The Holy Spirit, General

In the Old Testament there are two ways of describing spirit: Nephesh, originally meaning animating breath but refined in post exilic writing to mean the essence of a man (Zechariah 12:1); and, more significant for theology, Ruach, meaning wind (Psalm 104:29-30), associated with OT leaders but most specifically with the prophets (Isaiah 42:1; Micah 3:8) who invoked it when proclaiming a glorious future (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:24-7; 37:4-6; 10 (dry bones); Isaiah 11:1-3; 61:1-2; Joel 2:28-29). The Isaiah passage contains what came to be known as the "Sevenfold gifts" of the Spirit: understanding, knowledge, wisdom, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord. Over time these words were joined by the greek Pneuma (notably Lucan), meaning spirit and Logos which had a universal cosmic significnce; but care must be taken because John 1:1-14 seems to refer exclusively to the Creator not the Sanctifier.

Whereas Matthew and Mark are little concerned with the idea of the Holy Spirit, Luke sees Jesus as being constantly guided by it. In the Synoptic Gospels, The Spirit is common to accounts of Jesus' baptism (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22) and also in John 1:32-34 which the early church linked with its own rite of baptism. Over time the idea of the combination of "Water and the Holy Spirit" developed from its beginning in Mark 1:7, with interesting theological discussions in Acts (Acts 8:14-17; 10:44-48).

In the Synoptics Jesus said little about the Spirit except in:

  1. The Beelzebub controversy (Mark 3:28-30; Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 12:10); and
  2. Apparances before magistrates (Mark 13:11; Matthew 10:20; Luke 12:12; 21:15).

All the Synoptics portray Jesus as having a ministry of teaching, healing, exorcism and mighty works with authority from above, usualy the Father but, in the development of Trinitarian theology, even if it is desirable, it is difficult to draw a sharp distinction between Father and Spirit.

There are highly distinctive theologies of the Holy Spirit in John concerned with the concept of glory and in St. Paul who sees the Spirit as the vital force in the development of the Church.

KC ix/06

Related Study Sheets…