8. The Spirit of Christ in the Prophets

Contents

The Spirit of the Lord and His Messenger

Before Pentecost   

After Pentecost

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of Christ, the Word was the Holy Spirit in the prophets. The Spirit of Christ spoke for the invisible God.

Before the Day of Pentecost, God Himself spoke through “the hand of Yihvah.” This was called the “spirit of Yihvah,” and the “spirit of ELOHIM.” It was spirit that “came mightily” וַתִּצְלַ֨ח on Samson, Saul, and David (Judges 14:6; 14:19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:10; 11:16; 16:13; and 18:10).

Before “spirit of Yihvah came upon” David, he was already full of the Holy Spirit. The Word was the helper of David, and the helper of Samuel, from their youth. This was explained by the phrase, “Yihvah was with him” (1 Sam 16:18; 1 Sam 3:19). The Targum translated this as, “The Word of Yihvah was his helper.”   

The Word brought the message of God to the prophets. However, in the first three Chapters of Ezekiel, we learn that the anointing of the Holy Spirit enables Ezekiel to hear the speaking of the hand of Yihvah directly for himself.

In the first three Chapters of Revelation, the anointing of the spirit of God enables John to hear the speaking of “the Spirit”—the Spirit of Christ, directly. After the Day of Pentecost, the spirit of God became the speaker for Christ. Jesus said, “it will speak only what it hears” (John 16:13).

Throughout the Old Testament, the Word brought the message of God to the prophets. It was also the “anointing” that allowed the prophets to hear the message of the spirit of Yihvah, the hand of Yihvah. Ezekiel gave us examples of both forms of this communication. In Ezekiel 11:1-4, the Spirit of Christ spoke to Ezekiel, but in verses 5-11, the anointing of the Spirit of Christ enabled Ezekiel to hear the speaking of the hand of Yihvah.

Targum Jonathan called the hand of Yihvah, “the spirit of prophecy from before Yihvah.” All prophecy comes from God.

The Lord is the Spirit

The definite article in the Hebrew Old Testament identified the Spirit of Christ, as “the Spirit,” in Hebrew “Ha-Ruah.” This described “the Spirit” as a being, rather than an anointing that proceeded from God.

The description of Christ as “the Spirit” was carried forward into the New Testament. Paul said, “the Lord is the Spirit” in 2 Corinthians 3:17.

In the Greek New Testament, the apostles also used the expression “the spirit” to describe the spirit of the Lord. It also described the spirit of God before the Day of Pentecost. In the New Testament, the expression “spirit” without the definite article, described the anointing of the holy spirit, as it did in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of Christ was never called the “spirit of ELOHIM” or the “spirit of Yihvah.” Those expressions only described the spirit of God. 

The definite article for “spirit” in the Old Testament

The expression “the Spirit” is used only in Numbers 11:17,25, and 26; 1 Kings 22:21; 2 Chronicles 18:20; Ezekiel 1:12,20; 37:9 and 10. In every case, it describes “spirit” as a being, rather than an anointing. In 1 Kings 22:21 and 2 Chronicles 18:20, it describes the spirit of Yihvah who steps forward to be a lying spirit in the mouth of all of Ahab’s prophets. Targum Jonathan called the Spirit of Christ, “the Holy Spirit in the mouth of the prophets” in its translation of Isaiah 40:13.

Of course, the most significant identification of the Spirit of Christ as “the Spirit” is in Numbers 11. God took of the Spirit on Moses and put it on the seventy elders.

Ezekiel 1:12,20; 37:9 and 10 are prophecies of the Spirit of Christ in the Church.

The Old Testament used the expression “spirit” without the definite article to describe the anointing of the “messenger spirit,” the Holy Spirit in the prophets.

In Ezekiel Chapter Three, Ezekiel told us that “spirit” entered him, and “lifted him up.”

We know that “spirit” that entered Ezekiel was not just an anointing but also the Spirit of Christ. But Ezekiel chose to describe the Spirit of Christ as an anointing to make a comparison with “spirit” in the wheels of the four living creatures that “lifted them up.” That “spirit” is the spirit of God in the Church.

