I've been reviewing biblical dictionary entries in preparation for writing an article on "Spirit" for a new biblical dictionary. Here's a sentence that is not untypical:-
"All NT writings present the Christian community as a spirit-endowed entity."
Is there one community behind NT documents? Surely not. Communities are hard to detect of course, and one should not presume that each document presupposes a community. But let's say there one in Matthew's gospel and ones reflected in each of the Pauline letters. Are they the same? I don't think so. Different Christologies for a start. Different notions of community, to be sure.
Then there's the question of whether each of these communities have the same ideas about the spirit, namely that each community is endowed with it. Surely not. Just take the gospels. Mark's pneumatology is unlike Luke's and Luke's unlike John's. And its hard, I think, to connect Mark with a specific community.
What makes a community Christian? And how do we give that word Christian content? If we have different ideas about Jesus behind Paul's letters and the gospels, just how elastic does that term Christian have to be?
So what's the point of the sentence? To impose a coherent doctrine of the Christian community as spirit endowed on each NT text. Is this helpful? I don't think so. Its an idea in search of data. So the question of where to begin is my current preoccupation.
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