- 1 He will give you “another Helper”
- 2 The Messenger became known as “the Spirit”
- 3 The Holy Spirit in the Prophets
- 4 The Targum called the Spirit of Christ, “the Word”
- 5 The anointing of the Spirit of Christ was described with feminine verbs
- 6 The Greek expression τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον means “the Spirit of the Holy One”
- 7 The Spirit of Christ in the Prophets was a “speaking Spirit”
- 8 A Survey of the Old Testament Passages
- 9 The Spirit of the Holy One was in the Prophets, including John the Baptist
- 10 The Message of Christ and the Apostles
- 11 The Message of the Targumim
- 12 Confusion about the Spirit of Christ begins
He will give you “another Helper”
In the New Testament, the expression “spirit” without the definite article describes the anointing of the speaking spirit, “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, “He will only speak what He hears” (John 16:13). In the Lord’s Day, Christ will once again speak for the invisible God, as we see in the first Chapter of Revelation, when the Spirit of Christ says, “I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17).
Throughout the Bible, the expression “Holy Spirit” describes an anointing. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the anointing of the holy spirit was described with feminine pronouns, as we can clearly see in Appendix 4.
The anointing of the Spirit of Christ was first described in Numbers 11. Here, God said that He would take of the spirit that was on Moses and put it in on the seventy elders. Here, the Spirit was called “the Spirit” הרוח, with the definite article in Numbers 11:17, 25, and 26. This may explain why the Spirit of Christ is called “the Spirit” throughout the New Testament.
There is no mention of Moses being anointed by the Spirit of Christ. 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 Targum1 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; 39:3; 39:21; 39:23).
The message of the Word as the “support” or Helper of Israel is throughout the Targum of Isaiah (Isaiah 17:18; 31:1; 41:10; 41:13; 14; 43:2, 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 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 Paul called Christ the spiritual drink that the Israelites drank, after being baptized in the sea.
The Messenger became known as “the Spirit”
The Book of Judges reveals that the Israelites understood that the Messenger of YHVH, the Angel of God, was a Spirit, who was manifest in visible form as an Angel, the ELOHIM, who spoke to Moses.
In Judges, the prophetess Deborah said,
“‘Curse Menoz,’ said the Angel of YHVH.”
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 the 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.
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 as the Holy Spirit
Isaiah told us “The Messenger” was the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.
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, is simply “Messenger,” and the word פָּנָיו֙ (panaw) that 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 met “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 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.
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, 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 that he received when he was anointed as 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 said, “YHVH 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 which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit (Word 2) through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.”
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.”
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 that was poured out on the Day of Pentecost.
The Targum called the Spirit of Christ, “the Word”
The Targum of Jonathan ben Uziel is the only Targum that was believed to be divinely inspired. Targum Jonathan equated the phrase “Holy Spirit” to “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.
But in Hebrew, the writer chooses whether masculine and feminine verbs are used, when describing the word RUH, Spirit. When used with the meaning of wind or human spirit, RUAH is quite often masculine (as in Ex 10:13, 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 YHVH that was “a lying spirit” in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets in 1 Kings 22:24, and 2 Chronicles 18:23, was also described with masculine pronouns.
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 are the only examples:
“Who has directed the Spirit of YHVH, to counsel-HIM, inform-HIM?”
Isaiah 40:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16
“The Spirit of YHVH, HE-spoke in me, and His Word was on my tongue.”
2 Samuel 23:2
Here, the real speaker of prophecy aws identified as God Himself, the Spirit of Christ, was only His Messenger, the Holy Spirit that was in David.
Of course, when describing, the Messenger, masculine pronouns were used, but when describing the anointing of the Spirit of Christ, only feminine modifiers were always used.
For example, the Spirit of YHVH that came on David when he was anointed was described, saying, ‘The Spirit of YHVH, she-came upon David …” (1 Samuel 16:13).
Isaiah 11:2 describes the anointing of the Spirit of God on Christ, with feminine verbs, “the Spirit of YHVH, SHE-shall rest on Him.”
The use of feminine verbs distinguishes “an anointing” from “a person.”
The Greek expression τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον means “the Spirit of the Holy One”
The Greek Septuagint translated “Holy Spirit” in Isaiah 63:10, and 11, as τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον. This expression is comprised of two nouns and two definite articles. This kind of Greek expression was only otherwise used to describe “the Shekel of the Sanctuary,” τὸν σίκλον τὸν ἅγιον, 16 times in the Greek Septuagint, and “the Holy One of Israel,” τὸν ἅγιον τοῦ Ισραηλ, 9 times. The Hebrew expressions sheqel ha-qodhesh and Holy One of Israel can only be translated literally as “the Shekel of the Sanctuary.” Therefore, we know that τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον literally means, “the Spirit of the Holy One,” or “the Spirit of the Sanctuary.”
