May 2, 2010

J. Dwight Pentecost on the Book of Acts

For those who may not know him, Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition and Adjunct Professor in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Pentecost continues to teach and mentor students at ninety-four years young! Recently Dr. P (as he is affectionately known) sat down with me for an interview co
ncerning the recent publication of his twentieth book: New Wine: A Study of Transition in the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010). Here is a transcript of that interview.

How did the book New Wine come about?

Dr. Pentecost: For some years I taught two complementary courses: Dispensational Problems in Matthew and Transitional Problems in Acts. I believe that Matthew and Acts are the two most important books supporting Dispensationalism. But since I covered Matthew in the Life of Christ course, the Dispensational Problems in Matthew course was eventually dropped as an elective. But the Transitional Problems in Acts course was retained and I’ve taught that for some years now. New Wine is a byproduct of that course.

Why did you decide to write this book after all these years?

Dr. Pentecost: I have decided to write New Wine now for two reasons. First, my students who took the Transitional Problems in Acts course kept telling me that the course material ought to be in print. Second, I wrote New Wine because I could not find the same approach to Acts in books that were already out there. Many books on Acts deal with the book historically rather than theologically.

Can you explain what your approach is?

Dr. Pentecost: My reading of the book of Acts is predicated on the understanding that the offer of the kingdom to Israel has been set aside, that there is a judgment on that generation, and an institution of a new form of theocracy in the present age. As a result you find at least six different parties all promoting their own theology, their own practices, with the result that the church in Jerusalem was basically in chaos. The early church is forced to appeal to the apostles to settle important issues. If we approach Acts this way, we can see that the resolution of the problems that arose ultimately become the basis for a great deal of Paul’s ecclesiology, and I think that was really the reason that I decided to try to make a few notes.

What is the main thesis of the book?

Dr. Pentecost: The main thesis is that with the setting aside of Israel and the offer of the kingdom, the postponing of the Davidic form of the kingdom, we’re not building on – or not trying to change Judaism or correct Pharisaism. Christ is introducing something that’s new. That’s why he uses the illustration of not putting new wine into old wine skins but rather putting new wine into new wine skins (Matt 9:17). What is happening through the Book of Acts is a continuation of that newness.

Who do you think should read this book?

Dr. Pentecost: Anyone who is interested in seeing a Dispensational presentation of the theological development in the Book of Acts. This book seeks to demonstrate how Judaism of the first century was locked into its traditions and that in the Church something new is being introduced. I believe that this is the heart of Dispensationalism.

You mentioned that this book originated in the seminary classroom. Do you think that this book is best suited for seminary students? What about pastors or laypersons?

Dr. Pentecost: Any of those. I believe that this book could be helpful to anyone who is interested in the issues and doctrines that are being debated and settled by the apostles in the New Age of the Church.

What do you hope to accomplish through this book?

Dr. Pentecost: To be able to throw my typewriter away. Seriously, I hope to be able to present an approach to the Book of Acts that is different from most to a new generation of Bible students. Students who have taken my Acts course have often remarked that my class has taught them a new way of reading Acts. In presenting this approach, I also hope to encourage further study of Dispensational theology.

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