corner graphic

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Spirit (or “Ghost”), Holy

Resource Toolbox

Spirit (Or "Ghost"), Holy

the title of the third person in the Godhead.

I. Designation. In the Old Test. he is generally called יוּחִ אֵֹלהַים, or רוּחִ יְהוהֹ, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jehovah; sometimes the Holy Spirit of Jehovah, as in Psalms 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11; or the Good Spirit of Jehovah, as in Psalms 143:10; Nehemiah 9:20. In the New Test. he is generally τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἃγιον, or simply τὸ Πνεῦμα, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit; sometimes the Spirit of God, of the Lord, of Jesus Christ, as in Matthew 3:16; Acts 5:9; Philippians 1:19, etc. Smith.

Besides this personal use of the term, the words Spirit and Holy Spirit frequently occur in the New Test. by metonymy, for the influence or effects of his agency.

a. As a procreative power "the power of the Highest" (Luke 1:35).

b. As an influence with which Jesus was endued (Luke 4:4).

c. As a divine inspiration or afflatus, by which the prophets and holy men wrote and spoke (ἐν πνεύματι, διὰ πνεύματος, ὑπὸ πνεύματος ). " Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21; Numbers 11:26; Nehemiah 9:30; Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:14). John in Patmos was rapt in prophetic vision was ἐν πνεύματι (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3).

d. As miraculous gifts and powers with which the apostles were endowed to qualify them for the work to which they were called. "Jesus breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (Λάβετε Πνεῦμα ἃγιον, John 20:22). "And they were filled with the Holy Ghost," etc. (Acts 2:4). "They were baptized with the Holy Ghost" (ἐν Πνεὐματι ἁγίῳ, Acts 1:5; comp. Joel 2:28 with Acts 2:16-18, where the רוח of the prophet is translated πνεῦμα by the apostle).

2. Historical Development of the Functions of the Holy Spirit. In accordance with what seems to be the general rule of divine revelation, that the knowledge of heavenly things is given more abundantly and more clearly in later ages, the person, attributes, and operations of the Holy Ghost are made known to us chiefly in the New Test. In the light of such later revelation, words which, when heard by patriarchs and prophets, were probably understood imperfectly by them, become full of meaning to Christians.

1. In the earliest period of Jewish history the Holy Spirit was revealed as cooperating in the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2), as the Source, Giver, and Sustainer of life (Job 27:3; Job 33:4; Genesis 2:7); as resisting (if the common interpretation be correct) the evil inclinations of men (Genesis 6:3); as the Source of intellectual excellence (Genesis 41:38; Deuteronomy 34:9), of skill in handicraft (Exodus 28:3; Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31), of supernatural knowledge and prophetic gifts (Numbers 24:2), of valor and those qualities of mind or body which give one man acknowledged superiority over others (Judges 3:10; Judges 6:34; Judges 11:29; Judges 13:25).

2. In that period which began with Samuel the effect of the Spirit coming on a man is described in the remarkable case of Saul as change of heart (1 Samuel 10:6; 1 Samuel 10:9), shown outwardly by prophesying (10:10; comp. Numbers 11:25, and 1 Samuel 19:20). He departs from a man whom he has once changed (1 Samuel 16:14). His departure is the departure of God (1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 18:12; 1 Samuel 28:15); his presence is the presence of God (1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 18:12). In the period of the kingdom the operation of the Spirit was recognized chiefly in the inspiration of the prophets (see Witsius, Miscellanea Sacra, lib. 1; Smith [J.], Select Discourses, 6. Of Prophecy; Knobel, Prophetismus der Hebraer). Separated more or less from the common occupations of men to a life of special religious exercise (Bull [Bp.], Sermons, 10, 187, ed. 1840), they were sometimes workers of miracles, always foretellers of future events, and guides and advisers of the social and political life of the people who were contemporary with them (2 Kings 2:9; 2 Chronicles 24:20; Ezekiel 2:23; Nehemiah 9:30, etc.). In their writings are found abundant predictions of the ordinary operations of the Spirit that were to be most frequent in later times, by which holiness, justice, peace, and consolation were to be spread throughout the world (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 41:1, etc.).

3. Even after the closing of the canon of the Old Test. the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world continued to be acknowledged by Jewish writers (Wisdom of Solomon 1:7; Wisdom of Solomon 9:17; Philo, De Gigant. 5; and see Ridley, Moyer Lectures, serm. 2, p. 81, etc.).

