8. The Holy Spirit in the Prophets

The Messenger became “The Word”

The Book of Judges reveals that the Israelites already understood that the Messenger of YHVH, the Angel of God, was actually a Spirit, who manifest Himself in visible form as an Angel, ELOHIM, who spoke to Moses.

In Judges, the prophetess Deborah said,

“Curse Menoz,” said the Angel of YHVH.

Judges 5:23

There is no reason to believe the Angel of YHVH “appeared” to say this. Rather this is the prophetic speaking of Deborah, by the Word, who is Spirit of ELOHIM, the Spirit of Christ.

In the Book of 1 Samuel, the expression, “Messenger of God,” or “Angel of God,” was replaced by the expression “the Word,” to describe the one who spoke to Samuel. Perhaps, for this reason, the Jewish tradition considers Samuel to be the first prophet. From here on, the Spirit of Christ was called “the Word,” as the speaker to Elijah, and all the prophets, as we detailed in Chapter 2.

Isaiah described the Messenger as the Holy Spirit

Isaiah told us “the Messenger” was the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah saw the Messenger of God, the King of Israel, and pre-existent Christ, speaking for the invisible God, saying “Who will go for Us?”  In Isaiah 48:16, he explained the “Us” saying “the LORD God and His Spirit sent me.”

In Isaiah 63:9-11, he says, “the Angel of His Presence saved them… but they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.”

Who will go for Us?
In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah saw a vision of the Messiah, the YHVH of Hosts, speaking the words of the Invisible God, saying, “Who will go for Us?” The Targum describes the speaker as “the WORD of the Lord.”

The message of Isaiah 6:8 was repeated in Isaiah 48:16: “the LORD God, and His Spirit have sent Me.”

This is repeated in the Targum as, “the LORD God, and His WORD sent Me.”

In Acts 28:25, Paul told us the words in Isaiah 6:8 were spoken by, or through, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ spoke for the invisible God. He was the Word.

Zechariah explained Spirits and Messengers

Zechariah explained the relationship between Messengers, and Spirits.

He compared Spirits to horses (Zechariah 6:1-5). The Riders of those Horses were Messengers, the visible manifestation of those Spirits. In the Book of Revelation, this was the comparison of spirits and stars (Revelation 1:20 etc).

The Holy Spirit who spoke through the Prophets

The Spirit of Christ was the Spirit who spoke through the prophets, as Peter explained.

“The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating” 

1 Peter 1:10-11

The Spirit of Christ brought the Law. We read this in Zechariah:

Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit (Word 1) through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

Zechariah 7:12

But the Spirit of Christ, the Word, prophesied that He would pour out the Spirit of Grace on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:35.

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication, then they will look upon Me whom they pierced.

 Zechariah 12:10

Before the Nicene Creed of 325 AD, all believers knew there were TWO Holy Spirits in the Bible.

The Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God are both called the Holy Spirit for DIFFERENT reasons. The Spirit of Christ was called the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit of Christ was sanctified “set apart” by God, as Jesus explained in John 10:36. The Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit because the Spirit of God sanctifies, sets apart, the Sons of God, the first of whom was Christ! This is explained in the Greek text of Acts 1:5, “you by the Spirit will be baptized Holy.”

The Spirit of ELOHIM in the Prophets.

The phrase “Spirit of ELOHIM” always refers to the Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament, and never to God Himself.

In fact, “Spirit of ELOHIM,” “Spirit of YHVH,” “Angel of God,” and “Angel of YHVH” can all refer to the Spirit of Christ.

Peter told us that the “Spirit of Christ” was in the prophets, which we can see in all the expressions of “Spirit of ELOHIM” in the Old Testament. The first prophet in the Bible might be Joseph, of whom Pharaoh said, “can we find such as one as this (Joseph) in whom the Spirit of ELOHIM dwells” (Genesis 41:38).  The Spirit of Christ was the first “Helper” of Israel. The same Spirit said, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper,” (John 14:16) which was the Spirit of God, poured out on the Day of Pentecost.

The expression “Spirit of ELOHIM” in the NKJV Old Testament (14 times)
Genesis 1:2: “the Spirit (Wind) of ELOHIM” moved over the face of the deep
Genesis 41:38: “can we find such as one as this (Joseph) in whom the Spirit of ELOHIM dwells”
Exodus 31:3: “And I have filled him with the Spirit of ELOHIM and wisdom”This is God speaking; He did not say “My Spirit.”
Exodus 35:31: And he hath filled him with the Spirit of ELOHIM, in wisdom and understanding.”The writer does not say “His Spirit” to mean God’s own spirit.
Numbers 24:2: “And Balaam lifted his eyes . . . and the Spirit of ELOHIM came upon him.
1 Samuel 10:10: “The Spirit of ELOHIM came upon him (Saul) and he prophesied”
1 Samuel 11:6: “The Spirit of ELOHIM came upon Saul”
1 Samuel 19:20: “the Spirit of ELOHIM was upon the messengers of Saul”
1 Samuel 19:23–24: “And he (Saul) went thither . . . and the Spirit of ELOHIM was upon him . . . therefore they say “is Saul also among the prophets”
2 Chronicles 15:1: “the Spirit of ELOHIM came upon Azariah (and he prophesied)”
2 Chronicles 24:20: “the Spirit of ELOHIM came upon Zechariah”
Job 27:3: “and the breath (ruah) of ELOHIM is in my nostrils” (ruah is translated as Spirit in some Bibles, but means breath here, as in Genesis 6:177:15, and 22).
Job 33:4: “the Spirit of ELOHIM, SHE-made me”
Ezekiel 11:24: “in a vision by the Spirit of ELOHIM”

Feminine and Masculine Verbs and Pronouns distinguished Christ from God

The Apostle Paul described the Spirit of Christ as “WHO” in 1 Timothy 3:16 and Philippians 2:6. This is because a spirit has no gender and does not reproduce.

However, feminine verbs and pronouns clearly distinguished the Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament from the Spirit of God!

The word for Spirit, in Hebrew RUAH, can use either masculine or feminine verbs and pronouns. When used with the meaning of wind or human spirit, RUAH is quite often masculine (as in Ex 10:1319Nu 11:31Is 57:16Jr 4:12Ezk 27:26Ps 51:1278:39Job 4:158:220:341:8).

When describing the Spirit of Christ, only feminine modifiers were always used, except when describing the Spirit of Christ as the Angel of God.

Job 33:4 literally reads:

The Spirit of God, SHE-made-me,
And the Breath of the Almighty, SHE-Gives-me-life.

The Spirit of Christ is one of the many Spirits of God. The Spirit of Christ was “the Word” who spoke creation into being. Job is not referring to the Spirit of God Himself, for God is always addressed in the masculine. The Breath of the Almighty is God’s breath, and breath is also feminine because RUAH is generally a feminine verb. Job 33:4 describes creation in Genesis 1 by “the Word” and the breath of God.

However, in verses that describe “the person” of God, only masculine verbs and pronouns were used. And God Himself is only called “the Spirit of YHVH:” These may be the only examples:

Who has directed the Spirit of YHVH, to counsel-HIM, inform-HIM?

Isaiah 40:131 Corinthians 2:16

The Spirit of YHVH, HE-spoke in me, and His Word was on my tongue.

2 Samuel 23:2

However, Isaiah 11:2 described the Spirit of God to be put on Christ, with feminine verbs, saying, “the Spirit of YHVH, SHE-shall rest on Him.”

But here, Isaiah was not describing God Himself, but the anointing of God, as in Isaiah 61:1, and 1 John 2:20, “you have an anointing from the Holy One.” Isaiah 11:2 continued to describe this anointing as “the spirit of wisdom, counsel, strength . . . and the spirit of fear of YHVH.”

The Holy Spirit in the Prophets, including John the Baptist

As we mentioned in the Preface, prior to the Nicene Creed of 325 AD, all believers understood that the Spirit of Christ was the Holy Spirit that came upon Mary. But, believers became confused about the meaning of “meaning in the flesh.”

Justin Martyr himself replaced “manifest in the flesh” with the Latin concept of incarnation, meaning, a spirit completely becomes a man. However, the Bible teaches that the Spirit of Christ was only “found in appearance as a man” – revealed in a man, “manifest in the flesh.” The Spirit of Christ still continued elsewhere, while Christ was a man, therefore Jesus could say, “where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Somehow, the Spirit of Christ “emptied Himself” in the man Jesus Christ, so that the man was able to grow up like any other man. This is what Paul called “a great mystery.”

