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December 11, 2007 / Daniel

The Holy Spirit in the OT

I believe that the person of the Holy Spirit has been revealed progressively throughout Scripture. OT believers did not have as complete of a revelation of the Holy Spirit as NT believers have. Therefore, we should be careful when interpreting the OT phrase “Spirit of God.” The OT writers did not necessarily understand the personality of the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word ruakh, which is often translated spirit, can mean “spirit,” “wind,” or “breath.” Usually all three connotations are in view. Therefore, most of OT references to the Spirit of God should be understood as referring to “an extension of God’s power, like his hand or his breath” (John H. Walton, Genesis NIVAC).

This does not mean that the person of the Holy Spirit did not exist in the OT. It only means that God didn’t give OT saints as full of a revelation of Himself. In fact, when we look back on the OT with the assistance of further revelation, we can see that the person of the Holy Spirit was probably behind most of the activity ascribed to the ruakh of God (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).

 Feedback?  I figure that this might be a little bit controversial. 

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2 Comments

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  1. Matthew C / Dec 13 2007 4:03 pm

    I see the importance of your point.

    If we take impersonal expressions in the OT and apply them to the Holy Spirit, we risk giving ground for depersonalizing definite references to the Holy Spirit in the NT.

  2. Brian / Dec 15 2007 10:52 pm

    Time to check out Christopher Wright’s Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament (IVP 2006). I agree with Walton that there is some ambiguity about the Spirit in the OT but I think too te Hebrews did have some understanding of the Spirit of God – though not to the same degree the Disciples did at Pentecost.

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