But Targum Jonathan brought the meaning of Ezekiel 1 into the present day. It did not describe “the Spirit” that was followed by the living creatures in Chapter One. Rather it said that the living creatures, the saints, were following their will. It used the determinate form of Aramaic to describe “spirit” in wheels of living creatures as “the Spirit”—the Spirit of Christ. It used the same determinate form to describe “the Spirit” that entered Ezekiel and lifted him up, as the Spirit of Christ.

Targum Jonathan only used the determined form (רוחא vs. רוח) to describe “the Spirit” as a being. The expression “the Spirit” described the Spirit of Christ in Ezekiel 2:2; 3:12,14,24; 8:3; 11:1,24; 37:5-10, and 43:5. It also described the “lying spirit of Yihvah” in 1 Kings 22:21. In 2 Kings 19:7, and Isaiah 37:7, God said He would send a “spirit” on the King of Assyria. Targum Jonathan also used the determined form, “the Spirit,” to describe this Spirit as a being.

Very interestingly, Targum Jonathan used the determined form in 1 Kings 18:12, and 2 Kings 2:16 to describe the Spirit of Yihvah as God Himself, as a being—the Spirit of Yihvah who took Elijah away, called “the Lord” in 2 Kings 2:5.

The definite article for “spirit” in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the expression “spirit” without the definite article describes the anointing of “the Messenger of the Lord.” Before Christ resurrected, He was the Word, the speaker for the invisible God. After Christ was made the Lord, the spirit of God became “the Messenger of the Lord,” the speaker for Christ.

In the New Testament, the definite article is used to describe the Spirit of the Lord: the spirit of God before the Day of Pentecost, and the Spirit of Christ, who continues as “the Spirit” from the Old Testament.  Jesus often used the expression “the Spirit,” to describe Himself as “the Spirit” in the kingdom of God.

The definite article for “holy spirit” in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the definite article was first used for “holy spirit” in Matthew 28:19, to introduce the one and only holy spirit in the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy spirit.” There were two holy spirits in the gospels, the Spirit of Christ that came on Mary, and the spirit of God that was first put on Christ.

He will give you “another helper”

The anointing of the Holy Spirit was first described in Numbers 11. Here, God said that He would take off the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders.

There is no mention of Moses being anointed by the Holy Spirit. But at the burning bush, the Messenger said to him, “I will be with you.” The Targum Onkelos, the official Targum of the Jewish synagogue, and the Palestine Targum 1 translated Exodus 3:12 as, “My Word shall be your Helper.” The Word was the Holy Spirit in Moses.

In Genesis 28, Jacob vowed, “If HE WILL BE will be with me . . . then HE WILL BE, be my God.” The Targum Onkelos translated this as, “If the Word of the Lord will be my Help . . . then the Word of the Lord, be my God.”

In fact, we are told that HE WILL BE “was with” Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The Aramaic Targumim translated all the expressions, “I will be with you” and “HE WILL BE was with . . . .” as “My Word shall be a helper” and “The Word of the Lord was his helper” (Genesis 21:22; 26:3; 26:24; 26:28; 28:15; 28:20; 31:3; 39:2–3; 39:21; 39:23).

The translation of “I will be with you” as “My Word shall be your helper” continues in Targum Jonathan, and Targum Chronicles, as we show in the final appendix. The Word was the helper of Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, Samuel, David, and Solomon.  

The message of the Word as the “support” or Helper of Israel appears throughout the Targum of Isaiah (Isaiah 17:10; 41:10; 41:13–14; 43:2, 43:5; 49:5).

But Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another helper” (John 14:16). Here, He described the Spirit of God that would be poured out on the Day of Pentecost.

The Apostles understood that Christ was the speaker for God in the Old Testament. John called him “the Word.” Peter told us that the “Spirit of Christ” was in the prophets and called Christ the spiritual drink that the Israelites drank after being baptized by Moses by the dividing of the Red Sea.

The Messenger became known as the Word

The Book of Judges reveals that the Israelites understood that the Messenger of Yihvah, the Angel of God, was a Spirit who manifested in visible form as an Angel, the ELOHIM, who spoke to Moses.

