A Day at SBL

A Day at SBL December 5, 2014

As a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, last weekend I attended its Annual Meeting. It is held in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion in a different, major city in North America each year which can accommodate a group of about 7,000 to 10,000 members. Most are professors with PhDs. Most years it is the highlight of my year. It keeps me abreast of what biblical scholars are saying. I see their latest books and buy some of them. And then there is networking and talking to religious publishers at a huge book hall in which they feature thousands of books. Whenever I leave to go on a trip, I always pray that God will give me blessing, etc., and SBL’s Annual Meeting is no exception.

I spent all of this year writing a book manuscript about a particular issue regarding the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I blogged about it on November 1, 2013. (To see this eight-page article, click on Archives or Categories on this Blog and search for it there.) When my close friend, Dr. Scot McKnight, read this posted article, he said he had never heard of my hypothesis and thought it was worthy of a book. I then asked some other scholars, including Pentecostals, to read it. They also said they had not known of my idea and thought it was interesting. I had not thought of writing a book about it until Scot said that.

The subject of this book manuscript became known as the Dunn Debate. James D.G. Dunn wrote his PhD thesis and it became his first book, entitled The Baptism in the Holy Spirit (1970). Dunn and especially Pentecostal scholars ever since have debated about the seeming difference, and some would say a contradiction, between Luke in his book of Acts and the Apostle Paul in his NT letters. In especially Romans 8.9 and 1 Corinthians 12.13, Paul says a person receives (=baptized with) the Holy Spirit when s/he believes in Jesus for salvation and thus is converted, which most Evangelicals believe. On the other hand, Luke seems to say in Acts 8.12-17 that some Samaritans believed and thus were converted when Philip preached to them, but they did not receive the Holy Spirit until days later when Peter and John came there and laid hands on them. Pentecostals cite this as their main NT text to support their teaching that the baptism with the Holy Spirit occurs “subsequent” to Christian conversion, which they call “the doctrine of subsequence.” Most Pentecostals add that this Spirit baptism must be accompanied by speaking in tongues. Early on, this addition about glossalalia somewhat separated Pentecostals from mainstream Christianity which continues to this day.

The thesis of my book manuscript is that Jesus’ promise to give the Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, recorded only in Matt. 16.19, is the reason for this seeming contradiction between Luke and Paul. Peter had to be present for new coverts to receive the Holy Spirit each time the gospel was first preached to Jews (Acts 2), Samartians (Acts 8), and finally Gentiles (Acts 10) as the beginning of the fulfillment of Jesus’ predictions in Acts 1.5 and v. 8 to be baptized with the Spirit and become his witnesses. Peter was then, metaphorically speaking, using his kingdom keys by opening kingdom doors for these three classes of people to receive the Holy Spirit. After that, contrary to the Roman Catholic teaching of its papacy which is based mostly Matt. 16.19, Peter was finished with this temporary role, and Spirit baptism occurred simultaneously with conversion thereafter with the exception of the anomaly in Acts 19.1-7.

When authors write nonfiction books, they usually try to get peers to endorse it with a brief blurb that the publisher puts on the book’s back cover. And when authors seek such a publisher, it helps them get a publisher if they already have such endorsements from experts in that discipline of learning. When I attended the SBL-AAR Annual Meeting last week, I did not have a publisher for this book manuscript. And I knew that it would help me with them if I already had some such endorsements. So, I had asked Scot in an email months earlier if he could recommend any scholars for me to contact, especialy anyone who was a specialist in this genre of the Spirit baptism. Scot emailed me back, giving me two names. One was Dean Pinter. I didn’t know him personally or anything about him, and Scot didn’t say. Scot also didn’t tell me how to contact these two men. I surely could have done so by searching on online. But I hadn’t got around to doing it.

One of the main features of the SBL-AAR Annual Meeting is that hundreds of 2-3 hour sessions are conducted in which a panel of perhaps 4-7 scholars reads a 20-30 minute paper each has written. The other panelists critique each paper. Finally, there is a Q&A period from the audience which consists of members as well. Last weekend, I attended five of these sessions. I walked into one of them that was attended by about 300 people. When I sat down, I noticed Simon Gathercole sitting two seats away on from me on the same row. I had met Simon two years earlier at the Annual Meeting, and that year he was the speaker at the Kermit Zarley Lectures at North Park University (which I was not able to attend). Simon and I said hi and shook hands in front of his friend sitting next to me. I then met his friend, and it was Dean Pinter. Wow! I told him Scot recommended I contact him, and I didn’t know why. I then asked Dean if he has something to do with Spirit baptism. He said “yes,” that he was writing a commentary on the book Acts to go in a NT commentary series of which Scot is the director. Dean also said that his progress so far with this commentary was that he had gotten to Acts and was presently working on Acts 8. I then told him what I was doing. He agreed to give my manuscript a look with the possible prospect of endorsing it. Dean is a NT scholar and an Anglican priest in Canada. My conclusion of this meeting–God sometimes works in mysterious ways as he answers prayer.

Also that weekend I met with two publishers about this book manuscript. If I get a publisher for it, I will then post about it here on my blog.

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