Religion:Holy Spirit in Christianity

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Short description: Third person of the Trinity in Christianity
The Holy Spirit as a dove in the Heavenly Trinity, joined to the Holy Family through the Incarnation of the Son, in The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities by Murillo, c. 1677 [clarification needed]

For the majority of Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, is believed to be the third person of the Trinity,[1] a triune God manifested as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, each being God.[2][3][4] Nontrinitarian Christians, who reject the doctrine of the Trinity, differ significantly from mainstream Christianity in their beliefs about the Holy Spirit. In Christian theology, pneumatology is the study of the Holy Spirit. Due to Christianity's historical relationship with Judaism, theologians often identify the Holy Spirit with the concept of the Ruach Hakodesh in Jewish scripture, on the theory that Jesus was expanding upon these Jewish concepts. Similar names, and ideas, include the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God), Ruach YHWH (Spirit of Yahweh), and the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit).[5][6] In the New Testament it is identified with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, the Paraclete and the Holy Spirit.[7][8][9]

The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry.[10] The Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the Nicene Creed state that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary".[11] The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove during his baptism, and in his Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his departure.[12][13]

The Holy Spirit is referred to as "the Lord, the Giver of Life" in the Nicene Creed, which summarises several key beliefs held by many Christian denominations. The participation of the Holy Spirit in the tripartite nature of conversion is apparent in Jesus' final post-resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew,[14] "Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."[15] Since the first century, Christians have also called upon God with the trinitarian formula "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, absolution and benediction.[16][17] In the book of the Acts of the Apostles the arrival of the Holy Spirit happens fifty days after the resurrection of the Christ, and is celebrated in Christendom with the feast of Pentecost.[18]

Etymology and usage

The Koine Greek word pneûma (πνεῦμα, pneuma) is found around 385 times in the New Testament, with some scholars differing by three to nine occurrences.[19] Pneuma appears 105 times in the four canonical gospels, 69 times in the Acts of the Apostles, 161 times in the Pauline epistles, and 50 times elsewhere.[19] These usages vary: in 133 cases it refers to "spirit" and in 153 cases to "spiritual". Around 93 times, the reference is to the Holy Spirit,[19] sometimes under the name pneuma and sometimes explicitly as the pneûma tò Hagion (Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον). (In a few cases it is also simply used generically to mean wind or life.[19]) It was generally translated into the Vulgate as Spiritus and Spiritus Sanctus.

The English terms "Holy Ghost" and "Holy Spirit" are complete synonyms: one derives from the Old English gast and the other from the Latin loanword spiritus. Like pneuma, they both refer to the breath, to its animating power, and to the soul. The Old English term is shared by all other Germanic languages (compare, e.g., the German Geist) and it is older; the King James Bible typically uses "Holy Ghost". Beginning in the 20th century, translations overwhelmingly prefer "Holy Spirit", partly because the general English term "ghost" has increasingly come to refer only to the spirit of a dead person.[20][21][22]


Hebrew Bible


  • וְר֣וּחַ קָדְשׁ֑וֹ (rûaḥ qādəšô) – His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10)[23]
  • וְר֣וּחַ קָ֝דְשְׁךָ֗ (rûaḥ qādəšəkā) – Your Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11)[24]
  • וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים (rûaḥ ĕlōhîm) – Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2)[25]
  • נִשְׁמַת־ר֨וּחַ חַיִּ֜ים (nišəmat-rûaḥ ḥayîm) – The Breath of the Spirit of Life (Genesis 7:22)[26]
  • ר֣וּחַ יְהוָ֑ה (rûaḥ YHWH) – Spirit of YHWH (Isaiah 11:2)[27]
  • ר֧וּחַ חָכְמָ֣ה וּבִינָ֗ה (rûaḥ ḥākəmâ ûbînâ) – Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding (Isaiah 11:2)[27]
  • ר֤וּחַ עֵצָה֙ וּגְבוּרָ֔ה (rûaḥ ʿēṣâ ûgəbûra) – Spirit of Counsel and Might (Isaiah 11:2)[27]
  • ר֥וּחַ דַּ֖עַת וְיִרְאַ֥ת יְהוָֽה (rûaḥ daʿat wəyīrəʾat YHWH) – Spirit of Knowledge[28] and Fear of YHWH (Isaiah 11:2)[27]

