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Joel And The Spirit: The Cry Of A Prophetic Hermeneutic Paperback – May 7, 2009
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About the Author
Larry R. McQueen (ThM, Columbia Theological Seminary) is a doctoral student at Bangor University, Wales. His area of research is Pentecostal eschatology.
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Unfortunately, I must admit I am new to Pentecostal scholarship and not very knowledgeable of Pentecostalism, although my personal Christian experience has interacted with the views of Pentecostalism (even before I was actually aware of it's existence). In any case, that is just to say that I may not have been able to enjoy the full impact of this book not being fully cognizant to the issues revolving around Pentecostalism's thought and spirituality. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable read for any person of any Christian theological view or denominational persuasion, and much that is said can be applied to the Church universally.
As I understand it, McQueen sees the book of Joel as giving quality to contemporary Pentecostal tradition and as the basis for envisioning Pentecostalism for purposes of renewal.
In the introduction, the author discusses the hermeneutics from the "classical" Pentecostal perspective and then turns to a brief and general review of the book of Joel in light of "previous works."
In chapter 2, he discusses the thesis of the book of Joel as (a) having three movements: lament, salvation, and (what perhaps may have been an issue overlooked by other commentators or scholars), judgment, and (b) that these movements "provides a framework of progression of the relationship" between God and Judah (p.21).
In chapter, he shows how the New Testament appropriated the "themes of Joel" (discussed in chapter 2) to "provide a theological framework for understanding the gift of the Spirit," which he identifies preeminently, so it seems to me, as (a) ushering in the last days; (b) the immediate divine presence and communication to his people and, in consequence, (c) the establishing of a prophetic community (p.44). As such, respecting disciple's experience and Peter's sermon in consequence of the public display of the gift of tongues in Acts 2, "The tongues-speech of the disciple is interpreted by Peter as the manifestation of prophetic inspiration," which "characterizes the last days and is the primary sign of the present of the Spirit" (p.51)
In chapter 4, McQueen shares "how the Pentecostal movement has appropriated the major themes of [lament, salvation, judgment in] the book of Joel" in a way similar to how they were seen as being applied in the New Testament ((p.74), and thereby engages Pentecostal history, theological studies, testimonies, and even the lyrics of a song throughout the chapter. One of his conclusions is that the "early Pentecostals were living signs of eschatological salvation and judgment" (p.92).
In the final chapter, McQueen "provides some reflection on [the] method" of Pentecostal hermeneutics, and does so, interestingly, from personal experience in the writing of this book, contending that "there is more to Pentecostal hermeneutics than reader and text...open to a radically subversive element which stands outside both the Bible text and the interpreter, that is, the critical claim of the Holy Spirit" (p.108).
I have found this reading to be most instructive as to the emphasis that the book of Joel has for the contemporary Church the greater realization of the significance of the Spirit, not only for Biblical interpretation but also for the meaning, character, and method of witness the Church is to live out in the world today.
McQueen, L.R. (1995). Joel and the Spirit: The Cry for a Prophetic Hermeneutic. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic.
A Pentecostal, who approaches the Joel text with a desire to read it on its own terms rather than through the lens of Acts 2, which he says too many Pentecostals are guilty of. He presumes a single author of Joel, a postexilic date of 500 to 450 BCE. Sees a threefold movement in Joel: 1:1-2:17 (Lamentation), 2:18-3:5 (Salvation), 4:1-21 (Salvation). These three themes also involve dialogue between the prophet and Yahweh. There are speeches to Yahweh and from Yahweh throughout the book.
The genre of lament is recognized as a distinct literary genre that contains a structure of address, lamentation, turning to God, petition, and vow of praise (27). The genre of an oracle of salvation is also distinct in that it differs from a word of coming judgment. Joel 2:18-3:5 is an announcement of salvation. This follows a call to lament. Communal lament would lead to covenant renewal and restored blessing...which is promised to occur from Yahweh. Another genre is that of judgment upon the nations. God is said to judge both Israel and the enemies of His people Israel. This all culminates in the "Day of Yahweh". This day is said to be a day of gloom and judgment for the people of Yahweh in Joel 1:15 and 2:1, 11. The plague upon the land was a symbol of coming judgment. The call to lamentation and return is based on the coming day of Yahweh in 2:11-14. After lamentation and salvation, the day of Yahweh then becomes a day of escape or salvation. Only those calling on Yahweh's name will be spared in the coming day, when all the nations will be judged.