4. In the New Test., both in the teaching of our Lord and in the narratives of the events which preceded his ministry and occurred in its course, the existence and agency of the Holy Spirit are frequently revealed, and are mentioned in such a manner as shows that these facts were part of the common belief of the Jewish people at that time. Theirs was, in truth, the ancient, faith, but more generally entertained, which looked upon prophets as inspired teachers, accredited by the power of working signs and wonders (see Nitzsch, Christl. Lehre, § 84). It was made plain to the understanding of the Jews of that age that the same Spirit who wrought of old among the people of God was still at work. "The dove forsook the ark of Moses and fixed its dwelling in the Church of Christ" (Bull, On Justification, diss. 2, ch. 11, § 7). The gifts of miracles, prediction, and teaching, which had cast a fitful luster on the times of the great Jewish prophets, were manifested with remarkable vigor in the first century after the birth of Christ. Whether in the course of eighteen hundred years miracles and predictions have altogether ceased, and, if so, at what definite time they ceased, are questions still debated among Christians. On this subject reference may be made to Dr. Conyers Middleton's Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers of the Christian Church; Dr. Brooke's Examination of Middleton's Free Inquiry; W. Dodwell's Letter to Middleton; Bp. Douglas's Criterion; J.H. Newman's Essay on Miracles, etc. With respect to the gifts of teaching bestowed both in early and later ages, comp. Neander, Planting of Christianity, bk. 3, ch. 5, with Horsley, Sermons, 14; Potter, On Church Government, ch. 5; and Hooker, Ecclesiastes Polity, 5, 72, 5-8. (See MIRACLE).

The relation of the Holy Spirit to the incarnate Son of God (see Oxford translation of Treatises of Athanasius, p. 196, note d) is a subject for reverent contemplation rather than precise definition. By the Spirit the redemption of mankind was made known, though imperfectly, to the prophets of old (2 Peter 1:21), and through them to the people of God. When the time for the incarnation had arrived, the miraculous conception of the Redeemer (Matthew 1:18) was the work of the Spirit; by the Spirit he was anointed in the womb or at baptism (Acts 10:38; comp. Pearson, On the Creed, art. 2, p. 126, ed. Oxon. 1843); and the gradual growth of his perfect human nature was in the Spirit (Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52). A visible sign from heaven showed the Spirit! descending on and abiding with Christ, whom he thenceforth filled and led (Luke 4:1), cooperating with Christ in his miracles (Matthew 12:18). The multitude of disciples are taught to pray for and expect the Spirit as the best and greatest boon they can seek (Luke 11:13). He inspires with miraculous powers the first teachers whom Christ sends forth, and he is repeatedly promised and given by Christ to the apostles (Matthew 10:20; Matthew 12:28; John 14:16; John 20:22;. Acts 1:8). (See SPIRIT, BAPTISM OF).

Perhaps it was in order to correct the grossly defective conceptions of the Holy Spirit which prevailed commonly among the people, and to teach them that this is the most awful possession of the heirs of the kingdom of heaven, that our Lord himself pronounced the strong. condemnation of blasphemers of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 12:31). This has roused in every age the susceptibility of tender consciences, and has caused much inquiry to be made as to the specific character of the sin so denounced, and of the human actions which fall under so terrible a ban. On the one hand, it is argued that no one now occupies the exact position of the Pharisees whom our Lord condemned, for they had not entered into covenant with the Holy Spirit by baptism; they did not merely disobey the Spirit, but blasphemously attributed his works to the devil; they resisted not merely an inward motion, but an outward call, supported by the evidence of miracles wrought before their eyes. On the other hand, a morbid conscience is prone to apprehend the unpardonable sin in every, even unintentional, resistance of an inward motion which may proceed from the Spirit. This subject is referred to in Article XVI of the Church of England, and is discussed by Burnet, Beveridge, and Harold Browne, in their Expositions of the Articles. It occupies the greater part of Athanasius's Fourth Epistle to Serapion, ch. 8-22 (sometimes printed separately as a treatise on Matthew 12:31). See also Augustine, Ep. ad Romans Expositio Inchoata, § 14-23, tom. 3, pt. 2, p. 933. Also Odo Cameracensis (A.D. 1113), De Blasphemia in Sp. Sanctum, in Migne's Patrologia Lat. vol. 163; Denison (A.D. 1611) The Sin against the Holy Ghost; Waterland, Sermons, 27, in Works, 5, 706; Jackson, On the Creed, bk. 8, ch. 3, p. 770). (See UNPARDONABLE SIN).

But the ascension of our Lord is marked (Ephesians 4:8; John 7:39. etc.) as the commencement of a new period in the history of the inspiration of men by the Holy Ghost. The interval between that event and the end of the world is often described as the dispensation of the Spirit. It was not merely (as Didymus Alex. De Trinitate, 3, 34, 431, and others have suggested) that the knowledge of the Spirit's operations became more general among mankind. It cannot be allowed, though Bp. Heber (Lectures, 8, 514, and 7, 488) and Warburton have maintained it, that the Holy Spirit has sufficiently redeemed his gracious promise to every succeeding age of Christians only by presenting us with the New Test. Something more was promised, and continues to be given. Under the old dispensation the gifts of the Holy Spirit were uncovenanted, not universal, intermittent, chiefly external. All this was changed. Our Lord, by ordaining (Matthew 28:19) that every Christian should be baptized in the name of the Holy Ghost, indicated at once the absolute necessity from that time forth of a personal connection of every believer with the Spirit; and (in John 16:7-15) he declares the internal character of the Spirit's work, and (in John 14:16-17, etc.) his permanent stay. Subsequently the Spirit's operations under the new dispensation are authoritatively announced as universal and internal in two remarkable passages (Acts 2:16-21; Hebrews 8:8-12). The different relations of the Spirit to believers severally under the old and the new dispensation are described by Paul under the images of a master to a servant, and a father to a son (Romans 8:15); so much deeper and more intimate is the union, so much higher the position (Matthew 11:11), of a believer, in the later stage than in the earlier (see Walchius, Miscellanea Sacra, p. 763; De Spiritu Adoptionis; and the opinions collected in note H in Hare's Mission of the Comforter, 2, 433). The rite of imposition of hands, not only on teachers, but also on ordinary Christians, which has been used in the apostolic (Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; Acts 19:6, etc.) and in all subsequent ages, is a testimony borne by those who come under the new dispensation to their belief of the reality, permanence, and universality of the gift of the Spirit.

Under the Christian dispensation it appears to be the office of the Holy Ghost to enter into and dwell within every believer (Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11; 1 John 3:24). By him the work of redemption is (so to speak) appropriated and carried out to its completion in the case of every one of the elect people of God. To believe, to profess sincerely the Christian faith, and to walk as a Christian, are his gifts (1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Galatians 5:18) to each person severally: not only does he bestow the power and faculty of acting, but he concurs (1 Corinthians 3:9; Philippians 2:13) in every particular action so far as it is good (see South, Sermons, 35, vol. 2, p. 292). His inspiration brings the true knowledge of all things (1 John 2:27). He unites the whole multitude of believers into one regularly organized body (1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4:4-16). He is not only the source of life to us on earth (2 Corinthians 3:6; Romans 8:2), but also the power by whom God raises us from the dead (Romans 8:11). All Scripture, by which men in every successive generation are instructed and made wise unto salvation, is inspired by him (Ephesians 3:5; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21); he cooperates with suppliants in the utterance of every effectual prayer that ascends on high (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26); he strengthens (Ephesians 3:16), sanctifies (2 Thessalonians 2:13), and seals the souls of men unto the day of completed redemption (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30).

That this work of the Spirit is a real work, and not a mere imagination of enthusiasts, may be shown (1) from the words of Scripture to which reference has been made, which are too definite and clear to be explained away by any such hypothesis; (2) by the experience of intelligent Christians in every age, who are ready to specify the marks and tokens of his operation in themselves, and even to describe the manner in which they believe he works (on this see Barrow, Sermons, 77 and 78, towards the end; Waterland, Sermons, 26, vol. 5, p. 686); (3) by the superiority of Christian nations over heathen nations, in the possession of those characteristic qualities which are gifts of the Spirit, in the establishment of such customs, habits, and laws as are agreeable thereto, and in the exercise of an enlightening and purifying influence in the world. Christianity and civilization are never far asunder. Those nations which are now eminent in power and knowledge are all to be found within the pale of Christendom not, indeed, free from national vices, yet, on the whole, manifestly superior both to contemporary unbelievers and to paganism in its ancient palmy days. See Hare, Mission of the Comforter, serm. 6, 1, 202; Porteus, On the Beneficial Effects of Christianity on the Temporal Concerns of Mankind, in Works, 6, 375-460.

It has been inferred from various passages of Scripture that the operations of the Holy Spirit are not limited to those persons who, either by circumcision or by baptism, have entered into covenant with God. Abimelech (Genesis 20:3), Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), Jethro (Exodus 18:12), Balaam (Numbers 22:9), and Job, in the Old Test., and the Magi (Matthew 2:12), and the case of Cornelius, with the declaration of Peter (Acts 10:35) thereon, are instances showing that the Holy Spirit bestowed his gifts of knowledge and holiness in some degree even among heathen nations; and if we may go beyond the attestation of Scripture, it might be argued from the virtuous actions of some heathens, from their ascription of whatever good was in them to the influence of a present deity (see the references in Heber's Lectures, 6, 446), and from their tenacious preservation of the rite of animal sacrifice, that the Spirit whose name they knew not must have girded them, and still girds such as they were, with secret blessedness.

III. Doctrinal Theories. Thus far it has been attempted to sketch briefly the work of the Holy Spirit, among men in all ages as it is revealed to us in the Bible. But after, the closing of the canon of the New Test. the religious subtlety of Oriental Christians led them to scrutinize, with the most intense accuracy, the words in which God has, incidentally as it were, revealed to us something of the mystery of the being of the Holy Ghost. It would be vain now to condemn the superfluous and irreverent curiosity with which these researches were sometimes prosecuted, and the scandalous contentions which they caused. The result of theme was the formation as well as the general acceptance of certain statements as inferences from Holy Scripture which took their place in the established creeds and in the teaching of the fathers of the Church, and which the great body of Christians throughout the world continue to adhere to, and to guard with more or less vigilance.

1. The Sadducees are sometimes mentioned as preceding any professed Christians in denying the personal existence of the Holy Ghost. Such was the inference of Epiphanius (Hoeres. 41), Gregory Nazianzen (Oratio 31, § 5, p. 558, ed. Ben.), and others from the testimony of Luke (Acts 33:8). But it may be doubted whether the error of the Sadducees did not rather consist in asserting a corporeal Deity. Passing over this, in the, first youthful age of the Church, when, as Neander observes (Ch. Hist. 2, 327, Bohn's ed.), the power of the Holy Spirit was so mightily felt as a new creative, transforming principle of life, the knowledge of this Spirit, as identical with the Essence of God, was not so thoroughly and distinctly impressed on the understanding of Christians. Simon Magus, the Montanists, and the Manichaeans are said to have imagined that the promised Comforter was personified in certain human beings. The language of some of the primitive fathers, though its deficiencies have been greatly exaggerated, occasionally comes short of a full and complete acknowledgment of the divinity of the Spirit. Their opinions are given in their own words, with much valuable criticism, in Dr. Burton's Testimonies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers to the Doctrine of the Trinity and the Divinity of the Holy Ghost (1831). Valentinus believed that the Holy Spirit was an angel. The Sabellians denied that he was a distinct person from the Father and the Son. Eunomius, with the Anomaeans and the Arians; regarded him as a created being. Macedonius, with his followers the Pneumatomachi, also denied his divinity, and regarded him as a created being attending on the Son. His procession from the Son as well as from the Father was the great point of controversy in the Middle Ages. In modern times the Socinians and Spinoza have altogether denied the personality; and have regarded him as an influence or power of the Deity. It must suffice in this article to give the principal texts of Scripture in which these erroneous opinions are contradicted, and to refer to the principal works in which they are discussed at length. The documents in which various existing communities of Christians have stated their belief are specified by Winer, Comparative Darstellung des Lehrbegriffs, etc. p. 41, 80.

2. The divinity of the Holy Ghost is proved by the fact that he is called God. (Comp. 1 Samuel 16:13 with 1 Samuel 18:12; Acts 5:3 with 5:4; 2 Corinthians 3:17 with Exodus 34:34; Acts 28:25 with Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 12:28 with Luke 11:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16 with 1 Corinthians 6:19.) The attributes of God are ascribed to him. He creates, works miracles, inspires prophets, is the Source of holiness (see above), is everlasting (Hebrews 9:14), omnipresent, and omniscient (Psalms 139:7; and 1 Corinthians 2:10).

3. The personality of the Holy Ghost is shown by the actions ascribed to him. He hears and speaks (John 16:13; Acts 10:19; Acts 13:2, etc.). He wills and acts on his decision (1 Corinthians 12:11). He chooses and directs a certain course of action (Acts 15:28). He knows (1 Corinthians 2:11). He teaches (John 14:26). He intercedes (Romans 8:26). The texts 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, and 2 Thessalonians 3:5, are quoted against those who confound the three persons of the Godhead.

4. The procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father is shown from John 14:26; John 15:26, etc. The tenet of the Western Church that he proceeds from the Son is grounded on John 15:26; John 16:7; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11; and on the action of our Lord recorded by John 20:22. The history of the long and important controversy on this point has been written by Pfaff; by Walchius, Historia Controversioe de Processione (1751); and by Neale, Hist. of the Eastern Church, 2, 1093. (See HOLY GHOST).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Spirit (or “Ghost”), Holy'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box:
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology