13 Jul 2016

Take Not Your Holy Spirit: Israelites, the Spirit and Personal Relationship with God

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Apocrypha, Bible, Discipleship, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Holy Spirit, Psalms, Spiritual Disciplines, Wisdom of Solomon, Worship

holy-spirit-piccyThe winners of Wineskins book drawing done through my blog to receive a copy of Mark Powell’s Centered on God are: Robert C. Bliss; Eric Whelchel; and Jerry Starling.

Introduction to Caricatures 

Ok! I grow tired (can I confess that?) of caricatures of the Old Testament. They are prevalent among Christians.  What is most disappointing is that many that profess to be “teachers” also perpetuate these false notions about God’s word.

Paul warned about those that wanted to be “teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (1 Tim 1.7).  They do not invest the time to learn to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2.15) though Paul told Timothy these Scriptures make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3.15-16).  In each of the texts just cited, Paul is talking about what Christians call the Old Testament.

What is baffling about these caricatures is that Jesus’s own faith is in the God of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus’s mission in the world is defined by the explicit words and theology of the Hebrew Bible (Luke 4; Isa 61; Lev 25). Almost every time Jesus opens his mouth it is with a word from the Hebrew Bible. He was so immersed and shaped by the Hebrew Bible that even in the greatest of all crises of his life, hanging on the Cross, he has no words to pray but those of the Psalms.

Do we not know that Paul, like his Master before him, cannot think apart from the Scriptures of Israel in Hebrew or their Septuagint translation. So he claims that his Gospel itself is “according to the Scripture.”  That is not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Acts and the Letter to the Romans (you know the song!).  The Good News is the Good News because of it has an ancestry.  When Paul speaks of salvation by Grace thru Faith he bases his entire theology upon the “Old Testament.” Abraham and David are prototypical.

So the caricatures are rooted in wilful ignorance.

A Sad Example

Several years ago I found myself involved in a discussion with a preaching brother who castigated me over some point about the Hebrew Bible.  I had published a blog about the grace of God in the Hebrew Bible.  He believed the myth perpetuated by many that the Hebrew Bible is “carnal” (his word) and that Jesus brought a brand new religion … grace-faith religion.

I shared numerous articles with him that he simply refused to read for they were “mere men’s opinions.” So I invited him to simply read the Psalms with me for a couple of months. That is a daily run thru the Psalter. He refused to my dismay even after I tried to explain how important they were for Jesus and the NT church.

He finally “marked me” because I clearly did not know the OT was “nailed to the cross” and “do not understand the distinction between the covenants.” I was sad, but amused.

The Israelite, The Holy Spirit & Relationship with God

One of the greatest caricatures of the Hebrew Bible has to do with the Spirit of God. This is directly related to the old saw that the “OT” was a religion of legalism, form without substance, and ritual without life.  Certainly the Jews do not recognize themselves in our caricatures of them.  So the question can be formulated as follows:

Were Israelites/Jews aware of the need for and reality of God’s personal presence and aid to understand the word, to obey the word and to have communion with God?

Most recently I was involved in this discussion because my conversation partner hold the view that Israelites could obey God’s word without the indwelling of the Spirit therefore contemporary believers do not have any need of an actual indwelling of the Spirit either.  I disagree with the position from every quarter.  But I want to focus on the assumption that Israelites knew nothing of a personal presence of God in his Spirit and they were left without enabling divine aid to walk in the ways of God.  These assumptions simply do not reflect what is in the Hebrew Bible itself.

This is not intended to be a theology of the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible rather we are exploring the idea of whether or not the Israelite had a personal relationship with his or Creator and Redeemer and if they knew how that was sustained.

Three Points Need to Be Made

The position just noted above is simply false and is based on misreadings of both Testaments. Serious ones.

First, God’s “word” in Scripture is not the Bible. I do not know of a single text where the word phrase “word of God” refers to a page with hand written words on it.

Second, the power of God’s word is not conditioned on which Testament it appears. The Hebrews Preacher believes that the “Old Testament” is nothing if not the Spirit himself talking (Heb 3.7, etc). So the Spirit is addressing people even in the Hebrew Bible.

Third, though we may be able to say that Israelites did not have the personal indwelling of the Spirit in the same manner as disciples in the Messianic Spirit age, it is decidedly NOT the case that they were not aware of the Spirit and their need for divine aid in accomplishing God’s will, for understanding the will of God and for faithful obedience.

The Spirit and Personal Divine Aid for the Israelite

The word ruach occurs about 400x in the Hebrew Bible. Around fifty times it is clear in the context that ruach means air or wind (in the sense of the matter of Earth’s atmosphere). That leaves hundreds of times when it refers to a spirit from God.  This basic fact stuns many because they have trouble remembering any texts about the Spirit in the Hebrew Bible.

Typical of Hebraic theology is Psalm 51. Prayer is itself a request for divine aid even when such is not explicitly stated. But in Ps 51, a text that belongs to ALL Israelites that come to the temple to worship not just the author,

Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps 51.10)

The context is that of gross sin.  Sin of such a nature the psalmist believes that he/she does not have the power to overcome with her human willpower.  The editors of the Psalter thought it was a fitting Psalm to illustrate the horrific fall of David when he murdered Uriah and raped Bathsheba. Divine power is appealed to change the heart.

Isn’t this what Moses commanded Israelites in Deuteronomy, that they are to “circumcise your hearts” (10.16)? But did not Moses prophesy that Israel would fail? Did not Moses prophesy that Yahweh would circumcise the hearts of Israelites, “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your soul and live” (30.6).

Significantly this Psalm also uses the word bara (create). This is not the word “make” but “create.”  This is evocative of creation itself and only God can bara in the Hebrew Bible.  “In the beginning God created (bara) …” The ancient Israelite encountered the creation stories the same way they did the psalms, in worship.

In Genesis, God’s creation of the pristine and good world is accompanied by the “Spirit of God” filling the useless chaotic void with life and goodness.  So the psalmist pairs her own prayer with creation and the Spirit … to to me what you did “in the beginning” … make me new … such an act of grace is nothing an Israelite could do by his strength, work, obedience or anything else.  It must be a new creation of God himself through his own ruach.

Psalm 51 is the prayer that thousands upon thousands of Israelites confessed and prayed in the context of their own struggles for God to do to them what Moses promised. They need God to do what they proven to be a failure at. Each one prays for Yahweh to create a clean heart, this is a brand new heart. The Jew knows this is not done by their own initiative or boot straps.  There is no illusion of self-sufficiency here.

Do not cast me away from you Presence
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51.11)

John Goldingay suggests this as the proper translation of Ps 51.11-12

Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit

This is a nonsensical plea if the average faithful Israelite had zero conception of personal fellowship with God thru His Spirit. Further the person praying this prayer in worship recognizes that Yahweh sustains us with the Spirit and with the parallelism makes it abundantly clear that the saving help is from the ruach.

The saving help of Psalm 51 is God’s ruach, his Spirit. Not only is the Spirit the instrument of help in overcoming sin and the creation of the clean heart but the Spirit functions as the means of fellowship with God.  Communion with God was therefore in and through the Holy ruach of God.

holy-spirit1Praying for Divine Aid

All through the Psalms the psalmists are praying for divine intervention to enable them to understand and even obey just as we saw in Psalm 51.  In the longest and most complex meditation upon God’s Word within the pages of the Bible, Psalm 119, we are confronted repeatedly with the prayer of one that confesses love for God’s word but not the wisdom to understand nor the strength to be precisely obedient to it without God’s personal aid.

 

I treasure your word in my heart … teach me your statutes” (Ps 119.11, 12)

teach me your statutes, make me understand the way of your precepts” (119.26)

Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law” (Ps 119.29)

Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart” (Ps 119.34)

Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight” (Ps 119.35)

Turn my heart towards your statutes and not towards selfish gain” (Ps 119.36)

The earth, O LORD, is full of your hesed, teach me your statutes” (Ps 119.64, see v.65, 73, etc)

Your statutes are forever right: give me understanding that I may live” (Ps 119. 144)

Many more texts can be cited but this final one says it all …

I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me” (Ps 119.102)

Let us be clear about one thing as we read these words, the psalmists that pray this prayer are not asking God to give them the power of literacy.  They are not wanting to know how to read.  The psalmists already know what the “Bible” says! They are not praying that God give them lessons in grammar and syntax. God does not become the teacher by saying “read the book.” The commands, statutes, ordinances, etc are already known. The prayer is precisely,

open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things in your torah” (Ps 119.18)

Something divine had to happen! The prayers of Psalm 119 are precisely the prayer of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1.17-18 that the eyes of disciples hearts may be “enlightened” so they can know God, to experience God!