The Holy Spirit in John the Baptist is the perfect proof the Spirit of Christ carried on, outside of Christ. Since, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ lived at the same time.

John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of Christ, called the Spirit of Elijah, as we read in Luke 1:15-17,

“he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb – It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Because John the Baptist had only received the Spirit of Christ, Jesus said that the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than him (Luke 7:28). Those in the Kingdom of God receive the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Adoption. They become the Sons of God and are therefore greater than John the Baptist.

Hosea first prophesied the Sons of God, saying, “in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). When Christ Himself became the first Son of God, He became as “much greater than the Angels” (Hebrews 1:4).

When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit,” how do we know which Holy Spirit is spoken of? The answer is simple. When discussing the Holy Spirit in the prophets, we speak of the Spirit of Christ. But when discussing the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Sons of God, we mean the Spirit of God.

The Message of Christ and the Apostles

“The Lord is the Spirit”

2 Corinthians 3:17

Jesus

We might ask, did Jesus ever call Himself “the Holy Spirit?”

Yes in fact, He did, in John 10:36, “do you say of Him, who the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming'”?

When did God sanctify Christ? It was not during His baptism. The Apostle Paul said that Christ was “justified in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16).  Normally, we say that a believer is “sanctified by the Spirit,” when the Spirit of God descends on them in their baptism. But Christ was already the sanctified Spirit of the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, God sent His Spirit into the prophets, for God was the Lord. But after Christ resurrected and was made the Lord, He received this authority, and breathed His Spirit into His disciples, saying “receive the Holy Spirit, he whose sins you forgive, are forgiven” (John 20:22-23).  Christ was the Holy Spirit of whom God said, “do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions” (Exodus 23:21).

The Apostle Peter

Peter called the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament, “the Spirit of Christ.” He was actually the only Apostle who used the expression “Spirit of Christ,” when speaking of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

Peter wrote:

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

1 Peter 1:10–11

The Apostle Paul

Paul wrote to the Gentiles, who were unfamiliar with the expression “the Word” in the Jewish Targumim.

Therefore, Paul called the Spirit of Christ, “the Spirit.” John also used the expression “the Spirit” several times in Revelation, where the Spirit of Christ also said, “hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.”

The expression “the Spirit” is used extensively in the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel said, “the Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 3:12148:311:12443:5). This was similar to John’s expression “I was in the Spirit” (Rev 1:104:2). Ezekiel also described “the Spirit” entering him two times (2:2, 3:24). In the Old Testament, it was common for the Spirit of Christ to enter people, and then depart from them.

The Apostle Paul told us “the Lord is the Spirit.”

  • Paul equated the Spirit of ELOHIM to Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:2–4: “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” In the Old Testament, Christ Himself was “the Spiritual drink” that they drank, the Spirit of ELOHIM.
  • In 1 Corinthians 15:45–49, Paul called Christ “a life-giving Spirit,” saying, “’The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit . . . And as we have borne the image of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”

In 2 Corinthians 3:17 18, Paul brought out the message of Genesis 1, saying,

Now the Lord is the Spirit—Κύριος τὸ Πνεῦμά ἐστιν—and where the Spirit of the Lord—Πνεῦμα Κυρίου—is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Lord, the Spirit—ἀπὸ Κυρίου, Πνεύματος.

By “the same image,” Paul spoke of God’s plan in Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image.”

Christ was the Spirit who would complete the plan of salvation to make man into His image.

  • In Acts 28:25, Paul said the words spoken by the Lord of Hosts in Isaiah 6:9 were spoken by the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit was the Spirit of Christ, who was the Word, God’s speaker, and the image of the invisible God, who Isaiah saw.

The Apostle John

The Apostle John explained Christ as the Word. He was simply following the message of the Old Testament, which the Jewish people were very familiar with.

The Targumim equated the Word to the Holy Spirit

The equation of the Word and the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament was clearly demonstrated in the Targumim. Jonathan ben Uziel clearly made this connection in his translation of the prophets.

The Jerusalem Targum called the Spirit in the Book of Numbers, the Holy Spirit

We might wonder there was really ONE Holy Spirit received by all the prophets in the Old Testament. Was the Spirit poured on the seventy elders in the Book of Numbers really the Spirit of Christ, or just some kind of Spirit?

Philo said that Moses was “inspired and filled with the Holy Spirit.”2 In Numbers 11:17, we read, “I will take of the Spirit that is on you, and put the same on them.”

The Jerusalem Targum fragments and the Targum Neofiti use the expression “the Holy Spirit” to describe this Spirit poured on the elders in Numbers 11:17,25, 26,28, 29 etc. Therefore, Paul’s statement that Christ was the Spiritual Rock that the Israelites drank, was clearly understood by the Jews. They believed there was only ONE Holy Spirit that they all drank.

The Onkelos Targum tells us “the Word” was the Helper of Joseph

In Joseph, we find the first evidence of the Spirit of Christ in the prophets. The Palestine and Onkelos Targumim tell us “the Word of YHVH was Joseph’s Helper” in Genesis 39:2212348:21, and 49:25. The Word of YHVH was the Spirit of Christ in Joseph, who helped him to explain dreams and gave him wisdom.

Jonathan ben Uziel translated Spirit, and Holy Spirit, as “the Word”

Jonathan ben Uzziel, the writer of the Targum of the Prophets, lived thirty years before the birth of Christ.  His paraphrase was considered by the Jewish Synagogue to be inspired by God. He was personally surrounded by Jewish legends. From the Babylonian Talmud (200–400 A.D.), Tract Megilla, we read that Jonathan ben Uzziel wrote his Targum under the supervision of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. We also read, “Then the ground of Palestine trembled (as if shaken by an earthquake) four hundred Parsaoth square, and a heavenly voice was heard: ‘Who are these who have revealed My Mystery to man?’”  Also from the Babylonian Talmud, Tract Sukkah, we are told: “Jo. ben Uzziel was a worthy of the Shekina (the Holy Spirit) which rested upon him, as he did upon our teacher Moses. He was such a holy man, that when he studied the law the birds who flew over his head were burnt to death.”

Jonathan called the Spirit of Christ “the Word” throughout his translations. In fact, the preface to C.W.H. Pauli’s translation of the Targum of Isaiah contains an index of 90 references to the Word.

NKJV Bible Aramaic Targum
“The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,

Go to this people and say: Hearing you will not understand”

Acts 28:25-26

“And I heard the voice of the Word of the LORD which said…”Go, and speak to this people that hear indeed, but do not understand.”

Isaiah 6:8

“His Spirit will gather them there”

Isaiah 34:16, cf Matthew 24:28-30

“for by His Word they will be gathered”

 

“The LORD God and His Spirit sent me”

Isaiah 48:16

“The LORD God and His Word sent me”

 

“The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against them”

Isaiah 59:19

“by the Word of the LORD, they shall be plundered”
“But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit”

Isaiah 63:10

“But they rebelled against the Word of His prophets; therefore His Word turned out to be an enemy”
“where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them”

Isaiah 63:11

“where is He who put made the Word of His holy prophets dwell among them”
“the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest”

Isaiah 64:14

“the Word of the LORD led them”
“Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted”

Micah 2:7

“has the Word of the LORD been shortened?”
“not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit”

Zechariah 4:6

“Not by strength, nor by might, but by My Word”
“refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit”

Zechariah 7:12

“lest they should hear the law and the words which the LORD of Hosts sent by His Word”

From these verses, we learn several truths

  1. Isaiah 63:11, and Zechariah 7:12 tell us the Word was the Holy Spirit in the prophets.
  2. In every case that the phrase Spirit or Holy Spirit is used, it is translated as “the Word.” But there are  important exceptions, where the Targumist did not translate “Spirit” as “the Word.” The first are Isaiah 42:1, and Isaiah 61:1. These verses describe the Holy Spirit to be put on Christ, and here the Targumist translates Spirit as “Holy Spirit.”
  3. Three other important exceptions are Isaiah 43:10, Joel 3:1-2, and Zechariah 12:10. Here, the Targumist uses the phrases “Holy Spirit” and “Spirit of grace” to describe the Holy Spirit that is “poured out” on the Day of Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2:33. It is very clear that the Targumist knows the difference between the Spirit of Christ in the prophets, and the Spirit of God that was put on Christ and “poured out” on the Day of Pentecost!
  4. The final exception is Micah 3:8. The Targumist  has translated “full of power by the Spirit of the LORD,” as “filled with strength of the spirit of prophecy before the LORD.” The expression, “spirit of prophecy before the LORD,” is also used where the Hebrew text uses the expression “hand of the LORD,” in  Ezekiel 1:3, 37:1, 40:1, etc. The expression “spirit of prophecy before the LORD” refers to the power of God to prophecy, and not to a “speaking spirit.”
  5. The phrase “Holy Spirit” in the Old Testament, only refers to the Spirit of Christ. This expression was used three times in the Old Testament. On two occasions, in Isaiah, the Targumist equated “Holy Spirit” to “the Word.” The other use of this phrase is in Psalms 51:11, “take not your Holy Spirit from me.” The Targumist translates this as,

