The following thesis was companion to a presentation made at the 2017 Symposium on the Apostle’s Doctrine. Please note that this thesis is published via Academia and future publication-pending and is thus an intellectual property. Please make appropriate citations. (Author Timothy C. Hadden, 2017).
Nothing is quite as important, within the multi-faceted disciplines of Systematic Theology, than an accurate and scripturally-informed Pneumatology. While this certainly does not seek to diminish the other disciplines, the underlying premise of such a statement is built upon the simple fact that, how one views the Spirit of God determines the role and function of God’s spirit within human agency and the cosmos. Because of this, one must first recognize that the Spirit of God demands a theology that encompasses both Old and New Testament study. That being said, any attempt to investigate a proper Theology of the Spirit, especially as it relates to humanity and the world, must pay careful attention to the naturally unfolding narrative of the Scriptures. Thus, beginning with God’s רוּחַ [rûaḥ] in the Old Testament, one can carefully move through the language, metaphors, and anthropomorphisms that give shape and substance to an accurate understanding of the Spirit of God and its role and function within humanity and the world.
The Spirit of God in the Old Testament
In the words of Jesus Christ, while admonishing Nicodemus of the necessity to be born of the water and of the Spirit, the question was posed: “art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things” (Jn. 3:10, King James Version). This question, asked of one well-versed in what modernity calls the Old Testament (OT), reveals that a New Testament understanding of the Spirit is only properly informed through the foundation of the OT scriptures. In other words, as Walton (2011) observed, “it becomes our exegetical duty to determine how the Israelites apprehended the phrase [spirit of the Lord]” (p. 66). Not only does it become our exegetical duty to determine how the Israelites apprehended the Spirit of God, it also become our duty to apprehend how God sought to reveal His Spirit within the created world from the beginning of time.
The Spirit and Creation
There are almost 400 times in the OT that רוּחַ [rûaḥ] occurs, and when contrasted to contemporary literature of the Ancient Near East, “has a unique development of its lexical range of meaning” (Hildebrandt, 1995, p. 5). Across the broad spectrum of lexical meanings, [rûaḥ] is primarily translated as wind, breath, and spirit. Of these three, wind seems to be the “customary meaning of the Hebrew word when unaccompanied by any explanatory modifier” (Schoemaker, 1904, p. 14). Yet, as Frankel & Teutsch (1992) discuss, many times [rûaḥ] is used as a symbolism for “God’s agency in the natural world” (p. 259, wind). Often times, in the instances where [rûaḥ]as wind seems to be interchangeable with [rûaḥ]as the Spirit of God, the idea of power and invincibility is intended (Schoemaker, 1904).
When confronted by the rûaḥ ʾelōhîm [spirit of God] of Genesis 1:2, one is immediately drawn to the dynamic moving associated with the Spirit’s introduction. The invisible, yet powerful hovering of the Spirit of God with the tōhû wābōhû [lifeless and unproductive] condition of the earth lends toward the immediate potential of radical transformation. The connotations of the rûaḥ ʾelōhîm and its role in creation is captured vividly by Robert Hubbard (2011) in that, if human eyes/ears were watching/hearing the events of Genesis 1:2:
…they might see the effects of its silent movement across the waters…. the rûaḥ soaring like an eagle, then in its wake flow gentle ripples or majestic waves rolling across the deep…. they might hear its rustle or rumble, audible like the wind….in sum, visible signs and audible sounds from an invisible source attest the on-site presence of the mysterious rûaḥ in Genesis 1:2. (p. 84)
This is further established following the disobedience of man in the Garden and the first recorded interaction of God with fallen humanity. It was in the wind [rûaḥ] of the day that fallen humanity heard the sound, translated as voice in many English translations, of God moving in their direction. Once again, the movement of the invisible God is captured within the metaphoric idea of air in motion; the effect and sound of such movement evident to the senses of Adam and Eve (see also Psalm 29:3-9).
The involvement and interaction of God with humanity, as captured by the idea of air in motion, continues to be a primary element throughout the OT. When God manifests himself to Ezekiel, it is out of a whirlwind [rûaḥ] coming out of the north (Ezek. 1:4). Again, as captured in David’s song of thanksgiving (2 Sam. 22), God is said to have been perceived as riding on a cherub upon the “wings of the wind [rûaḥ]” (v. 11). In each of these instances, wind is utilized as a theophanic element to describe the appearing of God to man and, as later discussion will reveal, played an important role in the new birth experience in the New Testament.
What remains important to understand is that, regardless of the theophanic element utilized throughout scriptures to identify God’s interaction with the cosmos, the motifs and various manifestations serve to symbolically assert the “presence of Almighty God….and whether stirring humans or nature, the rûaḥ always shows up decisively to intervene or effect change” (Hubbard, 2011, p. 89).
The Spirit of God After the Fall
The immediate consequence that would drive man from the Garden, thus severing that unique relational bond, thrusts one into the immediacy of God’s transcendence in the OT (Ps. 8:1; 97:9; Isa. 55:8-9; 40:22). As discussed by Lister (2015), “Scripture articulates a Lord who is distinct from creation, existing solely in himself eternally, absolute in nature, without noninstrinsic limitations, and fully infinite (p. 38). The relationship of man with the rûaḥ ʾelōhîm, as it had been prior to the fall, was grossly disrupted. However, as Lister (2015) further observed, it was that very transcendence of God that would allow for the imminence of God, that is to say, the presence of God within the world God was also separate from. Rather than abandon man to a fallen world with a bleak future void of God’s involvement, an eternally omnipresent God that transcended a fallen creation would enter human history to be “perpetually manifested” (Abelson, 1912, p. 29) in order to “disclose himself to humanity progressively over time in a logical and comprehensible way” (Lister, 2015, p. 52).
Wilson (2016) further establishes this self-disclosure of God throughout the narrative of scripture by observing, “there has never been a time when God, in His most basic nature, was not proceeding, self-revealing, disclosing, manifesting Himself.” (p. 104). Furthermore, “when God’s presence is made visible….it means there has been a human encounter with the transcendent God” (Lister, 2015, p. 53). Why is this important? It envisions a time, beginning in the Garden of Eden, where the ideal of man in paradise is seen in perfect alignment, both functionally and relationally, with God. It reveals that God always intended to be relationally near to humankind and, as Lister (2015) eloquently states, “for this reason, the divine-human experience of Adam in the Garden provide a paradigm for what will be the fuller experience of the eschatological presence of God in the new heaven and new earth” (p. 53).
However, what Lister (2015) fails to observe is that, while the relational experience of Adam with God in the Garden points toward a future eschatological reality, it also points toward the redemptive purpose of a restored presence in a fallen and broken earth. The progressive and perpetual manifestations of God throughout the OT reveal a God that is actively involved in affecting and influencing redemptive change within the earth by restoring His presence in the earth. As Charette (2000) states, “the very fact that the Spirit is active among the people of God indicates that the presence of God itself has been restored. God’s presence is restored so that his presence might restore” (p. 18).
God’s Spirit in Human Agency
Following the events of the human fall in the Garden of Eden, there is little in the first eleven chapters of Genesis that indicate a divine-human interaction realized through theophanic manifestation or presence-motifs. Instead, the divine-human separation that resulted from the disobedience of man in the Garden is seen in the glaring transcendence of God who watches with anger and disdain as violence, rebellion, and wickedness permeated human imaginations. As one moves into the Patriarchal period, scripture begins to progressively unfold a divine-human interaction that would lead to the charismatic activity of God’s spirit upon human agency. This charismatic activity of God’s spirit, as pointed out by Stronstad (2012), corresponded to “five periods of Israel’s political and religious development…. successively concentrated on founding fathers, judges, kings, prophets, and priests’ (p. 19).
In each instance that the Spirit of God moved upon human agency in the OT, the function was, as stated earlier by Hubbard (2011), “to intervene or effect change” (p. 89). Nowhere does scripture indicate throughout the OT that the Spirit of God indwelt human agency within a permanent salvific context, but rather, the Spirit “came upon people to empower them to do some service for him” (Firth & Wegner, 2011, p. 17). Men, such as the wise-hearted Bezalel and Oholiab, are said to have been filled with the rûaḥ ʾelōhîm “in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship (Ex. 31:3). In this instance, “the narrative symbiosis of heart and spirit suggests that ‘spirit’ ought to be understood similarly…. the emphasis would lie here less upon an irruption of the spirit than an enhancement of spirit” (Levison, 2009, p. 62). This can also be seen within the context of Mosaic leadership when the Spirit endued men with the enhanced qualities of charismatic leadership and wisdom, further established by the subsequent activity of ecstatic prophesying (Ex. 11:25-26).
This brings to light another unique function as it pertained to the Spirit of God and human agency in the OT; it served also to authenticate anointed leadership in Israel. As Charette (2000) observes, “the presence of God’s Spirit authenticates Moses’ leadership and, more importantly, equips him to execute his leadership responsibilities” (p. 27). Again, as expressed by Hamilton (2006), “the Spirit’s presence distinguishes a person from the rest of the nation and thereby qualifies him for his function as an advocate for God’s kingdom” (p. 27). This authenticating aspect of God’s empowering Spirit in the OT is vividly seen through the period of the Judges when God moves upon men such as Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson (Jdg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14).
