The Gospel of Matthew registers that when John the Baptist baptized Jesus the heavens were opened and the Spirit came upon him as a dove (Matt. 3:16). Luke is the only evangelist who registered that it was the Holy Spirit who descended in bodily form (Luke 3:22). Everyone understands that the dove is a figure of the Holy Spirit. Is it so? Let us examine this subject: There should be some signs in the Old Testament indicating that the dove is a sign of the Holy Spirit. We should not forget that the Holy Spirit is the working power of God—it is He who operates the new birth; it is He who operates the regeneration of the lost (1 Cor. 6:10-11); it is He who sanctifies the converts to Christ (2 Thess. 2:13); it is He who strengthens the Christians for the fight (2 Tim. 1:7); it is He who forms the Body of the Church (1 Cor. 12:12-13); it is He who gives divine gifts to the saints (1 Cor. 12:7-11); it is He who puts to death the desires of the flesh of the human being (Rom. 8:13-14), and much more. In the Old Testament, the dove has never been a figure of the human being (Rom. 8:13-14), and much more. In the Old Testament, the dove has never been a figure of the Holy Spirit. Let us examine it:
- The dove is a symbol of those who want to run for some rest and peace, when they are in fear and trembling (Ps. 55:5-6).
- The dove is a figure of the oppressed and disillusioned. Hezekiah, king of Israel, was afflicted by a deadly sickness. Jehovah spoke: “Set your house in order, for you will die, and not live.” Hezekiah, then, cried a lot (Is. 38:1-2). In his prayer, anguished and disillusioned, he said: “I chattered like a swallow or a crane. I moaned like a dove. My eyes weaken looking upward. Lord, I am oppressed. Be my security” (Is. 38:14).
- The dove is a figure of the overcome, destroyed, plundered, who faint for dread. When Nineveh was destroyed, we read the following: “But Nineveh has been from of old like a pool of water, yet they flee away. ‘Stop! Stop!’ they cry, but no one looks back. Take the spoil of silver. Take the spoil of gold, for there is no end of the store, the glory of all goodly furniture. She is empty, void, and waste. The heart melts, the knees knock together, their bodies and faces have grown pale” (Nah. 2:8-10). How did the people of Nineveh feel about this disgrace? “She [Huzzab] is uncovered, she is carried away; and her handmaids moan as with the voice of doves, beating on their breasts” (Nah. 2:7).
- The Moabites, who descended from Job, Abraham’s nephews, feared greatly in the face of Israel in the desert and were distressed (Num. 22:1-3). And Balak, their king, tried to bribe Balaam into cursing Israel (Num. 22:6,17). Jehovah was filled with rage and vengeance against the Moabites, and pronounced a sentence: “An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of Jehovah; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of Jehovah forever” (Deut. 23:3-5). A thousand years later Jehovah destroys the Moabites with an eternal vengeance through an anger that never ends. Cities are taken, and fortresses are occupied. Moab is destroyed as a people because it exalted himself against Jehovah. “Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are on you, inhabitant of Moab, says Jehovah. He who flees from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he who gets up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring on him, even on Moab, the year of their visitation, says Jehovah” (Jer. 48:41-44). And what about the heart of the Moabites? Are they as doves that “nest beyond the mouth of the chasm” (Jer. 48:28)? The Hebrew renders “the mouth of the chasm.” The symbol of a dove is far from being a figure of the Holy Spirit, rather in the Old Testament it is always a figure of the troubled, terrified, overcome, bankrupt, not loved of Jehovah, in other words, frightened and condemned. But let us go on:
- The dove was the offering of the poor who, as they were unable to offer bulls and calves to the sacrifices, resorted to the doves, with permission from Jehovah (Lev. 5:6-7). It was offered by those who had venereal diseases (Lev. 15:14-15). In the letter to the Hebrews we read that the blood of bulls and goats does not take away the sins of anyone (Heb. 10:4). Therefore, the sacrifice of doves, which Jehovah established in the law, did not have any value at all, for it is written: “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you didn’t desire, neither had pleasure in them (those which are offered according to the law), then he has said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He takes away the first, that he may establish the second, by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:8-10). Now, Jehovah established the sacrifices of the law for the forgiveness of sins (Lev. 4:32-35). In the New Testament we read that God, the Father, did not want such sacrifices, for they were not pleasing to him; in other words, what Jehovah did was not in the plans of the Father, and the dove was part of these useless sacrifices (Heb. 7:18-19). The dove that came down upon Jesus when John baptized him can only foreshadow the oldness of the letter and of Jehovah’s yoke (Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 12:5-8). This is why the dove is a figure of the deceived. The prophet Hosea said: “Ephraim is like an easily deceived dove, without understanding” (Hos. 7:11). In the Old Testament the dove is a figure of the ones who are easily deceived, and then shows up upon Jesus as the Holy Spirit? But the Holy Spirit, in the New Testament, is the one who reveals the wisdom of God, hidden in mysteries (1 Cor. 2:7-8)! The depths of God, or the things which eyes have not seen and ears have not heard, and have not come up to the hearts of men, prepared for those who love God, are revealed by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10). The dove could never be the figure of the Holy Spirit of the Father. Instead, it is a figure of those who are deceived. Besides, the Holy Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:6). And the very Jesus declares: “However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming. He will glorify me, for he will take from what is mine, and will declare it to you” (John 16:13-14). Definitely, the Old Testament doves do not point to the New Testament Holy Spirit.
- In Isaiah 60, the restoration of the glory of Israel and of Jerusalem begins like this: “Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen on you” (Is. 60:1). “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather themselves together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms” (Is. 60:3-4). When the restoration of Israel made by Jehovah and dreamed by those who were scattered among the nations was fulfilled, the prophet describes: “Who are these who fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? (Is. 60:8). The mystery is solved: The Holy Spirit of Jehovah descended upon Jesus in bodily form as a dove, and there was a voice from heaven that said: “You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). This text is in the Greek manuscript, but the theologians removed it. The Holy Spirit of Jehovah begot him in flesh, the Messiah, who was going to restore the throne of David, the kingdom of Israel, and the glory of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Bible, footnote). The restoration of Israel in glory has not happened yet. The Holy Spirit in bodily form has not been fulfilled yet, and the baptism of John has not been fulfilled, for Jesus renounced to the throne of David (John 18:36). It has not been fulfilled because the kingdom of Israel has not to this day been restored. The baptism of Jehovah pointed to the kingdom of Israel, that is to say, the dove.
The baptism of John has nothing to do with the baptism of Jesus as we read in Acts 19:1-6. The Christ mentioned in this baptism is the Messiah announced by Jehovah in Psalm 2:7-9. The anointing with the Holy Spirit and virtue, by the Father, on Jesus, happened after the baptism of John. And the Father declared: “Thou art my Son. This day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:30-33 KJV), after the physical resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:30-33). There were two moments: Jehovah declared three years before the death on the cross, because he had predestined Christ to restore Israel in the flesh; and the Father declared three years later, after the resurrection, not to restore Israel, but to save all men and take them to the kingdom of heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-4). In Acts 10:37-38 it says that the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with virtue after the baptism of John. And the Holy Spirit of the Father manifested itself in tongues of fire, not as a dove (Acts 2:2-4). The Father anointed Jesus after the baptism of John. And in the baptism of John there was not any manifestation of the Holy Spirit of the Father (Acts 19:1-6).
By Olavo Silveira Pereira