Eight Benefits of “Solving the Samaritan Riddle”

Eight Benefits of “Solving the Samaritan Riddle” January 24, 2016

The New Testament book of Acts says Philip preached about Jesus to Samaritans who then believed (Acts 8.4–12), but they did not receive the Holy Spirit until days later when Peter and John came and laid hands on them (vv. 14–17). After that, Peter preached Jesus to a Gentile household. “While he was speaking,” they believed and “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word” (10.44). Why did the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit days after they believed, but the Gentiles received the Spirit when they believed? Some scholars call this conundrum “the Samaritan riddle.”

Kermit Zarley proposes a new theory about this mystery in his book Solving the Samaritan Riddle: Peter’s Kingdom Keys Explain Early Spirit Baptism (October, 2015). He claims Jesus initially Spirit baptized new converts from among all three biblical classifications of people—Jews (Acts 2), Samaritans (Acts 8), and Gentiles (Acts 10)—through Peter’s presence as a conduit. That’s when Peter was using his metaphorical “keys of the kingdom of heaven” Jesus had promised to give him (Matt. 16.19). Kermit also says Peter’s keys were temporary, so that his role in using them was finished after Acts 10. Except for an anomaly in Acts 19, Zarley says all believers thereafter are simultaneously baptized with the Holy Spirit at conversion.

“A bold and adventurous book . . . It is a wonder that someone has not suggested this theory before.”

Dr. Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary

“The debate over ‘Baptism with the Spirit’ and its connection with conversion is long standing and divisive. It is in need of fresh eyes, and Zarley has provided that. I strongly recommend this book.”

Dr. Grant R. Osborne, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Is the Spirit received at conversion, as James Dunn and others have argued, or subsequently, as the Pentecostals claim? Beginning with testimony and moving personal stories, and written with delightful clarity, Zarley argues for another view, reaching some wise and helpful conclusions.”

Dr. Graham H. Twelftree, Regent University

“I find Zarley’s suggestion . . . somewhat intriguing. My problem with it is the apparent assumption that Matthew and Luke were operating/writing on the same playing field—something which, in my view, fails to appreciate the distinctive character and objectives of both.”

Dr. James D. G. Dunn, University of Durham

“Zarley offers an approach to the apostle Peter’s ‘kingdom keys’ in which Peter used his three keys to open doors . . . his tapestry of thoughts presents interesting ideas concerning Peter’s role.”

William P. Atkinson, London School of Theology


Published by Wipf and Stock, the following are eight projected benefits of this book:

  • It introduces the relationship between Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism with personal stories.
  • It informs about a debate between Dr. Dunn and Pentecostals on conversion and Spirit baptism.
  • It shows that the book of Acts is not uniform about conversion, Spirit baptism, and glossolalia.
  • It says some of this lack of uniformity is due to Peter using his metaphorical keys of the kingdom.
  • It provides a plausible answer to the question, What were Peter’s keys of the kingdom of heaven?
  • It reconciles what some have thought is an apparent disagreement between Luke and Paul.
  • It may contribute to unifying some Christians, especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals.
  • It engages biblical scholarship yet remains accessible to most readers and thus Bible students.

Browse Our Archives