The Greek pneuʹma (spirit) comes from pneʹo, meaning “breathe or blow,” and the Hebrew ruʹach (spirit) is believed to come from a root having the same meaning. Ruʹach and pneuʹma, then, basically mean “breath” but have extended meanings beyond that basic sense. (Compare Hab 2:19; Re 13:15.) They can also mean wind; the vital force in living creatures; one’s spirit; spirit persons, including God and his angelic creatures; and God’s active force, or holy spirit. (Compare Koehler and Baumgartner’s Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, Leiden, 1958, pp. 877-879; Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1980, pp. 924-926; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G. Friedrich, translated by G. Bromiley, 1971, Vol. VI, pp. 332-451.) All these meanings have something in common: They all refer to that which is invisible to human sight and which gives evidence of force in motion. Such invisible force is capable of producing visible effects.
Another Hebrew word, nesha·mahʹ (Ge 2:7), also means “breath,” but it is more limited in range of meaning than ruʹach. The Greek pno·eʹ seems to have a similar limited sense (Ac 17:25) and was used by the Septuagint translators to render nesha·mahʹ.
Wind. Consider first the sense that is perhaps easiest to grasp. The context in many cases shows ruʹach to mean “wind,” as the “east wind” (Ex 10:13), “the four winds.” (Zec 2:6) The mention of such things as clouds, storm, the blowing of chaff or things of similar nature appearing in the context often makes evident this sense. (Nu 11:31; 1Ki 18:45; 19:11; Job 21:18) Because the four winds are used to mean the four directions
Job 41:15, 16 says of Leviathan’s closely fitting scales that “not even air [weruʹach] can come in between them.” Here again ruʹach represents air in motion, not merely air in a quiescent or motionless state. Thus the thought of an invisible force is present, the basic characteristic of the Hebrew ruʹach.
Evidently the only case in the Christian Greek Scriptures in which pneuʹma is used in the sense of “wind” is at John 3:8.
Man cannot exercise control over the wind; he cannot guide, direct, restrain, or possess it. Because of this, “wind [ruʹach]” frequently stands for that which is uncontrollable or unattainable by man
Spirit Persons. God is invisible to human eyes (Ex 33:20; Joh 1:18; 1Ti 1:17), and he is alive and exercises unsurpassed force throughout the universe. (2Co 3:3; Isa 40:25-31) Christ Jesus states: “God is a Spirit [Pneuʹma].” The apostle writes: “Now Jehovah is the Spirit.” (Joh 4:24; 2Co 3:17, 18) The temple built on Christ as foundation cornerstone is “a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”
This does not mean that God is an impersonal, bodiless force like the wind. The Scriptures unmistakably testify to his personality; he also has location so that Christ could speak of ‘going to his Father,’ this in order that he might “appear before the person of God [literally, “face of God”] for us.”
The expression “my spirit” (ru·chiʹ) used by God at Genesis 6:3 may mean “I the Spirit,” even as his use of “my soul” (naph·shiʹ) has the sense of “I the person,” or “my person.” (Isa 1:14; see SOUL [God as Having Soul].) He thereby contrasts his heavenly spiritual position with that of earthly, fleshly man.
God’s Son. God’s “only-begotten son,” the Word, was a spirit person like his Father, hence “existing in God’s form” (Php 2:5-8), but later “became flesh,” residing among mankind as the man Jesus. (Joh 1:1, 14) Completing his earthly course, he was “put to death in the flesh, but [was] made alive in the spirit.” (1Pe 3:18) His Father resurrected him, granted his Son’s request to be glorified alongside the Father with the glory he had had in his prehuman state (Joh 17:4, 5), and God made him “a life-giving spirit.” (1Co 15:45) The Son thus became again invisible to human sight, dwelling “in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.”
Other spirit creatures. Angels are designated by the terms ruʹach and pneuʹma in a number of texts. (1Ki 22:21, 22; Eze 3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5; Ac 23:8, 9; 1Pe 3:19, 20) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the majority of such references are to wicked spirit creatures, demons.
Psalm 104:4 states that God makes “his angels spirits, his ministers a devouring fire.” Some translations would render this: “Who makest the winds thy messengers, fire and flame thy ministers,” or similarly. (RS, JP, AT, JB) Such translation of the Hebrew text is not inadmissible (compare Ps 148:8); however, the apostle Paul’s quotation of the text (Heb 1:7) coincides with that of the Greek Septuagint and harmonizes with the rendering first given. (In the Greek text of Hebrews 1:7, the definite article [tous] is used before “angels,” not before “spirits [pneuʹma·ta],” making the angels the subject being discussed.) Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament (1974) says: “It is to be presumed that [Paul], who had been trained in the knowledge of the Hebrew language, would have had a better opportunity of knowing its [referring to Psalm 104:4] fair construction than we can; and it is morally certain, that he would employ the passage in an argument as it was commonly understood by those to whom he wrote
God’s angels, though capable of materializing human form and appearing to men, are not by nature material or fleshly, hence are invisible. They are actively alive and able to exert great force, and the terms ruʹach and pneuʹma therefore aptly describe them.
Ephesians 6:12 speaks of Christians wrestling, “not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” The latter part of the text in Greek literally reads: “Toward the spiritual (things) [Gr., pneu·ma·ti·kaʹ] of the wickedness in the heavenly [places].” Most modern translations recognize that the reference here is not simply to something abstract, “spiritual wickedness” (KJ), but refers to wickedness carried out by spirit persons. Thus, we have such renderings as: “the spirit-forces of evil on high” (AT), “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (RS), “the spiritual army of evil in the heavens” (JB), “the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens” (NE).
God’s Active Force; Holy Spirit. By far the majority of occurrences of ruʹach and pneuʹma relate to God’s spirit, his active force, his holy spirit.
Not a person. Not until the fourth century C.E. did the teaching that the holy spirit was a person and part of the “Godhead” become official church dogma. Early church “fathers” did not so teach; Justin Martyr of the second century C.E. taught that the holy spirit was an ‘influence or mode of operation of the Deity’; Hippolytus likewise ascribed no personality to the holy spirit. The Scriptures themselves unite to show that God’s holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force by which he accomplishes his purpose and executes his will.
It may first be noted that the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (KJ) found in older translations at 1 John 5:7 are actually spurious additions to the original text. A footnote in The Jerusalem Bible, a Catholic translation, says that these words are “not in any of the early Greek MSS [manuscripts], or any of the early translations, or in the best MSS of the Vulg[ate] itself.” A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, by Bruce Metzger (1975, pp. 716-718), traces in detail the history of the spurious passage. It states that the passage is first found in a treatise entitled Liber Apologeticus, of the fourth century, and that it appears in Old Latin and Vulgate manuscripts of the Scriptures, beginning in the sixth century. Modern translations as a whole, both Catholic and Protestant, do not include them in the main body of the text, because of recognizing their spurious nature.
Personification does not prove personality. It is true that Jesus spoke of the holy spirit as a “helper” and spoke of such helper as ‘teaching,’ ‘bearing witness,’ ‘giving evidence,’ ‘guiding,’ ‘speaking,’ ‘hearing,’ and ‘receiving.’ In so doing, the original Greek shows Jesus at times applying the masculine personal pronoun to that “helper” (paraclete). (Compare Joh 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15.) However, it is not unusual in the Scriptures for something that is not actually a person to be personalized or personified. Wisdom is personified in the book of Proverbs (1:20-33; 8:1-36); and feminine pronominal forms are used of it in the original Hebrew, as also in many English translations. (KJ, RS, JP, AT) Wisdom is also personified at Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:35, where it is depicted as having both “works” and “children.” The apostle Paul personalized sin and death and also undeserved kindness as “kings.” (Ro 5:14, 17, 21; 6:12) He speaks of sin as “receiving an inducement,” ‘working out covetousness,’ ‘seducing,’ and ‘killing.’ (Ro 7:8-11) Yet it is obvious that Paul did not mean that sin was actually a person.
So, likewise with John’s account of Jesus’ words regarding the holy spirit, his remarks must be taken in context. Jesus personalized the holy spirit when speaking of that spirit as a “helper” (which in Greek is the masculine substantive pa·raʹkle·tos). Properly, therefore, John presents Jesus’ words as referring to that “helper” aspect of the spirit with masculine personal pronouns. On the other hand, in the same context, when the Greek pneuʹma is used, John employs a neuter pronoun to refer to the holy spirit, pneuʹma itself being neuter. Hence, we have in John’s use of the masculine personal pronoun in association with pa·raʹkle·tos an example of conformity to grammatical rules, not an expression of doctrine.
Lacks personal identification. Since God himself is a Spirit and is holy and since all his faithful angelic sons are spirits and are holy, it is evident that if the “holy spirit” were a person, there should reasonably be given some means in the Scriptures to distinguish and identify such spirit person from all these other ‘holy spirits.’ It would be expected that, at the very least, the definite article would be used with it in all cases where it is not called “God’s holy spirit” or is not modified by some similar expression. This would at least distinguish it as THE Holy Spirit. But, on the contrary, in a large number of cases the expression “holy spirit” appears in the original Greek without the article, thus indicating its lack of personality.
How baptized in its “name.” At Matthew 28:19 reference is made to “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” A “name” can mean something other than a personal name. When, in English, we say, “in the name of the law,” or “in the name of common sense,” we have no reference to a person as such. By “name” in these expressions we mean ‘what the law stands for or its authority’ and ‘what common sense represents or calls for.’ The Greek term for “name” (oʹno·ma) also can have this sense. Thus, while some translations (KJ, AS) follow the Greek text at Matthew 10:41 literally and say that the one that “receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward,” more modern translations say, “receives a prophet because he is a prophet” and “receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man,” or similar. (RS, AT, JB, NW) Thus, Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (1930, Vol. I, p. 245) says on Matthew 28:19: “The use of name (onoma) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority.” Hence baptism ‘in the name of the holy spirit’ implies recognition of that spirit as having its source in God and as exercising its function according to the divine will.
Other evidence of its impersonal nature. Further evidence against the idea of personality as regards the holy spirit is the way it is used in association with other impersonal things, such as water and fire (Mt 3:11; Mr 1:8); and Christians are spoken of as being baptized “in holy spirit.” (Ac 1:5; 11:16) Persons are urged to become “filled with spirit” instead of with wine. (Eph 5:18) So, too, persons are spoken of as being ‘filled’ with it along with such qualities as wisdom and faith (Ac 6:3, 5; 11:24) or joy (Ac 13:52); and holy spirit is inserted, or sandwiched in, with a number of such qualities at 2 Corinthians 6:6. It is most unlikely that such expressions would be made if the holy spirit were a divine person. As to the spirit’s ‘bearing witness’ (Ac 5:32; 20:23), it may be noted that the same thing is said of the water and the blood at 1 John 5:6-8. While some texts refer to the spirit as ‘witnessing,’ ‘speaking,’ or ‘saying’ things, other texts make clear that it spoke through persons, having no personal voice of its own. (Compare Heb 3:7; 10:15-17; Ps 95:7; Jer 31:33, 34; Ac 19:2-6; 21:4; 28:25.) It may thus be compared to radio waves that can transmit a message from a person speaking into a microphone and cause his voice to be heard by persons a distance away, in effect, ‘speaking’ the message by a radio loudspeaker. God, by his spirit, transmits his messages and communicates his will to the minds and hearts of his servants on earth, who, in turn, may convey that message to yet others.
Distinguished from “power.” Ruʹach and pneuʹma, therefore, when used with reference to God’s holy spirit, refer to God’s invisible active force by which he accomplishes his divine purpose and will. It is “holy” because it is from Him, not of an earthly source, and is free from all corruption as “the spirit of holiness.” (Ro 1:4) It is not Jehovah’s “power,” for this English word more correctly translates other terms in the original languages (Heb., koʹach; Gr., dyʹna·mis). Ruʹach and pneuʹma are used in close association or even in parallel with these terms signifying “power,” which shows that there is an inherent connection between them and yet a definite distinction. (Mic 3:8; Zec 4:6; Lu 1:17, 35; Ac 10:38) “Power” is basically the ability or capacity to act or do things and it can be latent, dormant, or inactively resident in someone or something. “Force,” on the other hand, more specifically describes energy projected and exerted on persons or things, and may be defined as “an influence that produces or tends to produce motion, or change of motion.” “Power” might be likened to the energy stored in a battery, while “force” could be compared to the electric current flowing from such battery. “Force,” then, more accurately represents the sense of the Hebrew and Greek terms as relating to God’s spirit, and this is borne out by a consideration of the Scriptures.
Its Use in Creation. Jehovah God accomplished the creation of the material universe by means of his spirit, or active force. Regarding the planet Earth in its early formative stages, the record states that “God’s active force [or “spirit” (ruʹach)] was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.” (Ge 1:2) Psalm 33:6 says: “By the word of Jehovah the heavens themselves were made, and by the spirit of his mouth all their army.” Like a powerful breath, God’s spirit can be sent forth to exert power even though there is no bodily contact with that which is acted upon. (Compare Ex 15:8, 10.) Where a human craftsman would use the force of his hands and fingers to produce things, God uses his spirit. Hence that spirit is also spoken of as God’s “hand” or “fingers.”
Modern science speaks of matter as organized energy, like bundles of energy, and recognizes that “matter can be changed into energy and energy into matter.” (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1987, Vol. 13, p. 246) The immensity of the universe that man has thus far been able to discern with his telescopes gives some slight concept of the inexhaustible source of energy to be found in Jehovah God. As the prophet wrote: “Who has taken the proportions of the spirit of Jehovah?”
Source of animate life, reproductive powers. Not only inanimate creation but also all animate creation owes its existence and life to the operation of Jehovah’s spirit that produced the original living creatures through whom all living creatures today have come to exist. (Compare Job 33:4; see section of this article under “Breath; Breath of Life; Life-Force.”) Jehovah used his holy spirit to revive the reproductive powers of Abraham and Sarah, and therefore Isaac could be spoken of as “born in the manner of spirit.” (Ga 4:28, 29) By his spirit God also transferred his Son’s life from heaven to earth, causing conception in the womb of the virgin Jewess Mary.
