The Holy Spirit And The Bible The Spirits Interpreting Role In Relation To Biblical Hermeneutics

The Holy Spirit And The Bible The Spirits Interpreting Role In Relation To Biblical Hermeneutics

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Book Reviews / Pneuma 29 (2007) 131-178

Paul E. Brown, The Holy Spirit and the Bible: The Spirit’s Interpreting Role in Relation to Biblical Hermeneutics (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2002). 271 pp.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14: 25-26 [NRSV]).

How does the Holy Spirit teach modern Christians? What about modern methods of study: historical-critical analysis, reader-response criticism, feminist biblical interpretation, or the Bible and theoretical hermeneutics, to name a few? Can the Holy Spirit “teach” through these modern modes of study? Paul E. Brown — minister of Dunstable Baptist Church in Bedfordshire, England, author of Churches in Trouble?, an editor for Grace magazine, and lecturer at the EMF School of Evangelism and London T eological Seminary — addresses this issue of the ongoing teaching role of the Holy Spirit in the modern world. His format is straightforward: he considers each salient NT passage on the ministry and teaching role of the Spirit (commenting on each passage), and then offers helpful chapter summaries comparing and contrasting the material in that section. The book tracks the outline of the NT books (e.g., the Synoptic Gospels; Luke, considered separately along with Acts; John’s Gospel; Romans; etc.), and the conclusion offers an thoughtful application of the biblical material in the context of modern hermeneutical studies. This is followed by 75 pages of extensive endnotes and three helpful indices (Subject, Persons, and Scripture).

Since no detailed study on this topic has been attempted recently, Brown’s book is a welcome addition to modern Pentecostal biblical studies. Although its length precludes in-depth analysis of the passages under consideration, it is rich with detailed textual exami- nation and commentary. Some of his conclusions include:

1. “T ere is a clear strand running through the NT that an understanding of Christian

truth does not come simply through the use of human reason, but is rather given by

the Holy Spirit” (pp. 9, 13, 89, 98, 167).

2. Since the NT more than once refers to “things hidden” from the “wise and learned”

(Matt. 11:25), or to the “opening of the minds” of the faithful (Luke 24:45) or “the

eyes” of the Gentiles (Acts 26:17-18), Brown’s first point could not be more impor-

tant. Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, humanity would be left to grope in

the darkness for truth.

3. The mention of “power” in Acts 1:8 is specifically intended for scriptural interpreta-

tion. Peter’s first sermon and his words before the Sanhedrin, the testimony of Ste-

phen or the ministry of Philip are all indicative of the power of the Spirit to enable the

faithful to interpret the Bible for their audiences (see 1 T ess 1:5, p. 134). As far as

Acts is concerned, however, the Bible indicates that “power” was evident both in bib-

lical interpretation and in miraculous signs that accompanied the ministry of the

Apostles and others. For example, in Acts 8 we read that the crowds both heard the

words of Philip and witnessed the signs (demonic deliverance and physical healing)

that accompanied his message (8:6-7).

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/157007407X178373

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Book Reviews / Pneuma 29 (2007) 131-178


4. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is more than just a “reminder” of Christ’s earthly life;

rather, he also guides the believer to the truth (John 16:13, pp. 50, 169) and in Acts

and the Epistles we witness this happening as the nascent church expanded into new


The second half of the conclusion, “Relevance for Biblical Hermeneutics,” is particularly helpful for those interested in modern hermeneutics. It is here that Brown addresses the imperative of accurate contextual and exegetical analysis, the sensus plenior, the danger of presuppositions in textual interpretation, Canonical Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, Ricoeur’s theory of distantiation, and T iselton’s two horizons of the text. Brown’s NT analysis notwithstanding, this final chapter is intriguing but much too terse for its topic. I found myself wanting more (e.g., his discussion of distantiation and the modern era of specialization and fragmentation of knowledge, p. 180). The nexus of Spirit-led biblical interpretation and modern hermeneutics warrants further analysis.

In the end, Brown advocates what he tentatively calls a “hermeneutic of the Holy Spirit” (p. 181). He does not elaborate what he means by the phrase, and is perhaps suggesting a possible track for further studies, but he certainly advocates a hermeneutic that is simulta- neously cognizant of “author, reader, and textual” orientations. T us his work brings together traditional historical-critical analysis and the work of the Holy Spirit to enable the reader to interpret the Bible. It is well worth the read.

Reviewed by William L. Lyons

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