Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Spirit of the Lord=Holy Ghost?

Posted by robf on March 10, 2007

In order to continue thinking about the Spirit, I’d like to think a little bit more about the relationship between the Old Testament Spirit (Hebrew:Ruwach–wind, breath, mind, spirit) of the Lord (Hebrew:YHWY–“Jehovah”) and the New Testament Holy (Greek:Hagios–holy) Ghost (Greek: Pneuma–animating spirit, soul, mind). Are these two phrases strictly equivalent? If so, what does that really mean? Is this a “who” or a “what”? Before trying to answer these questions from modern revelation, I’d like to further explore what these meant in their Biblical context.

8 Responses to “Spirit of the Lord=Holy Ghost?”

  1. nhilton said

    Robf, this is a fabulous post. I look forward to reading what you & others have to say on this subject since it has been the subject of much of my personal contemplation the past year.

    As I began seriously studying about the Spirit of the Lord, I was interested in how this same Spirit was integral to the creation, Gen. 1:2. As part of the God Head, *I* believe that this was the Holy Spirit, not God or Jesus. I believe that this is where the Holy Ghost complemented the other two members of the Godhead in the creation of Earth. However, the distinction isn’t textually supported and I COULD BE WRONG.

    The reason I make this distinction is because in following verses God specifically speaks, owning the action. In this verse Spirit = Ruwach. It is used 378 times in the KJV OT. I find it interesting that it’s a feminine noun. (Modern revelation leads one to believe the HG to be male, but this is a stretch and perhaps more supported by our bias toward a patriarcle leadership expectation than definitive revelation.) Each instance of the word usage is impossible to know exactly what the author intended the word to encompass. This is where Matt’s personal interpretation of the scriptures with the aid of the Holy Ghost must come into play.

    For example, In the New Testament the word Spirit = Pneuna, or Holy Ghost (both Stong’s word #4154) with King James Word Usage – Total: 385 being used as – Spirit 111, Holy Ghost 89, Spirit (of God) 13, Spirit (of the Lord) 5, (My) Spirit 3, Spirit (of truth) 3, Spirit (of Christ) 2, human (spirit) 49, (evil) spirit 47, spirit (general) 26, spirit 8, (Jesus’ own) spirit 6, (Jesus’ own) ghost 2, miscellaneous 21.

    It is my experience that in reading scriptures about the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit, the Holy Ghost and other names I haven’t listed all require personal interpretation.

  2. robf said

    This article may be pretty far downstream from the “source of all truth,” but it does an interesting job making a case that the OT Spirit of God/the Lord=the hand of God=Wisdom=(at least in part) the NT Holy Ghost. If nothing else, I’ll have to look further into the hand of God as something else related to this discussion–and to see how that plays out in Book of Mormon and modern revelations.

    While we’re mudding about downstream, if you have access to JSTOR or a university library, you might want to consider looking up:

    Haroutunian, Joseph, “The Church, the Spirit, and the Hands of God,” The Journal of Religion, Vol. 54, No. 2. (Apr., 1974), pp. 154-165.

    Haroutunian explores this hands of God theme, using a metaphor of Ireneus (Christ is one hand of God, the Spirit is another) to argue, among other things, that the Spirit is something that exists as a sanctifier and mediator within the Church–a sort of divine medium of communication and interaction between us as we work out our salvation. This article was written from notes after Haroutunian passed away, so it may not be fully developed, and it definitely isn’t an LDS source, but it does raise some interesting questions.

    I’m starting to wonder if our understanding of The Spirit is limited by our metaphysics. Perhaps a view of God the Father (Elohim), God the Son (YHWH, Jehovah, Jesus), and God the Spirit as three persons standing on a Celestial planet somewhere just doesn’t quite cut it. Perhaps we wrest the scriptures when we try to make them fit this view. Do we need a better understanding of the the Cosmos, a better understanding of an omnipresent and omnipotent Light of Christ, and how it works, to understand The Spirit? We can feel The Spirit, but what do we really know about The Spirit as a person or a force or a medium of sanctification or divine communication?

    In saying this, I join Joe in fear and trembling. Contemplation of a Mormon pneumatology that can handle these thoughts does not appear to be very close to the main stream of gospel thought and discussion in the Church. Perhaps it is one of those mysteries of deep import that only time and patience and solemn thoughts can bring out. Perhaps this is something that we need to look into the heavens for five minutes to better understand (TPJS p.324). Perhaps we don’t really have the conceptual framework or words to really explore this correctly.

    Or perhaps this is looking beyond the mark. Perhaps just as we don’t have to understand how a car works to be a safe driver, we don’t have to really understand The Spirit to hear and follow it? While this thought nags at me, I have to think that knowing more about car mechanics or The Spirit actually would help me be a better driver and follower of The Spirit. I’m not sure, so beg patience with all for these thoughts and musings.

  3. robf said

    Another useful (?) starting point for this discussion might be this old review:

    Schoemaker, William Ross, “The Use of רוַּח in the Old Testament, and of πνευ̑μα in the New Testament: A Lexicographical Study,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 23, No. 1. (1904), pp. 13-67.

    Though many of the particulars may be dated and supplanted by later scholarship, Schoemaker traces every use of the Hebrew ruwach and the Greek pneuma in the Bible. He does so by supposed chronological periods based on a documentary hypothesis. These periods include what he considered–
    A) The oldest texts (900-700BC) including J and E texts, as well as the earlier prophets.
    B) Deuteronomic Period (700-55O BC)including Deuteronomy, Judges, Kings, and Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habbakuk.
    C) Babylonian (Exilic) and Early Persian Periods (550-400 BC) including Ezekiel, some of Isaiah, Zechariah (1-8), Haggai, Malachi, Ezra, Nehemiah, H and P texts, and many of the Psalms.
    D) Later Persian and Greek Periods up to the Maccabean times.
    E) Pneuma in Classic Greek writings
    F) Septuagint usage of pneuma
    G) Apocryphal and Pseudipigraphic useage of pneuma
    H) Useage by Philo
    I) Useage by Josephus
    J) Use in the New Testament–broken down by
    i)sayings of Jesus,
    ii) the evangelists
    iii) Book of Acts, epistles, Revelations
    iv) writings of Paul.

    While we might quibble with the dating of some of the texts, or with the whole documentary hypothesis, Schoemaker outlines several different useages of the two terms at various times.

    In summary, Schoemaker finds the following use of the term ruwach:
    1) Wind-common useage throughout. Directed by God
    2) Breath–begins in Ezekiel and during the Exile.
    2) Spirit
    a) Spirit of God
    i) Non-prophetic function–spirit gives people strength, etc. Among earliest texts. Beginning with Ezekiel also transports prophet.
    ii) Prophetic function–creating ecstatic visions. Most common in earliest texts, almost gone in Deuteronomic texts, in Priestly texts a few cases of spirit providing wisdom, almost disappears after return from Exile but during that period Spirit begins to be seen as the medium by which prophetic messages come.
    iii) God’s directing and protecting presence–beginning in Exilic sources, spirit seen as present and guiding the people, seen as holy (Psalms 51, Isaiah 63).
    b) Personal spirit
    i) physical strength, courage, anger–almost like a mood. Fairly common in earliest texts (Pharoah’s spirit is agitated, Samson’s is revived, etc.). Continues through all periods.
    ii) seat of humility–beginning in Exilic times, broken spirit sign of humility.
    iii) energizing and directing power in humans–just like Spirit of God is the directing and energizing power coming from God, the Spirit of man is the self directed power and energy beginning in Exilic texts.

    In general, ruwach is depicted as primarily meaning wind, then the power and influence of God–first as it animates prophets and gives power to leaders, then eventually as the medium by which messages are given (as opposed to by direct relaying through angels or messengers). The spirit is nowhere clearly depicted as a being or personage, but mostly as a power or influence.

    In turning to the Greek term pneuma, Schoemaker sees a similar pattern. The term is originally meant either wind or breath in the Classic texts. In the Septuagint, the translators used pneuma most often in passages dealing with “spirit”, using other terms for those dealing with wind. They also used other Greek terms to indicate the personal moods previously described by ruwach. The concept of the spirit of God is not used much in the Apocryphal or Pseudopigraphic writings–though many texts use pneuma to depict the angels or evil spirits, and the Book of Enoch uses the term to describe disembodied human spirits.

    Philo used pneuma to mean wind or breath, and also used it to refer to a pure universal knowledge that all people can participate in–a universal wisdom. This spirit can also change people–including improving the eyes, complexion, size, motions, and voice of Abraham.

    In the New Testament, pneuma seems to take on many new meanings. Jesus rarely mentions the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) in the synoptic gospels, though in John the Holy Spirit mediates the born again process. Jesus does say that the Holy Ghost will teach them what to say (Matt 10:20, etc.). The Holy Spirit is seen as a helper or advocate. During the life of Jesus, others are not seen to have the Spirit. This comes afterwards as depicted in Acts. At that time and in the epistles, the Holy Ghost is seen as a permanent endowment given to the Saints. This is seen as a restoration of earlier pre-Deuteronomic OT prophetic traditions. The spirit provides prophetic insights, helps and directs the believer in establishing the Kingdom of God, and leads them to all truth.

    Paul provides further development of teachings about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit binds believers together, purifies them, and provides gifts (“Gifts of the Spirit”). While Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit is a teacher in the Gospel of John, Paul elaborates on this–perhaps drawing on traditions in Philo and the Apocrypha–to teach that the Spirit is the bearer of wisdom and knowledge to the believer. Paul is also the greatest teacher of the regenerating and sanctifying power of the spirit.

    There’s a lot to digest in this 56 page article, and probably much more in later research that might modify some of these views. I hope others here can shed more light on the historical development of some of these uses of these terms, especially in how they are used to describe the Spirit of God/Holy Spirit.

    Another thing from this article that was thought provoking, that perhaps deserves another post, is the idea that when we are baptized “in the name of” the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, this has less to do with authority, but really means that we are given to belong to them, or given their name. Perhaps someone else here can comment on the Greek there, and what that might really mean.

  4. Thanks for this reference, Rob. I’ve got somehow to get access to JSTOR… it drives me crazy that I can’t get ahold of these things easier.

  5. Jim F. said

    Most large libraries should have the Anchor Bible Dictionary. It has an excellent article on the Holy Spirit (vol. 3, page 260). Though it isn’t an LDS source, it gives a good deal of historical and textual information about the use of the terms you are interested in. There are other relevant entries as well.

  6. robf said

    Joe (or anyone else), send me an email (link on my blog) and I’ll send you copies of these two articles. Jim, thanks for the Anchor Bible Dictionary reference. Since I’m not in residence at the University of Texas right now, I’m only able to access their online journals and resources, and they don’t have this reference online. If I keep up these explorations I’m going to need access to another good library out here somewhere.

    One of my concerns as I struggle to finish my PhD is wondering how I’m going to get access to all the literature if I continue to take jobs outside of the university. Maybe I’ll have to adjunct somewhere with a good library just to maintain access.

  7. Joe Spencer said

    Thanks Jim. I had actually begun reading the AB entry on “Holy Spirit” this morning, before I got on and saw your reference. It is very helpful, that is for sure. Thanks, Rob, for your help. Expect an e-mail.

  8. nhilton said

    So where does the Greek word “paraclete” or “parakletos” come into play in the understanding of the Holy Ghost (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)? This same name is applied to Jesus in 1 John 2:1.

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