The Meaning and Redemptive-Historical Significance of John 20:22

by Adrian P. Rosen (Author)
©2022 Monographs XXVIII, 314 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 177


This monograph endeavors to clarify the nature and significance of the impartation of the Holy Spirit in John 20:22. Previous scholarship has produced a confusingly diverse and contradictory array of competing interpretations of this much-debated verse. The present work, which will prove immensely valuable to every scholar, pastor, and serious student interested in this question, carefully walks the reader through the interpretive issues. The book offers a more extensive survey of the history of interpretation of John 20:22 than that found in other works on Johannine pneumatology. It includes extensive exegetical analysis of the related motifs of the glorification of Jesus and eternal life as well as every passage in the Gospel of John mentioning the Spirit. The impartation of the Spirit on Resurrection Day is here clarified in terms of the nature of the gift itself, how this relates to Pentecost, and how this impartation constitutes a momentous step forward in the outworking of God’s unfolding plan in the history of redemption.
"With this monograph, Adrian Rosen has produced a meticulously researched and immensely valuable analysis of John 20:22 and, more generally, John’s pneumatology. Rosen helpfully highlights the central issues in current scholarly discussion of Johannine pneumatology, including how we should understand Jesus’s glorification in John 7:39 and the nature of the relationship between the life-giving function of the Spirit, so clearly described in John 3–7, the Paraclete promises in John 14–16, and the bestowal of the Spirit in John 20:22. Rosen’s exhaustive research, careful exegesis, and judicious reasoning make this book a must read for all who are interested in the work of the Spirit, the Gospel of John, and the mission of the Church."
— Robert Menzies, Director, Asian Center for Pentecostal Theology (www.pentec ost.asia), Kunming, China
"The depiction of Jesus imparting the Holy Spirit to his disciples in John 20:22 carries significant implications relating to John’s pneumatology and inaugurated eschatology but has also generated much debate. Writing with clarity and precision, Adrian Rosen provides a careful linguistic and contextual analysis of this challenging passage. He effectively highlights the problems besetting the major interpretations that have been offered and presents a well-argued case for an alternative that deserves careful consideration."
— Timothy J. Wiarda, Senior Professor of New Testament Studies, Gateway Seminary

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Editor’s Preface
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: History of Interpretation
  • John 20:22: A Survey and Evaluation of Interpretive Approaches
  • John 20:22 as Symbolic Promissory Act
  • John 20:22 as Complete Impartation of the Spirit-Paraclete
  • John 20:22 as a Measure of What Was Given at Pentecost
  • John 20:22 as Temporary Filling
  • John 20:22 as Culmination of a Process Begun in Jesus’s Ministry
  • John 20:22 as Beginning of a Process Culminating at Pentecost
  • John 20:22 as the Second Step of a Three-Stage Process
  • John 20:22 as Impartation of the Spirit that Would Become the Paraclete
  • John 20:22 as Impartation of the Indwelling Presence of the Spirit
  • John 20:22 as Apostolic Empowerment/Ordination for Ministry
  • John 20:22 as Power to Forgive Sins
  • John 20:22 as the Communication of Revelation about Christ
  • John 20:22 as Revelation of What Occurred at the Cross
  • John 20:22 as Somehow Distinct from Pentecost
  • John 20:22 as Impartation of the Life-Giving Spirit
  • James D. G. Dunn
  • Rudolf Schnackenburg
  • Marianne Meye Thompson
  • Stanley M. Horton
  • Howard M. Ervin
  • J. Rodman Williams
  • Robert P. Menzies
  • G. K. Beale
  • Problematic Features in Need of More Adequate Resolution
  • Problem Statement and Need for the Present Study
  • Chapter Two: The Glorification of Jesus
  • Introduction
  • The Significance of Δοξάζω/Δόξα in the Gospel of John
  • Glorification in John 7
  • Glorification in John 12
  • Glorification in John 13
  • Glorification in John 17
  • The Meaning of Jesus’s Glorification in John’s Gospel
  • The Significance of `Υψόω in the Gospel of John
  • Analysis of the Johannine Ascension Data
  • A Brief Survey of the Johannine “Descent” Vocabulary
  • A Preliminary Survey of Johannine “Ascension” Vocabulary
  • The Significance of ’Aναβαίνω in the Gospel of John
  • Ascension in John 3:13
  • Ascension in John 6:62
  • Ascension in John 20:17
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Three: Eternal Life
  • Introduction
  • Eternal Life in the Old Testament
  • Eternal Life as Understood in Second Temple Judaism
  • References to Eternal Life in Continuity with Daniel 12:2
  • Temporally Restricted References to Eternal Life
  • An Overview of Eternal Life in the Gospel and Epistles of John
  • Eternal Life in the Gospel of John
  • Eternal Life in John 1
  • Eternal Life in John 3
  • Eternal Life in John 4
  • Eternal Life in John 5
  • Eternal Life in John 6
  • Eternal Life in John 8
  • Eternal Life in John 10
  • Eternal Life in John 11
  • Eternal Life in John 12
  • Eternal Life in John 14
  • Eternal Life in John 17
  • Eternal Life in John 20
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Four: The Spirit in John 1–13
  • Introduction
  • An Exegetical Analysis of Πνευ˜μα in John 1–13
  • The Spirit in John 1:32–33
  • The Spirit in John 3:3–8
  • The Spirit in John 3:34
  • The Spirit in John 4:23–24
  • The Spirit in John 6:63
  • The Spirit in John 7:37–39
  • References to the Human Spirit in John’s Gospel
  • Summary of Findings Regarding the Spirit in John 1–13
  • Chapter Five: The Spirit in John 14–20
  • Introduction
  • An Exegetical Analysis of the Paraclete Sayings
  • The First Paraclete Saying: John 14:16–20
  • The Second Paraclete Saying: John 14:25–26
  • The Third Paraclete Saying: John 15:26–27
  • The Fourth Paraclete Saying: John 16:7–11
  • The Fifth Paraclete Saying: John 16:12–15
  • An Exegetical Analysis of John 19:30
  • An Exegetical Analysis of John 20:19–23
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter Six: Conclusion
  • Summary of Findings
  • Implications of the Study
  • The Ascension-Exaltation of Christ
  • The Indwelling of the Life-Giving Spirit
  • Eternal Life and New Creation
  • Participation in the New Covenant
  • The Beginning of the Church
  • What the Insufflation Is Not
  • On the Repeatability and Non-Repeatability of the Insufflation
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

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It is rare to see a dissertation devoted to the interpretation of a single verse. Nevertheless, Adrian Rosen has provided such a work—with noteworthy results. He offers a reading of John’s Gospel that views its theological contribution through a redemptive-historical lens that brings unity and coherence to John’s understanding of salvation, eternal life, and glorification as they relate to the impartation of the Holy Spirit as presented in John 20:22. The verse simply reads, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The focus of Rosen’s investigation is encapsulated in the question: “What happened (if anything) when Jesus breathed on his disciples and commanded them to receive the Spirit?” Of course, in answering this question a host of tangential questions arise related to the theological significance of the occasion.

The reader will be startled at how one short statement and command can yield such an array of diverse interpretations. When Jesus “breathed on” his disciples, what is being depicted? Does John describe an action that imparts the Spirit or was it meant to be understood as symbolic, metaphorical, anticipatory, or prophetic? Was there an immediate effect that followed as a result of this action? Likewise, what transpired after Jesus issued his command to “receive the Holy Spirit.” Someone may naively conclude that a straightforward literal reading suffices with little controversy or room for debate. However, the reader is quickly disabused of that notion after Rosen conducts a history of interpretation highlighting the ←xiii | xiv→views of eminent scholars, theologians, and exegetes who represent a broad spectrum of the Christian tradition. Particularly helpful is Rosen’s practice of not only portraying their positions with illuminating clarity but pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of those positions.

After surveying a near-dizzying array of interpretive options, Rosen guides the reader to his preference. John 20:22 depicts an actual, life-giving impartation of the Spirit. What he does not yet disclose is how this understanding relates to the effusion of the Spirit in Acts 2. As more and more interpreters are surveyed, the reader seems compelled to choose between harmonizing John and Luke in some way or interpreting their accounts as separate, independent, if not disparate accounts. At the same time, a more overarching question emerges. How does John’s depiction of the reception of the Spirit by Jesus’s disciples fit into the overall redemptive-historical unfolding of God’s salvation?

To answer this question, Rosen insists that we must understand the pneumatology of John in its relation to his overall theological presentation of the multifaceted salvific work of Christ. To facilitate such understanding, not only does he summarize the field of interpretive options, but he examines exegetically every reference to the Spirit in John’s Gospel with special attention given to the Paraclete sayings; the latter section looks at key passages that move the reader toward his conclusion and support of his thesis. Personally, I found these sections most helpful in developing a more coherent and unified understanding of John’s pneumatology as well as his view of the salvific work of Christ. Illuminating is his insight that the bestowal of the Spirit is preconditioned by the glorification of Christ, which is constituted by his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Rosen points out that John clearly presents both the life-giving work of the Spirit (14:17–19) and an enabling work to perform missional and prophetic proclamation (14:26; 15:26–27; 16:7–15). We are led to ask, “What was received by the disciples at the impartation of the Spirit in John 20:22?” Was it new life (regeneration), power to fulfill the missional work of the church, authority as apostles to forgive sins, build the church, etc.? Rosen offers a nuanced affirmation of the regeneration view.

A repeated point is that this event is preconditioned by the glorification of Jesus through the cross-resurrection-ascension (cf. 7:39). In his exegetical analysis of all the Paraclete sayings, he departs from the common view that Jesus’s glorification was not complete until his ascension into heaven and exaltation to the right hand of God the Father as portrayed by Luke in Acts (1:9–11; 2:33). He skillfully demonstrates that both the ascension to the Father and glorification are prophetically anticipated by John in his gospel, particularly in Jesus’s Farewell Discourse. Moreover, his exegesis of John 20:22 convincingly demonstrates that ←xiv | xv→the life-giving impartation of the Holy Spirit has Gen 2:7 and Ezek 37:9 as its contemplated backdrop, supporting the view that after the insufflation the disciples possessed the regenerative Holy Spirit.

That being the case, Rosen seems justified in viewing 20:22 as regeneration via the impartation of the life-giving Spirit, the beginning of the new creation, the birth of the church, and the inauguration of the new covenant. If that be accepted, we might well ask, “Why then Pentecost?” Rosen points to the foundational nature of John 20:22 in the history of redemption. In his view the disciples had to become participants in the new covenant through the life-giving, regenerating insufflation before being empowered ministers of that covenant, an enablement which Pentecost (Acts 1:8) provided. This softens the blow to those who understand Pentecost as marking the inception of the church. Rosen points out that the disciples experienced a two-fold reception of the Spirit. In John 20:22 the new covenant is inaugurated and the church is birthed. The Lukan narrative (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–5, 8 with 2:4) presents the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit as the “dramatic moment of empowerment for mission.” John, although he anticipates such missional empowerment, does not extend his narrative to the events of Acts 2.

Professor Rosen has produced an outstanding piece of scholarly research. It is as instructive and illuminating as it is provocative. Students of John’s Gospel and his pneumatology in particular will be greatly benefitted by his labors. Even if they do not agree with all his exegetical insights, they will be ill-served to ignore the questions he raises regarding the competing interpretive options. I predict, this book will become a “must read” on the Fourth Gospel for decades to come.

James D. Hernando

Professor Emeritus of New Testament

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

←xvi | xvii→


This book is a revision of my doctoral dissertation that was submitted to the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at Evangel University in 2020. As I reflect on my PhD journey, now culminating with the desired result in this publication of my research on John 20:22, I am profoundly aware of the Lord’s sustaining strength and gracious provision of many people who have helped me reach the finish line. Of course, I cannot mention everyone who has in some way or another contributed to the successful completion of my doctoral studies and this project. Acknowledgement of some of the most salient will have to suffice.

I am deeply grateful for my family. My wife, Stephanie, has patiently and sacrificially travelled this road with me from the start. Surely, the journey proved longer and, in many respects, far more costly and difficult than we ever anticipated, but her love, patience, endurance, hard work, support, and encouragement enabled me to finish not only my PhD studies but also this revision and expansion of the dissertation. Thank you! Likewise, Mia and Judah, both of whom arrived during my doctoral studies, have graciously borne with their daddy’s frequent absence and often distracted mind—you’re the best!

My parents, Jim Rosen and Esther Bechler, constantly supported and encouraged me throughout the whole educational process in myriad ways. My ←xvii | xviii→in-laws, Mike and Gayle Ford, also encouraged and helped us through this process in countless respects. Thank you all for everything you have done to help ensure success in the pursuit of God’s call to teach.

My doctoral advisor, Dr. James Hernando, proved tremendously helpful. His careful and meticulous reading were evident in that he spotted even minute errors in some of my longest footnotes. His critical and thoughtful comments spurred me on to clarify what lacked lucidity and rework several thin points in my treatment of the material. I am truly grateful for the rigor of his scholarship and the outstanding training in Greek and exegesis that I received from him during my time at AGTS. Such rigor and commitment to excellence clearly reflect the depth of his love for the truth of God’s Word. I am also very appreciative of his writing of a foreword for the book. Dr. Robert Berg and Dr. James Railey, who also served on my dissertation committee, offered valuable feedback and critical analysis of various parts of my argument in the dissertation. Dr. Berg’s critical interaction prompted me to expand and strengthen my treatment of some aspects of the Paraclete sayings.

I am also thankful for the community of colleagues, students, and friends at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, who have helped and encouraged me in many ways. Special thanks are due to Bob Menzies and Marlene Yap, both of whom have greatly encouraged and assisted me throughout various stages of this project. Also deserving special mention are my students who took the course The Holy Spirit in the Writings of John, who wrestled with many of the ideas presented in this book and helped me see some areas where greater clarity was needed. First, a class of regular APTS students worked through Johannine pneumatology with me during the final trimester of 2020. Second, a class of students from Central Bible College in Tokyo did the same in February 2021. To be sure, this book was enriched by our time together.

Several people deserve special mention for their help in bringing this project to successful completion. Rick Oliver, Matt Clark, and the library staff at AGTS provided invaluable help in acquiring the needed research materials. My wife, Stephanie, proofread various portions of the material. Erica Huinda offered tremendous proofreading and editorial assistance while preparing the final manuscript of the original dissertation. Bob Menzies offered thoughtful feedback that proved helpful as I made revisions, as did the peer reviewers assigned by the publisher. I would like to express my thanks to Hemchand Gossai for including this book in the Studies in Biblical Literature series, and to my editor, Philip Dunshea, and the production team at Peter Lang for making the completion of this project a surprisingly smooth and enjoyable process.

←xviii | xix→I am thankful for all of you and the many others whom I have not mentioned here by name. May God richly bless you for your kindness!

←xxvi | 1→


Johannine pneumatology is a rich and rewarding area of study, which has generated a copious body of scholarly literature in the form of monographs, dissertations and theses, journal articles, and piecemeal discussion scattered throughout the commentaries. Due to the intricacies of Johannine pneumatology, including the complexities of coming to grips with its overlapping and interwoven connections with other prominent Johannine themes (e.g., the death and exaltation of Jesus, eternal life, etc.), consensus regarding some of the most foundational questions has proved elusive. Rather than attaining consensus, scholars have produced a plethora of disparate proposals of how one should understand Johannine pneumatology. This certainly remains true with respect to John 20:22,1 a text around which much of the debate continues to revolve.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (October)
Inaugurated Eschatology Pentecostalism Gift of the Spirit Pentecost The Meaning and Redemptive-Historical Significance of John 20:22 Adrian P. Rosen Studies in Biblical Literature Johannine Theology Holy Spirit Pneumatology Glorification Exaltation Ascension Eternal Life Resurrection
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XXVIII, 314 pp.

Biographical notes

Adrian P. Rosen (Author)

Adrian P. Rosen is a member of the faculty in New Testament and coordinator of the MTh program at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio City, Philippines. He received his PhD in biblical interpretation and theology from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.


Title: The Meaning and Redemptive-Historical Significance of John 20:22
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344 pages