The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, Lesson 4

December 23, 2018 | The Sanctuary UPC

Daniel L. Segraves

Since we have seen the high profile of the Holy Spirit created by Scripture’s literary shape[1] and some of the biblical testimony to the deity of the Spirit, let’s now examine the implications of the widely diverse references to the Spirit throughout the Old Testament.

[2] As we discovered previously, the Holy Spirit is referred to in various ways. This includes not only “Holy Spirit,” but also “the Spirit of the Lord,” “the Spirit of God,” “my Spirit,” “the Spirit,” “Your Spirit,” and “His Spirit.”  We could organize our study of the Spirit in several ways. We could begin with the first reference in Genesis 1:2 and go straight through the Old Testament until we reached the final reference, which could be Zechariah 7:12; 12:10, or Malachi 2:15.[2] Or we could organize our efforts by examining all references to “the Spirit of the Lord” together from the first to the last and then all mentions of “the Spirit of God” and so forth. A third possibility would be to arrange our study in topics without regard to the way the Spirit is described. For instance, we could collect all references to the Spirit’s involvement in creation, in the lives of people, in prophecy, and so forth.

[3] We will use a fourth method based on the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Scriptures. In English translations, the books of the Old Testament are typically arranged in the order of the books in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. We may think the order of the books is insignificant, but Jesus did acknowledge their order as found in the Hebrew Scriptures when He said to unbelieving scribes and Pharisees, “I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes . . . that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:34–35). Genesis records the shedding of Abel’s blood in the first book of the Old Testament (Genesis 4:8), and II Chronicles (the last book of the Old Testament in the Hebrew order of books) records the shedding of Zechariah’s blood (II Chronicles 24:20–21). Jesus referred to something recorded in the first book of the Old Testament and to something found in the last book of the Old Testament, implying that the unbelieving first-century Jewish leaders would be responsible for everything in these books and everything in between. In a way, He was saying, “From beginning to end, you are responsible for what is recorded in the Scriptures.”

[4] Jesus also acknowledged the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures when He said to His disciples, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). To refer to the “Psalms” in this way does not limit this third section to the Book of Psalms. The third section is referred to as the “Psalms” because the Book of Psalms is the first book in this section. Since Jesus used the Hebrew order in these references to the Old Testament, we should be aware of the possible significance of this order for interpretive purposes. Here is the common order of the books in the Hebrew canon:

Law (Torah; Pentateuch) Latter Prophets
Genesis Isaiah
Exodus Jeremiah
Leviticus Ezekiel
Numbers The Twelve (Hosea—Malachi)
Deuteronomy Psalms (Kethubim, writings)
Prophets (Nebi’im) Psalms
Former Prophets Job
Joshua Proverbs
Judges Ruth
Samuel Song of Solomon
Kings Ecclesiastes

5] Not only is the order of the books different from the order commonly found in English translations, but books that are divided in the English translations are not divided in the Hebrew Scriptures. For instance, we think of the “twelve minor prophets,” but from the standpoint of the Hebrew text, these twelve books form one book, known as the Book of the Twelve or, simply, “the Twelve.” Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are not divided into two books each in the Hebrew Scriptures. Ezra and Nehemiah form one book. So when Jesus said that all things written in the prophets concerning Him must be fulfilled, He had in mind a much larger section of the Hebrew Scriptures than we might think of as “prophets.” In addition, some Old Testament persons or writers that we are not used to thinking of as prophets are identified as prophets. For instance, Abraham was a prophet (Genesis 20:7), as was David (Acts 2:30).

[6] To develop a biblical pneumatology, we will examine this subject according to the order and division of the books in the Hebrew Scriptures, beginning at the first of each book. We will seek to construct the doctrine of the Spirit found in each biblical book before moving on to the next book. Finally, we will attempt to construct a comprehensive pneumatology from each Old Testament reference to the Holy Spirit.

[1] This is a reference to the Spirit’s appearance at the beginning and end of Scripture and the beginning and end of the Pentateuch. Literary arrangements like this should not be viewed as mere accidents. They suggest intentional design.

[2] When there is a question about whether the word “spirit” refers to the Spirit of God, the human spirit, or other spirits (e.g., angels, demons, animal spirits), we will seek to be informed by the context in which the reference appears.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]