Do not cast me from your presence; and do not remove from me your holy spirit of prophecy.    Return your Torah to me, to exult in your redemption; and may the spirit of prophecy support me. (Targum of the Psalms)

Why doesn’t the Targumist call the Holy Spirit – the Word? Simply because the Targumist was not Jonathan Ben Uziel. It was written in a different time period, by another author. The Targum of the Psalms contains no references to the Word, or the Holy Spirit. As we mentioned in Chapter 2, the Targumim after Christ avoided making any references to the Word, and did not use the phrase, “Holy Spirit.”

Confusion about the Spirit of Christ begins

Soon in the Second Century, believers became confused about the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of God.

Though all believers understood that the Spirit of Christ was not the Spirit of God, a lot of people began to believe the Spirit of Christ became completely “incarnated” in the Son of Man, and not “manifest in the flesh.” This confusion was made worse as believers interpreted Jesus’ instruction to baptize “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” as the identification of three persons.

Confusion about Manifest in the Flesh

Key Truth
If you do not understand the concept of Manifest in the Flesh, you will think that the Spirit of Christ was only in Christ. You not believe that the Spirit of Christ was the Holy Spirit in John the Baptist.  And you will soon believe that the same Holy Spirit must also have been in the prophets.

Paul wrote,

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:

Who was revealed in the flesh,
Was justifed in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16

Even though the early Church was confused about the meaning of “manifest in the flesh,” the earliest Christian writings embraced it.  But their understanding was weak. They believed that the Son was the Spirit of Christ, but was still distinct from the Spirit of Christ. They thought the man Christ Jesus was somehow a distinct, and separate person. This was likely the beginning of the Trinity concept.

Our strongest confirmation of the early Church belief comes from the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, two Books included in the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus. The Codex Sinaiticus, known as א, is the best “complete” Greek text we have, and designated Manuscript (01). It was written between 325 and 360 A.D., twenty years before the Trinity doctrine was established in 381 A.D. The New Testament books in the Codex Sinaiticus were those we have today, with the addition of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas, which followed the Book of Revelation.

Both of these books strongly emphasized that Christ was the Spirit “who was manifested in the flesh.”

The Epistle of Barnabas, (70–130 A.D.) used the expression “Who (Christ) was manifested (in the flesh)” seven times, and described Christ’s body as “the vessel of the Spirit.”

In Chapter 6:14, we read:

“Behold,” says the Lord, “I will take away from these, that is, from those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw, their stony hearts, and I will put hearts of flesh within them, because He was to be manifested in flesh, and to sojourn among us.”

The Shepherd of Hermas (85–145 A.D.) explained Jesus Christ as the Spirit of EL who made creation:

“The Pre-existent Holy Spirit, which created the whole creation, God made to dwell in flesh that He desired” (Parable 5: 6[5]).

The Shepherd of Hermas also described Christ as the Spirit who spoke in the form of a Church.

The Holy Spirit which spoke with you in the form of a Church showed you, for that Spirit is the Son of God. (Parable 9: 1[1]).

However, both the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas exhibited confusion regarding the meaning of manifest in the flesh. The Epistle of Barnabas called the man Jesus Christ, “the vessel of the Spirit.” The Shepherd of Hermas explained that the Holy Spirit was Christ, but that He became distinct as the Son, when he was born as a man.

He therefore took the Son as adviser and the glorious angels also, that this flesh too, having served the Spirit unblamably. (Parable 5: 6[7]).

 

Confusion regarding Jesus’ baptism instruction

A misunderstanding of Jesus’ baptism instruction also contributed to the idea the Holy Spirit was a third person in the Bible.

