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The Gift of Prophecy (The Role of Ellen White in God’s Remnant Church)

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    The witness of the Targums

    The Jewish readers in John’s day knew what the expression “Spirit of prophecy” meant. They would have understood the expression as a reference to the Holy Spirit, who imparts the prophetic gift to God’s messengers. Rabbinic Judaism equated the Old Testament expressions “Holy Spirit,” “Spirit of God,” and “Spirit of Yahweh” with “the Spirit of prophecy,” as we can see in the frequent occurrence of this term in the Targums (written translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic):GP 44.2

    Thereupon the Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this in whom there is the Spirit of prophecy from before the Lord? 7Bernard Grossfeld, The Targum Onqelos to Genesis, The Aramaic Bible, Martin McNamara, ed. (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1988), 138. (Gen. 41:38).GP 44.3

    Whereupon the Lord revealed Himself in a cloud and spoke with him, and increased the spirit that was upon him and placed upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit of prophecy rested upon them, they prophesying without ceasing . Now two men had remained behind in the camp—one’s name was El- dad; the other’s name was Medad, yet the spirit of prophecy rested upon them though they were listed , but they had not gone out of the Tent and prophesied in the camp [Num. 11:25, 26]. GP 44.4

    Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man who has within himself the spirit of prophecy, and lay your hand on him” 8Grossfeld, The Targum Onqelos to Leviticus and Numbers, The Aramaic Bible, Martin McNamara, ed. (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1988), 102, 145. Other occurrences are Exod. 35:31; Num. 11:17, 25, 26, 29; 24:2; Judg. 3:10; 1 Sam. 10:6; 19:10, 23; 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chron. 15:1; 18:22, 23; 20:14; Ps. 51:13; Isa. 11:2. (Num. 27:18).GP 44.5

    Sometimes the term Spirit of prophecy refers simply to the Holy Spirit, but in many cases it refers to the gift of prophecy given by the Holy Spirit, as is shown by the context of the standard Hebrew text of the Old Testament, called the Masoretic text (MT). Commenting on the expression “Spirit of prophecy” in the Targums, J. P. Schafer says,GP 44.6

    An examination of the verses where TO [Targum Onkelos] uses the term “Spirit of prophecy” shows that in almost all cases there is a direct relationship to the prophecy in the biblical context. The translation “Spirit of prophecy,” although not in the strictest sense literal, is almost always stipulated through the MT (Gen. 41:38—Joseph had the “Spirit of prophecy” because he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream; Num. 11:25—The Spirit that settled on the seventy Elders, according to the MT, brought about “prophesying”; Num. 24:2—Bileam prophesied concerning Israel).GP 45.1

    In other words, the term “Spirit of prophecy” describes a clearly delineated situation, namely the Holy Spirit sent from God who imparts the prophetic gift to man. 9J. P. Schafer, “Die Termini ‘Heiliger Geist’ und ‘Geist der Prophetie’ in den Targumim und das Verhaltnis der Targumim zueinander,” Vetus Testamentum 20 (1970): 310. The translation is my own.GP 45.2

    F. F. Bruce came to the same conclusion:GP 45.3

    The expression “the Spirit of prophecy” is current in post-biblical Judaism: it is used, for example, in a Targumic circumlocution for the Spirit of Yahweh which comes upon this or that prophet. Thus the Targum of Jonathan renders the opening words of Isa. 61:1 as “The Spirit of prophecy from before the Lord God is upon me.” The thought expressed in Rev. 19:10 is not dissimilar to that already quoted from 1 Pet. 1:11 where “the Spirit of Christ” is said to have borne advanced testimony in the Old Testament prophets. There too Jesus is the theme of the witness borne by the prophetic Spirit; the prophets did not know who the person or what the time would be, but at last the secret is out: the person is Jesus; the time is now.GP 45.4

    In Rev. 19:10, however, it is through Christian prophets that the Spirit of prophecy bears witness. What the prophets of pre-Christian days foretold is proclaimed as an accomplished fact by the prophets of the new age, among whom John occupies a leading place. 10F. F. Bruce, The Time Is Fulfilled (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1978), 105, 106.GP 45.5

    Returning to Revelation 12:17, we can say that “the rest of her offspring [the end-time remnant of God’s people] . . . keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ,” which is the Spirit of prophecy, or the prophetic gift. This interpretation is strengthened by a study of the Greek word echo, meaning “to have.” This word indicates possession. They have a gift of God—the prophetic gift. If the testimony of Jesus were our testimony about Jesus, John would have written something like this: “They keep the commandments of God and testify about Jesus,” or, “they bear testimony to Jesus.” But the Greek work echo is never used in the sense “to bear a witness.” 11Pfandl, 312, 313.GP 45.6

    In summary, we can say that the remnant church, which according to prophecy exists after the 1,260-day period (in other words, after 1798), has two specific identifying marks: (1) they keep the commandments of God, including the Sabbath command as God has given it; and (2) they have the testimony of Jesus, which is the Spirit of prophecy, or the prophetic gift in their midst.GP 46.1

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