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The Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy, and the Church

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    The Spirit of Prophecy

    But what about the expression “spirit of prophecy”? What does this mean? We have already noticed that it is used but once in the entire Bible, and that is in Revelation 19:10. Furthermore, we have no exact counterpart of this expression in Holy Scriptures to guide us. There are also other expressions similar in form, such as “the spirit of life” (Revelation 11:11), “the spirit of glory” (1 Peter 4:14), “the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29). But never do we find the expression “spirit of prophecy” in any other passage in the Sacred Scriptures.BSPC 109.4

    But the term “spirit of prophecy” is not after all such an isolated expression as one might suppose. Although it occurs only once in the Holy Scriptures, it is to be found in ancient Jewish writings and also in a number of books of recent date. Several works where the expression is found are here cited.BSPC 109.5

    The term “spirit of prophecy” with reference to the prophetic gift is found in the ancient Jewish writings. The expression occurs in the Targums on the Book of Genesis. Both the Onkelos and the Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 41:38 read the same, as follows:BSPC 110.1

    “And Pharaoh said to his servants, Can we find a man like this, in whom is the spirit of prophecy from the Lord?”—The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch, vol. 1, pp. 131, 303.BSPC 110.2

    The Onkelos and the Palestine Targum concerning Joshua read:BSPC 110.3

    “And the Lord said to Mosheli, Take to thee Jehoshua bar Nun, a man upon whom abides the Spirit of prophecy from before the Lord.”—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 442.BSPC 110.4

    Also Edward Lewis Curtis says that the Targum or paraphrase on Chronicles “explains somewhat similarly, except that the Sucathites are those ‘covered’ with a spirit of prophecy.”—International Critical Commentary on Chronicles (1910), p. 98.BSPC 110.5

    The Targum of Jonathan on 2 Samuel 23:2 reads:BSPC 110.6

    “David said, By the Spirit of prophecy of Jehovah I speak these things.”—Quoted in Appendix Note IV to II Samuel in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: University Press, 1899), p. 237.BSPC 110.7

    The Pulpit Commentary remarks:BSPC 110.8

    “David, in his last days, like Jacob and Moses, received the spirit of prophecy.”—On 2 Samuel 23:1-7.BSPC 110.9

    Leupold comments:BSPC 110.10

    “Jacob has been induced by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy, to do this.”—H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (1942), p. 1155.BSPC 110.11

    Commenting on 2 Kings 22:14, Joseph Priestly remarks concerning Huldah:BSPC 110.12

    “It pleased God to distinguish several women with the spirit of prophecy, as well as other great attainments, to show that, in his sight, and especially in things of a spiritual nature, there is no essential pre-eminence in the male sex.”—Notes on All the Books of Scripture, vol. 2, p. 40.BSPC 110.13

    James Darmesteter refers to the “Spirit of prophecy” in his “Prophets of Israel,” in his Selected Essays, page 43.BSPC 110.14

    J. C. Lambert in an article on “Prophet” tells us that “the spirit of prophecy, as it meets us under the Old Dispensation, runs on into the New.” This appears in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, page 764.BSPC 110.15

    In the Abingdon Bible Commentary the author refers to “the bestowal of the spirit of prophecy on the seventy elders.”—page 302.BSPC 111.1

    In the Jewish Encyclopedia we read, “The Holy Spirit is at times identified with the spirit of prophecy.”—Article, “Holy Spirit” (1.904), vol. 6, p. 449.BSPC 111.2

    C. S. Streatfield assures us that Christ in His work was moved by “the Spirit of Prophecy.”—The Incarnation, p. 41.BSPC 111.3

    John Lightfoot remarks, “The Jerusalem Talmudists say, There were five things wanting under the second Temple, which were, under the first; the fire from Heaven, the Ark, Urim and Thummim, the oil of anointing, and the holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Prophesy.”—Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations Upon the Evangelist St. John, in Works of John Lightfoot, vol. 2, p. 802.BSPC 111.4

    Matthew Henry, in his commentary on the Bible, uses the term “spirit of prophecy” in relation to the following persons:BSPC 111.5

    Deborah Vol. 1, p. 517 Simeon Vol. 3, p. 254
    Hannah Vol. 1, p. 584 Elisabeth Vol. 3, p. 247
    Huldah Vol. 1, p. 835 Agabus Vol. 3, p. 633
    Anna Vol. 3, p. 254 Gentiles Vol. 2, p. 1040

    Peter Lange uses it also in his commentary on Luke 2:36, 26. It is found also in the Pulpit Commentary relating to Moses and Jacob on 2 Samuel 23:1, 2.BSPC 111.6

    In the year 1679 there was published in London, England, a volume entitled The Spirit of Prophecy. It was written by William Hughes, a prominent minister in his day. Over and over again he makes use of the expression, particularly showing that Christ and His apostles had this gift in wonderful measure and that this was one of the great evidences of the divine impress upon their ministry.BSPC 111.7

    In the light of these references it is evident that John did not coin the expression “spirit of prophecy”; it was evidently a term in current use in his day, as is seen in its use in the Targums and the Jewish writings. Furthermore, modern commentators and writers quite freely use it to designate what John also calls “the testimony of Jesus.”BSPC 111.8

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