The promise of the Spirit comes in response to the people's lament and repentance. The land's fruitfulness will be restored, Judah will be delivered from her enemies, and God's presence will be among His people. This all occurs in response to calling upon the name of Yahweh, in which one will be saved and receive the Spirit. These ideas are not new, but found in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Numbers. Joel's emphasis is well within the overall soteric work of the Spirit, but makes particular note of the empowering prophetic work of the Spirit. God's people will become a prophetic community, in which "Everyone will be a messenger of the word of Yahweh" (42). Thus, "the giving of the spirit to all of God's people is a sign and means of their salvation in terms of the immediate knowledge of Yahweh which it enables" (p. 42).
McQueen concludes that there are three broad movements in Joel: lamentation, salvation, and judgment. The pouring out of the Spirit corresponds to the these three themes in that (1) "The spirit of Yahweh will be poured out on all the people of Judah in response to their lament. The immediacy of knowing Yahweh...answers directly the people's lament concerning the absence of God. Thus, lament may be viewed as a prerequisite for the pouring out of the spirit of Yahweh" (p. 43).(2) "Salvation is seen primarily as the presence of Yahweh among his people, and the giving of the spirit of Yahweh is the guarantee of his presence...The pouring out of the spirit of Yahweh will create a prophetic community since all will be granted the gift of prophecy. Thus, the outpouring of the spirit is both a sign and means of salvation" (p. 43)
(3) "Reception of the prophetic spirit is a precursor to universal judgment. Those who repent and receive the spirit will escape the judgment to come....(T)he pouring out of the spirit upon the people of Judah may be viewed as a sign which announces the Day of Yahweh as judgment upon all who do not call upon his name" (p. 43).
Chapter 3 deals with the appropriation of Joel in the New Testament. McQueen states that Luke
"sees the renewed activity of the Spirit as ushering in the messianic age. Jesus is the eschatological prophet to Israel, and with him dawns the eschatological age of salvation. In this light, the church which receives the promised Spirit may be termed `the eschatological Israel--the Israel of the new age" (p. 45)
The transfer motif of Spirit in the Old Testament, in which the Spirit was given from one person to another for vocational use, is also present in the New Testament, as Jesus anoints his followers with the Spirit. Jesus is the eschatological prophet, the last one sent by God, and in Him culminates all that has been promised to Israel. He ushered in the "last days" and his name is a means for salvation before the "day of the Lord". He has transferred His Spirit upon all who call upon His name, thus constituting a prophetic community, which serves as a sign to the nations of coming judgment and also as a witness and herald to the salvation that comes in Jesus from the coming day of the Lord. McQueen comments,
"The account of the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 sets the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in an eschatological context. The event is one of the signs of the last days...This, the eschatological framework in the book of Joel remains essentially the same. There is, however, a major alteration in the meaning of the Day of the Lord as this now refers to the second advent of Jesus, the eschatological prophet who has been made Lord and Christ...Jesus is now the Lord on whose name everyone must call to be saved, for Jesus is both savior and judge. The last days are framed by the past and future appearances of Messiah" (p. 55).
It can thus be argued that Jesus and Pentecost are pivotal in redemptive history as it relates to what is promised from the prophet Joel. McQueen's development of the idea of a threefold movement in Joel of lamentation, salvation, and judgment correspond well to the New Testament witness. My real interests in reading McQueen's monograph were the connections between Luke/Peter on Pentecost and the use of Joel. I would say that McQueen's conjectures of the three main themes in Joel accord well with Luke-Acts.
Lamentation can be seen clearly in John the Baptist, who is the last prophet before Jesus, and is a forerunner paving the way. How does he prepare the way? By calling for repentance in light of the coming judgment. This was a communal call for lamentation to escape the coming judgment. The spirit had also been silent for some time and John pointed to renewed work of the Spirit through Jesus, which would assure Yahweh's people of His favor. Luke records the activity of the Spirit in connection with Jesus, even at his infancy, where we see the Spirit working in several people: Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, and Anna. The lamentation found in John the Baptist paves the way for the salvation found in Jesus. Jesus himself understood his mission in accordance with Isaiah 61, a herald of the favorable time of the Lord. Jesus didn't quote the oracle of judgment found in Isaiah because that was not his mission. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. The motif then shifts to the idea of coming judgment after Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension, when he pours out the promised Spirit on Pentecost. This marked the beginning of the end as salvation is offered before the coming day of the Lord. The nations are no longer allowed to walk in blindness, but will be given a witness and judged accordingly. The Spirit has come in power to attest to the salvation offered in Christ. We are a prophetic last days' community pointing people to the cross in the past as a means to escape the "Day of Yahweh" in the future.