New Testament

  • πνεύματος ἁγίου (Pneumatos Hagiou) – Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18)[29]
  • πνεύματι θεοῦ (Pneumati Theou) – Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28)[30]
  • ὁ παράκλητος (Ho Paraclētos) – The Comforter, cf. Paraclete John 14:26 (John 16:7)[31]
  • πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας (Pneuma tēs Alētheias) – Spirit of Truth (John 16:13)[32]
  • Πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ (Pneuma Christou) – Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11)[33]

Depending on context:

  • πνεῦμα (Pneuma) – Spirit (John 3:8)[34]
  • Πνεύματος (Pneumatos) – Spirit (John 3:8)

Biblical portrayal

Old Testament

What the Hebrew Bible calls "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Elohim" is called in the Talmud and Midrash "Holy Spirit" (ruacḥ ha-kodesh). Although the expression "Holy Spirit" occurs in Ps. 51:11 and in Isa. 63:10–11, it had not yet acquired quite the same meaning which was attached to it in rabbinical literature: in the latter it is equivalent to the expression "Spirit of the Lord". In Gen.1:2 God's spirit hovered over the form of lifeless matter, thereby making the Creation possible.[35][36] Although the ruach ha-kodesh may be named instead of God, it was conceived of as being something distinct; and, like everything earthly that comes from heaven, the ruach ha-kodesh is composed of light and fire.[36] The most characteristic sign of the presence of the ruach ha-kodesh is the gift of prophecy. The use of the word "ruach" (Hebrew: "breath", or "wind") in the phrase ruach ha-kodesh seems to suggest that Judaic authorities believed the Holy Spirit was a kind of communication medium like the wind. The spirit talks sometimes with a masculine and sometimes with a feminine voice; the word ruacḥ is both masculine and feminine.[36]

New Testament

The term Holy Spirit appears at least 90 times in the New Testament.[7] The sacredness of the Holy Spirit to Christians is affirmed in all three Synoptic Gospels,[37] which proclaim that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin.[38] The participation of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity is suggested in Jesus' final post-Resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19):[39] "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".[15]

Synoptic Gospels

The Holy Spirit as a dove in The Annunciation, by Philippe de Champaigne, 1644.

The Holy Spirit is mentioned by all three authors of the synoptic Gospels. Most of the references are by the author of the Gospel of Luke; this emphasis is continued by the same author in the Book of Acts.

The Holy Spirit does not simply appear for the first time at Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, but is present in Luke (in chapters 1 and 2) prior to the birth of Jesus.[7] In Luke 1:15, John the Baptist was said to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" prior to his birth,[40] and the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary in Luke 1:35.[41][7] Later, in Luke 3:16,[42] John the Baptist stated that Jesus baptized not with water but with the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus during his baptism in the Jordan River.[7] In Luke 11:13,[43] Jesus provided assurances that God the Father would "give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him".[7]

Mark 13:11 specifically refers to the power of the Holy Spirit to act and speak through the disciples of Jesus in time of need: "Be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit."[44] Matthew 10:20[45] refers to the same act of speaking through the disciples, but uses the term "Spirit of your Father".[46]

Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles has sometimes been called the "Book of the Holy Spirit" or the "Acts of the Holy Spirit".[47][48] Of the seventy or so occurrences of the word Pneuma in Acts, fifty-five refer to the Holy Spirit.[48]

From the start, in Acts 1:2,[49] the reader is reminded that the ministry of Jesus, while he was on earth, was carried out through the power of the Holy Spirit and that the "acts of the apostles" continue the acts of Jesus and are also facilitated by the Holy Spirit.[48] Acts presents the Holy Spirit as the "life principle" of the early Church and provides five separate and dramatic instances of its outpouring on believers in Acts 2:1–4,[50] 4:28–31,[51] 8:15–17,[52] 10:44,[53] and 19:6.[54][47]

References to the Holy Spirit appear throughout Acts, for example Acts 1:5 and 8[55] stating towards the beginning, "For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit. ...Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you", referring to the fulfillment of the prophecy of John the Baptist in Luke 3:16,[42] "he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit".[56]

Johannine literature

Three separate terms, namely Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth and Paraclete are used in the Johannine writings.[9] The "Spirit of Truth" is used in John 14:17,[57] 15:26,[58] and 16:13.[59][7] The First Epistle of John then contrasts this with the "spirit of error" in 1 John 4:6.[60][7] 1 John 4:1–6 provides the separation between spirits "that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" and those who in error refuse it – an indication of their being evil spirits.[61]

In John 14:26,[62] Jesus states: "But the Comforter, [even] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things". The identity of the "Comforter" has been the subject of debate among theologians, who have proposed multiple theories on the matter.[63]

Pauline epistles

Stained glass representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove, c. 1660.

