BEN: It is the measure of a good book that it causes a person to rethink some things that one has taken for granted, and to look at familiar Biblical texts in fresh ways, teasing the mind into active thought. I would call this ‘good trouble’ to borrow a phrase from the dearly departed John Lewis. It looks to me like one of the main aims of your stimulating new book is to trouble the comfortable and complacent rather than talk about how the Spirit can comfort and console us in a dark time. Was this one of your intents with this book?
JACK: My intent was far less, well, intentional. I set out to understand Jesus better by paying careful attention to the Holy Spirit and to understand the Spirit more fully by paying attention to Jesus. I didn’t really have an agenda until I discovered the unsettling, the unconventional, aspects of the Spirit that rise to the surface of the gospels when the Holy Spirit is refracted through the lens of a tortured—literally, tortured—Jesus.
BEN: Jack you’ve been pursuing the study of the Holy Spirit in Judaism and early Christianity for a very large part of your scholarly career. What was really the initial impetus to study this topic, and why has it continued to be such an important part of your ongoing contribution to the study of Biblical and extra-Testamental literature?
JACK: I could claim that my motives were as daring and courageous as John Lewis, but that would be a lie. (And we know from the story of Ananias and Sapphira what happens to those who lie to the Holy Spirit!) My motives were not intrepid or gallant. I simply wanted to know more about Jesus’ experience of the Holy Spirit. My mentor and dearest of friends, Jerry Hawthorne, who taught Greek for nearly fifty years at Wheaton College and with whom I lived for two summers, had written a book on the Spirit and Jesus, in which he contended that Jesus did what he did, not so much by dint of his divinity as his experience of the Holy Spirit. Deep down, I wanted to honor Jerry by pursuing much the same question.