The Israelite prays that God will personally teach him or her.  The Israelite prays that God will personally direct her or his steps.  The Israelite prays that God will personally enable the him or her to love the word in the first place. The Israelite prays that God will personally save them, “I am YOURS; SAVE ME” (Ps 119.94; cf. v.76-77, etc)

In short, the Israelites pray in Psalm 119 exactly what they pray in Psalm 51.10-13.  They need Yahweh to personally sustain them through his Presence … through his ruach.

Isaiah’s Word on Israel’s Personal Relationship with the Spirit

Our Spiritual ancestors were very much aware of the stark truth that they depended upon the Spirit of the Lord for life, communion, power and even the source of obedience.  Isaiah looked back on Israel’s history, from the time of her birth and testified that it was God’s Holy Spirit that was with them from the beginning.  Indeed, in words not to distant in thought from Psalm 51 we note that it was gross sin that would drive God’s Spirit from dwelling with Israel.

I will recount Yahweh’s acts of commitment, Yahweh’s praise …
He was the one who restored them, lifted them up,
and carried them all the days of old.

It was no messenger or angel
but his presence that saved them …

But they rebelled
and hurt his Holy Spirit …

But he was mindful of the days of long ago,
of Moses, of his people.
Where is the one who brought them up from the sea,
the shepherds of his flock?
Where is the one who put in its midst
his Holy Spirit,
the one who make his majestic arm go
at Moses’ right hand,
dividing the waters in front of them
to make himself a name in perpetuity
enabling them to go through the depths like a horse in the wilderness,
so they would not collapse,
like a beast in the vale that goes down,
the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest,
thus you led your people,
to make for yourself a glorious name
(Isaiah 63.7-14)

Isaiah tells us that it was not an angel that God used to bring Israel out from slavery, or who was “with” the Israelites. Rather it was his Holy Spirit doing what is prayed for in Psalm 51.

Wisdom of Solomon, Relationship Sustained with God through the Spirit

Jews certainly were aware of God’s personal presence, Gods personal empowerment, God’s personal teaching and they did NOT confuse that personal presence, personal teaching, etc for the Bible.  The Psalms more than demonstrate that many Israelites seemingly had deeper and more intimate relationships with Yahweh than many of their Christian descendants. He is the “God of my salvation” after all (Isaiah 12.2, see vv 1-6)

It is simply a misrepresentation of the Old Testament (something Protestants and Restorationists tend to do) to imagine that Israelites some how were confronted by God’s holy word and left to pull up their obedience by their bootstraps. The book of Psalms shatters this idea. Having God withhold his Spirit was a terrifying thought for the faithful Israelite as we see in Ps 51.

Even if the one rejects the Apocrypha, those books show what Jews believed that had been reading the same “Old Testament.” Thus, in complete line with Psalm 119, we see in Wisdom of Solomon written in the two centuries before Jesus (scholars are divided on the date)

I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the SPIRIT of wisdom came to me” (6.7)

But I perceived that I would not possess wisdom unless God gave her to me” (8.21)

who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and SENT YOUR HOLY SPIRIT FROM ON HIGH” (9.17)

God’s word is activated and carried by the source of its power – the Spirit. It was mediated to Israel, so the Jews believed, thru the Spirit/Presence/Spirit of the Lord. Thus we read, Wisdom says,

your all-powerful word LEAPED FROM HEAVEN (clearly not the Bible), from your royal throne into the midst of the land that was doomed” (18.15)

The Conclusion of the Matter: Walking with God Requires God’s Personal Ruach

God word is equally powerful in the Hebrew Bible and the Messianic age. Same God, same Spirit, same word empowered by the Spirit!

To understand God’s word required personal divine aid for which worshiping Israelites plead routinely. To obey the holy commands revealed, required that God personally “direct” our steps. Israelites personally knew the communion of God’s presence else they would not pray take not your Spirit from me.

Luke did not INVENT the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Jesus could not have accused some of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit had those Jews no inkling of who or what that was! They did know. And they knew divine aid was required for walking with God.

To recognize that the Israelite, or Second Temple Jew, may not have had full a Trinitarian view of the Spirit does not in any fashion support the false idea they had no idea what Presence was, communion with God, felt the need for, and received, divine aid in following the will of God. They knew “something” about the Spirit. Simply because the doctrine of the Trinity was not fully comprehensible prior to the Incarnation does not mean that God became Triune at the birth of Jesus. God has always been Father, Son and Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was not unemployed in the Hebrew Bible.

12 Responses to “Take Not Your Holy Spirit: Israelites, the Spirit and Personal Relationship with God”

  1. Profile photo of hank Hank Says:

    Thanks for writing this article. If I may, I have some questions.

    At the start of this article, you wrote:

    “Most recently I was involved in this discussion because my conversation partner hold the view that Israelites could obey God’s word without the indwelling of the Spirit therefore contemporary believers do not have any need of an actual indwelling of the Spirit either. I disagree with the position from every quarter. But I want to focus on the assumption that Israelites knew nothing of a personal presence of God in his Spirit and they were left without enabling divine aid to walk in the ways of God. These assumptions simply do not reflect what is in the Hebrew Bible itself.”

    With the intention of understanding you clearly, may I ask for clarification on the phrases you have employed. You mention: 1) “the indwelling of the Spirit”, 2) “an actual indwelling of the Spirit”, 3) “a personal presence of God in his Spirit”, and 4) “enabling divine aid” (to walk in the ways of God).

    My question regarding the above is this – do each of those 4 phrases all mean the same thing? Or, do some of them have a different meaning than any of the others? That, I believe, is important to know in order to follow the rest of the article. Could you expound?

    Further down, you wrote:

    “Something divine had to happen! The prayers of Psalm 119 are precisely the prayer of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1.17-18 that the eyes of disciples hearts may be “enlightened” so they can know God!

    The Israelite prays that God will personally teach him or her. The Israelite prays that God will personally direct her or his steps. The Israelite prays that God will personally enable the him or her to love the word in the first place. The Israelite prays that God will personally save them “I am YOURS; SAVE ME” (Ps 119.94; cf. v.76-77, etc)”

    Regarding the above, allow me to note these phrases: “something divine had to happen”, “God will personally teach him or her”, “God will personally direct her or his steps”, “God will personally enable him or her to love the word”, etc.

    I’m curious how you relate these phrases, to the previous ones? In other words, in order for God to do these things, would one need 1) “the indwelling of the Spirit”, 2) “an actual indwelling of the Spirit”, 3) “a personal presence of God in his Spirit”, and/or 4) “enabling divine aid” (to walk in the ways of God).

    Like, in order for any OT Hebrew saint to have such help from God, which of the above would they need? Or, as previously asked, do all four things mean the same? IOW, in order for any OT saint to have divine help, would he or she first need “an actual indwelling of the Spirit”? Or, just “the indwelling”, or “a personal presence of his Spirit “, or “enabling divine aid”? Or, an again, do all of those mean the same thing?

    Lastly, you write:

    “In short Israelites pray in Psalm 119 exactly what they pray in Psalm 51.10-13. They need Yahweh to personally sustain them through his Presence … through his ruach.”

    Here, you say “through his Presence”. Again, what does that mean? The same as all of the aforementioned phrases, some of them, or something new?

    I trust you believe I’m asking these questions from a genuine attempt to understand you clearly. Because, I am. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Dwight Says:

    Maybe there is personal and then there is personal, in that we want the HS to act in the same way all of the time in all circumstances for all time. In the OT we have people pleading for help, but in the NT the help was promised to come down.
    But in either cases, unless it was in the case of spiritual gifts or a sign, the HS was acting as a helper of the person in understanding and/or in our assurance.

    We have a song, based on OT scriptures, called “Teach Me Thy Way”, so either we are asking for something that we have to do 100% on our own in learning or we can ask for help in understanding as long as we do it with a willing and open heart. This is us asking God for His personal action for us or else it is just words.

  3. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin Says:

    Bobby (Part 1),

    My earlier comment got trapped in the spam filter. Rather than fish it out and report, I thought I’d rewrite my questions a bit more carefully. And break it into parts to avoid the jaws of the spam filter.

    First, I agree that many in the Churches of Christ caricature the OT and the Jews of the Bible. I wouldn’t call their ignorance “willful” because most are simply repeating what they were taught by other weak students of the scripture. After all, many of these caricatured positions were taken by mainstream scholars pre-WWII.

    The mistake made by many of our more conservative brothers is that they’ve not kept up with the scholarship, studying only Church of Christ materials by Church of Christ authors produced pre-WWII. And few do much in the way of original study in the texts. They just look for ways to affirm what they already believe — an attitude guaranteed to preserve error for generation upon generation.

