For the majority of Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, is believed to be the third person of the Trinity, a Triune God manifested as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, each entity itself being God. Nontrinitarian Christians, who reject the doctrine of the Trinity, differ significantly from mainstream Christianity in their beliefs about the Holy Spirit. In Christian theology, pneumatology is the study of the Holy Spirit. Due to Christianity's historical relationship with Judaism, theologians often identify the Holy Spirit with the concept of the Ruach Hakodesh in Jewish scripture, on the theory that Jesus (who was Jewish) was expanding upon these Jewish concepts. Similar names, and ideas, include the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God), Ruach YHWH (Spirit of Yahweh), and the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit). In the New Testament it is identified with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, the Paraclete and the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the Nicene Creed state that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary". The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove during his baptism, and in his Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his departure.
The Holy Spirit is referred to as "the Lord, the Giver of Life" in the Nicene Creed, which summarises several key beliefs held by many Christian denominations. The participation of the Holy Spirit in the tripartite nature of conversion is apparent in Jesus' final post-resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, "Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Since the first century, Christians have also called upon God with the trinitarian formula "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, absolution and benediction. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles the arrival of the Holy Spirit happens fifty days after the resurrection of the Christ, and is celebrated in Christendom with the feast of Pentecost.
The Koine Greek word pneûma (πνεῦμα, pneuma) is found around 385 times in the New Testament, with some scholars differing by three to nine occurrences. Pneuma appears 105 times in the four canonical gospels, 69 times in the Acts of the Apostles, 161 times in the Pauline epistles, and 50 times elsewhere. These usages vary: in 133 cases it refers to "spirit" and in 153 cases to "spiritual". Around 93 times, the reference is to the Holy Spirit, sometimes under the name pneuma and sometimes explicitly as the pneûma tò Hagion (Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον). (In a few cases it is also simply used generically to mean wind or life.) It was generally translated into the Vulgate as Spiritus and Spiritus Sanctus.
The English terms "Holy Ghost" and "Holy Spirit" are complete synonyms: one derives from the Old English gast and the other from the Latin loanword spiritus. Like pneuma, they both refer to the breath, to its animating power, and to the soul. The Old English term is shared by all other Germanic languages (compare, e.g., the German Geist) and it is older; the King James Bible typically uses "Holy Ghost". Beginning in the 20th century, translations overwhelmingly prefer "Holy Spirit", partly because the general English term "ghost" has increasingly come to refer only to the spirit of a dead person.
Depending on context:
What the Hebrew Bible calls "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Elohim" is called in the Talmud and Midrash "Holy Spirit" (ruacḥ ha-kodesh). Although the expression "Holy Spirit" occurs in Ps. 51:11 and in Isa. 63:10–11, it had not yet acquired quite the same meaning which was attached to it in rabbinical literature: in the latter it is equivalent to the expression "Spirit of the Lord". In Gen.1:2 God's spirit hovered over the form of lifeless matter, thereby making the Creation possible. Although the ruach ha-kodesh may be named instead of God, it was conceived of as being something distinct; and, like everything earthly that comes from heaven, the ruach ha-kodesh is composed of light and fire. The most characteristic sign of the presence of the ruach ha-kodesh is the gift of prophecy. The use of the word "ruach" (Hebrew: "breath", or "wind") in the phrase ruach ha-kodesh seems to suggest that Judaic authorities believed the Holy Spirit was a kind of communication medium like the wind. The spirit talks sometimes with a masculine and sometimes with a feminine voice; the word ruacḥ is both masculine and feminine.
The term Holy Spirit appears at least 90 times in the New Testament. The sacredness of the Holy Spirit to Christians is affirmed in all three Synoptic Gospels, which proclaim that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. The participation of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity is suggested in Jesus' final post-Resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19): "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".
The Holy Spirit is mentioned by all three authors of the synoptic Gospels. Most of the references are by the author of the Gospel of Luke; this emphasis is continued by the same author in the Book of Acts.
