An Electrical Storm Gone All Wrong
In Acts 2 when the divided tongues of fire appear to the disciples, it is usually rendered that ‘one [tongue of fire] sat/came to rest on each one of them [the apostles]’. However, given the context I wonder if this is really the best rendering. We already have a mighty rushing wind, the sound of which is loud enough for multitudes to gather wondering what’s going on. The language of divided fire is reminiscent of Psalm 29 where Yahweh is described as the great storm God, the God who shakes the earth through the praises of His people and divides fire upon the earth. In Psalm 29 it is obvious that divided fire, in the context of a storm, is lightening. And I wonder if that is a little closer to what is going on in Acts 2. It’s difficult to shake the children’s picture Bible imagery of little cute candle flames hovering over the heads of all the apostles, but perhaps that’s not what we’re supposed to understand as happening. The word for sit/rest in Greek is KATHIZO, and is almost always used to denote an enthronement or sitting for judgment or teaching. Furthermore, the preposition usually translated “on” can have a wide range of meaning: on, around, concerning, against, towards, and others. So I would suggest rendering the verse something like: ‘one [lightening bolt] signaled the enthronement/bestowed authority for each one of them.’ That also fits with what Jesus had actually promised the apostles: “…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you..” And thus what we have at Pentecost is not just a gentle breeze and some creative pyrotechnics, we actually have the Holy Spirit roaring into the house in Jerusalem as a mighty wind, an electrical storm gone all wrong.