    I greatly appreciate your tireless work in sharing insights in the Hebrew Bible with your readers. Your studies have been a great blessing to many, myself included.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin Says:

    Bobby (Part 2),

    You wrote,

    Third, though we may be able to say that Israelites did not have the personal indwelling of the Spirit in the same manner as disciples in the Messianic Spirit age, it is decidedly NOT the case that they were not aware of the Spirit and their need for divine aid in accomplishing God’s will, for understanding the will of God and for faithful obedience.

    and

    God word is equally powerful in the Hebrew Bible and the Messianic age. Same God, same Spirit, same word empowered by the Spirit!

    To understand God’s word required personal divine aid for which worshiping Israelites plead for routinely. To obey the holy commands revealed required that God personally “direct” our steps. Israelites personally knew the communion of God’s presence else they would not pray take not your Spirit from me.

    Luke did not INVENT the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Jesus could not have accused some of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit had those Jews no inkling of who or what that was! They did know. And they knew divine aid was required for walking with God.

    To recognize that the Israelite, or Second Temple Jew, may not have had full Trinitarian view of the Spirit does not in any fashion support the false idea they had not idea what Presence was, communion with God, felt the need for and received divine aid in following the will of God. They knew “something” about the Spirit. Simply because the doctrine of the Trinity was not fully comprehensible prior to the Incarnation does not mean that God became Triune at the birth of Jesus. God has always been Father, Son and Spirit.

    Ultimately, my question is what does this mean? It seems very clear to me that the receipt of the personal indwelling in OT times was greatly limited and NOT available to all Jews.

    We only read of the Spirit being received by judges, kings, prophets, artisans, and psalmists. Maybe a few others. But certainly not every Jew.

    In Num 11, 70 judges received the Spirit. We read of Saul, David, and Solomon receiving the Spirit. We read of prophets having the Spirit. The texts don’t speak of them receiving a new gift from the Spirit, with the Spirit himself already possessed. The text says they received the Spirit.

    Joel 2 and many other prophecies look forward to a day — Pentecost, I believe — when the Spirit would be poured out from heaven. Eze and Jer speak of the Spirit circumcising the heart in fulfillment of Deu 30:6 so that the recipients would be obedient — in contrast to their then disobedient state. In Rom 2, Paul connects these prophecies to the indwelling received by Christians — and this is the foundation for Rom 8.

    So whatever the Jewish relationship was to the Spirit pre-Pentecost, it was certainly not the same as their relationship post-Pentecost. Something changed for the better — and in a big, world-changing way.

    In John 7:37-39, John comments that Jesus’ prophecy of giving “Living Water” to the Jews could not yet be fulfilled because the Spirit had not yet been given pending Jesus’ own glorification.

    So if we insist on a personal relationship with the Spirit pre-Pentecost that is nearly identical with the post-Pentecost receipt of the Spirit, we undermine a lot the NT — because the outpouring of the Spirit was a new covenant sort of thing. In fact, it was a marker of the Kingdom.

    So what changed? What did the 3,000 converts at Pentecost receive that they didn’t already have by virtue of being faithful Jews?

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin Says:

    Bobby (Part 3),

    You are argue that the relationship of the psalmist in Psa 51 is typical of that enjoyed by Jews in general. I’ve always taken Psa 51 to speak of David’s possession of a personal indwelling — not enjoyed by most pre-Pentecost Jews. So your hypothesis has driven me to study.

    In the Book of Jubilees we find,

    And Moses fell on his face and prayed and said, ‘O Lord my God, do not forsake Thy people and Thy inheritance, so that they should wander in the error of their hearts, and do not deliver them into the hands of their enemies, the Gentiles, lest they should rule over them and cause them to sin against Thee. 20 Let thy mercy, O Lord, be lifted up upon Thy people, and create in them an upright spirit, and let not the spirit of Beliar rule over them to accuse them before Thee, and to ensnare them from all the paths of righteousness, so that they may perish from before Thy face. 21 But they are Thy people and Thy inheritance, which thou hast delivered with thy great power from the hands of the Egyptians: create in them a clean heart and a holy spirit, and let them not be ensnared in their sins from henceforth until eternity.’ 22 And the Lord said unto Moses: ‘I know their contrariness and their thoughts and their stiffneckedness, and they will not be obedient till they confess their own sin and the sin of their fathers. 23 And after this they will turn to Me in all uprightness and with all (their) heart and with all (their) soul, and I will circumcise the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their seed, and I will create in them a holy spirit, and I will cleanse them so that they shall not turn away from Me from that day unto eternity. 24 And their souls will cleave to Me and to all My commandments, and they will fulfil My commandments, and I will be their Father and they shall be My children. 25 And they all shall be called children of the living God, and every angel and every spirit shall know, yea, they shall know that these are My children, and that I am their Father in uprightness and righteousness, and that I love them. 26 And do thou write down for thyself all these words which I declare unto thee on this mountain, the first and the last, which shall come to pass in all the divisions of the days in the law and in the testimony and in the weeks and the jubilees unto eternity, until I descend and dwell with them throughout eternity.’ 27 And He said to the angel of the presence: ‘Write for Moses from the beginning of creation till My sanctuary has been built among them for all eternity. 28 And the Lord will appear to the eyes of all, and all shall know that I am the God of Israel and the Father of all the children of Jacob, and King on Mount Zion for all eternity. And Zion and Jerusalem shall be holy.’ 29 And the angel of the presence who went before the camp of Israel took the tables of the divisions of the years–from the time of the creation–of the law and of the testimony of the weeks of the jubilees, according to the individual years, according to all the number of the jubilees [according to the individual years], from the day of the [new] creation †when† the heavens and the earth shall be renewed and all their creation according to the powers of the heaven, and according to all the creation of the earth, until the sanctuary of the Lord shall be made in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, and all the luminaries be renewed for healing and for peace and for blessing for all the elect of Israel, and that thus it may be from that day and unto all the days of the earth.

    This “prophecy” combines Psa 51 with Isa 65-66 and Deu 30:6 and appears to me to view them through an eschatological lens (which seems right to me, although the author of Jubilees doesn’t seem to anticipate inaugurated eschatology, the best I can tell).

    That is, the author saw Deu 30:6 and Psa 51 as having not yet happened, but maybe I’m misreading the text (it’s confusing as all get out to me).

    I’m looking for evidence that Psalm 51 is not speaking of David or someone else with the unusual, special, pre-Pentecost gift of the Spirit but is speaking of Jews pre-Pentecost in general — and I find nothing in the commentaries so stating.

    I don’t buy the theories that date Ps 51 to the post-exile period. Some commentators attribute the psalm to Deutero-Isaiah, due to similarities in language with Isa 40-66, but this is more easily explained by Isaiah’s familiarity with the Psalms.

    So why isn’t the simplest explanation the right one: Ps 51 speaks of David and his special possession of the Spirit as king and a prophet?

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin Says:

    Bobby (Part 4),

    Your next major argument is built on Psa 119, particularly,

    The prayer is precisely,

    “open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things in your torah” (Ps 119.18)

    Something divine had to happen! The prayers of Psalm 119 are precisely the prayer of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1.17-18 that the eyes of disciples hearts may be “enlightened” so they can know God!

    This, I admit, is very interesting. The Psa says nothing of the Spirit, but it is a prayer for the sort of enlightenment that, in the NT, is associated with the Holy Spirit.

    In line with your argument is —

    Insight into the meaning of God’s law depends not only on prolonged study and meditation; it depends also on God’s guidance. So the psalmist prays Open my eyes; only in this way can he discover the wonderful truths, or teachings, in the Law. It is God who will enable him to appreciate and understand the Law.

    Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 1002.

    But does that prove that all pre-Pentecost Jews could receive open eyes and special insight into Torah by direct operation of God (whether or not via the Spirit)? Well, no. It’s at best suggestive. After all, Psa 119 is inspired by the Spirit (which is why it’s in the canon) and so the author had the Spirit.

    It makes perfect sense for a prophet or other possessor of the Spirit to pen such a psalm. And the psalm speaks beautifully to the church for that reason. But did the Jews read it as generally applicable? Did all Jews expect to have God-given insight into the text?

    It seems unlikely. This is from James D.G. Dunn —

    “Probably most important of all from a Christian perspective is the growing tendency in prophetic circles to understand the rûaḥ of God in eschatological terms, as the power of the End, the hallmark of the new age. The Spirit would effect a new creation (Is. 32:15; 44:3f.). The agents of eschatological salvation would be anointed with God’s Spirit (Is. 42:1; 61:1; and later particularly Psalms of Solomon 17:42). Men would be created anew by the Spirit to enjoy a relationship with God much more vital and immediate (Ezk. 36:26f.; 37; cf. Je. 31:31–34); and the Spirit would be freely dispensed to all Israel (Ezk. 39:29; Joel 2:28f.; Zc. 12:10; cf. Nu. 11:29).

    “In the period between the Testaments the role attributed to the Spirit is greatly diminished. In Hellenistic Wisdom literature the Spirit is not given any prominence. In speaking about the divine/human relationship Wisdom is wholly dominant, so that ‘spirit’ is simply one way of defining Wisdom (Wisdom 1:6f.; 7:22–25; 9:17), with even prophecy ascribed to Wisdom rather than to the Spirit (Wisdom 7:27; Ecclus. 24:33). In Philo’s attempt to merge Jewish theology and Gk. philosophy the Spirit is still the Spirit of prophecy, but his concept of prophecy is the more typically Gk. one of inspiration through ecstasy (e.g., Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit 265).

    “Elsewhere in his speculation about creation the Spirit still has a place, but the dominant category of thought is the Stoic Logos (the divine reason immanent in the world and in men).

    “In the apocalyptic writings references to the human spirit outweigh those to the Spirit of God by nearly 3:1, and references to angelic and demonic spirits outweigh the latter by 6:1. In only a handful of passages is the Spirit spoken of as the agency of inspiration, but this is a role which is thought of as belonging to the past (e.g., 1 Enoch 91:1; 4 Ezra 14:22; Martyrdom of Isaiah 5:14).

    “In rabbinic Judaism the Spirit is specifically (almost exclusively) the Spirit of prophecy. But here, even more emphatically, that role belongs to the past. With the rabbis the belief becomes very strong that Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi were the last of the prophets and that thereafter the Spirit had been withdrawn (e.g., Tosefta Sotah 13:2; earlier expressions in Ps. 74:9; Zc. 13:2–6; 1 Macc. 4:46; 9:27; 2 Baruch 85:1–3). Most striking is the way in which the Spirit to all intents and purposes is subordinated to the Torah (law). The Spirit inspired the Torah—a view of course also carried over into early Christianity (Mk. 12:36; Acts 1:16; 28:25; Heb. 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 2 Pet. 1:21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16). But for the rabbis this means that the law is now in effect the only voice of the Spirit, that the Spirit does not speak apart from the law. ‘Where there are no prophets there is obviously no Holy Spirit’ (TDNT 6, pp. 382). Likewise in the rabbinic hope for the age to come Torah fills a far more prominent role than Spirit. This diminished role for the Spirit is reflected too in the Targums where other words denoting divine activity become more prominent (Memra, Shekinah); and in the Babylonian Talmud ‘Shekinah’ (glory) has more or less completely supplanted talk of the Spirit.”

    J. D. G. Dunn, New Bible Dictionary, 1996, 1126–1127.

    So if Dunn is right, the Second Temple Jews didn’t read Psa 119 as granting a Spirit of revelation to Jews in general.

    I don’t have the resources you have, what I am able to lay my hands on fits the more traditional view quite well. That is, I remain convinced that, except for a very select few, the Jews pre-Pentecost did not possess the Spirit or even the near equivalent.

    There were important exceptions. And David in many ways anticipates the Christian indwelling of the Spirit — as the Spirit not only makes him king, the Spirit made him a priest. In many ways, he was a prototype of both the Messiah and the followers of the Messiah.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin Says:

    Bobby (part 5, being the last),

    I said all that just to say this. If I’m right about the general absence of the Spirit pre-Pentecost, and if the Jews were saved by faith under the covenant with Abraham — just like the Christians — then it was possible to be saved without possession of the Spirit.

    Now, Israel largely failed. Paul speaks of a remnant only being saved, and the OT does not paint a pretty picture.

    Deu 30, Jer 31, Eze 36, 37, Joel 2 all point to a future day when the Spirit would be received to provide for much greater obedience thanks to hearts circumcised by God himself through the Spirit — but this had not yet happened. But the text doesn’t say that therefore all Israel was damned!! Certainly, not.

    But Paul paints a pretty grim picture in Rom 9 -11 and it seems very well justified. Steven’s speech just before his murder is to a similar effect — Israel’s history does not speak well of their relationship with God. Something needs to change!!

    This hardly means there’s such a thing as a works salvation. It was by faith. But we sometimes confuse faith with Spirit — “by faith” does not mean “only because God caused us to obey contrary to our free will capabilities.” It means “by faithfulness/trust/belief.” Grace abounded all the more. God forgave sin. No one merited salvation. But some Jews were faithful and so saved. Not perfect. Faithful. Two very different things.

    If that makes me a Pelagian, so be it. I just find Augustine/Calvin not only mistaken but distracting from the real meaning of Paul’s faith/works discussions.

    (Rom. 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Our faithfulness responds to Jesus’ faithfulness on the cross — which evidences God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises.

    God gave Abraham grace not just because of Abraham’s trust but in order that Abraham would live a life of justice and righteousness (Gen 18:19). That is, so he and his descendants would be like God.

    So the Spirit, being in essence God, is particularly well equipped to help God’s children do just that. But I’m not sure I buy the argument that without the Spirit these things are unattainable. They are just very, very difficult — or else God was imposing an impossible task on Israel.

    So that’s where I am in my thinking and why. But I am the first to admit that you know the OT better far better than I do, and before I settle into such a conclusion, I want to hear from the most knowledgeable person I know on this sort of thing.

    And I’d be delighted to be wrong. I have no pride in these conclusions. No dog in this hunt. Just want to know why this isn’t right. And if I’m right, maybe Campbell was right to reject prevenient grace as unnecessary.

  8. Profile photo of hank hank Says:

    Jay, thanks for sharing the above. It seems to me that the difference between Bobby and yourself, is that you believe that the average Jew (the vast majority), did NOT have any indwelling of the Spirit, and therefore, none of his direct help in order to obey God, remain faithful, and produce his fruit. Bobby, OTOH, seems to be saying now that he believes that the indwelling of the Spirit WAS available to all of the OT Jews and that the HS DID help them to be and to do, all of the things you deny.

    The question(s) I have for Bobby, are similar to the ones you ask above. Like you have asked – what changed? What does the HS do to and for every Christian today, that he did not do for every OT Jew? Anything? What?

    In my previous comment above, I asked him to clarify the differences (if any) between all of the different phrases he uses regarding the HS and his actions to and for men.

    I’m eager to read more.

  9. Dwight Says:

    I have never considered David to be a prophet, at least in the sense that God spoke through Him to others, otherwise what was the point of the prophets he surrounded himself with. But I do believe that David was innately attuned to the spirit of God so when he wrote the Psalms, even though His own words, they were inline with God’s thoughts and thus spiritual and Godly. And God did speak to David, even maybe not through him.

    But if David was a prophet, then what was the point of asking for the spirit, as he would already have it?

    But then again even the prophets asked for the help of God, so there seems to be a difference between God speaking through or to, as God did to David, and man receiving the spirit as a helper of the person in terms of edifying.

    Could the Jews implore for the Spirit as a helper, I think so, but at least in the NT there is a sense that the Spirit was going to come down and help those who needed it without a verbal plead, but rather a spiritual plea. The Jews might have had access to the Spirit for help, but now the Spirit was going to have direct access to man for help.

  10. Dwight Says:

    I stand corrected…by myself. David was a prophet according to Acts 2 and Hebrews, at least to some extent, even though he used Nathan as the general prophet.
    But the question still stands. Does a prophet need to ask and plead for the Spirit of which he has by way of being a prophet?
    Which would lead to the thought that the call for the Spirit was for comforting and strengthening, which seems to be the context. The NT seems to make is seem as though the Spirit for this reason was more readily available and accessible.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay F Guin Says:

    Dwight,

    In Psa 51, David pleads to KEEP the Spirit, not to receive it.

    (Ps. 51:11 ESV) 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

    David received the Spirit much earlier:

    (1 Sam. 16:13 ESV) 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

  12. dwight Says:

    Good point Jay. I thought I had read that David prayed for the Spirit, but as you noted the Spirit was upon David from his anointment. I guess he had to if he was a prophet.
    I for some reason thought he was pleading for the Spirit when he asked God for help, but the Spirit is not mentioned.
    So David had the HS.
    I guess the question still remains. Did anyone else in this manner in the OT, besides the other prophets of course?
    In the NT the HS was to come down to man in general from what I understand as a helper.

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