In Psalm 51:11, the Greek Septuagint translates “Your Holy Spirit” as τὸ πνεῦμά σου τὸ ἅγιον. This literally means, “Your Spirit, the Holy One.”
In the Targum, the “Holy One of Israel” described Christ as “the Word” or “Shekinah,” and and “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, maybe 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 identifies “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 identifies 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 expression “the Spirit of the Holy One” τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον describes the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of God. It does not describe another person in the Bible.
The Spirit of Christ in the Prophets was a “speaking Spirit”
The Spirit that came on Ezekiel was described as a speaking spirit, “the Spirit of YHVH, she-fell-on-me saying, “speak, thus says the Lord…” (Ezekiel 11:5).
In the New Testament, the anointing of the Spirt of God is also described as a “speaking Spirit.” This Spirit speaks the message of Christ.
A Survey of the Old Testament Passages
In the Appendix, we have listed all the Old Testament verses that describe the Spirit of YHVH, and the Spirit of ELOHIM, that describe the Spirit of Christ in the prophets, and the Spirit of God.
The identification of the Spirit of Christ as the anointing on the prophets, really 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.”
The Holy Spirit, or Anointing, on the Prophets was always described with feminine verbs, and normally with the expressions “She Came On,” and “She Rested on.”
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. There was only one “Holy Spirit” in the Old Testament. That Holy Spirit was the Word, as Jonathan Ben Uziel explained.
The Spirit of the Holy One was in the Prophets, including John the Baptist
As we 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. But 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, 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” (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 the 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, 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 who are baptized by the Spirit of God in the kingdom of heaven are the Sons are 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.”
The Targum explained that “the Word” was “the Helper” of Israel. The Word was the “Helper” or “Paraclete” of Joseph, and the helper of Jacob, 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?’”
In 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, 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.
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.
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 3:12, 14; 8:;, 11:1, 24; 43:5). This was similar to John’s expression “I was in the Spirit” (Rev 1:10; 4:2). 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 3 became a life-giving Spirit . . . And as we have borne the image of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”4
In 2 Corinthians 3:17 and 18, Paul brought out 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. 18But 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 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 Uziel clearly made this connection in his translation of the prophets.
The Jerusalem Targum, and the Targum Neofiti calls the Spirit in the Book of Numbers, 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 70 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”(On the Life of Moses, II, LI, 291). 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 that they all drank.
The Onkelos Targum told 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 39:2, 21, 23, 48:21, 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 30 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 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 ben Uziel 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.
“The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,
‘Go to this people and say: Hearing you will not understand.’”
“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.’”
“not of My Spirit”
“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”
“The LORD God and His Word sent me”
“The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against them”
“by the Word of the LORD, they shall be plundered”
“But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit”
“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”
“where is He who made the Word of His holy prophets dwell among them”
“the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest”
“the Word of the LORD led them”
“Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted?”
“has the Word of the LORD been shortened?”
“not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit”
“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”
“lest they should hear the law and the words which the LORD of Hosts sent by His Word”
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,” because they refer to the Spirit of God.
- The first is Isaiah 42:1, which describes the Holy Spirit to be put on Christ, and here the Targumist translates Spirit as “Holy Spirit.”
- 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.”
- Isaiah 40:13, speaks of God Himself saying, “who has directed the Spirit of YHVH to counsel Him” (1 Cor 2:16), The Targumist says, “who has established the Holy Spirit in the mouth of the prophets.” In other words. no one counsels God, God instructs men.
- Isaiah 40:7 speaks of the Spirit of the breath of life, which is translated “the Spirit from YHVH blows.”
- Isaiah 61:1, and Micah 3:8, which refer to the Spirit of God as the Spirit of Prophecy as explained in the next Chapter.
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 the meaning of manifest in the flesh
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.
“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
Who was revealed in the flesh,
Was justified 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.
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, 20 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 emphasized 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).
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).”
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).
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 the Holy Spirit was a third person in the Bible.
In Matthew 28:19, 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 of God is the Counsellor described in Isaiah 11:2, and Isaiah 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 had changed the name of God, which was given at the burning bush.
Initially, Justin Martyr believed that the name of God was Jesus 5. 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, who he ranked as “third place” 6. And he began to believe that no one could know the name of God.7
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.
- a.k.a. Targum Jonathan, or Pseudo Targum Jonathan ↩
- Targum Jonathan ↩
- The last Adam is explained in Romans 5:12–15. ↩
- We have omitted the expression “man” added to the NKJV, which is not in the original Greek text. ↩
- Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 75 ↩
- First Apology, Chapter 13 ↩
- First Apology, Chapter 61 ↩