Holy Spirit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Part of the series on

History of Christianity
Ecumenical councils
Great Schism

The Trinity
God the Father
Christ the Son
The Holy Spirit

The Bible
Old Testament
New Testament
The Gospels
Ten Commandments
Sermon on the Mount

Christian theology
Salvation · Grace
Christian worship

Christian Church
Orthodox Christianity

Christian denominations
Christian movements
Christian ecumenism

In various religions, most notably Christianity, the Holy Spirit (also called the Holy Ghost in Trinitarian Christianity; in Hebrew רוח הקודש Ruah haqodesh) is the third Person of the Holy Trinity. As such, the various Christian perspectives view him as God himself, a form of God, or a manifestation of God. The word "Spirit" commonly translates the Greek New Testament word pneuma (Greek: πνεύμα).


Holy Spirit in the Bible

In mainstream Christianity, the Holy Spirit is one person of the Trinity, co-equal with the Father and the Son (Jesus).

Christians believe it is the Holy Spirit who leads people to faith in Jesus and the one who gives them the ability to lead a Christian life. The Spirit dwells inside every true Christian, each one's body being His temple (First Epistle to the Corinthians 3:16). He is depicted as a 'Counsellor' or 'Helper' (paracletus in Latin, derived from Greek), guiding them in the way of the truth. The Spirit's action in one's life is believed to produce positive results, known as the Fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit is also believed to give gifts (i.e. abilities) to Christians. These may include the charismatic gifts such as prophecy, tongues, healing, and knowledge. Mainstream Christians, whose view is known as cessationism, believe these gifts were given only in New Testament times. Christians agree almost universally that certain more mundane "spiritual gifts" are still in effect today, including the gifts of ministry, teaching, giving, leadership, and mercy (see, e.g. Romans 12:6-8). In some sects of Christianity, the experience of the Holy Spirit is referred to as being "anointed". In the African American Gospel music tradition, the experience of the Holy Spirit is referred to as 'getting happy'.

Christians believe that it is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus mentions as the promised "Comforter" (i.e. "strengthener", "fortifier") in John 14:26. After his resurrection, Christ told his disciples that they would be "baptized with the Holy Ghost", and would receive power from this event (Acts 1:4-8); a promise that was fulfilled in the events recounted in the second chapter of Acts. On the first Pentecost, Jesus' disciples were gathered in Jerusalem when a mighty wind was heard and tongues of fire appeared over their heads. A multilingual crowd heard the disciples speaking, and each of them heard them speaking in his or her native language.

In John's Gospel, emphasis is placed not upon what the Holy Spirit did for Jesus, but upon Jesus giving the Spirit to His disciples. This "Higher" Christology, most influential in later development of Trinitarian doctrine, sees Jesus as a sacrificial lamb, and as coming among mankind in order to grant the Spirit of God to humanity.

Although the language used to describe Jesus' receiving the Spirit in John's Gospel is parallel to the accounts in the other three Gospels, John relates this with the aim of showing that Jesus is specially in possession of the Spirit for the purpose of granting the Spirit to His followers, uniting them with Himself, and in Himself also uniting them with the Father. (See Raymond Brown, "The Gospel According to John", chapter on Pneumatology). In John, the gift of the Spirit is equivalent to eternal life, knowledge of God, power to obey, and communion with one another and with the Father.

Christian views on the Holy Spirit


The Christian movement called Pentecostalism derives its name from the event of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit when Jesus' disciples were gathered in Jerusalem.

The Pentecostal movement places special emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, and especially on the gifts mentioned above, believing that they are still given today. Many Pentecostals believe in a 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit', in which the Spirit's power is received by the Christian in a new way. In this the Christian can now be used to do signs, miracles and wonders for the sake of evangelism. Many Pentacostals also believe that a sure sign of this infilling (baptism) is the ability to speak in other tongues.

Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following in the first paragraph dealing with the Apostles Creed's article I believe in the Holy Spirit. "No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." Now God's Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who "has spoken through the prophets" makes us hear the Father's Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who "unveils" Christ to us "will not speak on his own." Such properly divine self-effacement explains why "the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him," while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them."

As regards the Holy Spirit's relationship with the Church, the Catechism states: "The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit...Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity...Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church's sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body."

The Catechism also lists the various symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible:

  • Water - signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." (1 Cor 12:13) Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified (Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8) as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. (Cf. Jn 4:10-14; 738; Ex 17:1-6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17)
  • Anointing - The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. (Cf. 1 Jn 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21) In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called "chrismation" in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew "messiah") means the one "anointed" by God's Spirit.
  • Fire - symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions. In the form of tongues "as of fire," the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself.
  • Cloud and light - The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and "overshadows" her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the "cloud came and overshadowed" Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and "a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!'" (Lk 9:34-35)
  • The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. "The Father has set his seal" on Christ and also seals us in him. (Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:3) Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible "character" imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments.
  • The hand. It is by the Apostles' imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given. The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the "fundamental elements" of its teaching. The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.
  • The finger. "It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] cast out demons." If God's law was written on tablets of stone "by the finger of God," then the "letter from Christ" entrusted to the care of the apostles, is written "with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts." (Ex 31:18; 2 Cor 3:3)
  • The dove. When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him.