The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles; and the Apostle Paul's pneumatology is closely connected to his theology and Christology, to the point of being almost inseparable from them.[8]

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was likely the first of Paul's letters, introduces a characterization of the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 1:6[64] and 1 Thessalonians 4:8[65] which is found throughout his epistles.[66] In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul refers to the imitation of Christ (and himself) and states: "And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit", whose source is identified in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 as "God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you".[66][67][68]

These two themes of receiving the Spirit "like Christ" and God being the source of the Spirit persist in Pauline letters as the characterization of the relationship of Christians with God.[66] For Paul the imitation of Christ involves readiness to be shaped by the Holy Spirit, as in Romans 8:4 and 8:11: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you."[69][67]

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians also refers to the power of the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 1:5,[70] a theme also found in other Pauline letters.[71]

In the Apocrypha

The view of the Holy Spirit as responsible for Mary's pregnancy, found in the Synoptic Gospels,[72] is different from that found in the apocryphal Gospel of the Hebrews, adopted as canonical by the 4th century Nazarenes, in which Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as his mother and thus as female.[73] Some thought femininity incompatible with the idea that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit; according to the apocryphal Gospel of Philip, for example,

Some say, "Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit." They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman?[74]

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

In the Farewell Discourse Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his departure,[13] depiction from the Maesta by Duccio, 1308–1311.

The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry.[10] The Apostles' Creed echoes the statements in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, stating that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.[11]

Specific New Testament references to the interaction of Jesus and the Holy Spirit during his earthly life, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit during his ministry include:[10][11][75]

  • "Spirit without measure" having been given to Jesus in John 3:34, referring to the word spoken by Jesus (Rhema) being the words of God.[76]
  • Baptism of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit descending on him as a dove in Matthew 3:13–17,[77] Mark 1:9–11[78] and Luke 3:21–23.[79]
  • Temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4:1 the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert to be tempted.[80]
  • The Spirit casting out demons in Exorcising the blind and mute man miracle.[81]
  • Rejoice the Spirit in Luke 10:21 where seventy disciples are sent out by Jesus.[82]
  • Acts 1:2 states that until his death and resurrection, Jesus "had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles".[49]
  • Referring to the sacrifice of Jesus to be crucified out of obedience to the father, Hebrews 9:14 states that Jesus "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God".[83]

In his Farewell Discourse to his disciples, Jesus promised that he would "send the Holy Spirit" to them after his departure, in John 15:26 stating: "whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth ... shall bear witness of me".[58][12][13]

Mainstream doctrines

The theology of spirits is called pneumatology. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Lord and Giver of Life in the Nicene creed.[84] He is the Creator Spirit, present before the creation of the universe and through his power everything was made in Jesus Christ, by God the Father.[84] Christian hymns such as "Veni Creator Spiritus" ("Come, Creator Spirit") reflect this belief.[84]

In early Christianity, the concept of salvation was closely related to the invocation of the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit",[16][17] and since the first century, Christians have called upon God with the name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, baptism, communion, exorcism, hymn-singing, preaching, confession, absolution and benediction.[16][17] This is reflected in the saying: "Before there was a 'doctrine' of the Trinity, Christian prayer invoked the Holy Trinity".[16]

For the majority of Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God.[2][3][85] As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and Son of God.[2][3][85] He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (and, according to Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and other Protestants, from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed.[3] The Triune God is thus manifested as three Persons (Greek hypostases),[86] in One Divine Being (Greek: Ousia),[4] called the Godhead (from Old English: Godhood), the Divine Essence of God.[87]

In the New Testament, by the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, while maintaining her virginity.[88] The Holy Spirit descended over Jesus in a corporeal way, as a dove, at the time of his baptism, and a voice from Heaven was heard: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."[89][90] He is the Sanctifier, the Helper,[91] Comforter,[92] the Giver of graces, he who leads persons to the Father and the Son.[84]

The Holy Spirit is credited with inspiring believers and allowing for them to interpret all the sacred scripture, and leads prophets both in Old Testament and New Testament.[93] Christians receive the Fruits of the Holy Spirit by means of his mercy and grace.[94]

God the Holy Spirit

A depiction of the Trinity consisting of God the Holy Spirit along with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus).

