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HomeSpiritualitySpiritualityWhy is the dove often a symbol for the Holy Spirit?

Why is the dove often a symbol for the Holy Spirit?

The Dove in the Old Testament

symbole pour le Saint-Esprit: Avant Jésus Baptism, the dove was seen sporadically throughout the Old Testament. Every reference to the dove in Scripture already had symbolic meaning and would ultimately be fulfilled in the broader context of Jesus' life and ministry, beginning with his baptism and continuing through the movement of the Holy Spirit, who still lives nowadays.

The dove during the flood

In the last days of the Great Flood that covered the face of the earth, it is written that Noah sent a dove in search of the dry land (Genesis 8: 8-9). Several times the dove returned to the ark, indicating that the waters had not yet receded. Finally, on a separate flight, the dove returned to the ark with a "freshly picked olive leaf" (Genesis 8: 11), and not at all after seven days (Genesis 8: 12). It was then that Noah knew that the waters had disappeared from the earth and that the ark would soon stand still as if on dry land. From then on, the dove was considered a harbinger of peace and the symbol of hope and new life.

The dove in mosaic law

The second element of symbolism that would eventually be realized in the life of Jesus can be seen in the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law, where turtle doves and turtledoves were the only birds that could be offered as acceptable sacrifices because of their purity perceived. (Genesis 15: 9, Leviticus 12: 6, Luke 2: 24)

It should also be mentioned that turtledoves and doves were often bought and used by those who could not afford one of the most expensive offers, such as a lamb without stain. Even then, God had provided for everyone, regardless of wealth or status, to bring their best offerings to the Lord (Leviticus 5: 7).

Knowing God's heart in this matter helps explain why Jesus was later so enraged by the money changers in the temple (Matthew 21: 12-13, Marc 11: 15-18, Luke 19: 45-48, Jean 2: 13-21). Prior to his purification of the temple, merchants and money changers had taken advantage of the poor and had gone to excess for ritual sacrifices. Doing so made it difficult for God's followers to buy sacrifices and come before the Lord (Matthew 21: 12). This was something Jesus would not tolerate!

The dove as a symbol of purity

Old Testament writers also used the dove poetically as a symbol of purity, gentleness, and grace.

"How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are as doves "(Solomon's Song 1: 15).

"When you sleep in the sheepfolds, You are like the wings of a dove covered with silver, and its gables of shining gold” (Psalms 68: 13).

“Oh, I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and rest ”(Psalms 55: 6).

The importance of the dove as a symbol

Taking these three examples into consideration, the Jewish people would have known and understood the symbolism of the dove from Old Testament stories and teachings. The fact that the Spirit descended in the form of a dove at his baptism was a public manifestation of Christ's divinity, a confirmation of his anointing, and a connection between his ministry and the earlier symbols of the dove (Matthew 3: 16, Marc 1: 10, Luke 3: 22, Jean 1: 32).

Furthermore, in the gospel according to Matthew, Mark and Luke it is written that immediately after Jesus came out of the water and had the seed of the Holy Spirit, the voice of God the Father came from heaven saying: “ You are my beloved Son in you. It is a pleasure "(Luke 3: 22).

Jesus would accomplish much of the symbolism of the dove in the early scriptures. It was:

In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. "He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He on whom you see that the Spirit descends and remains on him, it is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' I myself have seen and testified that she is the Son of God” (Jean 1: 33-34).

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, which had been promised and prophesied in the book of Joel, Christ's disciples would also have access to the same spiritual covering that had descended on Jesus at his baptism and moved through him throughout. throughout his earthly ministry. As Joel wrote, “after this I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind. and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream, your young men shall see visions. Even upon male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2: 28-29).

The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus was a symbolic fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy and the preface to the Day of Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit would descend on the apostles and give them the gifts of the Spirit (2 Acts), promised by Jesus during his ascent (Jean 14: 15-17).

Today, the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of Scripture through the life and ministry of Jesus, and the peace, power, purity, and propitiation of sin that is in relationship with God .

Joel Ryan is a Los Angeles-based children's and young adult author who teaches writing and communication in Life Pacific University. A former youth pastor, he has a heart for young adults and is passionate about young people through cinema, literature and theatre. His blog, Perspectives of the page, discusses creative and spiritual life through history and art.

Photo credit: Getty


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