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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Enthusiasm

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ENTHUSIASM.Enthusiasm means etymologically a Divinely inspired interest or zeal (Gr. ἐνθουσάζω, to be inspired by a god, from ἐν ‘in,’ and θεός ‘god’); and therefore affords an appropriate modern rendering for the phrase πνεῦμα ἅγιον, ‘Holy Spirit,’ in the NT (Luke 1:5; Luke 1:35; Luke 1:41; Luke 1:67; Luke 4:1, Acts 2:4; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55; Acts 9:17; Acts 11:24; Acts 13:9; see Bartlet’s Acts, p. 386). The author of Ecce Homo has called attention to the enthusiasm Jesus required of, and inspired in, His disciples (pp. 141, 152, 154, fifth edition). His own life was marked by enthusiasm, intense and exalted emotions in regard to His vocation. As a youth He was enthusiastic for His Father’s house (Luke 2:49); at the Baptism He devoted Himself to His calling (Matthew 3:15), and was conscious of receiving the Spirit (Matthew 3:16), the spirit of zeal and power. His first enthusiasm to use the new energy afforded the occasion for the temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:12 ‘straightway the Spirit driveth him forth’). In His call to His disciples, His teaching and healing, His journeyings from place to place in the early Galilaean ministry (Mark 1:17; Mark 1:27; Mark 1:38; Mark 1:41), this mood of enthusiasm is dominant (Luke 4:1). The same impression is conveyed in St. John’s record: His answer to His mother in Cana, the casting out of the traders from the temple, the challenge to the priests, the confession of His Messiahship to the woman of Samaria, the forgetfulness of the needs of the body in His absorption in His work (John 2:4; John 2:17; John 2:19; John 4:26; John 4:32; John 4:34), have all the same characteristic of an intense, exalted emotion. His mood was mistaken for madness by His relatives (Mark 3:21), and His answer regarding His spiritual relationships would not remove their doubt (Mark 3:34-35). His demands on His disciples to abandon all, and to cleave to Him (Luke 9:60; Luke 9:62; Luke 14:26), and the Beatitudes He pronounced on the spiritually aspiring, and on the persecuted (Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:12), spring from the same inward source. He was deeply moved by any evidence of faith which He met with (Matthew 8:10; Matthew 15:28, Luke 10:21, Matthew 16:17, John 12:23, Luke 23:43). He even intensely desired to fulfil His vocation in His death (Luke 12:50). The Baptist contrasted his own baptism with water and the Messiah’s baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). His words have been thus interpreted: ‘He baptizes with water, in the running stream of Jordan, to emblem the only way of escape, amendment. Messiah will baptize with wind and fire, sweeping away and consuming the impenitent, leaving behind only the righteous’ (Bruce, ‘St. Matthew’ in Expositor’s Gr. Test. p. 84). When Jesus presented the same contrast in His demand to Nicodemus (John 3:5), it is not probable that He referred to judgment, but to the inspiration which He brought to men in His ministry, the enthusiasm for God and His kingdom which He imparted. We have abundant evidence that He so inspired men in Galilee by His healing, teaching, forgiveness of sins, companionship (Mark 1:27; Mark 1:37; Mark 2:12; Mark 2:19), and attracted many (Mark 3:7; Mark 6:53-56). The people believed Him to be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets (Mark 6:14, Matthew 16:14). That this mood was temporary Jesus recognized in the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:5-6). The flame blazed up again for a moment among the Galilaean pilgrims at the triumphal entry (Mark 11:8; Mark 11:10). The early ministry in Judaea and in Samaria, as recorded by John, made the same impression (John 2:23; John 3:26; John 4:39-42). After His Resurrection and Ascension the Christian Church received at Pentecost the permanent and communicable gift of holy enthusiasm (πνεῦμα ἅγιον, as explained above).* [Note: In this view of the meaning of Christian enthusiasm, as a power which finds its true source in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we get an interesting glimpse into both the history of language and the philosophy of that history, from the disrepute which attached to the word ‘enthusiasm’ during the age of Rationalism and Deism. Those were days when leaders in the Church set themselves to ‘put down enthusiasm,’ and Christian apologists were anxious to prove that neither Jesus Christ nor His Apostles were ‘enthusiasts.’ Hartley defines enthusiasm as ‘a mistaken persuasion in any person that he is a peculiar favourite with God; and that he receives supernatural marks thereof’ (Observations on Man, i. 490), a definition which entirely corresponds to the contemporary ideas on the subject (see J. E. Carpenter, James Martineau, p. 92). In the 18th cent. enthusiasm was a synonym for fanaticism; an enthusiast was simply a fanatic. And the constant application of the terms to the Evangelical Revival and its leaders shows that this debasing of their value was due to the spiritual deadness of the critics rather than to the extravagances of the enthusiasts. Similarly, the Jewish leaders said of Jesus, ‘He hath a devil, and is mad’ (John 10:20); Festus said to Paul, ‘Thou art beside thyself’ (Acts 26:24); and some of the people of Jerusalem, when they witnessed the charismatic gifts bestowed upon Christ’s followers on the Day of Pentecost, exclaimed, ‘These men are full of new wine’ (Acts 2:13).]

It is a difficult problem whether in His early ministry Jesus was not led by His enthusiasm to show less reserve in the expression of His claims and less restraint in the exercise of His powers than was His practice afterwards, when He had learned from experience the peril this course involved of a premature close of His ministry. The solution of the problem depends on the answer given to the wider question, whether such a change of method, due to the teaching of experience, would be compatible with His unerring moral insight and sinless moral character, and the Divine guidance He constantly sought and found in the fulfilment of His vocation. If not, we cannot assume any such change. The question is discussed in The Expositor, 6th series, vol. vi. ‘The Early Self-Disclosure.’

Literature.—Arthur, Tongue of Fire; J. C. Shairp, Studies, 362 ff.

Alfred E. Garvie.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Enthusiasm'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/e/enthusiasm.html. 1906-1918.

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