Spirit Used on Behalf of God’s Servants. A principal operation of God’s spirit involves its ability to inform, to illuminate, to reveal things. Therefore David could pray: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Your spirit is good; may it lead me in the land of uprightness.” (Ps 143:10) Much earlier, Joseph had given the interpretation of Pharaoh’s prophetic dreams, being enabled to do so by God’s help. The Egyptian ruler recognized the operation of God’s spirit in him. (Ge 41:16, 25-39) This illuminating power of the spirit is particularly notable in prophecy. Prophecy, as the apostle shows, did not spring from human interpretation of circumstances and events; it was not the result of some innate ability of the prophets to explain the meaning and significance of these or to forecast the shape of coming events. Rather, such men were “borne along by holy spirit”
God’s spirit, then, not only brings revelation and understanding of God’s will but also energizes his servants to accomplish things in accord with that will. That spirit acts as a driving force that moves and impels them, even as Mark says the spirit “impelled” Jesus to go into the wilderness after his baptism. (Mr 1:12; compare Lu 4:1.) It can be like a “fire” within them, causing them to be “aglow” with that force (1Th 5:19; Ac 18:25; Ro 12:11), in a sense ‘building up steam’ or pressure in them to do certain work. (Compare Job 32:8, 18-20; 2Ti 1:6, 7.) They receive the “power of the spirit,” or “power through his spirit.” (Lu 2:27; Eph 3:16; compare Mic 3:8.) Yet it is not merely some unconscious, blind impulse, for their minds and hearts are affected as well so that they can intelligently cooperate with the active force given them. Thus the apostle could say of those who had received the gift of prophecy in the Christian congregation that the “gifts of the spirit of the prophets are to be controlled by the prophets,” so that good order might be maintained.
Variety of operations. Even as an electric current can be used to accomplish a tremendous variety of things, so God’s spirit is used to commission and enable persons to do a wide variety of things. (Isa 48:16; 61:1-3) As Paul wrote of the miraculous gifts of the spirit in his day: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but there is the same spirit; and there are varieties of ministries, and yet there is the same Lord; and there are varieties of operations, and yet it is the same God who performs all the operations in all persons. But the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for a beneficial purpose.”
The spirit has qualifying force or capacity; it can qualify persons for a work or for an office. Though Bezalel and Oholiab may have had knowledge of crafts before their appointment in connection with the making of the tabernacle equipment and priestly garments, God’s spirit ‘filled them with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge’ so that the work could be done in the way purposed. It heightened whatever natural abilities and acquired knowledge they already had, and it enabled them to teach others. (Ex 31:1-11; 35:30-35) The architectural plans for the later temple were given to David by inspiration, that is, through the operation of God’s spirit, thus enabling David to undertake extensive preparatory work for the project.
God’s spirit acted on and through Moses in prophesying and performing miraculous acts, as well as in leading the nation and acting as judge for it, thereby foreshadowing the future role of Christ Jesus. (Isa 63:11-13; Ac 3:20-23) However, Moses as an imperfect human found the load of responsibility heavy, and God ‘took away some of the spirit that was on Moses and placed it upon 70 older men’ so that they might help in carrying the load. (Nu 11:11-17, 24-30) The spirit also became operative on David from the time of his anointing by Samuel onward, guiding and preparing him for his future kingship.
Joshua became “full of the spirit of wisdom” as Moses’ successor. But the spirit did not produce in him the ability to prophesy and perform miraculous works to the extent that it had in Moses. (De 34:9-12) However, it enabled Joshua to lead Israel in the military campaign that brought about the conquest of Canaan. Similarly, Jehovah’s spirit “enveloped” other men, ‘impelling’ them as fighters on behalf of God’s people, fighters such as Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson.
The spirit of God energized men to speak his message of truth boldly and courageously before opposers and at the risk of their lives.
Judging and executing judgment. By his spirit God exercises judgment on men and nations; he also carries out his judgment decrees
At Revelation 1:4 “the seven spirits” of God are mentioned as before his throne, and thereafter seven messages are given, each concluding with an admonition to “hear what the spirit says to the congregations.” (Re 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22) These messages contain heart-searching pronouncements of judgment and promises of reward for faithfulness. God’s Son is shown as having these “seven spirits of God” (Re 3:1); and they are spoken of as being “seven lamps of fire” (Re 4:5), and also as seven eyes of the lamb that is slaughtered, “which eyes mean the seven spirits of God that have been sent forth into the whole earth.” (Re 5:6) Seven being used as representative of completeness in other prophetic texts (see NUMBER, NUMERAL), it appears that these seven spirits symbolize the full active capacity of observation, discernment, or detection of the glorified Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, enabling him to inspect all the earth.
God’s Word is the spirit’s “sword” (Eph 6:17), revealing what a person really is, exposing hidden qualities or heart attitudes and causing him either to soften his heart and conform to God’s will expressed by that Word or to harden his heart in rebellion. (Compare Heb 4:11-13; Isa 6:9, 10; 66:2, 5.) God’s Word therefore plays a forceful part in predicting adverse judgment, and since God’s word or message must be carried out, the fulfillment of that word produces an action like that of fire on straw and like that of a forge hammer in smashing the crag. (Jer 23:28, 29) Christ Jesus, as God’s principal Spokesman, as “The Word of God,” declares the divine judgment messages and is authorized to order the execution of such judgments upon those judged. This is doubtless what is meant by references to his doing away with God’s enemies “by the spirit [activating force] of his mouth.”
God’s spirit acts as “helper” for congregation. As he promised, Jesus upon ascending to heaven requested of his Father the holy spirit, or active force of God, and was granted the authority to employ this spirit. He ‘poured it out’ on his faithful disciples on the day of Pentecost, continuing to do so thereafter for those turning to God through his Son. (Joh 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Ac 1:4, 5; 2:1-4, 14-18, 32, 33, 38) As they had been baptized in water, now they were all “baptized into one body” by that one spirit, immersed in it, as it were, somewhat like a piece of iron can be immersed in a magnetic field and thereby be imbued with magnetic force. (1Co 12:12, 13; compare Mr 1:8; Ac 1:5.) Though God’s spirit had operated on the disciples before, as evidenced by their being able to cast out demons (compare Mt 12:28; Mr 3:14, 15), it now operated on them in a heightened and more extensive manner and in new ways not previously experienced.
As the Messianic King, Christ Jesus has the “spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of mightiness, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah.” (Isa 11:1, 2; 42:1-4; Mt 12:18-21) This force for righteousness is manifest in his use of God’s active force, or spirit, in directing the Christian congregation on earth, Jesus being, by God’s appointment, its Head, Owner, and Lord. (Col 1:18; Jude 4) As a “helper,” that spirit now gave them increased understanding of God’s will and purpose and opened up God’s prophetic Word to them. (1Co 2:10-16; Col 1:9, 10; Heb 9:8-10) They were energized to serve as witnesses in all the earth (Lu 24:49; Ac 1:8; Eph 3:5, 6); they were granted miraculous ‘gifts of the spirit,’ enabling them to speak in foreign languages, prophesy, heal, and perform other activities that would both facilitate their proclamation of the good news and serve as evidence of their divine commission and backing.
As the congregation’s Overseer, Jesus used the spirit in a governmental way
As “living stones,” they were being formed into a spiritual temple based on Christ, one through which “spiritual sacrifices” would be made (1Pe 2:4-6; Ro 15:15, 16) and spiritual songs sung (Eph 5:18, 19) and in which God would reside by spirit. (1Co 3:16; 6:19, 20; Eph 2:20-22; compare Hag 2:5.) God’s spirit is a unifying force of enormous strength, and as long as such Christians allowed it free course among them, it joined them peacefully together in bonds of love and devotion to God, his Son, and one another. (Eph 4:3-6; 1Jo 3:23, 24; 4:12, 13; compare 1Ch 12:18.) The gift of the spirit did not equip them for mechanical types of activity, as it had Bezalel and others who manufactured and produced material structures and equipment, but it fitted them for spiritual works of teaching, guiding, shepherding, and counseling. The spiritual temple they formed was to be adorned with the beautiful fruits of God’s spirit, and that fruitage of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,” and similar qualities was proof positive that God’s spirit was operating in and among them. (Ga 5:22, 23; compare Lu 10:21; Ro 14:17.) This was the basic and primary factor producing good order and effective guidance among them. (Ga 5:24-26; 6:1; Ac 6:1-7; compare Eze 36:26, 27.) They submitted themselves to the ‘law of the spirit,’ an effective force for righteousness working to keep out the practices of the innately sinful flesh. (Ro 8:2; Ga 5:16-21; Jude 19-21) Their confidence was in God’s spirit operating on them, not in fleshly abilities or background.
When questions arose, the holy spirit was a helper in arriving at a decision, as in the question of circumcision, decided by the body, or council, of apostles and older men at Jerusalem. Peter told of the spirit’s being granted to uncircumcised people of the nations; Paul and Barnabas related the spirit’s operations in their ministry among such persons; and James, his memory of the Scriptures doubtless aided by holy spirit, called attention to the inspired prophecy of Amos foretelling that God’s name would be called on people of the nations. Thus all the thrust or drive of God’s holy spirit pointed in one direction, and hence, in recognition of this, when writing the letter conveying their decision, this body or council said: “For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things.”
Anoints, begets, gives ‘spiritual life.’ As God had anointed Jesus with his holy spirit at the time of Jesus’ baptism (Mr 1:10; Lu 3:22; 4:18; Ac 10:38), so he now anointed Jesus’ disciples. This anointing with the spirit was a “token” to them of the heavenly inheritance to which they were now called (2Co 1:21, 22; 5:1, 5; Eph 1:13, 14), and it bore witness to them that they had been ‘begotten,’ or brought forth, by God to be his sons with the promise of spirit life in the heavens. (Joh 3:5-8; Ro 8:14-17, 23; Tit 3:5; Heb 6:4, 5) They were made clean, sanctified, and declared righteous “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God,” by which spirit Jesus had been qualified to provide the ransom sacrifice and become God’s high priest.
Because of this heavenly calling and inheritance, Jesus’ spirit-anointed followers had a spiritual life, though yet living as imperfect, fleshly creatures. This is evidently what the apostle refers to when contrasting earthly fathers with Jehovah God, “the Father of our spiritual life [literally, “Father of the spirits”].” (Heb 12:9; compare verse 23.) As joint heirs with Christ, who are due to be raised up from death in a spiritual body bearing his heavenly image, they should live on earth as “one spirit” in union with him as their Head, not letting the desires or immoral tendencies of their flesh be the force controlling them, such a thing even resulting perhaps in their becoming “one flesh” with a harlot.
Gaining and retaining God’s spirit. The holy spirit is God’s “free gift,” which he gladly grants to those who sincerely seek and request it. (Ac 2:38; Lu 11:9-13) A right heart is the key factor (Ac 15:8), but knowledge and conformity to God’s requirements are also essential factors. (Compare Ac 5:32; 19:2-6.) Once received, the Christian should not ‘grieve’ God’s spirit by disregarding it (Eph 4:30; compare Isa 63:10), taking a course contrary to its leading, fixing the heart on goals other than that to which it points and impels, rejecting the inspired Word of God and its counsel and application to oneself. (Ac 7:51-53; 1Th 4:8; compare Isa 30:1, 2.) By hypocrisy one can “play false” to that holy spirit by which Christ directs the congregation, and those who “make a test” of its power in this way follow a disastrous course. (Ac 5:1-11; contrast Ro 9:1.) Deliberate opposition to and rebellion against the evident manifestation of God’s spirit can mean blasphemy against that spirit, a sin that is unforgivable.
Breath; Breath of Life; Life-Force. The account of the creation of man states that God formed man from the dust of the ground and proceeded to “blow [form of na·phachʹ] into his nostrils the breath [form of nesha·mahʹ] of life, and the man came to be a living soul [neʹphesh].” (Ge 2:7; see SOUL.) Neʹphesh may be translated literally as “a breather,” that is, “a breathing creature,” either human or animal. Nesha·mahʹ is, in fact, used to mean “breathing thing [or creature]” and as such is used as a virtual synonym of neʹphesh, “soul.” (Compare De 20:16; Jos 10:39, 40; 11:11; 1Ki 15:29.) The record at Genesis 2:7 uses nesha·mahʹ in describing God’s causing Adam’s body to have life so that the man became “a living soul.” Other texts, however, show that more was involved than simple breathing of air, that is, more than the mere introduction of air into the lungs and its expulsion therefrom. Thus, at Genesis 7:22, in describing the destruction of human and animal life outside the ark at the time of the Flood, we read: “Everything in which the breath [form of nesha·mahʹ] of the force [or, “spirit” (ruʹach)] of life was active in its nostrils, namely, all that were on the dry ground, died.” Nesha·mahʹ, “breath,” is thus directly associated or linked with ruʹach, which here describes the spirit, or life-force, that is active in all living creatures
As the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. VI, p. 336) states: “Breath may be discerned only in movement [as in the movement of the chest or the expanding of the nostrils], and it is also a sign, condition and agent of life, which seems to be esp[ecially] tied up with breathing.” Hence, the nesha·mahʹ, or “breath,” is both the product of the ruʹach, or life-force, and also a principal means of sustaining that life-force in living creatures. It is known from scientific studies, for example, that life is present in every single cell of the body’s one hundred trillion cells and that, while thousands of millions of cells die each minute, constant reproduction of new living cells goes on. The life-force active in all the living cells is dependent upon the oxygen that breathing brings into the body, which oxygen is transported to all the cells by the bloodstream. Without oxygen some cells begin to die after several minutes, others after a longer period. While a person can go without breathing for a few minutes and still survive, without the life-force in his cells he is dead beyond all human ability to revive him. The Hebrew Scriptures, inspired by man’s Designer and Creator, evidently use ruʹach to denote this vital force that is the very principle of life, and nesha·mahʹ to represent the breathing that sustains it.
Because breathing is so inseparably connected with life, nesha·mahʹ and ruʹach are used in clear parallel in various texts. Job voiced his determination to avoid unrighteousness “while my breath [form of nesha·mahʹ] is yet whole within me, and the spirit [weruʹach] of God is in my nostrils.” (Job 27:3-5) Elihu said: “If that one’s spirit [form of ruʹach] and breath [form of nesha·mahʹ] he [God] gathers to himself, all flesh will expire [that is, “breathe out”] together, and earthling man himself will return to the very dust.” (Job 34:14, 15) Similarly, Psalm 104:29 says of earth’s creatures, human and animal: “If you [God] take away their spirit, they expire, and back to their dust they go.” At Isaiah 42:5 Jehovah is spoken of as “the One laying out the earth and its produce, the One giving breath to the people on it, and spirit to those walking in it.” The breath (nesha·mahʹ) sustains their existence; the spirit (ruʹach) energizes and is the life-force that enables man to be an animated creature, to move, walk, be actively alive. (Compare Ac 17:28.) He is not like the lifeless, breathless, inanimate idols of human fabrication.
While nesha·mahʹ (breath) and ruʹach (spirit; active force; life-force) are sometimes used in a parallel sense, they are not identical. True, the “spirit,” or ruʹach, is at times spoken of as though it were the respiration (nesha·mahʹ) itself, but this seems to be simply because breathing is the prime visible evidence of the life-force in one’s body.
Thus at Ezekiel 37:1-10 the symbolic vision of the valley of dry bones is presented, the bones coming together, becoming covered with sinews, flesh, and skin, but “as regards breath [weruʹach], there was none in them.” Ezekiel was told to prophesy to “the wind [ha·ruʹach],” saying, “From the four winds [form of ruʹach] come in, O wind, and blow upon these killed people, that they may come to life.” The reference to the four winds shows that wind is the appropriate rendering for ruʹach in this case. However, when such “wind,” which is simply air in motion, entered the nostrils of the dead persons of the vision, it became “breath,” which is also air in motion. Thus, the rendering of ruʹach as “breath” at this point of the account (vs 10) is also more appropriate than “spirit” or “life-force.” Ezekiel also would be able to see the bodies begin to breathe, even though he could not see the life-force, or spirit, energizing their bodies. As verses 11-14 show, this vision was symbolic of a spiritual (not physical) revivification of the people of Israel who were for a time in a spiritually dead state due to their Babylonian exile. Since they were already physically alive and breathing, it is logical to render ruʹach as “spirit” in verse 14, where God states that he will put ‘his spirit’ in his people so that they would become alive, spiritually speaking.
A similar symbolic vision is given at Revelation chapter 11. The picture is presented of “two witnesses” who are killed and whose corpses are allowed to lie on the street for three and a half days. Then “spirit [or breath, pneuʹma] of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” (Re 11:1-11) This vision again draws on a physical reality to illustrate a spiritual revivification. It also shows that the Greek pneuʹma, like the Hebrew ruʹach, may represent the life-giving force from God that animates the human soul or person. As James 2:26 states: “The body without spirit [pneuʹma·tos] is dead.”
Therefore, when God created man in Eden and blew into his nostrils “the breath [form of nesha·mahʹ] of life,” it is evident that, in addition to filling the man’s lungs with air, God caused the life-force, or spirit (ruʹach), to vitalize all the cells in Adam’s body.
This life-force is passed on from parents to offspring through conception. Since Jehovah was the original Source of this life-force for man, and the Author of the procreation process, one’s life can properly be attributed to Him, though received not directly but indirectly through one’s parents.
Life-force, or spirit, is impersonal. As noted, the Scriptures refer to the ruʹach, or life-force, as being not only in humans but also in animals. (Ge 6:17; 7:15, 22) Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 shows that man dies in the same manner as the beasts, for “they all have but one spirit [weruʹach], so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast,” that is, as to the life-force common to both. This being so, it is clear that the “spirit,” or life-force (ruʹach), as used in this sense is impersonal. As an illustration, one might compare it to another invisible force, electricity, which may be used to make various types of machines operate
Thus, Psalm 146:3, 4 says that when man’s “spirit [form of ruʹach] goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.” The spirit, or life-force, that was active in man’s body cells does not retain any of the characteristics of those cells, such as the brain cells and their part in the thinking process. If the spirit, or life-force (ruʹach; pneuʹma), were not impersonal, then it would mean that the children of certain women who were resurrected by the prophets Elijah and Elisha were actually in conscious existence somewhere in the period during which they were dead. So, too, with Lazarus, who was resurrected some four days after his death. (1Ki 17:17-23; 2Ki 4:32-37; Joh 11:38-44) If such had been the case, it is reasonable that they would have remembered such conscious existence during that period and upon being resurrected would have described it, told about it. There is nothing to indicate that any of them did so. Hence, the personality of the dead individual is not perpetuated in the life-force, or spirit, that stops functioning in the deceased person’s body cells.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 states that at death the person’s body returns to the dust, “and the spirit itself returns to the true God who gave it.” The person himself was never in heaven with God; what “returns” to God is therefore the vital force that enabled the person to live.
In view of the impersonal nature of the life-force, or spirit, found in man (as also in the animal creation), it is evident that David’s statement at Psalm 31:5, quoted by Jesus at the time of his death (Lu 23:46), “Into your hand I entrust my spirit,” meant that God was being called upon to guard, or care for, that one’s life-force. (Compare Ac 7:59.) That there be an actual and literal transmission of some force from this planet to the heavenly presence of God is not necessarily required. Even as the fragrant scent of animal sacrifices was spoken of as being ‘smelled’ by God (Ge 8:20, 21), whereas such scent undoubtedly remained within earth’s atmosphere, so, too, God could ‘gather in,’ or could accept as entrusted to him, the spirit or life-force in a figurative sense, that is, without any literal transmission of vital force from earth. (Job 34:14; Lu 23:46) A person’s entrusting his spirit evidently means, then, that he places his hope in God for a future restoration of such life-force to himself through a resurrection.
Impelling Mental Inclination. Ruʹach and pneuʹma are both used to designate the force that causes a person to display a certain attitude, disposition, or emotion or to take a certain action or course. While that force within the person is itself invisible, it produces visible effects. This use of the Hebrew and Greek terms rendered “spirit” and basically related to breath or to air in motion is paralleled to a considerable degree by English expressions. Thus, we speak of a person as ‘putting on airs,’ or of manifesting an ‘air of calmness’ or of ‘having a bad spirit.’ We speak of ‘breaking a person’s spirit,’ in the sense of discouraging and disheartening him. As applying to a group of persons and the dominant force activating them, we may talk of ‘getting into the spirit of an occasion,’ or we may refer to the ‘mob spirit’ that infects them. Metaphorically we may refer to an ‘atmosphere of discontent’ or to ‘winds of change and revolution blowing through a nation.’ By all of these we refer to this invisible activating force working in persons, moving them to speak and act as they do.