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus told His disciples to baptize in the NAME of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. His meaning was from Isaiah 9:6,

And His NAME will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament was called “Wonderful.” The Spirit that proceeded from the Father in the New Testament was called the Counsellor.  The Spirit of Christ was the Mighty God, the King of Israel, who appeared to Isaiah. And God is the Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace is the Messiah, who became our Peace, when He paid the penalty for our sins. These are just many titles that describe God and Christ, the invisible God and His Image, who have always shared ONE NAME.

The Gentiles did not understand that Christ and God always shared the same name in the Old Testament, He WILL BE, and even He WILL BE of the Armies! The Gentiles could not read the Old Testament in Hebrew, and even many Jews could not read it in Hebrew. The Greek translation of the Old Testament had changed the name of God, that was given at the burning bush.

Justin Martyr, initially believed that the name of God was Jesus 3. But when he moved to Rome, in 150 AD, he became confused. We discuss this in detail in the Appendix. Justin was confused by two concepts, manifest in the flesh, and the name of God.  He believed that “the spirit of prophecy,” was a lower spirit in the Old Testament, who he ranked as “third place,” 4. And he began to believe that no one could know the name of God. 5

Justin Martyr’s wrote his ideas to the Senate in Rome, and to the Emperor, and significantly influenced Western Christianity. From his thinking, the theology of a third person called “the Holy Spirit,” began to develop.

Was there another Holy Spirit in the Old Testament?

Before the Nicene Creed of 325 AD, all believers understood that the Holy Spirit that came over Mary, in Luke 1:35, was the Spirit of Christ, who was manifest in the flesh.

But, many like Justin Martyr came to believe there was another Holy Spirit called “the Spirit of Prophecy,” who was active in the Old Testament, speaking the words of God to the prophets. Of course, we know from the Apostles, and the Targumim, that only the Spirit of Christ, the Word, spoke to the prophets.

For Jewish converts, like Tzvi Nassi, aka, Reverend C.W.H. Pauli, this was not an issue. He understood that the Word was the Spirit in the prophets. Nonetheless, when he converted to Christianity, he sought to embrace the Trinity doctrine, and to prove there was another Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

The study of Reverend C.W.H. Pauli (Tzvi Nassi) in 1863

In his book, “the Great Mystery, how can three be one,” Tzvi Nassi used the Zohar to show that the Jewish people believed in three Spirits of the Godhead, until the Second Century. Tzvi Nassi, like many orthodox Jews, believed that the Zohar was written by Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai, in the second century.

The Zohar described three spirits in ELOHIM,

The Spirit which is downwards (that is, counting three), who is called the Holy Spirit; the Spirit which is the middle pillar, who is called the Spirit of Wisdom and of Understanding, also called the Spirit below.* The upper Spirit is hidden in secret; in Him are existing all the holy Spirits (the Holy Spirit and the middle-pillar), and all that is light” (lit., all faces giving light).6

According to the Zohar, the upper Spirit is God Himself, the invisible God. The middle Spirit is the Metraton, the firstborn of creation, who we otherwise know as “the Word.” And the Spirit facing “down” is the Spirit of Life that went out in the beginning of creation, and the Spirit to be poured out in the Days of the Messiah:

The Spirit of God, is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the living God, and this moved upon the face of the water (in Gen 1:2). 7

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of the Messiah. 8

And this is the Spirit who proceeds from the secret mind* (God), and is called the Spirit of Life. And this Spirit is ready to give knowledge of wisdom at the time of the King Messiah, as it is written (Isa 11:2), And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,” &c. 9

On the surface, the Zohar seems correct. The Book of Isaiah does identify three Spirits: the Spirit of YHVH as God Himself (Isaiah 40:13); the Spirit in the prophets, who was the Firstborn of Creation; and the Spirit of YHVH on the Messiah (Isaiah 11:2).

So what is wrong with the explanation of the Zohar?

  1. The breath of God, or Spirit of Life that proceeded from God in Genesis 1:2 is the Spirit of Life in ALL CREATURES (“He is above all and through all, and in all,” Ephesians 4:6). This is not the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Sons of God (“you with the Spirit will be baptized holy,” Acts 1:5 Greek text). Not all creatures, have been sanctified, set apart, by the Spirit of God.
  2. God, and His Spirit share one mind (1 Corinthians 2:11, 16), they are not separate Spirits.  We can identify the Spirit of Life as the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of truth as the Spirit of God. But God has only one mind, only one centre of consciousness, He is only one “person.”

Otherwise, from the Zohar, we can see that the Jews in the second century had the same understanding we have. The Spirit of God proceeded from God in the beginning of creation, and did again in the time of the Messiah. The Spirit in the prophets was the Word (who the Jews subsequently called “the Metatron”).

But Tzvi Nassi cited several verses to try to prove that the “Holy Spirit” on the Messiah could be found in the Old Testament. We present them below, to prove the impossibility of this exercise.

Verses cited by C.W.H. Pauli Was this the Holy Spirit on the Messiah?
Genesis 1:2, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” See discussion below.
Isaiah 40:13, “who has directed the Spirit of the LORD” This is God Himself, as quoted in 1 Cor 2:16.
Genesis 6:3, “My Spirit shall not strive with men forever” See discussion below.
Isaiah 63:14, “the Spirit of YHVH causes him to rest” Refuted 5 years later by his own Targum translation, in 1871, see above.
Isaiah 48:16, “the LORD God and His Spirit sent me” Refuted 5 years later by his own Targum translation, in 1871, see above.
2 Samuel 23:2, “The Spirit of YHVH spoke through me, and His Word was on my tongue” The first Spirit is God Himself, and the Word was the Spirit of Christ on the tongue of David.

The “Wind” or “Breath” of God in Genesis 1:2

In the New King James Version, we read Genesis 1:1–2 as, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Trinitarians, who may have been influenced by the Zohar, have suggested that the phrase “Spirit of God” in Genesis 1:2 is proof of a “third person” of the Godhead who existed eternally with Christ and God. However, the Jewish Bible has noted that the Hebrew words “RUAH ELOHIM” in Genesis 1:2 should be translated as “wind” or “breath of God.” This is evident from other Old Testament Books and the Jewish Targums. The phrase “Spirit” is “RUAH” in Hebrew and has the primary meanings of “wind or breath,” as does the word “Pneuma” in Greek.

The true meaning of RUAH ELOHIM in creation is probably best explained by Psalms 33:6:

By the Word of YHVH the heavens were made,
and by the breath of His mouth all their host.

Job called the Spirit of Christ “the Spirit of EL,” saying,

The Spirit of EL, SHE-made-me,
And the Breath of the Almighty, gives me life

Psalms 104:30 also has Genesis 1:2 in mind, to say the breath of God, brought life into being:

You send out your Wind (or Breath), they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.

“RUAH of God” in Genesis 1:2 is translated as “Wind of God” in the Jewish Targums. This is particularly evident in the “Jerusalem Targum,” which uses the expression “merciful wind” in both Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 8:1:

a merciful wind from before YHVH was blowing over the surface of the waters.

Genesis 1:2

and YHVH caused the wind of mercies to pass over the earth, and the waters were dried.

Genesis 8:1

The Targum Onkelos reads “and a wind from before the Lord blew upon the face of the waters.”

The Greek Septuagint does not have the article “the,” before “Pneuma of God,” suggesting that “wind” is the meaning (καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος, Wind of God moved over the water).2

The first seven uses of the expression “RUAH” occur in Genesis 1–8, where we see that “wind” or “breath of life” is always the meaning. The first occurrence is Genesis 1:2, which speaks of the “wind” or “breath” that brought life into the world.

Genesis 1:2 “Wind from God was over the face of the waters”
Genesis 3:8 “walking in the breeze of the day”
Genesis 6:3 “My spirit (breath of life) shall not always strive with man”
Genesis 6:17 “all flesh in which is the breath of life”
Genesis 7:15 “all flesh in which was the breath of life”
Genesis 7:22 “all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life
Genesis 8:1 “And God made a wind to pass over the face of the earth and caused the waters to subside” (as He did in Genesis 1:2)

The Jewish Bible, JPS Tanakh (1985), now recognizes “Wind” as the most appropriate translation in Genesis 1:2.

(For more on Genesis 1:2, see Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers.)

  1. Targum Jonathan
  2.  On the Life of Moses, II, LI, 291
  3. Dialogue with Tryphos, Chapter 75
  4. First Apology, Chapter 13
  5. First Apology, Chapter 61
  6. Zohar, vol. iii., p. 26
  7. Zohar, Gen., p. 16, Amsterdam Ed.
  8. Zohar, p. 4. versa, Amsterdam Edition
  9.  Zohar, vol. iii., p. 289, Amsterdam Edition