Learn about A genetic study of the spirit-phenomena in the New Testament:
The task which we have set before us is an attempt to interpret the New Testament conceptions of spirits and the Spirit in the light of the ideas currently held by the people outside Christian circles who lived at the time when the New Testament books were written. This subject has not yet received an adequate treatment from this viewpoint in any separate work, though a number of recent scholars have done much in works of a more general nature to give us material out of which a genetic study of the spirit-phenomena in the New Testament can be made. If any genetic study of the subject has been made at all, it has usually confined itself to the establishing of the relations between the Jewish and Christian conceptions of the Spirit, while the influence of the Hellenistic and Oriental systems of religion and philosophy were entirely overlooked. Even such excellent works as Volz’s on the Jewish ideas of the Spirit, Gunkel’s on the ideas of the New Testament writers, and Weinel’s on the conceptions of the Christians of the sub-apostolic period deal very slightly with this aspect of the subject. 1 They confine themselves chiefly to the testimony of the Jewish and Christian writings and trace the development of spirit-conceptions within those prescribed limits. But the work of such scholars as Reitzenstein, Pfleiderer, Dieterich, Rohde, Cumont, Heitmuller, Bousset, et al., altho not dealing with this subject in particular, has been the occasion of bringing into the foreground the close connection of the New Testament writers not only with Jewish thought but with the thought of the Hellenistic world as well. It is highly desirable then that a genetic study of the New Testament conceptions of spirits and the Spirit, such as would include the whole background and thought-world of the New Testament writers, should be made. For unless such a study be made, the meaning of the New Testament idea of the Spirit as it existed in the minds of the writers will never be rightly understood. And it might not be presumptuous to say that unless the New Testament conceptions of the Spirit are grasped a large part of this literature must remain a sadly misinterpreted, if not a closed, book.