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The Demonstration Of The Apostolic Preaching by Irenæus

Chapter 1 The Holy Spirit in relation to Prophecy.à

The Holy Spirit in relation to Prophecy. Justin first mentions the Holy Spirit under the designation of |the prophetic Spirit| (Ap.1, 6); and this designation frequently recurs. It is noteworthy that prophecy itself is first introduced in answer to the supposed objection, why should not Christ have been a mere man, who by magic performed the miracles attributed to him and so was considered a Son of God? No Christian writer of that day would have been prepared to answer this by denying the power of magic. Justin's answer is on quite a different line. Many generations before the coming of Christ the main events of His life on earth, including the wonders of healing which He should perform, had been foretold by the Jewish prophets. The verification of these prophecies in the story contained in the Gospels was the surest testimony to the truth of what Christians claimed for Christ.

The expression |the prophetic Spirit,| occurs frequently both in the First Apology and in the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Sometimes Justin says |the holy prophetic Spirit,| and once (Ap.32) |the divine holy prophetic Spirit.| Now |the prophetic Spirit,| means the Spirit of the prophets. So Athenagoras, who follows Justin, interpreting and sometimes correcting him, says that it is the Spirit |which works in those who make prophetic utterances,| and he adds that it is |an effluence of God,| as the ray is of the sun. The prophets in question are the Jewish prophets: and Justin's insistence on |the prophetic Spirit| is understood when we remember the attempt that was then being made to distinguish the God of the Old Testament (|the Just God|) from the God of the New Testament (|the Good God|). This was to cut off Christianity from the past, and to destroy its historical background and its function as the fulfillment of the age-long purpose of God. There was, however, a further reason for emphasizing |the prophetic Spirit,| a reason of even greater importance from the standpoint of Christian evidence. The correspondence between the Gospel facts and the prophetic utterances proved two things: namely, that the claim of Jesus to be the Christ was valid, and that the Spirit of the prophets was of God.

We do not in our apologetic today make this use of the exact correspondence of Old Testament texts with facts recorded in the Gospels. But the deeper meaning of the argument -- deeper than those who used it knew -- the preparation in Jewish history for the coming of the Christ, and the continuity of the self-revelation of God -- that is of the essence of the Christian argument still. And we must not forget how great a debt we owe to those who, with a narrow and tiresome literalness of exposition, claimed the Old Testament as the sacred book of the early Christian Church. |Who spake by the prophets| represents the primary conception of the Holy Spirit in the writers of the second century: just as the great sentence which precedes it in the Creed -- |Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified| -- goes beyond what they were able to say, and represents the final pronouncement of the Church after two more centuries of uncertainty and debate.

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