its background can serve as a corrective to those presuppositions, just as correct theology can reframe our textual understanding.52

Whenwedebatecessationists,wecriticizethemforreadingtheirtheological presuppositions into Scripture in ways that the text cannot support. As I write these words, I think of a response I gave today to a charismatic who feels repressed in his cessationist church. “It is sad when people twist Scripture to fit predetermined conclusions. Scripture explicitly commands not to forbid speaking in tongues. Nowhere does it say that tongues have passed away. It is tragic that some of the people who most ardently support the doctrine of sola scriptura(which I also hold) undermine it in practice when Scripture conflicts with their doctrine.”

If Scripture itself, in the shape in which its constituent books were inspired, cannot remain the norm—the “canon”—we can have only competing sectar- ian theologies incapable of dialogue with one another on their points of dis- agreement. Scripture itself attests that the Spirit’s voice is not limited to Scrip-


without Hierarchy, 2nd ed., ed. Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Ronald W. Pierce, and Gordon D. Fee (Downers Grove,il: InterVarsity, 2005).

The question, of course, is whether adherents of positions are truly ready to examine inductively and privilege biblical texts or theological arguments incompatible with their positions. As we all recognize, presuppositions help shape our reasoning.

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ture,53 but it is Scripture that provides the canon, the fundamental measuring stick, by which we can, as God’s people, together evaluate all other claims to revelation.

Devaluing Pentecostal Subjectivity?

Ken appeared to suggest that I devalue Pentecostalism and subjectivity. I plead innocent to both suggestions, though in retrospect I recognize where some of the misunderstanding may have arisen, especially with regard to subjectivity. But before proceeding I should first reiterate my own pentecostal/charismatic identity.

Pentecostal/Charismatic Bonafides

Ken does affirm my charismatic commitments, but lest anyone see my con- cerns as an external polemic rather than in-house pastoral interest, I reaffirm some of those commitments here. I feel this is important because of how Ken characterizes my approach at times in what I see as an extreme way: “Although I am sure he would deny the implication, Keener suggests that Pentecostals and Charismatics are not ontologically suited or functionally gifted for cogni- tive/intellectual exegesis because they are better suited for subjective experi- ence, whereas Evangelicals are better suited for exegesis.”

Yes, I would surely deny the implication. How would I dare suggest that Pen- tecostals and Charismatics are not gifted for exegesis when I am an openly, publicly charismatic exegete (as well as a member of spswho should therefore know better)? I noted with great respect my pentecostal academic mentors (17, 132, 167, 382n11) and I provided an extensive list of pentecostal and charismatic scholars teaching outside pentecostal institutions (296–303).54 (I avoided list- ing those in pentecostal institutions only because they were givens and it would have easily doubled the length of the list.)

My family and I attend a Vineyard church, the only explicitly charismatic or pentecostal church in our town. My wife is an elder there and my son is a worship leader. My wife and I lead one of the church’s small groups. Granted, I was ordained in a Baptist congregation, a connection I continue to value, and, as Ken observes, many Southern Baptists would object to some of my

53 54

Cf., e.g., 1Kings 18:13; Romans 8:16; 1Corinthians 14:31; 1Thessalonians 2:13.

Compiling this list, incomplete as it is, required massive correspondence and was one of the most time-consuming parts of the book.

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perspectives. But in the Baptist congregation in which I was ordained the pastor already prayed in tongues and the association minister giving my ordination charge publicly prayed in tongues and prophesied over me. It was an African- American congregation in an African-American denomination, part of my commitment to ethnic reconciliation.

I have openly affirmed, including in academic works for majority noncharis- matic audiences, my convictions that (1) baptism in the Spirit in Acts focuses on prophetic empowerment;55 (2) the experience of prophetic empowerment sometimes follows conversion;56 and (3) the narrative function of tongues in Acts is evidence of this crosscultural prophetic empowerment.57

In my classes, although I teach in an interdenominational setting, I have always spoken openly of Spirit empowerment, power evangelism, continuing charismata, my own experience with tongues, and so forth. I sometimes spend a couple weeks of class discussing miracles. I am a New Testament professor and these subjects naturally arise in the course of studying the biblical text. Although it has not happened in my classes at Asbury, in my previous insti- tution there were times when I was teaching a class, especially on Revelation, when the Spirit would fall accompanied by corporate charismatic worship and prophecies.

On average I probably pray in tongues about an hour a day. I have prophetic dreams fairly often; I prophesy; and sometimes I have had worship experiences so intense that I begged God to take me home to him right away so I would not lose that intense level of experiencing his precious presence. I have respected friends doing what I consider apostolic ministry with signs and wonders. Based on my understanding of Scripture, inSpirit HermeneuticsI reject the cessation even of apostleship.58 I accept, among other things, the validity of personal prophecy and what is often called holy laughter (268). In some of these respects I am more “radical” on the charismatic spectrum than some of my pentecostal mentors, who were sometimes reacting against earlier abuses. If my affirmation


56 57


See Keener, Acts, e.g., 523–524, 678–681, 689, 713, 780–783, 804–806, 823–824, 827–830, 881, 985–986.

E.g., Keener, Acts, 1522–1527.

Keener, Acts, 824–831; also Keener, “Why Does Luke Use Tongues as a Sign of the Spirit’s Empowerment?” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 15, no. 2 (2007): 177–184; Keener, Gift & Giver, 177–185.

In the Pauline sense (i.e., not replacement of the Twelve); Keener, Spirit Hermeneutics, 280, 382 n. 12, 382–383 n. 13. Although I do not limit divine revelation to the canon, I do accept a closed canon and its sufficiency for doctrine and testing other claims to revelation.

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of historical context, a ministry into which I affirm that the Spirit led me, were to deprive me of pentecostal identity, who would be controlling the definition of “pentecostal”? By what criteria and for what purpose?

Subjective versus Objective?

Ken may be right to suggest that I should surmount the dualism between subjective and objective. Certainly I do argue throughout the book that we need both. Yet, the two poles of this dualism that I am trying to bring together are not my invention; I inherited them from some of the existing literature on pentecostal hermeneutics. Surely I am not the only reader of the past discussion who finds some writers emphasizing only one side of the pole or the other—though again, I note and explicitly acknowledge where caveats in most of those writers suggest that if they were articulating a full hermeneutic and not simply what isdistinctivelypentecostal, they would also meet closer to the middle.

When Ken complains that I value objective and rational approach over subjective experience he cites two pages: on the first of these I am supporting a subjectiveexperienceandthusdoingpreciselytheoppositeof whathesuggests (162). I am unable to locate any reference to the subject on the other page he cites (238).59

He characterizes my “sentiment” as “that Anglophone Evangelicals are the objective intelligent thinkers and Pentecostals and Charismatics are scandalous subjective emotional feelers.” Again I find this characterization astonishing. I affirm the value of both objective and subjective. I also affirm that God has placed different gifts in the body so that all need one another, and that some tend to bring more of one gift and some more of another (for example, in general Anabaptists offer a greater emphasis on caring for the poor).

Although rational and affective aspects of our personality overlap, when needed Paul also distinguishes them, valuing each in its place. Communication in one’s own language is primarily rational, but personal prayer, or communi- cation originating from the depths of our being, is often affective; Paul values both (1Cor 14:2–5, 14–15). Because Scripture is textual and linguistically intelli- gible, we must engage it rationally; because its voice is also spiritual, however, we must also engage it by the Spirit (1Cor 2:13). Its affective dimensions invite affective responses.


On this page I do praise charismatic experience and what it adds to exegesis.

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Movements often emphasize either Word or Spirit but I emphasize that we need both.60 I use these designations to refer to our own experience of the Spirit guided by (as well as informing our understanding of) Scripture as a canonical body of revelation that serves as a control on personal claims to hear the Spirit. Ken quotes me regarding a future revival bringing togetherWord and Spirit; the quotation is actually not my own words, but my direct quotation of a prophecy attributed to early pentecostal evangelist Smith Wigglesworth. He believed that the pentecostal revival had restored the gifts of the Spirit, but the future revival would bring an emphasis on Scripture, and the combining of these moves would bring the greatest revival in history.61

Criticizing Fellow Pentecostals?

Nevertheless, I do include some cautions that may have generated Ken’s con- cern. Whether we like it or not, excessive subjectivism (as opposed to appropri- ate subjective engagement with the text’s message) is naturally more a temp- tation for those who affirm the subjective than for those who deny it, though Scripture itself prohibits the latter option.62 On average, on a popular level, and over the years, I have found nonpentecostal evangelical churches and stu- dents more accustomed to reading entire contexts than many pentecostal and charismatic churches and students. This was traditionally because the former had more resources and training available, and (more importantly but conse- quently) because of conventional expectations of what the respective forms of preaching should be like.

Am I wrong about this? Perhaps: this pattern is changing in some parts of the world, and often Pentecostals stay closer to Scripture than their non- Pentecostal peers. Still, the change seems to be taking longer in other parts of the world, and often for a partly positive reason: global pentecostalism is growing faster through evangelism than it can supply mature teachers to shepherd it. Supplying teachers faithful to Scripture and gifted by the Spirit is therefore a crucial need in global pentecostalism, whereas in many locations Presbyterians, for example, may experience the opposite problem.

60 61


See, e.g.,Spirit Hermeneutics, 9, 118, 155–172, 263, 269, 286–287, 289.

Attributed to him by his friend George Stormont, Wigglesworth: A Man Who Walked with God (Tulsa: Harrison House, 1989), 114. I cite this in Spirit Hermeneutics, 289; also p. 9, which Ken rightly sees as an inclusio.

Cessationists lack both the benefits and risks of allowing subjectivity, but that is why Scripture invites us to test prophecy rather than accepting or rejecting it wholesale (1Cor 14:29; 1Thess 5:19–22).

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I am guessing that what I intend as my pastoral concern in this way lies at the root of Ken’s concern that I disparage pentecostal hermeneutics. Probably Ken and others who find my concerns disconcerting belong to mostly sound, often academic pentecostal circles. But unless I am some sort of insanity magnet, surely I am not the only interpreter who has had to contend with extremes such as, for example, false prophecies, authoritarian leadership in the name of gifting, some Christians casting demons out of broken wrists, imprisoning demons like genies in jars, “bee” anointings, and the like.63

Some current cessationist critiques of Pentecostals and charismatics pro- ceed by citing extremes and abuses (long ago their chief example was snake handlers, but they find numerous targets from recent decades, from scandals to extreme shepherding to extreme deliverance practices). When we reply that these extremes do not truly characterize mainstream Pentecostalism, they question why, then, our sounder voices do not criticize the excesses. Truth be told, many of us do criticize the excesses. I might challenge the excesses even more did not my work quarantine me most of the time in academia (which is known for its own sets of excesses and abuses).

Granted that global pentecostalism is growing, cessationism is also gaining ground in some circles, including among disillusioned former Pentecostals and Charismatics that I often encounter as I speak in various circles. The primary reasons they offer for their shift are not biblical, but are reactions to the sorts of errors and excesses just mentioned. If we do not exercise discernment and correct our own, we lay ourselves open to charges of overlooking such abuses. Since cessationism lacks biblical arguments, it is flourishing and spreading today by focusing on the worst excesses of biblically uninformed or inattentive charismatics.64



I give some even more extreme examples in “Who Comes to Steal, Kill and Destroy?” Christianity Today(April 2017): 48–51.

As a brief Google search will demonstrate, MacArthurites (cf. John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013]) and other cessationists regularly appeal to the antics of prosperity teachers andtvevangelists in support of cessationism (cf. counterarguments in Robert W. Graves, ed., Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture [foreword by J. Lee Grady; Wood- stock,ga: The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, 2014]; Michael L. Brown, Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire [Lake Mary, fl: Excel, 2014]). They are exporting this reactionary approach to other nations. Granted, many cessationist polemi- cists regularly misrepresent many of those they malign, from nineteenth-century evange- list Charles Finney to today’s Bill Johnson, the Vineyard movement, and my friend Randy Clark.

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At least some concerns about my approach should be laid to rest fairly quickly. Ken laments my “repeated disappointment about the abuse of texts and practices by Charismatics and Pentecostals due to ‘unbridled’ or ‘extreme’ subjectivism.” A quick look at my index, however, would reveal that I differ- entiate “subjectivism” (used critically) from “subjective experience” (usually evaluated positively).65

I supposed that my many and explicit pentecostal affirmations elsewhere in the book would qualify what I said sufficiently to prevent inappropriate offense, but I fear that I caused offense nonetheless and for this I apologize. I shall try to clarify the nature of my concerns here. It is true that one cannot categorize all Pentecostals or any other group always the same way,66 but if one cannot address patterns that tend to characterize one group more than another, then neither could any form of “pentecostal hermeneutics” exist even as a descriptive enterprise.

The reader should take note that I frequently explicitly attribute the abuse to popular-level interpretations67 and, in the chapter particularly challeng- ing such readings, note that this attribute of some popular-level charismatic teachers (some of whom I identify, such as Charles Capps) (121)68 character- izes popular interpretation in general rather than the pentecostal experience in particular.

I explicitly distinguish those popular readings from those of pentecostal/ charismatic scholars.69 The key chapter in question contrasts, in its title, not Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals but “naïve ‘Pentecostal’ readings” and “bib- lically sensitive Pentecostal readings” (265–276). I provide “some examples






The index lists pages addressing subjectivism as 5, 11, 25, 36, 85, 105–106, 109, 116, 118, 120, 146, 147, 200, 267–269, 330 n. 14, 342 n. 31, 343 n. 42, 358 n. 18, 368 n. 10, 375 n. 45, 376 nn. 66– 67; and subjective experience, as 11, 36, 112, 121, 127, 147, 161–162, 184–186, 189, 204, 237, 268, 284–285, 288, 289, 312 n. 25, 316 n. 69, 335 n. 35, 339 n. 91, 339 n. 92, 346 n. 39, 364 n. 13, 368 n. 10, 375 n. 42, 375 n. 45, 384 n. 4, 385 n. 16.

And I certainly did note diversity among Pentecostals/Charismatics, Spirit Hermeneutics, 62, 263, 282, 296, 303, 323 nn. 23–25, 331 n. 29, 341 n. 15, 345 n. 16, 370 n. 3.

See, e.g., Spirit Hermeneutics, 2, 5, 9, 14, 16, 18, 25, 53, 72, 87, 113, 115, 125, 189, 195, 208, 235, 243, 263, 265–274, 276, 295, 341 n. 13, 342 n. 30, 378 n. 4, 378 n. 6, 379 n. 31, 380 n. 34, 381 n. 52.

I note the imbalanced version of prosperity and Word of Faith teaching (8, 9, 28, 106, 121– 122, 204, 263, 269, 271–273, 276, 321 n. 89, 326 n. 62, 379 n. 31, 380 nn. 33–44), which may, however, be distinguished from more nuanced faith teaching noted in Paul L. King, Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies(Tulsa,ok: Word and Spirit Press, 2008), cited inSpirit Hermeneutics, 381 n. 45. See specifically, e.g.,Spirit Hermeneutics, 106, 122, 131, 267, 269.

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of misapplied, popular Pentecostal hermeneutics” (269–274), including “some charismatic television preaching” (269–270).

I do not believe or affirm that scholars automatically read Scripture better than nonscholars;70 my point in the distinction is that random subjective interpretations attributed to revelation lack the canonical and community controls of those who are expected to provide sufficient textual reasons for their interpretations (269).

New and Old, Pentecostal and Evangelical

Conventional exegesis is a time-honored approach, but so is spiritual illumina- tion; the book affirms both. Holding them in tandem helps keep us on track. A wise and Spirit-led community helps us do the same, but if we limit the bound- aries of that community too narrowly we will miss out on the wealth of the wider body of Christ.

Staying Contemporary?

I first address a point that is really more a matter of how we frame the discus- sion than of actual disagreement. Ken suggests that I affirm the approach of “a previous generation of pentecostal scholars (such as R. Spittler, G. Anderson, and G. Fee)” (all of whom I believe remain living at the time of this writing) and that I have “picked up the mantle of the previous generation of academic Pen- tecostals.” Of course it would be difficult for me to affirm a previous generation’s postmodern approach, since, as an academic discipline, it began flourishing especially in the 1980s.71

Ken is not framing matters this way in order to polemically marginalize my approach; indeed, I feel honored to be listed in such august company. Nevertheless, I am concerned for the rhetorical effect this language could have on readers. Many in the academy naturally find novelty more fashionable and intellectually stimulating than older insights (cf. Acts 17:21). (Thus, for example, some more radical post-postmodern critics today unkindly critique postmodernism as no longer sufficiently avante-guard!)

70 71

See specifically, e.g., ibid., 24, 253–254. Cf. also Prov 1:7; 9:10; 17:16.

I say this tongue-in-cheek. I am not anti-postmodern, but eclectic, valuing whatever in premodern, modern, or postmodern sources can serve God’s word. As an atheist in my youth I followed empiricism and (despite the contradiction) idealism; as a Christian I recognize value in other epistemologies, but my fundamental epistemic commitment for theology is to divine, christocentric revelation.

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Reference to the “previous generation” can make it sound passé—as if there are no pentecostal scholars of the present generation who affirm the value of such time-honored approaches. But I know and could name numerous biblical scholars in sps who focus on literary and historical context, including as expressed in recent papers they have presented at sps. Although he cannot usually come to the meetings, my close friend Michael Brown, a leader at the Brownsville revival who continues to lead Fire School of Ministry and openly debates cessationists, likewise emphasizes this approach. If such a focus is not novel, neither is it irrelevant or an interest only of a passing generation.

Understanding linguistic and social context is not relevant only for tradi- tional approaches.72 Indeed, a fairly fresh approach, namely, relevance theory, invites us to explore the sociolinguistic contexts in secondary communica- tion. Relevance theory is grounded in cognitive neuroscience and empirical research in human communication.73Today many Bible translators are finding this approach helpful as they seek to communicate the text in cultural settings in which some cultural symbols in the text (for example, “snow” or “lambs”) do not exist or do not carry the same meanings.74




“Common sense realism” has its limitations (with Archer, Hermeneutic, 51–53), but Prov- erbs seems to place some value on common sense. For a more chastened, critical realism, see, e.g., N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, vol. 3 of Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 29; Michael R. Licona,The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach(Downers Grove,il: InterVarsity; Nottingham, uk: Apollos, 2010), 79, 86, 89.

See, e.g., Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, Relevance: Communication and Cognition (Ox- ford: Blackwell, 1986); idem, “Précis of Relevance: Communication and Cognition,” BehBrSc 10 (1987): 697–754; Wilson and Sperber, “An Outline of Relevance Theory,” 21– 41 in Encontro de linguistas: Actas, ed. H.O. Alves, ucpla (Minho, Portugal: Universidade do Minho, 1985); Wilson and Sperber, “Representation and Relevance,” 133–153 in Men- tal Representations: The Interface between Language and Reality, ed. Ruth M. Kempson (Cambridge, uk: Cambridge University Press, 1988); in biblical studies, see, e.g., Brown, Scripture as Communication, 35–38; Gene L. Green, “Relevance Theory and Biblical Inter- pretation,” 217–240inTheLinguistasPedagogue:TrendsinTeachingandLinguisticAnalysis of the New Testament, ed. Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell (Sheffield, uk: Sheffield Phoenix, 2009); Gene L. Green, “Relevance Theory and Theological Interpre- tation: Thoughts on Metarepresentation,” Journal of Theological Interpretation 4 (2010): 75–90.

See, e.g., Ernst-August Gutt, Relevance Theory: A Guide to Successful Communication in Translation (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics; New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 21–22, 27–28, 33; Margaret Gavin Sim, “A Relevance Theoretic Approach to the Parti- cleἵναin Koine Greek” (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2006), chap. 2; Karen H. Jobes,

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Sometimes a wedge is driven between “modernist” and postmodern ap- proaches, with the former sometimes deployed as an appellation of derision by the latter. Yet, postmodern approaches answer no less to a particular his- torical context than do modern approaches. While this observation is itself postmodern, and postmodernists are usually readier to recognize their own historical context than are modernists, that both answer to particular agendas and often training in particular sorts of methodologies illustrates that the sorts of limitations that these contexts impose on modernism also characterize post- modernism.

There may be legitimate insights in both, but we should baptize neither as a specifically “pentecostal” method.The contributions of both must be evaluated and sifted through a higher criterion, namely, that of Christ and the Spirit. That is what I endeavored to do inSpirit Hermeneutics, though cognizant of my own limitations and background. Although I have no empirical data to demonstrate this, I suspect that a majority of pentecostal biblical scholars, like myself, do not identify exclusively with either camp, but are ready to use methods heuristically and to draw eclectically and pragmatically from whatever helps us best hear, obey, and articulate the biblical message afresh today.75 Ideally, we all are loyal to God’s Word more than to a particular methodology, and we try to sift our methods as best as we can accordingly.

Pentecostal Distinctives

Jacqui suggests that reading ourselves in the biblical narrative of salvation history is a distinctively pentecostal (and I think also) charismatic way of reading, not characteristic of all noncessationists. Later in the book I argue that the distinctive element must be the embrace inpracticeof and not simply theoretical agreement with the work of the Spirit (284–285—a section titled “charismatic experience, not just charismatic doctrine.”)


“Relevance Theory and the Translation of Scripture,” jets 50, no. 4 (2007): 773–797. Gutt notes that some messages cannot be communicated without background information about the speaker’s original context (Relevance Theory, 35, 63–68, 71–74).

In its best form postmodernism provides Pentecostals an equal place at the table. It would be naïve, however, to think that all of academia honors the best principles of postmodernism. Richard Dawkins and other New Atheists regularly denounce Christians as lacking evidence for their “blind” faith, and many secular college students today reject Christianity because they believe such uninformed propaganda. Postmodernism could help such devotees of scientism recognize that they, too, have assumptions, but, for many secular students today, avoiding the issue of evidence simply seals their conviction that Christianity is untrue.

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Still, Jacqui’s concern that my Spirit hermeneutic remains more characteris- tic of Pentecostals than of others may well be true and warrants attention. Most noncessationists I know do read Scripture devotionally, but I may be extrap- olating from my pastoral and other ministry experience, which has usually been limited to churches with less theological training. Even in churches where the pastors teach carefully, I find on a popular level, surfacing in small groups or discussion with laypersons, that experiential readings and sometimes even (unhelpfully) proof-texting dominate.

Yet many such churches undoubtedly do reflect the opposite error; Jacqui points to statistics that show a different hermeneutic among Reformed churches in Australia. I have less experience with these and no statistics, and I trust Jacqui’s information here. In these cases, we can help other churches to engage the text more experientially, encouraging them to embrace Scripture’s message in faith.

Still, what most distinguishes Spirit hermeneutics from other approaches is not its only necessary dimension; interest in the original text is too widespread to be distinctive to Spirit hermeneutics, yet it is important that we not for that reason neglect it. Emphasis on experiential embrace of the text (as emphasized by Jacqui and Ken, for example) is an important response to its neglect in other circles. Nevertheless, if we focus only on what is distinctive instead of providing a holistic Spirit hermeneutic, students or future generations could misread us as claiming that an experiential hermeneutic is a sufficient hermeneutic. On a popular level, such readings are rife throughout the church (not by any means exclusively among Pentecostals), and one of our roles as teachers in the body of Christ is to correct such abuses.

Safety Nets and Communities

At one point Jacqui suggests that I limit “the ‘safety net of discernment’ to the original context of the passage.” That is not quite true; I have, for example, four chapters (part two of the book) encouraging that we take into account the voices of the global community of Spirit-empowered believers (57–98). In the conclusion of one of those chapters I note that “we all provide a safety net of discernment for one another’s blind spots (1Cor 14:29),” referring both to smaller church communities and to the global church (66).76

My concerns with making the global pentecostal community the only safety net (277–285) are that we should not limit Spirit-led insight to Pentecostals


Those gifted as teachers and other leaders are also supposed to serve as a safety net (269, 272).

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and that any net mesh wide enough to include all Pentecostals will not strain out much. After all, most pentecostal groups consider some other pentecostal groups cultic or at least sectarian, despite the fact that sociologists classify them all as pentecostal.

Yet, I would say that if we speak of a safety net for the church’s read- ings, it should not be limited to Pentecostals, since throughout history many non-pentecostal Christians have also affirmed the importance of following the Spirit’s illumination (12–15; cf. 250, 312n19, 375nn42–48), and there are many non-Pentecostals whom the Spirit has expressly gifted in teaching. The Spirit’s power for mission, which is Luke’s emphasis in Spirit-baptism, may well help exegetical skills, but it does not by itself necessarily correlate with Spirit- empowered gifts such as teaching, since these sorts of gifts belong to the entire body of Christ, which we enter through converting faith (Rom 12:4–7; 1Cor 12:27–29; cf. Eph 4:4, 11–12).

I do agree that those who draw more deeply on the life of the Spirit will, other factors being equal, interpret Scripture and refrain from error better than oth- ers. Yet, as a corrective to abuses that both church history as a whole and pop- ular charismatic readings amply illustrate, I continue to affirm that the church stands under inspired Scripture and not over it. If the church is over Scrip- ture, reformations and reform movements within the church were wrong. If the church is over Scripture, restoration movements such as early Pentecostal- ism should not have disagreed with wider interpretive communities. Now that Pentecostals are themselves a large interpretive community, should our tradi- tion now supplant the voice of the Scripture itself?77

If any circle of the church holds the exclusive right to claim to interpret Scripture for their circle (in reader response terms, the head of the interpretive community), the Reformation should not have happened. And even had it not happened, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians (whose traditions I do respect, though I do not directly belong to them) would still compete for the claim to greater interpretive authority.

Granted, God gave Scripture to the church and for the church, but he often did so through inspired apostles and prophets who were correcting God’s people. I am continuationist even to the extent (repudiated by some other Pentecostals) of believing that God continues to speak through apostles and


As an example in the book, I challenge the dispensational eschatology in a position paper from my ownu.s.Assemblies of God tradition (Spirit Hermeneutics, 101, 341 n. 15, 382 n. 11). Even the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as normally formulated prioritizes Scripture over the other elements. Certainly Wesley, like Calvin and others, would have dismissed any view they regarded as inconsistent with Scripture.