In Judges, the prophetess Deborah said:

“‘Curse Menoz,’ said the Angel of Yihvah.”

Judges 5:23

There is no reason to believe that the Angel of Yihvah “appeared” to say this. Rather, this is the prophetic speaking of Deborah through the Word, the Spirit of Christ.

In 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 detailed in Chapter 2.

Zechariah explained Messengers as the appearance of Spirits

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.).

Isaiah described “the Messenger of His Face” as the Holy Spirit

In the Old Testament, Isaiah told us “The Messenger” was the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “Holy Spirit” appears only three times in the Old Testament. It appears twice in Isaiah 63:9–11, where we read:

“The Angel of His Presence saved them . . . but they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, so He turned Himself against them . . . Where is He who put His Holy Spirit among them?”

Isaiah said, “The Angel of His Presence saved them.” The expression “Angel” in Hebrew means simply “Messenger,” and the word פָּנָיו֙ (panaw), which is translated as “Presence,” actually means “face.” Isaiah called the Messenger “the Messenger of His Face.” That is, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Isaiah described the dividing of the sea (Isaiah 63:12) by which God saved them, so Paul said, “All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:2).

We first encountered “the Messenger of His Face” in Isaiah 6.

Who will go for Us?

In Isaiah 6:8, Isaiah saw a vision of the Messiah, the Yihvah 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 tells us that 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.

The Targumist described the Holy Spirit as David’s “support”—helper

In Psalm 51:13–14, we find the only other use of the phrase “Holy Spirit” in the Hebrew text. David said, “cast me not away from your Presence (Face), O Lord, take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”

David was speaking of the Holy Spirit, which he received when he was anointed king.

The Targumist translated Psalm 51:13–14 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.”

In Psalm 18:18, David says, “Yihvah was my support.” The same Targumist translated this as, “The Word of the Lord was my support.”

The Holy Spirit in 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 that the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit (Word – Targum Jonathan) 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 2:33:

“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, all believers knew there were TWO holy spirits in the Bible: The Spirit of Christ, who was the Word, and the holy spirit, which was poured out on the Day of Pentecost.

The Targum called the holy spirit “the Word”

The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel is the only Targum that was believed to be divinely inspired. Targum Jonathan equated the phrase “Holy Spirit” with “The Word.”

Targum Jonathan translated Isaiah 63:10–11 as: “But they rebelled against the Word of His prophets; therefore, His Word turned out to be an enemy . . . where is He who made the Word of His holy prophets dwell among them?”

The anointing of the Spirit of Christ was described with feminine verbs

In classical Greek, the writer must use verbs and pronouns that match the word being described. Therefore, the Helper in John 14–15 is always described as “He” because “Helper” is a masculine word. The word Spirit in Greek is neutral, and the writer must use neutral verbs and pronouns.

However, in Hebrew, the writer chooses whether masculine and feminine verbs are used when describing the word RUAH, Spirit. When used with the meaning of wind or human spirit, RUAH is quite often masculine (as in Ex 10:13; Ex 10:19; Nu 11:31; Is 57:16; Jr 4:12; Ezk 27:26; Ps 51:12; 78:39; Job 4:15; 8:2; 20:3; 41:8). The Spirit of Yihvah, which is “a lying spirit” in the mouths of Ahab’s prophets in 1 Kings 22:24 and 2 Chronicles 18:23, is also described with masculine pronouns.

In verses that describe “the person” of God, only masculine verbs and pronouns are used. God Himself is only called “the Spirit of Yihvah.” These are the only cases:

“Who has directed the Spirit of Yihvah to counsel-HIM, inform-HIM?”

Isaiah 40:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16

 

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

2 Samuel 23:2

Here, the real speaker of prophecy is identified as God Himself, the Spirit of Christ, who was only His Messenger, the Holy Spirit that was in David.

Of course, when describing the Messenger, masculine pronouns are used, but when describing the anointing of the Spirit of Christ, only feminine modifiers are always used.

We can see this in Numbers 11:26, “the spirit she-rested upon them.”  