Eastern Orthodoxy proclaims that the Father is the eternal source of the Godhead, from Whom is begotten the Son eternally and also from Whom the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally. Orthodox doctrine regarding the Holy Trinity is summarized in the Symbol of Faith (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed).


According to dispensationalism (a perjorative term applied by many modernist groups within the boundaries of evangelical orthodoxy), we are now living in the Age of the Spirit, or church age. The Old Testament period, under this view, may be called the Age of the Father, or of the (Mosaic) law; the period covered by the Gospels, the Age of the Son; from Pentecost until the second advent of Christ, the Age of the Spirit, or the church age.

The Mosaic law was still in effect up to the time when Jesus Christ (the second person of the Trinity) died on a Roman cross, was buried and rose from the dead {Corinthians 15: 1-5). The church age was fully established at Pentecost where the disciples' were given the Holy Spirit, and sent out by Him to plant His church in the world.

The church age is said to close with the second coming of Christ.

Branch Davidian

While most Christians think of the person of the Holy Spirit as being a He or It, Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, and others, believe that the Holy Spirit is a feminine Motherly Being, deriving this from the Hebrew language, rather than Greek or Latin. They also believe that ancient (and modern) Goddesses, and the veneration of Mary by Catholics, are derived from this truth. They sometimes ascribe the name "Sophia" to the Holy Spirit.

The late Lois Roden, former president of the Branch organization, began teaching this aspect of the Spirit beginning in 1977. Thus Branch believers see a Family in heaven, whose family image is clearly seen on earth.

"Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost"

Holy Ghost was the common name for the Holy Spirit in English prior to the 20th century. It is the name used in the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version of the Bible, and is still used by those who prefer more traditional language, or whose religious vocabulary is largely informed by the King James Bible — many Anglicans, conservative Pentecostal groups, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and various others.

In 1901 the American Standard Version of the Bible translated the name as Holy Spirit, as had the English Revised Version of 1881-1885 upon which it was based. Almost all modern English translations have followed suit as the word ghost has lost its old meaning of the spirit or soul that is inside man and come to be identified almost exclusively with the concept of disembodied spirits, usually of the dead, which may "haunt" the living, an idea far from that intended by the King James translators. Some languages, such as German, still use a word that overlaps both English words (German: Geist).

The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove in the stained glass window behind the Cathedra Petri in St Peter's Basilica, Rome
The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove in the stained glass window behind the Cathedra Petri in St Peter's Basilica, Rome

Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Christians believe the "Fruits of the Spirit" are virtues engendered in an individual by the acceptance of the Spirit and His actions in one's life. They can be found in the New Testament (Gal 5:22 KJV): "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control." The Tradition of the Catholic Church, (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1832), lists 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, [and] chastity." Many Christians believe that these fruits of the Holy Spirit are enhanced over time by exposure to the written word of God and by the experience of leading a Christian life. They further believe that the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are products of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: "wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord."

The powers of the Holy Spirit

Some Christians claim the ability to tap into powers from the Holy Spirit, while others claim to be expressly granted powers by the deity. Claims of divine inspiration stemming from the Holy Spirit have been occuring throughout the history of Christianity. Many have claimed that the Holy Spirit has given them the power to:

  • Cure diseases with prayer
  • Make a person fall down from a distance
  • Speak a foreign language that he or she had not learned before
  • Hear God speaking
  • Expel evil spirits that are possessing a person
  • Have a strong, personal connection to God
  • Speak in a heavenly language unto God

Some Christians, especially of Eastern Orthodoxy, believe that early fathers were guided by the Holy Spirit, making their works and scriptures almost as canonical as the Testaments.

Numerous other supernatural happenings have been linked to the Holy Spirit, and it is often claimed that the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested more in some than it is in others. The belief in powers stemming from the Holy Spirit is not totally unlike powers claimed to be granted by working with Chi.

Depiction in art

The Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove, based on the account of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove when He was baptized in the Jordan. In many paintings of the Miraculous Conception, the Holy Spirit is shown in the form of a dove whispering into Mary's ear.

The dove also parallels to the one which brought the branch of olive tree to Noah after the cataclysm (also a symbol of peace), and the Rabbinic traditions according to which doves above the water signify the presence of God.

The book of Acts describes the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles at Pentecost in the form of a wind and tongues of fire resting over the apostles' heads. Based on the imagery in that account, the Holy Spirit is sometimes symbolized by a flame of fire.

Non-Trinitarian Christian views

In the belief of many nontrinitarian religions — Unitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses, for instance — the Holy Spirit is God's spirit or God's active force, and not an actual person. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the Holy Spirit is considered a third and individual member of the Godhead, a different being from the Father and the Son, having a body of spirit (whereas the Father and the Son are believed to be resurrected individuals having immortalized bodies of flesh and bone).

According to those who hold the minority view of Binitarianism, the Holy Spirit is not a separate being, but that the Father and the Son are. One such group, the Living Church of God teaches this about the Holy Spirit, "The Holy Spirit is the very essence, the mind, life and power of God. It is not a Being. The Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from Them throughout the entire universe (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24). It was through the Spirit that God created all things (Genesis 1:1-2; Revelation 4:11). It is the power by which Christ maintains the universe (Hebrews 1:2-3). It is given to all who repent of their sins and are baptized (Acts 2:38-39) and is the power (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:6-7) by which all believers may be "overcomers" (Romans 8:37, KJV; Revelation 2:26-27) and will be led to eternal life" (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs).

The view that the Holy Spirit is not a separate person has been considered to be heretical by mainstream Christianity. For example, Epiphanius of Salomis referred to some of those as Semi-Arians and Pneumatomachi and called them, ""A sort of monstrous, half-formed people of two natures...Semi-Arians...hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time...But all of these blapheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son" (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472)

Hence, nontrinitarians have long been subject to criticism by those who accepted the Nicene and later Councils.

Rastafarian view of the Holy Spirit

As a movement that developed out of Christianity, Rastafari has its own unique interpretation of both the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit. Although there are several slight variations, they generally state that it is Haile Selassie who embodies both God the Father and God the Son, while the Holy (or rather, "Hola") Spirit is to be found within Rasta believers (see 'I and I'), and within every human being. Rastas also say that the true church is the human body, and that it is this church (or "structure") that contains the Holy Spirit.

Other views


The term "Holy Spirit" appears in the Tanakh (Old Testament to Christians) but Judaism as a whole does not have a developed pneumatology. Most Jews consider the Holy Spirit as usually discussed to be a thoroughly Christian concept, and the closest any have dealt with the subject may be the Kabballah followers.


A number of Kabbalists believe that the Holy Spirit and the Shekinah (both of which are feminine words in the Hebrew) are one and the same, though they do not generally believe in her individual Personhood.


Islam considers the Holy Spirit to be another name for the archangel Gabriel. In Sura 2.97, the Qur'an states that Gabriel delivered the word of Allah to the prophet Muhammad, and in Sura 16.102 Gabriel is specifially called "the Holy Spirit". All Quranic references to the Holy Spirit refer, therefore, to this angel. The actual term "Holy Spirit" الروح القدس is used in the following verses in the Quran: 2:87, 2:253, 5:110, 16:102. In these verses, the Holy Spirit is strongly supportive Moses, Jesus, Mohammed in their divine mission.


See Ruha d-Qudsha


Several scriptures of Vedic (Hindu) tradition describe that God is present in the heart as the supreme witness, Paramatman (as per 1 Cor. 3:16, sura 50:16 and sura 6:60 of Qur'an) - Vedanta Sutra 1.2.11, Katha Upanishad 1.3.1, Chandogya Upanishad 8.1.1 and other Upanishads. Bhagavad Gita, a summary of Upanishads, has many verses about Paramatman. Several are:

10.20: "I am the Supersoul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings."

15.15: "I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."

18.61: "The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy."

(quotes from Bhagavad_Gita_As_It_Is by A.C._Bhaktivedanta_Swami_Prabhupada)


In Role Playing Games, the measure of Honour or Grace to Paladins can be somehow compared to the views towards the Holy Spirit. The Paladin, by doing good deeds and helping others (the NPCs), is favoured by the god he serves, which translates into points of Experience and Honour. These points, mark his ability to do Paladin spells like healing, turning undead, blessing, giving strength etc. When doing honourless or evil actions, the god punishes the Paladin by taking away these abilities.

A really good parallel is the Force of Star Wars and the Jedi knights, that have many in common with the concept of the Paladins. The Force resembles some interpretations of the Holy Spirit in that it flows between living beings and holds the universe together. A Jedi by having connection to the Force can use it and obtain abilities from it that partially resemble of the 'Fruits' of the Holy Spirit. Note that the Force is more usually compared to the Chi.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Christian fantasy author, in the Silmarillion speaks about the Flame Imperishable by which the Creator made the Ainur and brought Being to the world of his mythos. The Flame was not a separate being, but was in the Creator. This description reminds of the appearence of the paracletus on the Pentecost.

See also

External links

Personal tools