The Prophet Of The Spirit: The Use Of Rwḥ “ ” In The Book Of Ezekiel -- By: Daniel I. Block

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:1 (Mar 1989)
Article: The Prophet Of The Spirit: The Use Of Rwḥ “ ” In The Book Of Ezekiel
Author: Daniel I. Block


The Prophet Of The Spirit: The Use Of Rwḥ “
” In The Book Of Ezekiel

Daniel I. Block*

Pneumatology, “the doctrine of the Holy Spirit,” is essentially a NT doctrine. Few branches of theology suffer from the neglect of the OT like the doctrine of the Spirit. When reference is made to this source it is generally handled in one of the following ways: (1) The OT data are quickly summarized as a preamble to the real stuff, the teaching of the NT. In the process, one senses impatience, the enterprise being engaged in more out of duty than genuine interest. (2) The OT is referred to only in passing, while the focus is fixed on the NT. (3) The OT is appealed to for the sake of analogy, as often as not to emphasize the discontinuity between the Spirit’s operation in the two Testaments.

Some of the reasons for this wanton neglect are obvious. (1) For many, the expression “Holy Spirit” is a slogan. Since the phrase appears only three times in the OT (Ps 51:13 [11]; Isa 63:10, 11), it seems to be assumed that little interest or information is to be found there. (2) Our theological systems have denigrated the value of the OT as a whole, with the result that a general ignorance pervades all of evangelical Christendom at many levels. (3) We have made little effort to master either the language or the thought patterns of the Hebrews. Consequently, we have little comprehension of the forms of expression and idioms used in the OT. We do not recognize the Holy Spirit when we see him at work.

These are but a few of the hurdles that the next generation of Biblical scholars and theologians will need to overcome. The problem will not be resolved overnight. One of the first steps in recovering the OT for contemporary pneumatology, however, will be to examine systematically and deliberately each of the OT documents that has so much as a whisper to contribute to the subject. I offer this study as a modest proposal in that direction.

I. The Vocabulary Of The Spirit

The richness of Hebrew vocabulary is reflected in the employment of three different expressions for “spirit” in the OT: ʾwb, ns̆mh, and rwḥ. The first of these is relatively rare, and its etymology remains obscure. The word denotes “a bottle made of skins” in Job 32:19, but this usage is

* Daniel Block is professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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