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prophets today. Indeed, I have friends who I believe fit such categories; but no apostle or prophet I know would challenge the authority of the original, canonical message that God’s Spirit inspired. Scripture, the way God designed it and formed it in its particular contexts, is not the sum total of divine revelation, but it remains the measuring stick. Prophets practice mutual discernment (1Cor 14:29), but part of that is the recognition that ultimately we all stand under the canonical prophetic word with which we can expect all other true revelation to cohere.

Distancing Ourselves from Evangelical Interpreters?

Some writers on pentecostal hermeneutics sometimes expressly distance themselves from “evangelical,”78 a title to which I felt they may have been attaching negative value.79 Possibly they define “evangelical” differently from the way I do, but with regard to Scripture I do find significant common ground between Pentecostals and other Evangelicals. While we are not just Evangeli- cals, surely we are evangelical.

Given the possibly different definitions we are working with, I should clar- ify that I am not referring to the white u.s. evangelical subculture.80 Cultur- ally and in terms of social values I am more at home in the Black Church;81 my wife is from Congo, and no one will be surprised that I did not vote for the Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election. By “evangelical,” I also do not designate the fundamentalist side of the movement (in which I would not likely be very welcome) but the more open side that includes Pen- tecostals.



80 81

See, e.g., Archer, Hermeneutic, 200–201, though targeting esp. “rationalistic and politically Republican Evangelicalism,” thus perhaps defining it differently than I (see comment below).

Sociologically, the conflict among closely related social groups is often more intense than among those more distant (Graham N. Stanton, A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew[Edinburgh:t&tClark, 1992; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993], 98). Again, part of the object of critique in Archer, Hermeneutic, 201.

See, e.g., Lynette Blair Mitchell, “Charismatic Scholar Targets Racism,” Charisma (June 1996): 28–30; Craig Keener and Médine Moussounga Keener, Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Minneapolis: Chosen 2016), 66–70. In the Black Church we usually avoid the title evangelical because of its cultural connotations but fit the traditional theological definition. By a number of mea- sures of theology and practice, in fact, the average African-American Protestant is more “evangelical” than the average white Evangelical (see, e.g., evaluation of surveys in Cor- win E. Smidt, American Evangelicals Today[Lanham,md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013], 111, 114–116).

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Rather,Iamusingthe historicAnglophonedefinitionof “evangelical”(which includes the Wesleyan revival, which dominated the Evangelicalism of its era).82 Historically, most early u.s. Pentecostals rose from radical Holiness- oriented Evangelicals,83 and a foundational part of mainstream Pentecostals’ message has always been salvation through faith in Christ.84 Even though we bring something additional, we share the basic features that historians of reli- gion attribute to Evangelicalism, such as the authority of Scripture, focus on the cross, and preaching Christ as the way of salvation.85 What connection could be greater than the shared gospel that makes us brothers and sisters, whatever our other disagreements? Why would we renounce such ties if we share the same gospel and commitment to Scripture (even if embarrassed by how some abuse the label)?

The Assemblies of God remains the largest member denomination in the National Association of Evangelicals; Church of God (Cleveland), the Pente- costal Holiness Church, Foursquare, Elim Fellowship, Open Bible, Vineyard,





Although shared history also provides a degree of social unity for much of the move- ment; see, e.g., Smidt, Evangelicals, 16–42. In theu.s., the First Great Awakening occurred especially among Calvinists, but the far longer Second Great Awakening (on which see, e.g., Smidt, Evangelicals, 19–26) was more closely associated with Arminians; in Fran- cis Asbury’s lifetime, for example, the Methodist Episcopal Church grew one thousand times over (Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys [Downers Grove, il: InterVarsity, 2003], 190; cf. related sets of figures in John Wolffe, The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers, and Finney [Downers Grove, il: InterVarsity, 2007], 70; Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awaken- ing: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007], 322; Robert Bruce Mullin, A Short World History of Christianity [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008], 182–183). Much of the pentecostal hermeneutic already flourished in late nineteenth century Holiness-, healing-, and mission-oriented Evangeli- calism. (For some of the trends, see, e.g., Heather D. Curtis, Faith in the Great Physician: Suffering and Divine Healing in American Culture, 1860–1900 [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007], 51–80; on the interdenominational evangelical character of the healing movement, see, e.g., James Opp, The Lord for the Body: Religion, Medicine, and Protestant Faith Healing in Canada, 1880–1930[Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005], 64–90.)

Cf., e.g., Allan Anderson,AnIntroductiontoPentecostalism:GlobalCharismaticChristianity (Cambridge, uk: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 26–35; Gary B. McGee, Miracles, Missions, & American Pentecostalism, AmSocMissS 45 (Maryknoll,ny: Orbis, 2010), 41–60. Cf., e.g., the similar Fourfold Gospels of A.B. Simpson and Aimee Semple McPherson, though the latter’s formulation more explicitly highlighted Scripture.

For such characteristics, see, e.g., David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s(Grand Rapids,mi: Baker, 1989), 2–17, esp. 2–3.

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Every Nation, and a number of other pentecostal and charismatic groups are also members. Some past presidents of thenaehave been pentecostal.

I certainly see myself as both, and not only because my Assemblies of God context in early years after my conversion saw itself as evangelical. This does not stem from my academic training, at least outside pentecostal schools. I never studied at any nonpentecostal evangelical institutions; I went directly from the Assemblies of God Seminary to a PhD in religion at Duke University. Until I came to Asbury in 2011 I rarely had the luxury of working almost exclusively alongside colleagues who shared my ethical and/or biblical views. In one seminary at which I taught, a colleague sometimes told students, “There is no God!”; another, a pastor, denied resurrection or afterlife; another said that Christianity was like an empty nutshell without any theological core.

In such environments, Pentecostals quickly learn to make common cause with dispensationalists, Word of Faith advocates, and others for the sake of the core message we share in common. Likewise, whenever evangelizing on streets or campuses I was grateful for any allies who share the gospel. Today, in contending for the gospel in public contexts (such as, a couple weeks ago, a major interdenominational outreach at Purdue), I continue to be grateful. If the baptism in the Spirit empowers us for mission, who will complain if I find natural connection with those who labor for the same mission, even if not all affirm the same empowerment? (Some of them, by the way, do share that empowerment.)

Those who currently dialogue only in nonevangelical circles can risk stereo- typing Evangelicals, the majority of whom today are continuationists (nonces- sationists), and nearly all of whom are supernaturalists (non-antisupernatural- ists).

Pentecostals and Charismatics havesomething toadd toother continuation- ists by calling for full embrace of the Spirit’s work.Yet, even in many pentecostal churches we need fresh experience of the Spirit and a renewal of his gifts, not simply a doctrinal tradition about it (284). I have been in some u.s. pente- costal churches with minimal expression of traditionally pentecostal gifts, yet I have been in some African mainstream evangelical circles in which some gifted members heal the sick and raise the dead.86

Evangelical Hermeneutics?

Some criticize traditional “evangelical” hermeneutics as nonpentecostal, yet draw from streams of interpretation that generally respect the biblical text less


I interviewed some of the witnesses in, e.g., Keener, Miracles, 557–562.

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than do Evangelicals.Yet surely we have more in common concerning Scripture with the latter; those who affirm the Spirit’s inspiration will normally respect the text more than, rather than less than, those who do not emphasize it.

Our schools trained all of us in particular methodologies, which we had to evaluate critically. My doctoral hermeneutics training under Dan Via included instruction in structuralism, deconstruction, existential hermeneutics, and other approaches that I have not found as helpful in approaching the bibli- cal text as some other methods. When studying for myself or for the church, I embrace the interpretive approaches that I do because I start not with a method but with the authority of inspired Scripture.

While it is true (in my limited experience) that evangelical seminaries gen- erally focus on grammatical-historical exegesis (although many of their profes- sors are cognizant of other approaches), I did not borrow my approach from there. As noted earlier, reading forty chapters of the Bible a day confronted me with how the shape of the text required cultural context. I discovered that the gaps in the text’s communication could often be filled by what the writers assumed their audiences knew, whether culturally or spiritually.

Ken suggests that “we need critical postcolonial readings, not simply read- ings from those in the Majority World who have been tutored in the gramma- tico-historical method.” I readily affirm the value of contextualized experien- tial readings for a range of social locations, but the necessity of “a hermeneutic of suspicion and critical readings” to liberate Westerners “from nationalistic, imperialistic, and capitalistic dispositions” seems to identify “the grammatico- historical method” with nationalism. I doubt that this is how John Chrysostom or many others used it, but I think that Ken is probably defining “grammatico- historical method” differently.

I fully agree that we should hold western-centric interpretations suspect.87 What concerns me (and I do not really believe that this is Ken’s approach)


I often challenge such readings; see, e.g., Craig S. Keener, “Between Asia and Europe: Postcolonial Mission in Acts 16:8–10,”AsianJournalof PentecostalStudies11, nos. 1–2 (2008): 3–14; idem, “Scripture and Context”; idem, “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation,” 117– 130, 181–190 inThe Gospel in Black & White: Theological Resources for Racial Reconciliation, ed. Dennis L. Ockholm (Downers Grove, il: InterVarsity, 1997); idem, “Spirit Possession as a Cross-Cultural Experience,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 20, no. 2 (2010): 215–236; idem, “Cultural Comparisons for Healing and Exorcism Narratives in Matthew’s Gospel,” hts Theological Studies 66, no. 1 (2010), art. #808; Glenn J. Usry and Craig S. Keener, Black Man’s Religion: Can Christianity Be Afrocentric? (Downers Grove, il: InterVarsity, 1996); Keener and Usry, Defending Black Faith: Answers to Tough Questions about African- American Christianity(Downers Grove,il: InterVarsity, 1997).

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is when a hermeneutic of suspicion is turned on the Bible itself, producing what I believe would be a very nonpentecostal appropriation of (or refusal to appropriate) Scripture.88 I have often seen it used to challenge the motives of Scripture’s Spirit-inspired authors and the theology of the Spirit-inspired text.89 Such an approach appropriates the text no less selectively than does traditional historical criticism, except in using different (perhaps more contemporary) criteria. I believe we will hear the Spirit in Scripture much better with what Richard Hays calls a hermeneutic of trust.90I have argued that this hermeneu- tic of faith is in fact central to a pentecostal hermeneutic.91

Moreover, I wonder why approaches such as a hermeneutic of suspicion, originating in secular contexts,92 are more “pentecostal” than approaches that emerged in evangelical circles before modern historical criticism. Attention to grammar and historical context are not historical criticism, as we both agree. I show in the book that concern for historical context did not arise only in modernity.93 Knowing what words and sentences mean requires attention to







For Pentecostalism’s distance from a hermeneutic of suspicion toward the biblical text, see, e.g., Robby Waddell, “Hearing What the Spirit Says to the Churches: Profile of a Pentecostal Reader of the Apocalypse,” 171–203 in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader, 191. For criticisms of the inappropriate lengths to which a hermeneutic of suspicion is sometimes carried, see, e.g., Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Paul between Damascus and Antioch:The UnknownYears, trans. John Bowden (London:scm; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 119; Lauri Thurén, “Was Paul Sincere? Questioning the Apostle’s Ethos,”Scriptura65 (1998): 95–108.

Seethecritiqueof theapproachinWilliamS.Kurz,ReadingLuke-Acts:Dynamicsof Biblical Narrative(Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993), 173–174; also mySpirit Hermeneutics, 171, 360 n. 51.

See Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids, mi: Eerdmans, 2005), 190–201; see also Spirit Hermeneutics, 171, 173, 186, 202, 368 n. 9.

See Spirit Hermeneutics, 162–177, and also 11, 13, 24, 25, 28–29, 48, 54, 55, 186, 188, 192, 198, 199, 200, 201–205, 219–220, 254, 260–261, 273–274, 284, 287, 358 n. 18, 358 nn. 23–24, 359 n. 48, 361 nn. 4–5, 361 n. 10, 363 n. 34, 363 n. 1, 366 n. 40, 367 n. 46, 380 n. 40, 381 n. 45.

I do not rule out all value of approaches learned from secular contexts—that would contradict my very appreciation for texts’ social contexts, which were often (e.g., with 1Corinthians) largely pagan. My point, rather, is that one who uses such approaches does not have much room to criticize the lineage of approaches long used to honor and embrace Scripture.

Spirit Hermeneutics, 129–131, noting both ancient and Renaissance/Reformation inter- preters. Cf. also John C. Poirier, “Authorial Intention as Old as the Hills,” Stone-Campbell Journal7 (2004): 59–72.

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the language and context—both literary and historical—in which they were written.

Ken may be right to criticize my comment about Old Princeton, where I am quoting the historical analysis of another charismatic scholar. My purpose there was to acknowledge the range of that period of Evangelicalism, not to declare my own theological roots. My dispute with B.B. Warfield’s cessation- ism, for example, is no secret.94 Princeton academics offered some valuable, thoughtful contributions, but they are not my primary evangelical conversa- tion partners in hermeneutics, and I have been on public record for more than two decades as rejecting the hermeneutic that, as Ken notes, was used to sup- port slavery and gender hierarchy.InSpiritHermeneuticsI note that “many early Christian abolitionists and feminists offered essentially liberationist readings that followed the tenor of Scripture itself” (387 n. 21).95 I also specifically warn that “if we cannot take into account the biblical texts’ cultural context, we are left with insoluble problems concerning slavery (e.g., Exod 21:21) and, in my opinion, some passages addressing women’s subordination (esp. 1Tim 2:11–12), and a host of other issues in the Old Testament and some in the New” (126). I address the matter concisely in Spirit Hermeneutics because I refer the reader to fuller treatments in my earlier books.96When I teach hermeneutics and New Testament survey, I regularly use the proslavery argument as an illustration of bad hermeneutics.97

94 95



Keener, Miracles, 260 n. 273, 364 n. 35, 365 n. 37, 382 n. 199, 399 n. 351.

Citing as examplesLa Roy Sunderland,TheTestimonyof GodagainstSlavery,orACollection of Passages from the Bible Which Show the Sin of Holding Property in Man, with Notes (Boston: Webster & Southard, 1835); Catherine Mumford Booth, Let the Women Speak: Females Teaching in Church(Liskeard: Diggory, 2007; originally 1861).

Keener, Paul, Women & Wives, 17–235; Usry and Keener, Religion, 98–109 (esp. 103–104); Keener and Usry, Faith, 20–41 (esp. 36–38). I note also other works, including William J. Webb,Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove,il: InterVarsity, 2001).

In Black Man’s Religion and in Defending Black Faith, I specifically contrasted the slave- holders’ hermeneutic (which rested largely on proof-texts—as did some theology classes I took in Bible college) with the abolitionists’ approach, which rested on biblical patterns and principles. I read widely in both kinds of sources from the 1800s while working on that project, since I was teaching for those four years at an African-American institution whose library included copies of scores of such works.

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I reiterate Bill Oliverio’s observation “that hermeneutic camps tend to talk past one another.” Hopefully this exercise has brought us closer together. That was partly my intention in the book: to value both experiential and conven- tional exegetical appropriations, both the formative (ancient) and contempo- rary (present) horizons of the ancient text and its modern hearers.

We dare not neglect engagement with biblical texts astexts, a matter so basic that we may be tempted to take it for granted but an approach easily forgotten by popular readers no longer accustomed to engaging texts. Likewise, what is historically most distinctive to pentecostal hermeneutics has become a gift to the wider church, and we should continue to seek to contribute that approach to the wider church.

Like Ezra, who “committed his heart to study God’s law, obey it, and teach it” in Israel (Ezra 7:10), may we hear, obey, and communicate God’s message in Scripture for our varied settings today.

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