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Mor Ephrem
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« on: June 25, 2013, 02:41:39 AM »

With the feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of the Trinity.  What we read about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament was written after his descent, after Christians believed and engaged with the revelation of Christ, the Old Testament, etc., and so the NT speaks a lot about the Spirit.  In the OT, we have references to God's Spirit, his action, and so on, but how was the Spirit understood in OT religion?  How do Jews today understand it?  Is there any concept of the Spirit as a divine person, or is it more like "God's soul" or "God's power"? 
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2013, 02:57:55 AM »

In EO tradition, these are the OT readings for Great Vespers on the eve of Pentecost:

Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29:

The Lord said to Moses: Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of the people, whom you know to be elders of the people, and their scribes; and you shall bring to the Tent of Witness, and they shall stand there with you. And I shall come down and speak with you there, and I shall take of the Spirit which is upon you and place it upon them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, and you shall not bear them alone. And Moses gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stood them around the Tent. And the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses, and He took of the Spirit which was upon him and placed it upon the seventy men, the elders. But as the Spirit rested upon them, they too prophesied in the camp, and then did so no longer. And two men had been left behind in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the second was Modad, and the Spirit rested upon them; and they were of those who had been listed, but they had not come to the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp. And the youth ran and told Moses, and said to him: Eldad and Modad are prophesying in the camp. And Joshua, son of Navi, who was Moses’ assistant, his chosen one, said: My Lord Moses, stop them. And Moses said to him: Why, are you jealous of  me? And who would not give that all the Lord’s people were prophets, whenever the Lord should put His Spirit upon them?

Joel 2:23-32:

Thus says the Lord: Children of Zion rejoice, and be glad in the Lord your God, because He has given you food for justice; and He will send the early and the latter rain for you, as before; and the threshing floors will be full of corn, and the presses overflowing with wine and oil. And I shall repay you for the years that the locust has devoured, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, the chewing locust, and My great power which I sent against you. And you shall eat and be filled, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done wondrous things with you, and My people shall no longer be ashamed forever. And you shall know that I, the Lord your God, am in the midst of Israel, and there is none beside Me, and My people shall no longer be ashamed forever. And it shall be after these things that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your elders will dream dreams, and your youths see visions. And upon My servants and My maidservants I shall pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy; and I shall show wonders in the heaven above and signs in the earth beneath, blood and fire and the vapour of smoke; the sun will be transformed to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord comes; and it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Ezekiel 36:24-28:

Thus says the Lord: I shall take you from among the nations, and gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land; and I shall sprinkle pure water upon you, and you will be purified from all your impurities and from all your idols, and I shall purify you; and I shall give you a new heart and I shall give you a new spirit; and I shall take away the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh; and I shall put My spirit in you and make you walk in My statutes and you shall keep My judgements and fulfil them; and you shall dwell on the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people, and I shall be your God.


The day after Pentecost (Trinity) Sunday is known as the Day of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I only have the hymnography for this day in Greek and Slavonic, not English; the vespers service for this day does not feature OT readings, though there are OT references in the hymns themselves, such as borrowings from, and allusions to, Psalm 50.


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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2013, 03:24:43 AM »

I haven't thought a lot about the subject, but fwiw I can make a few comments based on the Fifth Theological Oration of St. Gregory the Theologian, and what he seemed to think. St. Gregory argued that there was sufficient evidence for acknowledging the existence of the Holy Spirit, and even "important testimonies" of him in the Old Testament:

Quote
The Sadducees altogether denied the existence of the Holy Spirit, just as they did that of Angels and the Resurrection; rejecting, I know not upon what ground, the important testimonies concerning Him in the Old Testament.

-- Oration 31.5

However, St. Gregory also seems to indicate that to find these testimonies you will be required to go "beneath the letter and [look] into the inner meaning," and you would have to have "been deemed worthy to see the hidden beauty" (Oration 31.21). Accordingly, for most people reading the Old Testament, who understood/understand it in a plain or casual manner, there would have seemed to be only obscure indications of the Son or the true role (and Deity) of the Spirit:

Quote
To this I may compare the case of Theology  except that it proceeds the reverse way. For in the case by which I have illustrated it the change is made by successive subtractions; whereas here perfection is reached by additions. For the matter stands thus. The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun's light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory,  the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated. For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues.

-- Oration 31.26
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2013, 04:30:08 AM »

I think the Spirit in the Old Testament was understood as God's indwelling presence.
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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2013, 10:00:50 AM »

I think the Spirit in the Old Testament was understood as God's indwelling presence.

Yes....And not a Person. That would be considered polytheism by Jews.
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« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2013, 12:54:47 AM »

I think the Spirit in the Old Testament was understood as God's indwelling presence.

Can you flesh that out a bit?  Does the HS as "God's indwelling presence" mean what we would say it means, or is it something else? 

I'm always curious what Jews at the time of Jesus must've thought with the increase in talk of a "Holy Spirit".  On the one hand, you have the converts in Acts 19 who didn't even know there was a Holy Spirit, but were only baptised into the baptism of John.  On the other hand, you have Gabriel telling our Lady that she would conceive by the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Granted, the Scriptures were written decades after the events they describe took place, but even so...it doesn't sound strange to us, but would it not have sounded weird to them? 
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 01:37:47 AM »

Quote
I'm always curious what Jews at the time of Jesus must've thought with the increase in talk of a "Holy Spirit".

Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your holy spirit away from me. (Psalm 50)
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2013, 01:45:55 AM »

Sure, I'm generally aware of passages in the OT that we interpret as referring to the Holy Spirit.  But if they understood it as a force or power of God but not a Person, what did they make of it all when, in the NT, the Spirit is spoken of as a person?  Did that transition happen "just like that"? 

Just curious.  Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2013, 10:10:31 AM »

I think the Spirit in the Old Testament was understood as God's indwelling presence.

Yes....And not a Person. That would be considered polytheism by Jews.
but it was being personified, something the Jews still do.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekhinah

Of course, we have insider information (John 15:26), so we know that He is a Person, not just a personification.
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2013, 08:03:18 PM »

On a similar note I have had discussions about the Jewish opinions of demons, as they are spoken of in the new testament, and I was told by a very knowledgeable Jew on another forum that they feel the christians created that whole aspect, and said that they never felt that there were real demons or satan even, only that they were metaphorically used in the stories such as Job and Genesis.

He claimed that Christianity created the supposed myth of demons, so it would seem that would also apply to other spirits , they seem to be in denial of anything that has been used by Christianity.
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« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2013, 12:03:06 AM »

...they seem to be in denial of anything that has been used by Christianity.

There goes the Torah...
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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2013, 12:20:04 PM »

I think the Spirit in the Old Testament was understood as God's indwelling presence.

Can you flesh that out a bit?  Does the HS as "God's indwelling presence" mean what we would say it means, or is it something else? 

I'm always curious what Jews at the time of Jesus must've thought with the increase in talk of a "Holy Spirit".  On the one hand, you have the converts in Acts 19 who didn't even know there was a Holy Spirit, but were only baptised into the baptism of John.  On the other hand, you have Gabriel telling our Lady that she would conceive by the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Granted, the Scriptures were written decades after the events they describe took place, but even so...it doesn't sound strange to us, but would it not have sounded weird to them? 

I think it was personified somehow. Because the Jews singled the Spirit as something unique, divine, a manifestation of the divine etc.. The power, the glory of God, the very Presence of God. So I think, yes it was personified, in the Niceean understanding of the word Person of course.

I think the Jews on the time of Jesus would of believe the same thing... The most important jewish representation of the Shekinah was that of YHWH's manifestation in the Temple. So I think this association of the Spirit with the Temple and the sacred objects is what made the Spirit to be spoken of as the Holy Spirit.

Curios question, considering that shekinah can also mean tabernacle, can the text in Revelation refer to the Shekinah? Did John meant the Shekinah when he wrote that "the tabernacle of God is now with men" ?

