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An Unconventional God

The Spirit according to Jesus

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Jack Levison offers a fresh take on the Holy Spirit through a careful reading of every reference to the Spirit in the Gospels. Viewed through the lens of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection, the Spirit shows up at odd times and in odd teachings--in desert sojourns, a strange saying about scorpions and snakes, and puzzling sayings about birth from above and springs from below. The Gospels disclose an alien world of the Spirit, a world that mystifies, challenges, and invigorates.

Grounded in scholarship, yet accessible and inviting, this companion volume to Levison's A Boundless God analyzes key aspects of Jesus's experience of the Holy Spirit, offering nuggets of insight on every page.

1. Spirit and the Swell of Expectation
2. Spirit, Fire, and a Vital Message
3. Spirit and the Sway of Baptism
4. Spirit and the Torment of Temptation
5. Spirit, Promise, Praise, and Prayer
6. Spirit and the Threat of Blasphemy
7. Spirit and the Hazard of Hostility
8. Spirit, New Birth, and Living Water
9. Spirit and Inspired Memories
10. Spirit and Our Future
Appendix: Relevant References to Pneuma in the Canonical Gospels


"Whatever Jack Levison writes about the Spirit is worth reading. When he now takes us through the familiar territory of the story of Jesus, alerting us to Spirit-filled dimensions we have missed before, our eyes are opened, our minds glimpse fresh truth, and our hearts are once more set on fire."

N. T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham; research professor of New Testament and early Christianity, St. Andrews; senior research fellow, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

"Those who think that there is nothing new to learn about the Holy Spirit should read An Unconventional God. Far from merely rehashing well-worn themes, Levison freshly appraises the Spirit's role and work in the Gospels. Marked by independent exegetical insight, a studied familiarity with the Scriptures, theologically important reflections, lively prose, and an obvious passion for the topic, this book will make you think again about the sometimes perplexing, often challenging, and always invigorating power of the Spirit in the life of Jesus--and in the life of the church."

Marianne Meye Thompson, George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Written in a popular and engaging style, Levison's latest book is marked by independent judgment and disciplined imagination. Pastors will discover sermonic possibilities at every turn, and the learned will find themselves pondering new readings and innovative proposals."

Dale C. Allison Jr., Princeton Theological Seminary

"Jack Levison has established himself as the keenest of eyes when it comes to anything about Spirit--spirit, breath, wind, Spirit--in the Old Testament and Judaism, but in An Unconventional God Levison explores a section of Scripture rarely given the attention it deserves for pneumatology: the four Gospels. Levison's nuanced attentiveness to the Old Testament and Judaism is brought into play to see the Gospels' understanding of the Spirit in a way that is both comprehensive and unconventional. This book will replace the standard studies of Spirit in the Gospels."

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"Are you looking for a Holy Spirit who lifts you up when you are down? Inspires a felicitous reply when you are arguing? Guides you to the lone empty parking spot? Then Jack Levison's An Unconventional God may not be the book you want--although perhaps it is exactly the book you need. In this elegant and convicting exposition of the Spirit's role in the canonical Gospels, Levison shows us that the Holy Spirit portrayed in them is one who drives Jesus into the wilderness and who may drive us there also. The good news, in Levison's telling, is a promise not of easy deliverance from our trials but of divine presence to accompany us through the hard places."

Susan R. Garrett, professor of New Testament, Louisville Seminary

"This book offers an unconventional biography, a beautifully written history of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. Treating one anecdote at a time, Levison carves out the facets of each report, painting a colorful picture of the Holy Spirit with the ink of the Scriptures, a portrait never to be captured in a single line or thought. His interpretations show the precision of an exegete and yet the openness of an ancient biographer to different reports or versions of the same incident. This fascinating book offers something for everyone."

Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, professor of New Testament and history of ancient religions, University of Bern

The Author

  1. Jack Levison
    Jeremy Pope-Levison

    Jack Levison

    Jack Levison (PhD, Duke University; MA, Cambridge University; BA, Wheaton College) is an internationally acclaimed scholar and award-winning author. He holds the W. J. A. Power Chair of Old Testament Interpretation and Biblical Hebrew at Southern Methodist...

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