The text quoted below is known as the Hodayot — “prayers and songs of thanksgiving” discovered in the Qumran region in 1947. These passages are a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, and though some portions of the text are missing, scholars were able to reconstruct many of these ancient texts. These passages are in Hebrew and date to the first century BCE. Their language is remarkably personal and deeply spiritual. The songs speak of grace (favor), salvation, forgiveness, purity, love, and the Holy Spirit. Though the texts are not always complete, the writer clearly invokes the Holy Spirit in prayer. Passages from the Hebrew Bible, such as Psalm 51 and Isaiah 63, make mention of the Holy Spirit, but the Hodayot take it to a new level. As you read this brief excerpt, consider the spirituality of Jews who composed these words a century before the life of Jesus.

10 by [your] ho[ly] spirit […] … […] and 11 [your] ho[ly] spirit is unable to […] the fullness of he[av]en and earth […] your [gl]ory. The fullness […] 12 I know that in [your] kind[ness] towards man you have multiplied […] your truth in all […] 13 and the service of justice […] which you have imposed on him lest[…] to stumble in all […] 14 Since I know all this I want to find a reply of the tongue to prostrate myself and to ask [forgiveness … fo]r my offense, to look for the spirit […] 15 to be strengthened by [your] ho[ly] spirit, to adhere to the truth of your covenant, to serve you in truth, with a perfect heart, to love [your will.] 16 Be blessed, Lord, great [in pla]ns and mi[ghty] in acts, everything is your work. You have resolved, in fact, to take pity [on your servant,] 17 to show me favor by the spirit of your compassion and by the […] of your glory. To you belongs the justice because you have done al[l this.]

18 And since I know that you have recorded the spirit of the just man, I have chosen to purify my hands in accordance with [your] will and your servant’s soul detests every 19 work of iniquity. I know that no one besides you is just. I have appeased your face by the spirit which you have placed [in me,] to lavish 20 your [kind]nesses on [your] serv[ant] for [ever,] to purify me with your holy spirit, to bring me near by your will according to the extent of your kindnesses […] and to act 21 with me […] the place of [your] wi[ll] which you have cho[sen] for those who love you, and for those who keep your precep[ts …] 22 in your presence [for ev]er.

[May … not] associate with the spirit of your servant or with all [his] works […] 23 […] May no affliction [come] upon him which would let him fall away from the precepts of your covenant! For […] 24 your face. And I kn[ow that you are a lenient] and compassionate [God,] s[lo]w to a[ng]er, full of kindness and of truth, who forgives offense […] 25 and has pity on the [evil of those who love you] and keep [your] prec[epts, those] who turn to you with trust and a perfect heart […] 26 to serve you [and to do what] is good in your eyes. Do not turn your face away from your servant, [do not reject] the son of [your] maidservant! […] 27 […] And I, through your words [I] have approached […] (1Qha VIII: 10-27, Martinez Translation)

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19 COMMENTS

  1. ... and this heart felt prayer was a century before Act's chapter 2??
    It seems to me these words were driven by the Holy Spirit, as if the Holy Spirit was living inside the speaker.
    J.
  2. Dr. Shir,

    ‘In the Hebrew Bible, ruach ha-kodesh (holy spirt) is used. However, in Jewish writings, the spirit of Yahweh (or Yah) is used.’ So, is it safe to say that the term ‘holy spirit’ was never used by Israelites and/or followers of Yehoshua (‘Jesus’ in Hebrew).?
    • No, it is not safe to say what you propose. The Qumran scrolls, Rabbinic texts, and Second Temple Greek texts all make references to the Holy Spirit (ruach hakodesh) as well as Aramaic Targums.
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The First Commandment: Deuteronomy in the Gospels or . You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
  3. But how can we be certain that this was written in the 1st century BC and not AD? Does the text in some way indicate that conclusion?
    • The dating techniques are multi-faceted. The conclusion is based on carbon-dating of the scroll itself, on the actual history of the community that produced it (as much as we can reconstruct it). The handwriting features and chemical ink composition were also probably cross-referenced with other scrolls and fragments that predate the 1st century, which I am sure were also dated through a number of criteria. I think the scholars are rather certain and the consensus is broad.
  4. Amazing! I could feel the composer or petitioner’s deep sense of a personal relationship with the Lord, rather than a religious ritualistic prayer. Thanks for sharing this. I can say this is ‘Psalm 151!!’ An aside question please- what’s the difference between ‘non-biblical’ and ‘extra-biblical’ sources?
    • I do not know if this is a proper explanation, but to me personally, "non-biblical" is an ancient text that is unlike the Bible, but "extra-biblical" texts are produced within the same vein of spirituality and culture, they address the same topics and issues, they sound a lot like the Bibel, but are not "canonical". The Bible = Canon is assumed in such thinking and terminology.
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  5. As for me, it doesn't matter what religious label this wears - it is beautiful in its sincerity and prose. The author's yearning and commitment are palpable.
  6. Thanks a lot Prof. Shir, this’s like letting me audit your class. I think your personal explanations on ‘non-biblical’ and ‘extra-biblical’ are classic! I take your definitions forever!!! Thank you sir!
  7. This brought tears to my eyes as I read and I was humbled . Having just enrolled and now exploring the wonderful resources, I am so excited. Thank you.
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