What or who is the Holy Spirit?

We are like Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night, most likely fearing for his reputation but drawn uncontrollably to this teacher who could speak with such authority that made even the blind see and the lame walk at his command. Jesus said that we must be born of the Spirit and he likened the Spirit to the wind which we can’t see but we can observe its effect.

John the Baptist said he could only baptise in water but one was coming who would baptise in Holy Spirit. We read that Jesus breathed on his disciples after his resurection and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” On the day of Pentecost the Spirit descended on them like tongues of fire and right at the begining of Genesis we read that God’s Spirit moved over the waters and then God spoke and said, ” Let there be light”

The word for Spirit is RUACH in the Hebrew of the Old Testament and PNEUMA in the Greek New Testament. Both words can be translated as BREATH. When we die it says our spirit returns to the One who gave it Ecclesiastes 12:7. Experiments have been conducted to see if there was any sudden weight loss at death but the departing spirit could not be measured that way.

The Bible speaks of demons as evil spirits, and of man’s spirit. It speaks too of God’s Spirit which must be called HOLY SPIRIT. Jesus says that God is a Spirit and we must worship him in Spirit and in truth.

Gender dvides things up into male, female and neuter and use – he, she and it, In English we do sometimes take a bit of poetic licence and call things like a ship, which should be an – it, as a – she and a – her but you can usually work out if it’s a he, she or it. Other languages divide things up in ways that arn’t so obvious. In the Greek of the New Testament some do keep to the obvious so that FATHER is a masculine noun and SISTER is feminine but so is the word for SWORD and I can’t see anything particularly feminine there. The grammar dictates that words that refer to SWORD also have to be in the feminine version such as THIS, THAT, WHICH/WHO etc..The word for SPIRIT (pneuma) is a neuter noun and would be refered to by – IT or by WHICH

Now Ephesians 6:17 says to take the SWORD of the SPIRIT WHICH is the word {rhema -spoken word) of God but the word WHICH is in its neuter form and has to refer to the spirit and not the sword. So we have a definition of the Spirit which is the word that God speaks.

Jesus says in John 6:63 “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life”. There’s a link between the idea of breath and spirit and the words we produce with them. It goes without saying that Jesus’ spoken words were holy and therefore Holy Spirit. Note: I used a Capital H and a capital S and the Bible translators have sometimes used large and sometimes small letters. This has been their choice throughout the Old and New Testaments as both were written in what we now call capital letters. Cursive, or small letters are a much newer invention.

So back to our question – it or he ? When Holy Spirit is called the Counsellor (or one called alongside to help) then as counsellor is a masculine noun and therefore has to be refered to as – HE, just as Father would be, but Spirit takes an – IT.

So the use of HE or IT in our translations can’t be used as a theological argument for the person or not person of the Holy Spirit.

But we are out of our depth, paddling in the water at the seaside and talking about the ocean depths. He said, “Let there be light” and there was light – can we begin to grasp what happened there? Jesus told the lame man to take up his bed and walk and he was healed – this is beyond our comprehension. Jesus said to the woman that her sins were forgiven and they were! To those who come to him and repent ( a change of mind) to them he also says, “neither do I condem you”, and he can because he has paid the price for our wrongs. All far above our human level. This is what Spirit can do.

1 Reply to “The Holy Spirit”

  1. What a great article Mr Ripley. I can see that we cannot call the spirit of God a person. Thinking about my own case, I have felt the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life. The switch from the ways of the world to more godly ways, and love, patience and joy that is never far from the surface of my being.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *