The concept of the Holy Spirit exists in several religions across the world. It has been depicted in paintings of the Renaissance, in different forms, such as a dove, or an angel. The Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, as it is represented in the Christian religion, is a part of the triad called “The Holy Trinity”. The manifestation of God in this manner means that all that God is, are actually three ideas. These are as God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these together makes up God, and each individually makes up God too.
To understand the extent of the full meaning of the Holy Spirit, it is important to draw on knowledge from the religion of the Jews. Jesus was Himself a Jew, so there is a close relationship between some antecedents of Christianity and Judaism. Theologians and religious scholars often make a connection between the Holy Spirit of Christianity with the Ruach Hakodesh in Jewish Holy texts. This stands for the Holy Spirit of Judaism, which likens it, not to God itself, but to a force or power that works through God. Judaism speaks of the Spirit of Yahweh as well. Christian research refers to this as a parallel with the Holy Spirit.
The Christian Bible
In the New Testament of the Holy Bible portrays a close relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This was at the time when Jesus was alive and was preaching the word of God. The New Testament details the Holy Spirit as identifiable with Christ’s Spirit and the Paraclete. The term “Paraclete” itself means advocate or helper. Clearly, the helper of God. In the Christian faith it stands for the Holy Spirit. So these are all just different terms to signify a single concept. Nonetheless, they may be confusing to understand as they relate to each other differently in the Christian religion sometimes. The concept of the Holy Spirit occurs repeatedly at different instances in the Bible, but generally refers to the Power of God everywhere.
The word “spirit” in the Holy Bible is translated from a word in the Hebrew script. The word is “Ru’achpneu’ma”. In all aspects of the Bible and its narrative, these words are representative of the active force of God (Genesis 1:2). Nonetheless, the Bible also refers to these words to mean the following:
- Wind (Genesis 8:1- John 3:8)
- Vitality and animating, a powerful force that exists in the living world (Job 34:14)
- Breath (Revelation 13:15)
- Spirits, angels and God (John 4:24)
Theologians agree that these references have a common thread running through them – that of a sense of an invisible force that humans only experience as visible effects. For instance, breath is invisible and powerful, as is the Spirit of God.
In other references, the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as His “hands” (Psalm 8:3). Experts interpret this reference as being akin to an artisan working with his hands to create his work. God, in a similar way, uses the Spirit to create the universe, the Bible, miracles and all the good people who follow the tenets of the Christian faith.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the New Testament put forth similar perspectives of the life and death of Jesus Christ. So these are called “synoptic“. The conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19) clearly narrates Jesus Christ’s instruction to his disciples at the time of His resurrection. To quote Christ, “make disciples of all people of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. By this, Christ is referring to the Holy Trinity as one being.
The Council of Constantinople
In CE 381, at the Council of Constantinople, the earliest seat of Christendom, a clear meaning of the Holy Spirit was defined. It was categorically stated that the Holy Spirit was a divine force. This power was deemed to be equal in all ways to the Father and to the Son. It was further clarified that the Holy Spirit was in no way a subordinate entity. The Nicene Creed, a statement of widespread belief in the Christian religion, was created and amended by the Council of Constantinople. Based on this credo, all the Christian churches today believe that Jesus is divine and is equal to God. The Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Lord” in the Nicene Creed, meaning that the Holy Spirit is a representation of God.
Churches of the East and West
All churches view the Holy Spirit as a bond that ties the Father and Son together. It symbolizes the union of the two and means that they are completely as one in the Holy Spirit. In the Western world, the Holy Spirit is seen as emanating from the Father and the Son. In the East, it is held that the Holy Spirit progresses from the Father to the Son.
Catholics and Orthodox Christians
Catholics and Orthodox Christians alike have had experiences with the concept of the Holy Spirit in the practice of religious life. Right since the time of the Apostles, all the ways of internment into the Christian religion have employed the Holy Trinity principle. In baptism and confirmation, this is the sacrament that is most prominent. Devotees of the Eastern Orthodox Church experience the role of the Holy Spirit as a force that descends upon worshipers, the wine, and the Eucharist in Epiclesis, a special prayer.
The Book of Exodus
In the Book of Exodus (15:8) in the Bible, it is made very clear that the Holy Spirit is not an individual, apart from God. Rather, the Holy Spirit belongs to God and is a part of God. The Holy Spirit works only as God commands it to. The Holy Spirit is compared to positive qualities and forces in the Bible. These are knowledge, faith and wisdom.
The Holy Spirit is nameless
Nowhere in the Bible is the Holy Spirit named. The Bible calls God, Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit is never manifested by a name. Stephen, a martyr in Christendom, witnessed a miraculous heavenly vision. He saw only two people, it is believed, not three. The Holy Spirit, God’s power leading to action, enabled him to witness the divine vision.
For years, Christians and those belonging to other faiths, have misconstrued the meaning of the Holy Spirit. It is believed to be a person, which is not true. The King James version of the Bible clearly shows that this is not so in John (5:7). It is mentioned that God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are one. Christian scripture has, at one time or another, personified the Holy Spirit, and this may have led to the confusion in people’s minds. Nonetheless, this isn’t proof enough that the Holy Spirit is a person. In fact, the Bible tends to personify concepts such as death, sin, and wisdom as well (Romans 5:17). For instance, sin is personified as killing and seducing. When John, the apostle reiterated the words of Christ, he personified the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete (helper). Additionally, he used the pronouns “he” or “him” in reference to the Paraclete.
Some people also argue, that in prayer, we say “in the name of the Holy Spirit”. So this must mean that the Holy Spirit has a name and is a person. This phrase simply implies that the Holy Spirit stands for authority or power, much like we use “in the name of the law”. Law isn’t an actual person, and nor is the Holy Spirit.