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Jon Ruthven

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Jon Ruthven is a Professor of Systematic Theology at Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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Articles > Charismatic Theology > The "Imitation of Christ" in Christian Tradition

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[1] In an August 1997 Gallup survey, "two thirds (66%) of survey respondents said they think religion can answer all or most of contemporary problems, the highest figure recorded since the measurement was started 40 years ago in 1957. Only 20% said religion is old-fashioned and out-of-date." Emerging Trends (September, 1997):

[2] Edited by R. N. Longenecker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

[3] See the surveys by F. W. Norris, "Christ, Christology," Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Ed. E. Ferguson (New York: Garland, 1990), 197-206. M. Simonetti, "Christology," Encyclopedia of the Early Church. Ed. A. DiBerardino (New York: Oxford, 1992), I:163-65. W. Pannenberg, "ChristologieII, Dogmengeschichtlich," RGG3I:1763-77.

[4] Anathema IX: Against Nestorius, PNF 2nd ser., XIV:540.

[5] Ibid., 541.

[6] PL 35, cols. 2289-91.

[7] Institutes(Trans. Battles) I.XII.13.

[8] Or, alternatively, miracles served as scaffolding for the church: that when the church was established, the scaffolding (accrediting miracles) we no longer required, and so were removed. J. Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles (Sheffield: Sheffield U. Pr., 1993), 24-33.

[9] "On Christ Crucified," Luthers Werke, Weimar ed. 12:372. "Christ is [secondarily] an example and pattern which we are to follow."

[10] For a popular summary on miracles see E. M. Plass (ed.), What Luther Says: An Anthology (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), II: 953-57.

[11] [God] "bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed by His own will."

[12] C. Brown, "The Other Half of the Gospel," CT 33 (April 21, 1989), 27. L. Smedes (ed.), Ministry and the Miraculous: A Case Study at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1987), passim.

[13] "The Purpose of Signs and Wonders in the New Testament," Power Religion, ed. M. S. Horton (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 102.

[14] J. D. G. Dunn, "The Spirit of Christ," in Christology in the Making (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980), 136-49. C. Pinnock, "Spirit and Christology" [Ch. 3], in his Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1996), 79-111. M. E. O'Keeffe, "Contemporary Spirit Christologies: An Examination of G. W. H. Lampe, Walter Kasper, and Piet Schoonenberg," PhD dissertation, Notre Dame University, 1994.

[15] "[We have] concluded that a dogmatic Spirit-christology may be developed from New Testament sources in a manner that maintains and affirms hypostatic differentiation in God." R. Del Colle, Christ and the Spirit: Spirit-Christology in Trinitarian Perspective (New York: Oxford, 1994), 184.

[16] B. Ramm, An Evangelical Christology (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985), 179-81.

[17] Louw, Johannes P. and Nida, Eugene A., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989), sections 27, 33, 36, and 41:44-41:49.

[18] H. Weder, "Disciple, Discipleship," ABD II:209.

[19] Contra Apion II.204.

[20] For examples see: y Ber. I.8.3d; III.5.6d, cf. y Ber. 24a-b; Shab. 12b and 41a. N. Drazin, History of Jewish Education from 515 BCE to 220 CE (New York: Arno Pr., 1979), 12.

[21] Wisdom of Ben-Sira, 30:4.

[22] B Ber. 62a and y Ber. 9.8, 14c. Typically, a rabbi's disciple was so intent on mastering the "rules of proper behavior that he followed every action of his teachers with the closest scrutiny and recorded their slightest habits." L. Finkelstein, Akiba (New York: Covici, Friede, 1936), 181. So also, B. Gerhardsson Memory and Manuscript (Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1961), 182-83.

[23] E. Lohse, "rabbi," TDNT, VI:964-65. H. Lapin, "Rabbi," ABD, V:600-02. Some German scholars, e.g.., R. Bultmann in his Theology of the New Testament (New York: Scribners, 1951), 3 and M. Hengel, The Charismatic Leader and His Followers (New York: Crossroad, 1981), 50-57, attempt to distance Jesus' rabbinic pattern of mimesis from that of his Jewish contemporaries. Bultmann does so on the dubious premise that any characteristic of rabbinicism would necessarily be an inauthentic tradition about Jesus. Hengel slides into a logical pitfall when he says, "it is singular what a small part basically is played in the Gospels by the 'example' or 'imitation' of Jesus: he seems to have directed his disciples' gaze not towards his everyday behaviour but towards the dawning basileia [kingdom] and the realization of the will of God in its particular and specific requirements" (p. 53), that is, not to "follow" Jesus in the sense of carrying on a tradition, but "to prepare for the service of the approaching rule of God." The nonsense of this observation lies in the fact that Jesus' "everyday behaviour" were acts inaugurating the kingdom of God-the very mission for which Hengel sees the disciples preparing! Hengel confuses Jesus' duplication of the rabbinic pedagogical method with a duplication of rabbinic religious content. B. Viviano, Study as Worship in Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity, v. 26 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978), 159. C. Blendinger, "akoloutheo," NIDNTT, I:482.

[24] See BAG, ad loc., 391.

[25] E.g., Longenecker, "Introduction," Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament, 5-6. L. Hurtado, "Following Jesus in the Gospel of Mark-and Beyond," ibid., 13, 15, 22, 28, 37. T. L. Donaldson, "Guiding Readers-Making Disciples: Discipleship in Matthew's Narrative Strategy," ibid., 40, 42, 44, esp. 470-48, et al. On discipleship in Luke-Acts, Longenecker affirms that all the lessons for the disciples "Luke meant to teach his readers, whether of his day or ours" in "Taking up the Cross Daily: Luke-Acts," ibid., 75. Similarly in John: M. R. Hillmer: "at all times and in all places . . . . to be a disciple of Jesus . . . is to do what Jesus calls his followers to do" ibid., 93. Wm. Kurz, Following Jesus: A Disciple's Guide to Luke-Acts (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1984), 'Chapter Four: Sharing Jesus' Power for Service,' 57-67.

[26] H. Wolf, "derek," TWOT (Harris, Archer, Waltke), I:197. E. Merrill, "derek," NIDOTE (VanGemeren), I:989-93. W. Michaelis, "hodos," TDNT (One vol. ed.), 670.

[27] Certainly, one could show that the NT exhorts its readers to view every aspect of Jesus life as a pattern for the believer: spiritual birth, deliverance from bondage, baptism (with water and spirit), temptation, moral purity, prayer, ministry, rejection, suffering, trial before judges, death, resurrection, exaltation and rule.

[28] See, for example, Richardson's figures on Mark (Miracle Stories of the Gospels, 36-37). He counts the number of verses dealing with miracle stories to arrive at a relatively lower, though still significantly large, 47 percent of the Gospel, excluding the passion narrative. But this procedure may result in deceptively lower ratios of miracles to the total book. The present approach is to measure the complete miracle pericope, usually a paragraph unit, which dealt specifically and clearly with a miracle. Summaries of miracle activity in Jesus' public ministry were also included. Although Jesus performed miracles while alone with his disciples, e.g., the stilling of the storms, the resurrection appearances, the ascension, etc., these cases were eliminated from the count, since they were not part of Jesus' public proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

[29] The rendering, "preach" in most English translations is unfortunate, since the Gk., kerussein in the NT is closer to prophecy than to the formal process of preaching we see in churches today.

[30] F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, NICNT, 54.

[31] D. A. Carson and M. Horton (eds.), Power Religion, 103. C. Brown, "Other Half of the Gospel," 28. For a rebuttal: G. Greig, "Matthew 28:18-20-The Great Commission and Jesus' Commands to Preach and Heal," Appendix 3 in The Kingdom and the Power (Ventura, Ca: Regel, 1993), 399-403.

[32] G. Greig, "John 14:12-The Commission to All Believers to Do the Miraculous Works of Jesus," in The Kingdom and the Power, 393-397. J. Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata, 109, 121, 154.

[33] C. Hemer, in his important new commentary notes that the total text of its speeches comprise about 22.5 percent of the Book of Acts. Appendix 1: "Speeches and Miracles in Acts" in his The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Ed. C. Gemph (Tbingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck] 1989), 415-43.

[34] E.g., see the review of proposed parallels in C. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and the Genre of Luke-Acts, SBL Monograph Series 20 (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1974), 55-65. W. Radl, Paulus und Jesus im lukanischen Doppelwerk: Untersuchungen zu Parallelmotiven im Lukasevangelium und in der Apostelgeschichte, Europisch Hochschulschriften 23/49 (Frankfurt: Lang, 1975), 346-51 and F. Neirynck, "The Miracle Stories in the Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction," Les Actes des Apôtres: Traditions, rédaction, théologie, ed., J. Kremer, B.E.T.L. 48 (Gembloux: Duculot, 1979), 169-73. See especially the extended parallels between the miracles of Jesus and those of the Church in Acts in G.W.H. Lampe, "The Holy Spirit in the Writings of St. Luke," Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R.H. Lightfoot, D. Nineham, ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1955), 194-96. In view of scholarly emphasis on the miracles of Jesus (see the bibliographies in Loos, Miracles of Jesus, 707-26 and L. Sabourin, The Divine Miracles Discussed and Defended [Rome: Catholic Book Agency, 1977], 237-71), the dearth of scholarship on what is truly a huge emphasis in Acts, i.e., 27 percent of the text dealing with miracle accounts, is astonishing. Besides the above and scattered references in the commentaries: J. Fenton, "The Order of Miracles Performed by Peter and Paul in Acts," The Expository Times 77 (1966): 381-83; J. Ferguson, "Thoughts on Acts," CongQ 35 (1957): 117-33; J. Hardon, "The Miracle Narratives in the Acts of the Apostles," CBQ 16 (1954): 303-18; Th. Crafer, The Healing Miracles in the Book of Acts (London: SPCK, 1939). On the charismata generally, see James D.G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, 146-196.

[35] Susan Marie Praeder, Miracle Worker and Missionary: Paul in theActs of the Apostles, S.B.L. Seminar Paper, No. 22 (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1983), 115-16. The chart (modified) is from p. 115.

[36] See the numerous references in Acts, above. "The fact that the same Spirit which worked in Jesus is now given by him as the exalted Messiah to his followers renders the subsequent history of his Church and its mission parallel, in certain respects, to that of his own life and work . . . . The ministry of the apostles and of other disciples resembles that of Jesus at many points." G.W.H. Lampe, "The Holy Spirit in the Writings of St. Luke," 194; Minear, To Heal and Reveal, 122-47.

[37] See note 25, above.

[38] On the latter verse, J.N.D. Kelly affirms that "the idea that this grace operates automatically is excluded." The Pastoral Epistles, Harper's New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), 159. He compares this passage with the "quenching" of the Spirit of prophecy in 1 Th 5:19.

[39] On this passage, see Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata, 126-31. G. Fee, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994), 84-90.

[40] On the charismatic emphasis in the NT on "grace" (charis) see J. Noland, "Grace as Power," NovTest 28 (Oct. 1986), 31, "a tangible [charismatic] power in the believer." So also, J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), 202-05. G. Wetter, Charis: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des altesten Christentums (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1913).

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