Similarly, we read of Isaac and Rebekah’s “bitterness of spirit” resulting from Esau’s marriage to Hittite women (Ge 26:34, 35) and of the sadness of spirit that overwhelmed Ahab, robbing him of his appetite. (1Ki 21:5) A “spirit of jealousy” could move a man to view his wife with suspicion, even to bring charges against her of adultery.
The basic sense of a force that moves and gives “drive” or “thrust” to one’s actions and speech is also seen in the reference to Joshua as “a man in whom there is spirit” (Nu 27:18), and to Caleb as demonstrating “a different spirit” from that of the majority of the Israelites who had become demoralized by the bad report of ten spies. (Nu 14:24) Elijah was a man of much drive and force in his zealous service to God, and Elisha sought a two-part share in Elijah’s spirit as his successor. (2Ki 2:9, 15) John the Baptizer demonstrated the same vigorous drive and energetic zeal that Elijah had shown, and this resulted in John’s having a powerful effect on his listeners; hence he could be said to have gone forth “with Elijah’s spirit and power.” (Lu 1:17) By contrast, Solomon’s wealth and wisdom had such an overwhelming and breathtaking effect on the queen of Sheba that “there proved to be no more spirit in her.” (1Ki 10:4, 5) In this same fundamental sense one’s spirit may be “stirred up” or “roused” (1Ch 5:26; Ezr 1:1, 5; Hag 1:14; compare Ec 10:4), become “agitated” or “irritated” (Ge 41:8; Da 2:1, 3; Ac 17:16), be “calmed down” (Jg 8:3), be ‘distressed,’ be made to ‘faint’ (Job 7:11; Ps 142:2, 3; compare Joh 11:33; 13:21), be ‘revived’ or “refreshed” (Ge 45:27, 28; Isa 57:15, 16; 1Co 16:17, 18; 2Co 7:13; compare 2Co 2:13).
Heart and spirit. The heart is frequently tied in with the spirit, indicating a definite relationship. Since the figurative heart is shown to have the capacity for thinking and motivation, and to be intimately related with emotions and affection (see HEART), it undoubtedly has a major share in the development of the spirit (the dominant mental inclination) that one shows. Exodus 35:21 places heart and spirit in parallel in saying that “everyone whose heart impelled him, . . . everyone whose spirit incited him,” brought contributions for the tabernacle construction. Conversely, on learning of Jehovah’s powerful works on behalf of Israel, the Canaanites’ ‘hearts began to melt and no spirit arose among them,’ that is, there was no urge to initiate action against the Israelite forces. (Jos 2:11; 5:1; compare Eze 21:7.) References are also made to ‘pain of heart and breakdown of spirit’ (Isa 65:14) or similar expressions. (Compare Ps 34:18; 143:4, 7; Pr 15:13.) Evidently because of the powerful effect of the activating force on the mind, Paul admonishes: “You should be made new in the force actuating [form of pneuʹma] your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”
The vital necessity to control one’s spirit is strongly emphasized. “As a city broken through, without a wall, is the man that has no restraint for his spirit.” (Pr 25:28) Under provocation a person may act as the stupid one who impatiently ‘lets all his spirit out,’ whereas the wise one “keeps it calm to the last.” (Pr 29:11; compare 14:29, 30.) Moses allowed himself to become unduly provoked when the Israelites “embittered his spirit” on one occasion, and he “began to speak rashly with his lips,” to his own loss. (Ps 106:32, 33) Thus, “he that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man, and he that is controlling his spirit than the one capturing a city.” (Pr 16:32) Humility is essential for this (Pr 16:18, 19; Ec 7:8, 9), and the one “humble in spirit will take hold of glory.” (Pr 29:23) Knowledge and discernment keep a man “cool of spirit,” in control of his tongue. (Pr 17:27; 15:4) Jehovah makes “an estimate of spirits” and judges those who fail to ‘guard themselves respecting their spirit.’
Spirit shown by a body of persons. As an individual may show a certain spirit, so too a group or body of people may manifest a certain spirit, a dominant mental inclination. (Ga 6:18; 1Th 5:23) The Christian congregation was to be united in spirit, reflecting the spirit of their Head, Christ Jesus.
Paul refers to “the spirit of the world” in contrast with God’s spirit. (1Co 2:12) Under the control of God’s Adversary (1Jo 5:19), the world shows a spirit of catering to the desires of the fallen flesh, of selfishness, bringing enmity toward God. (Eph 2:1-3; Jas 4:5) Like unfaithful Israel, the world’s unclean motivation promotes fornication, either physical or spiritual, with idolatry.