Isaiah 11:2 describes the anointing of the spirit of God on Christ with feminine verbs: “The spirit of Yihvah, SHE-shall rest on Him.”

The use of feminine verbs distinguishes “an anointing” from “a person.”

The Holy One

Christ becomes the Holy One throughout the New Testament. He replaces Aaron as “the Holy One of Yihvah” when he is anointed by the spirit of God as prophesied in Daniel 9:24, “seventy weeks are determined … to anoint Most holy.”

The Hebrew Old Testament

The expression קדוש meaning holy, or “holy one,” appears 71 times in the Old Testament.

The expression “the holy one” הקדוש, was first used in Numbers 16:5-7, “tomorrow Yihvah will show who is His, and who is the holy one … it shall be that the man Yihvah chooses is the holy one.” Aaron was called “the holy one of Yihvah” in Psalm 106:16. In 1 Chronicles 23:13, Aaron was anointed as “most holy.”

In Daniel 9:24, the Angel said, “seventy weeks are determined … to anoint Most holy.” This of course, described the anointing of Christ, who would become “the holy one” in the New Covenant.

Isaiah uses the expression “holy one” 21 times to describe the “holy one of Israel,” first in 2 Kings 19:22. The identification of the “holy one” as Christ can be seen in Isaiah 1:4, 10:17, 12:6, 17:7, 29:19, 29:23, 31:1, 41:14; 41:20; 43:3; 43:14; 43:15; 45:11: 47:4; 48:17; and 49:7. However, the same expression is also used to identify God, which is especially clear in Isaiah 30:15, “Adonai Yihvah, the Holy One of Israel.”

The Targum readily identifies the Holy One as “the Word” in some cases.

The Targum

In the Targum, the “Holy One of Israel” describes Christ as “the Word” or “Shekinah” or  “the Holy One of Jacob” in Isaiah 5:24, 12:6, 10:17, 10:20, 17:7, and 29:23. The Holy One can otherwise be argued to be Christ in Isaiah 43:14–15, 45:11, 47:4, and 48:17. The identity of the “Holy One” in Isaiah 1:4, 5:19, 30:12, 37:23 and 41:14, is less clear.

The “Word of the Holy One” in the Targum of Isaiah 30:11 and 31:1 seems to describe Christ as “the Word” and “the Holy One” as God. Both the Targum and the Hebrew clearly identify “the Holy One” as God Himself in Isaiah 30:15—“Adonai Yihvah, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 54:5 and 60:14 in the Targum also identify God as “the Holy One of Israel.” In some cases, the identification of the Holy One in the Targum seems to differ from the Hebrew text, as if to emphasize that this is only another shared name of Christ and God.

The New Testament

Christ is the Holy One throughout the New Testament, as described in Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; John 6:69; Ephesians 1:13; and 1 John 2:20. He succeeds Aaron as “the Holy One of Yihvah” under the New Covenant.

A Survey of Old Testament Passages

In the Appendix, we have listed all the Old Testament verses that describe the spirit of Yihvah/spirit of ELOHIM.

The identification of the Spirit of Christ as the anointing on the prophets begins in Numbers 11. Here, God took the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. The Targum Neofiti and Targum Pseudo Jonathan call this Spirit “the Holy Spirit.”

It is not until we come to the writings of Isaiah and the minor prophets that we get the clear revelation that there was only one Spirit who brought God’s message to the prophets. In the Old Testament, there was only one “Holy Spirit.” That Holy Spirit was the Word, as Jonathan ben Uzziel explained.

The Spirit of Christ was in the Prophets, including John the Baptist

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

Justin Martyr himself replaced “manifest in the flesh” with the Latin concept of incarnation, meaning that 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; therefore, while Christ was a man, Jesus could say, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

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 perfect proof that 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,  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.

Jesus said that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven was greater than him (Luke 7:28). Those who are baptized by the Spirit of God in the Kingdom of Heaven are the Sons of God and 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 “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

“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper.”

John 14:16

Jesus

The Targum explained that “the Word” was “the Helper” of Israel. When Jesus said that the Father would give them “another Helper,” He identified Himself as the “Holy Spirit” that helped Israel.

In John 10:36, Jesus said, “Do you say of Him, who the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming?’”

At the beginning of creation, God sanctified Christ to become the first Son of God. This is what Jesus meant when He said God sanctified Him and sent Him into the world. Jesus also referred to this moment when He said, “The Father Himself loves you because you believe that I came out of the Father. I have come out of the Father and into the world” (John 16:27–28). Here, He was also speaking of the time when He was born of the Father and came into the world. He was the “Holy Spirit” who was in the prophets.

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, they 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 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.

Peter 1:10–11

The Apostle Paul

Paul wrote for 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 the Book of Revelation, where the Spirit of Christ also said, “Hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.”

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

  • In 1 Corinthians 10:2–4, Paul equated the Spirit of ELOHIM to Jesus Christ: “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 2 became a life-giving Spirit . . . And as we have borne the image of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly”3

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

17Now the Lord is the Spirit—Κύριος τὸ Πνεῦμά ἐστιν—and where the Spirit of the Lord—Πνεῦμα Κυρίου—is, there is liberty.18 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.

In Genesis 1:26, by “the same image,” Paul spoke of God’s plan: “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 whom Isaiah saw.

The Apostle John

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

The Message of the Targumim

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

In the Book of Numbers, the Jerusalem Targum and the Targum Neofiti call the Spirit “the Holy Spirit”

We might wonder if 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”4. 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, and so on. 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, which they all drank.

The Onkelos Targum told us “the Word” was the Helper

The Onkelos Targum is the official Targum of the Pentateuch of the Jewish synagogue. It describes the Word as the helper of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

The Aramaic Targum of Onkelos (c. 35–120) translated the expressions “I will be with you” and “HE WILL BE was with . . . .” as “My Word shall be a helper” and “The Word of the Lord was his helper” in Genesis 21:22, 26:3, 26:24, 26:28, 28:15, 31:3, 39:2, 39:3, 39:21, and 39:23.

According to the Talmud, the content of this Targum dates to the time of Ezra.5

The Palestine Targum makes a very similar translation of these verses.

Jonathan ben Uzziel 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 (A.D. 200–400), 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 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 ben Uzziel 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.

In the Targumim of Isaiah and the minor prophets, Jonathan ben Uzziel equates the Spirit or Holy Spirit in the prophets 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

“not of My Spirit”

Isaiah 30:1

“not of My Word”

“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”

“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 made the Word of His holy prophets dwell among them?”

“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”

In every case where the phrase Spirit or Holy Spirit is used, it is translated as “the Word.” However, there are important exceptions where the Targumist did not translate “Spirit” as “the Word” because they refer to the Spirit of God.

  1. The first is Isaiah 42:1, which describes the holy spirit as having been put on Christ, and here, the Targumist translates spirit as “holy spirit.”
  2. In Isaiah 44:3, 59:21, Joel 2:28, and Zechariah 12:10, 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. Isaiah 32:15 remains as “until a spirit comes on us.”
  3. Isaiah 40:13 speaks of God Himself, saying, “Who has directed the Spirit of Yihvah to counsel Him” (1 Cor 2:16); the Targumist says, “Who has established the Holy Spirit in the mouth of the prophets? Is it not the LORD?” In other words, no one counsels God; God instructs men.
  4. Isaiah 40:7 speaks of the Spirit of the breath of life, which is translated as “the Spirit from Yihvah blows.”
  5. Isaiah 61:1, Micah 2:7, and 3:8 refer to the Spirit of God as the Spirit of Prophecy, which is explained in the next Chapter.

There are two cases, not listed above, where the original text refers to the spirit of God, but the Targum describes “the Word.” The first is Isaiah 59:19, the “spirit of Yihvah will lift up a standard against them.” This is a prophecy of the future, “they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun.” But Jonathan ben Uzziel has put the meaning in his own time and interprets “spirit of Yihvah” as “the Word of Yihvah.” In Isaiah 63:14, we read, “the spirit of Yihvah causes him (the beast) to rest.” Here, Isaiah describes animals, but Jonathan ben Uzziel interprets them as people, saying, “the Word of Yihvah led them.”

Satan’s deception of the Jews

We might think that this simple truth of the relationship of Christ and God was misunderstood by the Gentiles because they did not understand the Hebrew language, or because they were not familiar with the Old Testament scriptures.

But in fact, Satan’s scheme began among the Jews. As we said in Chapter 2, the Rabbis suppressed the message of the Word. John’s explanation of the Word caused many Jews to convert to Christ. The Rabbis tried to avoid any association of the Word to the Spirit that spoke for God, the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. They also tried to redefine the meaning of the Holy Spirit, which becomes quite comical as different Rabbis give it a different meaning. They made their new explanations in the Targumim. The Targumim were the most influential interpretations of scripture.

Of course, the standard for all the Targumim was Targum Jonathan of the Prophets. It was believed to be divinely inspired by the all the Jews. Its meanings agree completely with the New Testament. Holy Spirit, the Word, and the spirit of prophecy in Targum Jonathan have the same meaning that they do in the New Testament. The expression “spirit of prophecy” was used by the Apostle John in Revelation 19:10 to describe the spirit of prophecy that proceeded from God.

But subsequent Targumim did not follow the interpretations of Targum Jonathan. The Targum of the Psalms called the Holy Spirit in Psalm 51:11-12, “the spirit of prophecy.”

The Targumim of the Pentateuch are the most revealing. Here, we can compare the apostolic message, with the new teachings of the Rabbis.  We have five different Targum sources for the five books of Moses. None of these are believed to have been divinely inspired.

As expected, the most favored translations are those that do not point to Christ as the Messiah.

The official Targum of the synagogue is Targum Onkelos. We also have the Pseudo Jonathan Targum, otherwise known as the Palestine Targum. Neither the Pseudo Jonathan Targum, or Targum Onkelos contain any references to the Word, as the creator in Genesis 1, the message that was preached by the Apostle John.

But we have another group of Targum sources that does explain the Apostolic message. These are harder to find. We have one copy of the Targum Neofiti, which was discovered in 1956, and we have fragments of Targumim that explain the role of the Word in Genesis 1. All these Targumim also explain “the Spirit” in Numbers 11, correctly as “the Holy Spirit.”

In the table below, we summarize how each Targum interpret references to the spirit of Christ, and the spirit of God.

There are a couple of differences that have no significance:

  1. The expression “from before the Lord” describes a spirit of God. The expressions “spirit of prophecy from before the Lord” (SPFBL), and “spirit of wisdom from before the Lord” (SWFBL), are equivalent to “holy spirit from before the Lord” (HSFBL) that we see used in the Neofiti Targum. In Isaiah 11:2, the spirit of God on Christ is called “spirit of Yihvah, spirit of wisdom…” In Isaiah 61:1, it is called “My holy spirit.” The Neofiti Targum has simply used the same expression.

  2. In Number 27:18, two Targumists correctly believed the spirit of wisdom on Joshua to be a spirit “from before the Lord.”

What we really want to know is what does the expression “Holy Spirit” mean in Targum Onkelos, and Pseudo Jonathan? We have highlighted “HS” in Genesis 6:3 and 45:27.

The Holy Spirit in Targum Onkelos

Targum Onkelos explained the Holy Spirit as the spirit of prophecy.

But it uses the expression “Holy Spirit” only once.

The Hebrew text of Genesis 45:27 says, “The spirit of their father Jacob was revived.” The spirit of his life was revived when he found out that Joseph was alive. Targum Neofiti makes no change of this text. But Targum Onkelos translates it as “the Holy Spirit rested וּשרָת on Jacob.” It used the same verb in Numbers 11:26, “the spirit of prophecy rested וּשרָת on them.” Pseudo Jonathan translates Genesis 45:27 as “the Spirit of Prophecy which had gone up from him at the time that Joseph was sold, returning, rested upon Jakob their father.” It seems that Targum Onkelos followed the interpretation as Pseudo Jonathan and regarded “Holy Spirit” as equivalent to the “spirit of prophecy.” As did the Targum of the Psalms.

The Holy Spirit in Targum Pseudo Jonathan

The Pseudo Jonathan Targum explained the Holy Spirit as the spirit of the breath of life in every creature.

It uses the expression “Holy Spirit” 15 times. The expression “spirit of prophecy” is used 11 times.

In Genesis 6:3, we read, “My spirit shall not strive with man forever … his days shall be 120 years.” The Pseudo Jonathan Targum translated this as: “Have I not imparted My Holy Spirit to them that they may work good works?” 

We might think it ridiculous to equate the spirit of the breath of life to the Holy Spirit, but this belief was also put forward by a famous 19th Century Jewish convert C.W.H. Pauli, in his book, The Great Mystery: How Can Three Be One?   He said that the spirit in Genesis 1:2, 6:3, and Isaiah 63:14 the spirit of God in beasts, was the Holy Spirit. As proof, he quoted from the Pseudo Jonathan Targum translation of Genesis 6:3, and he attributed this Targum to Jonathan ben Uzziel.

C.W.H. Pauli also quoted from the Zohar:

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).

C.W.H. Pauli later translated Targum Jonathan of Isaiah, which dispelled some of his earlier ideas.

Many orthodox Jews, believe the Zohar was written by Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai, a renowned Rabbi of the second century. He lived in Galilee (Palestine). Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai was a mystic. In one story, we are told that he “learned through the power of the Holy Spirit what the Samaritan had done [to harm Simeon].”1https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13723-simeon-ben-yohai This type of revelation appears throughout Pseudo Jonathan: for example, Rebekah hears the conversation of Isaac with Esau by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit helps Rebekah to hear Esau’s plan to kill Jacob. It seems very likely that the Pseudo Jonathan was translated by one of Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai’s associates, or even Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai himself! Rabbi Simeon was active in the time of Emperor Hadrian, 78-138 CE, Onkelos (35–120 CE), and Justin Martyr.

Satan’s deception of the Gentiles

Justin Martyr also lived in Palestine in the early Second Century, and it is very possible that he got his ideas about the spirit of God in Genesis 1:2, from the Rabbis, who had equated “the Spirit” in Numbers 11, a birthed spirit, to the spirit of prophecy.

In his First Apology, of 150 AD, Justin Martyr claimed that the spirit of prophecy was a third person who was born on the waters in Genesis 1:2.

But the confusion of the Gentiles had already began in apostolic time.

Though all believers understood that the Spirit of Christ was not the Spirit of God, many people began to believe that the Spirit of Christ had been 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 the meaning of 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, and you will believe that the Spirit of God was in John the Baptist, and the prophets.

Paul wrote:

“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
Who was revealed in the flesh,
Was justified in 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.

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 is designated Manuscript (01). It was written between 325 and 360, twenty years before the Trinity doctrine was established in 381. 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 emphasize that Christ was the Spirit “who was manifested in the flesh.”

The Epistle of Barnabas (A.D. 70–130) 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 (A.D. 85–145) 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 unblameably” (Parable 5: 6[7]).

The idea that Christ was two persons—one spirit and one flesh—was incorrect, but it would continue to reappear. In the fifth century, it became known as “Nestorianism.”

Confusion regarding Jesus’ baptism instruction

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

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells 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 is called “Wonderful.” The spirit of God as the Counsellor is described in Isaiah 11:2 and 40:13. 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 changed the name of God, which was given at the burning bush.

Initially, Justin Martyr believed that the name of God was Jesus6. But when he moved to Rome in 150, 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, which he ranked as “third place”7. Furthermore, he began to believe that no one could know the name of God8.

Justin Martyr 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.

  1. a.k.a. “Targum Jonathan” or “Pseudo Targum Jonathan”
  2. The last Adam is explained in Romans 5:12–15.
  3. We have omitted the expression “man” added to the NKJV, which is not in the original Greek text.
  4. On the Life of Moses, II, LI, 291
  5. Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 3a
  6. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 75
  7. First Apology, Chapter 13
  8. First Apology, Chapter 61

References[+]