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« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2013, 02:42:28 PM »

I don't think Israelites thought of the Spirit of God in terms of a person at first, though it depends on how we understand personhood in God. It must have been clear that God's "I" and His "Spirit" were somehow distinct, in the sense as it was mentioned above that the Spirit is God's action/presence in creation and in His people as differentiated from the God in heaven. Originally it could be perceived rather as some personal energy of God reflecting His mind, however by the time of Jesus such concepts as Spirit of God or Wisdom of God gained the notion of personal perfect expression of God (we may see this especially in the Wisdom literature). The role of the Spirit in the world (being sent to perform the works of God) made Jews to connect Him with angels or divine messengers - they were also called spirits, and so in the intertestamental as well as in Judeo-Christian literature the Spirit is not only called an angel but even identified with Archangel Gabriel (similarly happened with angelic interpretation of the Son of God), and even if it was a mistake it shows clearly that the personhood of the Spirit in the first century must have been well grounded or at least very easy to accept among the Jews.

The idea of the Spirit of God must have been seen between the two extremities or among two intuitions: 1) spirit as a mind, seat of thoughts, emotions of a person and 2) spirit as a divine being, a messenger. The Spirit of God for Jews reflected the personality of God (1) and at the same time made this inner personality accessible to men (2). It's easy to understand why the Spirit became "hypostatized" - though men can't send their "spirits" to perform some task and therefore there spirits can't be thought of as distinct from them, God's Spirit is a person as He is not only in God, but also is sent from Him. And so we come to Orthodox theology of the Trinity: God (the Father) and His Two Hands or His hypostatized, personalized Word and Spirit.

PS That's one of reasons why in my search for true faith I was more convinced by Orthodoxy rather than RC - Orthodoxy is much more Jewish and biblical in this regard.
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« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2013, 06:33:26 PM »

...they seem to be in denial of anything that has been used by Christianity.

There goes the Torah...

Your right, I am sorry, I overstepped as usual.

 But the main point is that the torah introduced the Devil, but I was told that they did not believe that he was a real entity. That contradicts what is said in the New Testament about what Jewish people were saying.
John 10
19The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

It seems to me that they believed in these things then at least.
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« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2013, 06:51:19 PM »

What modern Jews believe in and accept and what contemporaries of Jesus believed in and accepted is a whole different story. Only a fraction of this ancient worldview survived in rabbinic Judaism and it was substantially shaped in opposition to Christianity (and other groups). Not to mention later developments.
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« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2013, 07:12:48 PM »

That is where I have problems with any religion which is based on one God from the start, and then later they decide that was not what they meant, because as it was explained to me , now they refute those past references, and say they were always metaphorical. And what started it was this person who is highly knowledgeable about Judaism was telling someone that the Christians invented Demons as real entities.

It is inconsistent and hypocritical.
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« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2013, 01:41:24 AM »

What modern Jews believe in and accept and what contemporaries of Jesus believed in and accepted is a whole different story. Only a fraction of this ancient worldview survived in rabbinic Judaism and it was substantially shaped in opposition to Christianity (and other groups). Not to mention later developments.

I think it is the same with what Jews believed a few centuries before Christ.
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« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2013, 03:42:22 AM »

What modern Jews believe in and accept and what contemporaries of Jesus believed in and accepted is a whole different story. Only a fraction of this ancient worldview survived in rabbinic Judaism and it was substantially shaped in opposition to Christianity (and other groups). Not to mention later developments.

I think it is the same with what Jews believed a few centuries before Christ.
The major difference is that rabbinic Jews lost  almost whole Temple theology, because they had to cope without it.
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« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2013, 04:28:41 AM »

What modern Jews believe in and accept and what contemporaries of Jesus believed in and accepted is a whole different story. Only a fraction of this ancient worldview survived in rabbinic Judaism and it was substantially shaped in opposition to Christianity (and other groups). Not to mention later developments.

I think it is the same with what Jews believed a few centuries before Christ.
The major difference is that rabbinic Jews lost  almost whole Temple theology, because they had to cope without it.

Call me a fool but I don't believe the Jewish sects on the time of Christ always existed since the giving of the "Torah" .
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« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2013, 05:43:23 AM »

Call me a fool but I don't believe the Jewish sects on the time of Christ always existed since the giving of the "Torah" .
You're not a fool, you're right but still those sects had more in common with Abraham, Moses and David than later Jews. It's not the question of formal existence, but of  mindset.
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