This is the second of three daily notes on the Pentecost speech-sermon of Peter in Acts 2:14-41 in which I am examining three Christological statements or expressions—the first (a&ndra a)podedeigme/non a)po\ tou= qeou=, see the previous day’s note) was found in verse 22; today I will be looking at verse 33. The first kerygmatic statement in vv. 22-24 precedes the quotation from Psalm 16; a second kerygmatic statement follows it in vv. 32-33, which is framed by two main clauses (with parenthetic declarations):
This Yeshua [Jesus] God made stand up (again)
—of which we all are witnesses…
…he has poured this out
—which you [also] see and hear
Note the structure of this frame:
- Act of God (the Father)—raised Jesus from the dead
- We all (i.e. the disciples/speaker[s]) are witnesses (i.e. have seen)
- Act of Jesus—poured out the (gift of the) Spirit
- You (i.e. the crowd/hearers) are witnesses (see and hear)
It is the inner clauses that are central to the Christological statement, for they provide the bridge between the act of God (resurrection) and the act of Jesus (sending the Spirit); they are as follows:
th=| decia=| ou@n tou= qeou= u(ywqei\$,
th\n te e)paggeli/an tou= pneu/mato$ tou= a(gi/ou labw\n para\ tou= patro/$
(and) therefore being lifted high (to) the giving [i.e. right] (hand) side of God
(and) receiving the e)paggeli/a of the holy Spirit (from) alongside the Father
The first clause refers to Jesus’ exaltation to the special honored position of the “right hand” side of God. This is a popular expression in the New Testament, and one of the most common (and probably earliest) descriptions of the exalted “divine” status of Jesus (Mk 14:62 par; Acts 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3ff; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22), certainly influenced greatly by Psalm 110:1, cited already by Jesus in the Synoptic tradition (Mark 12:36; Matt 22:44; Luke 20:42), here in Acts 2:34, and in Hebrews 1:13. This idea of Jesus being raised to divine status/position proved somewhat problematic for subsequent Christology, for it could indeed be taken to suggest that Jesus was not “fully divine” prior to the resurrection/exaltation. I will discuss the “adoptionistic” interpretation of such expressions at the conclusion of the third note.
The second clause describes Jesus’ reception of the Holy Spirit from the Father. This idea is less common in the New Testament, best known from the Gospel of John—see the discourses of Jesus in Jn 13-17 (esp. 14:26; 15:26; 16:7) and the episode in Jn 20:19-23 (v. 22). However, something similar had already been mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 24:49:
“and [see!] I set forth from (God/Myself) the e)paggeli/a of my Father upon you; but you—sit (down) in the city until the (time in) which you should be sunk into [i.e. have put on] power (from) out of (the) height”
The same expression “e)paggeli/a of the Father” also occurs in Acts 1:4 in reference to the coming of the Spirit upon the disciples. Previously above, I left the word e)paggeli/a untranslated since it is somewhat difficult to render literally in English. Fundamentally, it would be defined as a message or announcement (a)ggeli/a angelía) on (e)pi epi) a particular matter, primarily in the sense of a public declaration. A specialized, but common, nuance to the word is a declaration that a person intends (or is about) to do something—i.e., a promise—and so the word is used almost exclusively in the New Testament. The context tends to be the covenantal promise(s) God made to Israel, even though the word e)paggeli/a (and the verb e)pagge/llw) hardly occur in the Greek version (LXX) of the Old Testament; it becomes much more common in the deutero-canonical and similar Jewish writings of the intertestamental period (e.g., 2 Macc 2:17; 3 Macc 2:10; Ps Sol 12:8; 2 Bar 57:2; 59:2; Jos Ant 2.219), often expressed in terms of the “promises of God” or the “promises of/to the fathers”—promises to be inherited/fulfilled to faithful believers among Israel. The word, in this sense (and with these related expressions), is used fairly frequently by Paul (in Romans and Galatians), as well as in Hebrews—in particular, Paul invests the word with great significance, indicating the salvation and (eternal) life to be inherited (the parallel word klhronomi/a “lot, inheritance”) by believers through Christ (apart from the Law). This is realized through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, as Paul states in Gal 3:14; note the expression “promise of the Spirit” (e)paggeli/a tou= pneu/mato$)—parallel with the “blessing (eu)logi/a) of Abraham”—and cf. also Eph 1:13 (“the holy Spirit of the promise”).
Apart from 23:21, all of the subsequent instances of e)paggeli/a in the book of Acts refer primarily to the idea of God’s promise(s) to Abraham/Israel:
- Acts 2:39, juxtaposed with the promise of the Spirit (v. 33), as in Galatians 3:14
- Acts 7:17—promise to Abraham, in the context of the Exodus and journey to the Promised Land
- Acts 13:32, juxtaposed with Christ (as Savior) from the seed of David “according to the promise” in v. 23 (cf. Galatians 3-4 for Christ [and believers] as the seed of Abraham according to the promise)
- Acts 26:6, again with an implied connection (or fulfillment) of the promise in Jesus Christ (and the gift of the Spirit)
As mentioned previously, in Acts 1:4, here in 2:33, and earlier in Luke 24:49 (the only instance of the word in the Gospels), the Spirit is specifically referred to as the e)paggeli/a (“promise”) of God.
From whom/whence does Jesus send (a)postellw, lit. “set [forth] from…”) the Spirit, as in Lk 24:49 (see above)? In the history of Doctrine, this is the notorious question of the “procession of the Holy Spirit”, as represented by the so-called Filioque controversy. The latin filioque reflects an expression “and the Son” which was added to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (technically referred to as the “double/dual procession of the Holy Spirit”). This addition was rejected by the Eastern Church and has proven a divisive issue between East and West through the centuries, the precise reasons for which are somewhat hard to appreciate today. The idea of a shared “sending” of the Spirit, in some meaningful sense, is suggested strongly by the Gospel of John, where, in the discourses, Jesus refers to the Spirit/Paraclete as one who: (1) “the Father will send in my name” [Jn 14:26], (2) “I will send (from) alongside the Father” [Jn 15:26], (3) “I will send”, having first gone away to the Father [Jn 16:7]. The phrasing in Lk 24:49 and Acts 2:33 is closest to Jn 15:26. Conceptually, in the Gospel of John, the idea is that the Spirit is sent (travels/proceeds out of the Father, cf. Jn 15:26) to the Son, and the Son, in turn, sends it/him to believers (portrayed in Jn 20:22 as Jesus breathing the Spirit into the believers).