The Holy Spirit (Part 4): The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

In Hebrew, the word for “Spirit” (Ruakh) was the same word for “breath”. That’s why, for Hebrews, there would have been a very natural connection between “Spirit” and spoken “words.” You can’t have spoken words without spirit/breath. (See Part 1 for more on the meaning of “Spirit”).

In the Old Testament men were sometimes said to speak by God’s Spirit. That means that their words were not simply their own, but were God’s own spoken words.

The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me:
his word is on my tongue.

2 Samuel 23:2

But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me… I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 3:24-26

When the prophets were filled with the Spirit, they spoke words from God. That’s why when the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, the words of scripture are frequently attributed to the Holy Spirit rather than to the human author.

Jesus Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Matthew 22:41-45

When Jesus quoted from Psalm 110, he recognized that he was reading the words of David. He also recognized that David spoke those words “in the Spirit.”

Mark records the same conversation with the following words:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?”

Mark 12:35-37

Jesus recognized that Psalm 110 contained the words of “David himself”. He also recognized that David wrote those words while “In the Holy Spirit.” This means that God’s words were on David’s tongue (2 Sam. 23:2). At the same time, these were still the words of David. It was still written in David’s vocabulary, David’s style, and for David’s purpose. They were both David’s words and God’s words at the same time.

Peter Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Peter uses similar language when referring to Psalm 109.

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.

Acts 1:15-17

Later on, Peter attributes the predictions of the prophets to the Holy Spirit.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1 Peter 1:10-12

Notice that Peter says the prophets did not always understand the meaning of what they wrote. This indicates that there was another mind or spirit behind these words other than their own. The Holy Spirit expressed his words through them so that the final product was what God intended to say.

Paul Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Paul used similar language when he attributed the writings of Isaiah to the Holy Spirit:

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

“Go to this people, and say,
‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.’
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Acts 28:24-27

The Book of Hebrews Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

The book of Hebrews also attributes the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit. Notice the way it refers to the books of Exodus and Leviticus (the law), the book of Jeremiah (the prophets), and the book of Psalms (the writings), thus attributing the three major sections of the Old Testament all to the Holy Spirit.

The law (referring to Exodus 25-26; 36; and Leviticus 16):

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand, and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covering on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing.

Hebrews 9:1-8

The prophets (quoting Jeremiah 31:33-34):

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Hebrews 10:15-17

The Psalms (quoting Psalm 95:7-11):

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you will hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Hebrews 3:7-11

Stephen Speaks of Resisting the Holy Spirit

Stephen accused his persecutors of resisting the Holy Spirit.

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have not betrayed and murdered.

Acts 7:51-52

How did their ancestors resist the Holy Spirit? By persecuting the prophets and resisting the words the Holy Spirit had spoken concerning the Righteous One.

The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

Peter says that the writers of the Old Testament were “driven” or “carried along” by the Holy Spirit.

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:20-21

The Greek word translated “carried along” was the word used of a ship being driven or carried along by the wind in its sail.

And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind (pnuma), we gave way to it and were driven along.

Acts 27:15

This indicates that the Holy Spirit/Pnuma “carried along” the human authors when they wrote scripture. It was the Spirit that “drove them” or “moved them” as they wrote their messages. Ultimately, they were writing what the Holy Spirit wanted them to write.

This does not mean that we should imagine the biblical authors as going into some sort of mindless trance, as their hand magically wrote words without their realizing what was being written. It is possible that David stayed up long hours of the night crafting the poems we now call the psalms. It is possible that the biblical authors wrote rough drafts, and revised those drafts multiple times. It is possible that they researched and compiled from other sources. It is possible that God inspired prophetic editors to craft the books into their final forms. The Old Testament was written by human authors, and contains the fully human words of those authors themselves. We just don’t know all the details.

All we have is the final product, and we know that the end result was God’s authoritative word, as spoken through the Holy Spirit. It was God’s words on their tongues (cf. 2 Sam. 23:2). They wrote exactly what God wanted them to say. Exactly how this occurred, the Bible doesn’t say. But we do know that the Holy Spirit/Breath/Mind of God gave us the Old Testament.

2 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit (Part 4): The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

  1. Pingback: The Holy Spirit (Part 5): Prophesies Concerning the Spirit – The Christian Exile

  2. Pingback: The Holy Spirit in John – The Christian Exile

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