When Saul was anointed king (I Sam. 10:1), a symbolic act that authorized and set apart an individual to perform a specific work or task, it was prophesied by Samuel that the rûaḥ of Yahweh would come (lit. rush) upon him, causing him to prophecy, and to be changed into another man (v. 6). This is not, as Hamilton (2006) observes, “a conversion experience…. but rather the Spirit’s empowering leaders who will deliver the nation” (p. 31). In much of the same verbiage, the experience of being anointed would also cause the spirit to simultaneously depart from Saul and rush onto David (I Sam. 16:13-14).
Further evidence of this is found in the prayer of Ps. 51:11 where, perhaps recalling the departure of God’s spirit from Saul, David cries out, “take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Even the prophets, often depicted as being influenced, moved, and motivated by the rûaḥ ʾelōhîm were merely men empowered, equipped, and enabled by God to intervene in human events and history and effect change (2 Pet. 1:20-21; cf. Mic. 3:8; Neh. 9:30;). Though none of these individuals experienced an eschatological redemption marked by a spiritual restoration, a glimmer of future events and divine purpose permeated every charismatic activity of God’s Spirit in the OT.
The Foreshadowing of Divine Dwelling
Reiterating the dramatic deliverance from Egypt, Isaiah declares, “Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses…?” (63:11b-12a, English Standard Version). Isaiah, while making reference to the physical location of God’s Holy Spirit, realized first in the Tabernacle (Mishkan) and later in the Temple, brings to light a synthesis within scriptures that reveals, as Lister (2015) points out, “the presence of God at center stage of its redemptive story” (p. 149). This cohesion of scriptures presents a certain thematic cadence where:
It begins with a creation story of humanity…. continues with their exile from this place of God’s presence because of disobedience…. ends with a nation in exile as a result of disobedience yet called back to the province of Judah to engage in the task of temple reconstruction – the supreme symbol of God’s presence. (Dempster, 2003, p. 33)
The Tabernacle, erected during the wilderness journeys of the nation of Israel, sought to address a fundamental dilemma of a transcendent, holy god dwelling among a finite, fallen people. The answer to this dilemma was to carve out a space among men that was dedicated to holiness. As Jonathan Sacks (2015) writes:
Holiness represents those points in space and time where God becomes vivid, tangible, a felt presence. Holiness is a break in the self-sufficiency of the material world, where infinity enters space and eternity enters time. In relation to time, it is Shabbat. In relation to space, it is the Tabernacle. These, in the Torah, are the epicentres of the sacred…. just as God had to practice self-restraint to make space for the finite, so human beings have to practice self-restraint to make space for the infinite. (p. 17)
The Tabernacle and Temple was a space for which the transcendence of God could be encountered by humanity. However, the sacred spaces of the OT that allowed for the immanence of God merely pointed toward an eschatological future where God would not merely dwell among but God would dwell within. For the first time since the Garden of Eden, the presence of God was restored in the earth but, as pointed out prior by Charette (2000), “God’s presence is restored so that his presence might restore” (p. 18). The stage was being set for an eschatological redemption marked by the restoration of presence.
Prophecy and Presence
Though captivity would eventually claim, fracture, and divide the nation of Israel and a picture of a lost presence would ensue (Ezek. 10), “central to the prophetic hope was the promised return of God’s presence” (Fee, 1996, p. 13). Though the prophets would focus extensively on the eschatological hopes of geographical and genealogical inheritance, the undercurrent of the prophecies envisioned a day where the rivers of Eden would flow once again (Gen. 2:10-14; cf. Ezek. 47:1-12; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8). Again, referring to Isaiah 63:11-12, just as the Holy Spirit played the essential role in Israel’s deliverance, it also anticipated a day where the same spirit would enact a redemptive plan to bring about a new creation (65:17).
Ezekiel would declare a coming day marked by the indwelling of the rûaḥ in which a new heart was given (36:26-27; 39:29) and life was restored (37:14; cf. Gen. 2:7). Jeremiah, similar to the new heart of Ezek. 36:26, foretold of a New Covenant where God would put his laws on the inward parts of man (31:33). Both Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, “point to a day after the prophets when God would no longer reside in the temple, but by His spirit would dwell in His people” (Hamilton, 2006, p. 42), thus creating an eschatological community marked by a restored presence (Stronstad, 2010). Isaiah envisions spiritual restoration and renewal like “water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon dry ground” (44:3). Perhaps most significant are the prophecies of Joel that move past the sin of Israel expressed in the progress of the locust (Joel 1:4) and the eschatological day in which God would restore through the outpouring of his spirit upon all flesh, marked by prophetic utterance (2:28-29).
The Spirit in the New Testament
With the opening words of Matthew, the redemptive presence of God enters into salvific history in the form of Jesus Christ, that is to say, Emmanuel — God with us (Matt. 1:23). Furthermore, the rûaḥ as captured moving over the face of the earth (Gen. 1:2) would now be realized in the face of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:1-5; 14; cf. II Cor. 4:6). As stated by Lister (2015), “the redemptive presence of God, once mediated by fire, cloud, and smoke, now stands face-to-face with his people” (p.251). Jesus would become the culmination of every messianic prophecy articulated by Isaiah upon whom the rûaḥ/pneuma would permanently rest (Matt. 3:16; Mk. 1:10; Jn. 1:32). The work and purpose of Jesus Christ (the last-Adam), would only be fully realized through the completed work envisioned by an eschatological redemption involving the restoration of presence made possible through His death, burial, and resurrection (I Cor. 15:4; cf. Col. 2:10-13).
Ye Must be Born Again
When Nicodemus expressed confusion over the commandment of Christ that, “ye must be born again of the water and the spirit,” (Jn. 3:1:7), the accompanying explanation invoked an OT motif of the spirit as rûaḥ (in this instance, Gk. Pneuma); a motif with which Nicodemus should have been familiar. According to Jesus, the restoration of presence realized in being born-again would be evidenced much like the blowing of the wind (Jn. 3:8). In other words, as initially expressed by Hubbard (2011) in relation to the OT rûaḥ, “visible signs and audible sounds from an invisible source that attest the on-site presence of the mysterious rûaḥ” (p. 84). As Köstenberger (2009) states:
Jesus seeks to move Nicodemus from a woodenly literal to a spiritual understanding of what it means to be ‘born again/from above.’…. although the OT does not literally refer to God’s Spirit ‘giving birth’ to spirit (cf. 6:63), it does hold out the vision that God, who is spirit (4:24), will ‘put a new spirit’ in his people (Ezek. 36:26; cf. 27:5, 14). (p. 475)
While there is nothing to give evidence that the followers of Jesus understood or expected the means by which their eschatological redemption and the inauguration of the kingdom of God on earth would be realized (Isa. 32:12-20; 44:1-4; 59:20-21; Ezek. 36:22-32; 27:11-14; 39:29; etc.), the reiteration of OT prophecies lend toward their anticipation of a spiritual event of restoration.
Re-Creation and Restoration
Having been told to tarry in Jerusalem and await the promise of the father, after which they would be endued with power from on high (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8), the events of Pentecost once again draw one to the motif of God’s rûaḥ as found in Genesis 1:2. The on-site attestation of God’s presence is likened to visible signs and audible sounds, in this case, wind and fire/light (Acts. 2:2-3). In explaining the phenomenon of ecstatic behavior and supernatural utterance that followed the outpouring of the Spirit, Peter exclaims, “…he [Jesus] hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (2:33, italics mine). Furthermore, echoing the words of the prophet Joel (2:28-29), the events of Pentecost realize the long-anticipated eschatological gift of God’s indwelling rûaḥ, thus establishing the new-birth paradigm that dictated entrance into the Kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). The event at Pentecost and subsequent events documenting the redemptive restoration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17; 10:44-46; 19:6), would realize the prophetic promises of a new-heart (Ezek. 11:9; 36:26), restored life (Jn. 10:10; cf. Ezek. 37:15; Gen. 2:7), rivers of living water (Jn. 7:38-39; cf. Isa. 44:3), and the rest of the refreshing (Isa. 28:12b; cf. I Cor. 14:21-22).
The charismatic activity of Pentecost and every instance thereafter would reiterate the idea of a new creation (II Cor. 5:7), bringing to bear the dynamic moving of the rûaḥ ʾelōhîm over the tōhû wābōhû [lifeless and unproductive] condition of the earth. As Stephenson (2012) writes, “Pentecost is truly a ‘kairos event’ in which God decisively enters the historical process and introduces something new into it” (p. 62). “As beings filled with the Spirit of God”, observes Macchia (2006), “…. we are harbingers of the new creation to come and the kingdom of God fulfilled” (p. 105). This kairological event first realized at Pentecost would become the benchmark of the Apostles Doctrine that would impact and inform the future writings of the New Testament epistles.
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