The Holy Spirit does not simply appear for the first time at Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, but is present in the Gospel of Luke (in 1–2) prior to the birth of Jesus. In Luke 1:15, John the Baptist was said to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" prior to birth, and the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary in Luke 1:35. In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist stated that Jesus baptized not with water but with the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus during his baptism in the Jordan River. In Luke 11:13, Jesus provided assurances that God the Father would "give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him".
Mark 13:11 specifically refers to the power of the Holy Spirit to act and speak through the disciples of Jesus in time of need: "Be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit." Matthew 10:20 refers to the same act of speaking through the disciples, but uses the term "Spirit of your Father".
The Acts of the Apostles has sometimes been called the "Book of the Holy Spirit" or the "Acts of the Holy Spirit". Of the seventy or so occurrences of the word Pneuma in Acts, fifty-five refer to the Holy Spirit.
From the start, in Acts 1:2, the reader is reminded that the ministry of Jesus, while he was on earth, was carried out through the power of the Holy Spirit and that the "acts of the apostles" continue the acts of Jesus and are also facilitated by the Holy Spirit. Acts presents the Holy Spirit as the "life principle" of the early Church and provides five separate and dramatic instances of its outpouring on believers in Acts 2:1–4, 4:28–31, 8:15–17, 10:44, and 19:6.
References to the Holy Spirit appear throughout Acts, for example Acts 1:5 and 8 stating towards the beginning, "For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit. ...Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you", referring to the fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist in Luke 3:16, "he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit".
Three separate terms, namely Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth and Paraclete are used in the Johannine writings. The "Spirit of Truth" is used in John 14:17, 15:26, and 16:13. The First Epistle of John then contrasts this with the "spirit of error" in 1 John 4:6. 1 John 4:1–6 provides the separation between spirits "that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" and those who in error refuse it – an indication of their being evil spirits.
In John 14:26, Jesus states: "But the Comforter, [even] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things". The identity of the "Comforter" has been the subject of debate among theologians, who have proposed multiple theories on the matter.
The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles; and the Apostle Paul's pneumatology is closely connected to his theology and Christology, to the point of being almost inseparable from them.
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was likely the first of Paul's letters, introduces a characterization of the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 and 1 Thessalonians 4:8 which is found throughout his epistles. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul refers to the imitation of Christ (and himself) and states: "And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit", whose source is identified in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 as "God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you".
These two themes of receiving the Spirit "like Christ" and God being the source of the Spirit persist in Pauline letters as the characterization of the relationship of Christians with God. For Paul the imitation of Christ involves readiness to be shaped by the Holy Spirit, as in Romans 8:4 and 8:11: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
The view of the Holy Spirit as responsible for Mary's pregnancy, found in the Synoptic Gospels, is different from that found in the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews, adopted as canonical by the 4th century Nazarenes, in which Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as his mother and thus as female. Some thought femininity incompatible with the idea that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit; according to the apocryphal Gospel of Philip, for example,
The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry. The Apostles' Creed echoes the statements in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, stating that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
In his Farewell Discourse to his disciples, Jesus promised that he would "send the Holy Spirit" to them after his departure, in John 15:26 stating: "whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth ... shall bear witness of me".
The theology of spirits is called pneumatology. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Lord and Giver of Life in the Nicene creed. He is the Creator Spirit, present before the creation of the universe and through his power everything was made in Jesus Christ, by God the Father. Christian hymns such as "Veni Creator Spiritus" ("Come, Creator Spirit") reflect this belief.
In early Christianity, the concept of salvation was closely related to the invocation of the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit", and since the first century, Christians have called upon God with the name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, baptism, communion, exorcism, hymn-singing, preaching, confession, absolution and benediction. This is reflected in the saying: "Before there was a 'doctrine' of the Trinity, Christian prayer invoked the Holy Trinity".
For the majority of Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God. As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and Son of God. He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (and, according to Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Anglicans, and Protestants, from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed. The Triune God is thus manifested as three Persons (Greek hypostases), in One Divine Being (Greek: Ousia), called the Godhead (from Old English: Godhood), the Divine Essence of God.
In the New Testament, by the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, while maintaining her virginity. The Holy Spirit descended over Jesus in a corporeal way, as a dove, at the time of his baptism, and a voice from Heaven was heard: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased." He is the Sanctifier, the Helper, Comforter, the Giver of graces, he who leads persons to the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit is credited with inspiring believers and allowing for them to interpret all the sacred scripture, and leads prophets both in Old Testament and New Testament. Christians receive the Fruits of the Holy Spirit by means of his mercy and grace.
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity includes the concept of God the Holy Spirit, along with God the Son and God the Father. Theologian Vladimir Lossky has argued that while, in the act of the Incarnation, God the Son became manifest as the Son of God, the same did not take place for God the Holy Spirit which remained unrevealed.[failed verification] Yet, as in 1 Corinthians 6:19, God the Spirit continues to dwell in the faithful.
In a similar way, the Latin treatise De Trinitate (On the Trinity) of Saint Augustine of Hippo affirms: "For as the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, which no one doubts to be said in respect to substance, yet we do not say that the very Supreme Trinity itself is three Gods, but one God. ...But position, and condition, and places, and times, are not said to be in God properly, but metaphorically and through similitudes. ...And as respects action (or making), perhaps it may be said most truly of God alone, for God alone makes and Himself is not made. Nor is He liable to passions as far as belongs to that substance whereby He is God. ...So the Father is omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent; yet not three omnipotents, but one omnipotent. ...Whatever, therefore, is spoken of God in respect to Himself, is both spoken singly of each Person, that is, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and together of the Trinity itself, not plurally but in the singular."
In Christian theology the Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is "born again of the Spirit". The Holy Spirit enables Christian life by dwelling in the individual believers and enables them to live a righteous and faithful life. The Holy Spirit also acts as comforter or Paraclete, one who intercedes, or supports or acts as an advocate, particularly in times of trial. And he acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions and of their moral standing as sinners before God. Another faculty of the Holy Spirit is the inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and the church.
In John 15:26, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." In 325, the First Council of Nicaea, being the first ecumenical council, ended its Creed with the words "and in the Holy Spirit". In 381, the First Council of Constantinople, being the second ecumenical council, expanded the Creed and stated that Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father" (ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον). This phrase was based on John 15:26 (ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται). In 451, the Council of Chalcedon, being the fourth ecumenical council, affirmed the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. During the same time, the question of procession of the Holy Spirit was addressed by various Christian theologians, expressing diverse views and using different terminology, thus initiating the debate that became focused on the Filioque clause.
In 589, the Third Council of Toledo in its third canon officially accepted the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (a Patre et Filio procedere). During the next few centuries, two distinctive schools of thought were gradually shaped, Eastern and Western. Eastern theologians were teaching that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only (notion referred as monoprocessionism), while Western theologians were teaching that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (notion referred as filioquism). Debates and controversies between two sides became a significant point of difference within Christian pneumatology, inclusive of their historical role in setting the stage for the Great Schism of 1054.
The "fruit of the Holy Spirit" consists of "permanent dispositions" (in this similar to the permanent character of the sacraments), virtuous characteristics engendered in the Christian by the action of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22–23 names nine aspects and states:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
In the Epistle to the Galatians these nine characteristics are in contrast to the "works of the flesh" and highlight the positive manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit in believers.
The "gifts of the Holy Spirit" are distinct from the Fruit of the Spirit, and consist of specific abilities granted to the individual Christian. They are frequently known by the Greek word for gift, charisma, in English charism, from which the term charismatic derives. There is no generally agreed upon exhaustive list of the gifts, and various Christian denominations use different lists, often drawing upon 1 Corinthians, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. Pentecostal denominations and the charismatic movement teach that the absence of the supernatural gifts was due to the neglect of the Holy Spirit and his work by the major denominations. Believers in the relevance of the supernatural gifts sometimes speak of a Baptism with the Holy Spirit or Filling with the Holy Spirit which the Christian needs to experience in order to receive those gifts. However, many Christian denominations hold that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is identical with conversion, and that all Christians are by definition baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit" are poured out on a believer at baptism, and are traditionally derived from Isaiah 11:1–2, although the New Testament does not refer to Isaiah 11:1–2 regarding these gifts. These 7 gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (strength), knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. This is the view of the Catholic Church and many other mainstream Christian groups.
Christian denominations have doctrinal variations in their beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit. A well-known example is the Filioque controversy regarding the Holy Spirit – one of the key differences between the teachings of the main Western Churches and various Eastern Christian denominations (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East).
The Filioque debate centers around whether the Nicene Creed should state that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father" and then have a stop, as the creed was initially adopted in Greek (and followed thereafter by the Eastern Church), or should say "from the Father and the Son" as was later adopted in Latin and followed by the Western Church, filioque being "and from the Son" in Latin.
Towards the end of the 20th century, discussions took place about the removal of Filioque in the Nicene Creed from Anglican prayer books along the lines of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox approach, but these still have not reached a state of final implementation.
The majority of mainstream Protestantism hold similar views on the theology of the Holy Spirit as the Roman Catholic Church, but there are significant differences in belief between Pentecostalism and the rest of Protestantism. Pentecostalism has a focus on "Baptism with the Spirit", relying on Acts 1:5 which refers to "now you will baptize with the Holy Spirit". The more recent Charismatic movements have a focus on the "gifts of the Spirit" (such as healing, prophecy, etc.) and rely on 1 Corinthians 12 as a scriptural basis, but often differ from Pentecostal movements.
Non-trinitarian views about the Holy Spirit differ significantly from mainstream Christian doctrine.
The Holy Spirit has been a topic in at least two papal encyclicals:
The topic of the Holy Spirit is discussed extensively in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "I believe in the Holy Spirit" in paragraphs 683 through 747.
Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians view the Holy Spirit not as an actual person separate from God the Father, but as God's eternal "energy" or "active force", that he uses to accomplish his will in creation and redemption.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) believe that the Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones. He is often referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Comforter. Latter-day Saints believe in a kind of social trinitarianism and subordinationism, meaning that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are understood as being unified in will and purpose, but not in substance. The Holy Ghost is believed to be subordinate to the Father and the Son and operates under their direction. The Holy Ghost, like all intelligent beings, is believed to be fundamentally eternal, uncreated, and self-existent.
The LDS Church teaches that the influence of the Holy Ghost can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost—which comes by the laying-on of hands by a properly ordained priesthood holder with a line of authority traced back to Christ through Peter—is obtained only after baptism when a person is confirmed. Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, taught, "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man," he said, "if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half — that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost".
The Holy Spirit is frequently referred to by metaphor and symbol, both doctrinally and biblically. Theologically speaking these symbols are a key to understanding of the Holy Spirit and his actions, and are not mere artistic representations.
The Holy Spirit has been represented in Christian art both in the Eastern and Western Churches using a variety of depictions. The depictions have ranged from nearly identical figures that represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity, to a dove, to a flame.
The Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove, based on the account of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove when he was baptized in the Jordan. In many paintings of the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit is shown in the form of a dove, coming down towards Mary on beams of light, as the Archangel Gabriel announces Jesus Christ's coming to Mary. A dove may also be seen at the ear of Saint Gregory the Great – as recorded by his secretary – or other church father authors, dictating their works to them. The dove also parallels the one that brought the olive branch to Noah after the deluge, as a symbol of peace.
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.
Ancient Celtic Christians depicted the Holy Spirit as a goose called Ah Geadh-Glas, which means wild goose. A goose was chosen rather than the traditional dove because geese were perceived as more free than their dove counterparts.
Representation as both dove and flames, Ravensburg, Germany, 1867
Ray of light representation in Russian icon of the Pentecost, 15th century
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The Holy Spirit as revealed in the Brit Chadashah
Pentecost... major festival in the Christian church, celebrated on the Sunday that falls on the 50th day after Easter.
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In the Bible, God's Holy Spirit is identified as God's power in action. Hence, an accurate translation of the Bible's Hebrew text refers to God's spirit as "God's active force."
We reject the doctrine – that the Holy Spirit is a person distinct from the Father
But did you also know that Celtic Christians call the Holy Spirit Ah Geadh-Glas, which means "Wild Goose"? Don't you love that? Because if you've ever tried to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, for sure it can feel like a wild goose chase.