The 'Spiritual Death' of Jesus

A Pentecostal Investigation

Series:

Winner of the Award of Excellence of the Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship 2010.

The teaching of Kenyon, Hagin and Copeland that Jesus ‘died spiritually’ (JDS) is important because of the influence of these men, not least on Pentecostalism. JDS originated with Kenyon, and has been taught in the Word-faith movement by Hagin and Copeland, despite much criticism. It incorporates three elements: in this death, Jesus was separated from God; partook of a satanic nature; and was Satan’s prey.

This theological appraisal takes research far further than previous works, both in method and in scope. It concludes that adoption of JDS by Pentecostalism would be damaging in several respects, and thus draw the latter away from its moorings in traditional Christianity. Pentecostals and others are advised to reject the bulk of this teaching.
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Biographical Note

William P. Atkinson, PhD (Edinburgh, 2007), was Principal of Regents Theological College near Manchester, England for some years. Presently, he leads a church in South-East England, and teaches part time at Wisdom Christian College, London.

Review Quotes

Winner of the Award of Excellence of the Foundation for Pentecostal scholarship 2010.

"Atkinson has advanced the discussion to a wholly new level. This work - the first book-length academic study of JDS - draws on an extensive popular literature, articles at websites, and transcriptions of sermons, applying a keen theological intelligence to this heterogeneous material. This book is a stunning achievement - one of the weightiest works yet written on any aspect of the Word-Faith movement. Atkinson's argumentation is exceptioanlly clear, cogent, and charitable. He pays Word-Faith teachers the ultimate compliment of evaluating their ideas with painstaking care and a determined effort to eschew premature judgments." – Michael McClymond, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, St Louis University, in: Pneuma 32/1 (2010)
"In this research Atkinson provides us with a thorough analysis of the JDS doctrine as espoused by the Word-faith movement. The text is well structured and discusses the relevant biblical texts and the place JDS has in Christian theology. It contributes to the scholarly debate about the inherent doctrinal dangers in the Word-faith movement. As Atkinson rightfully observes, JDS teaching creates many difficulties and questions. It undermines the traditional understanding of the Trinity, incarnation and atonement." – C. van der Laan, VU University Amsterdam, in: Journal of Reformed Theology 4 (2010), 241-265

Table of contents


Preface ... vii
Acknowledgements ... viii
List of abbreviations ... ix

Introduction ... 1

Chapter 1: The JDS debate and debaters ... 5
1.1 Introduction ... 5
1.2 The Word-faith movement ... 7
1.3 Three foremost JDS teachers ... 14
1.4 JDS teaching in theological context ... 25
1.5 Categories of participant in the JDS debate ... 39
1.6 Growing opposition ... 43
1.7 Dissenting voices ... 52
1.8.Mediating positions ... 56
1.9. Chapter conclusions ... 59

Chapter 2: Scope, criteria and methods ... 63
2.1 Introduction ... 63
2.2 Scope and limits ... 63
2.3 Criteria ... 65
2.4 Conformity with the biblical witness ...67
2.5 Kenyon’s contemporary influences ... 77
2.6 Reference to Christian theology ... 82
2.7 Chapter conclusions ... 95

Chapter 3: Jesus’ ‘spiritual death’ and its necessity ... 99
3.1 Introduction ... 99
3.2 Biblical references to ‘spiritual death’ ... 100
3.3 Historical references to ‘spiritual death’ ... 111
3.4 JDS teaching’s terminology in modern Christian theology ... 125
3.5 The necessity of Christ’s ‘spiritual death’ ... 127
3.6 Chapter conclusions ... 141

Chapter 4: Jesus’ ‘spiritual death’ as separation from God ... 147
4.1. Introduction ... 147
4.2. The JDS articulation of Jesus’ separation from God ... 147
4.3. Criticisms of the JDS position ... 157
4.4. The possibility of a separation ... 160
4.5. The timing of a possible separation ... 172
4.6. The nature of a possible separation ... 175
4.7. Chapter conclusions ... 183

Chapter 5: Jesus’ ‘spiritual death’ as partaking of a sinful, satanic nature ... 187
5.1 Introduction ... 187
5.2 Satan ... 188
5.3 Partaking of a sinful, satanic nature ... 190
5.4 The responses of the critics ... 195
5.5 Kenyon’s, Hagin’s and Copeland’s sources ... 199
5.6 History of the tradition ... 208
5.7 Chapter conclusions ... 213

Chapter 6: Jesus’ ‘spiritual death’ as becoming Satan’s prey ... 217
6.1 Introduction ... 217
6.2 The views of Kenyon, Hagin and Copeland ... 218
6.3 Responses of the critics ... 226
6.4 JDS sources ... 231
6.5 Alternative proposals ... 240
6.6 Chapter conclusions ... 248

Chapter 7: Conclusions ... 251
7.1 Introduction ... 251
7.2 Summaries ... 252
7.3 Further responses to the critics ... 256
7.4 Sundry observations ... 258
7.5 Overall appraisal of JDS teaching ... 261

Bibliography ... 263
Index of references ... 281
Index of authors ... 285
Index of subjects ... 291

Readership

Scholars, students, and ministers interested in Pentecostalism, charismatic studies, and the Word-Faith movement, or in the history of reflection upon the events of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

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