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity includes the concept of God the Holy Spirit, along with God the Son and God the Father.[95][96] Theologian Vladimir Lossky has argued that while, in the act of the Incarnation, God the Son became manifest as the Son of God, the same did not take place for God the Holy Spirit which remained unrevealed.[97][failed verification] Yet, as in 1 Corinthians 6:19,[98] God the Spirit continues to dwell in the faithful.[96]

In a similar way, the Latin treatise De Trinitate (On the Trinity) of Augustine of Hippo affirms: "For as the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, which no one doubts to be said in respect to substance, yet we do not say that the very Supreme Trinity itself is three Gods, but one God. ...But position, and condition, and places, and times, are not said to be in God properly, but metaphorically and through similitudes. ...And as respects action (or making), perhaps it may be said most truly of God alone, for God alone makes and Himself is not made. Nor is He liable to passions as far as belongs to that substance whereby He is God. ...So the Father is omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent; yet not three omnipotents, but one omnipotent. ...Whatever, therefore, is spoken of God in respect to Himself, is both spoken singly of each Person, that is, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and together of the Trinity itself, not plurally but in the singular."[99]

In Christian theology the Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith.[100] The new believer is "born again of the Spirit".[101] The Holy Spirit enables Christian life by dwelling in the individual believers and enables them to live a righteous and faithful life.[100] The Holy Spirit also acts as comforter or Paraclete, one who intercedes, or supports or acts as an advocate, particularly in times of trial. And he acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions and of their moral standing as sinners before God.[102] Another faculty of the Holy Spirit is the inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and the church.[103]

Procession of the Holy Spirit

In John 15:26, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me."[104] In 325, the First Council of Nicaea, being the first ecumenical council, ended its Creed with the words "and in the Holy Spirit". In 381, the First Council of Constantinople, being the second ecumenical council, expanded the Creed and stated that Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father" (ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον). This phrase was based on John 15:26 (ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται). In 451, the Council of Chalcedon, being the fourth ecumenical council, affirmed the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.[105] During the same time, the question of procession of the Holy Spirit was addressed by various Christian theologians, expressing diverse views and using different terminology, thus initiating the debate that became focused on the Filioque clause.

In 589, the Third Council of Toledo in its third canon officially accepted the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (a Patre et Filio procedere).[106] During the next few centuries, two distinctive schools of thought were gradually shaped, Eastern and Western. Eastern theologians were teaching that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only (notion referred as monoprocessionism),[107] while Western theologians were teaching that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (notion referred as filioquism).[108] Debates and controversies between two sides became a significant point of difference within Christian pneumatology, inclusive of their historical role in setting the stage for the Great Schism of 1054.

Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit

St. Josaphat Cathedral in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is shaped as a cross with seven copper domes representing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit[109] consists of "permanent dispositions"[109] (in this similar to the permanent character of the sacraments), virtuous characteristics engendered in the Christian by the action of the Holy Spirit.[110] Galatians 5:22–23 names nine aspects and states:[110]

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.[111]

In the Epistle to the Galatians these nine characteristics are in contrast to the "works of the flesh" and highlight the positive manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit in believers.[110]

The "gifts of the Holy Spirit"[109] are distinct from the Fruit of the Spirit, and consist of specific abilities granted to the individual Christian.[100] They are frequently known by the Greek word for gift, charisma, in English charism, from which the term charismatic derives. There is no generally agreed upon exhaustive list of the gifts, and various Christian denominations use different lists, often drawing upon 1 Corinthians,[112] Romans 12[113] and Ephesians 4.[114][115] Pentecostal denominations and the charismatic movement teach that the absence of the supernatural gifts was due to the neglect of the Holy Spirit and his work by the major denominations.[115] Believers in the relevance of the supernatural gifts sometimes speak of a Baptism with the Holy Spirit or Filling with the Holy Spirit which the Christian needs to experience in order to receive those gifts.[116] However, many Christian denominations hold that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is identical with conversion, and that all Christians are by definition baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit"[109] are poured out on a believer at baptism, and are traditionally derived from Isaiah 11:1–2,[117] although the New Testament does not refer to Isaiah 11:1–2 regarding these gifts.[115][118] These 7 gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (strength), knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.[115][118] This is the view of the Catholic Church[109][118] and many other mainstream Christian groups.[115]

Denominational variations

Icon of the Fathers of the Council holding the Nicene Creed.

Christian denominations have doctrinal variations in their beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit. A well-known example is the Filioque controversy regarding the Holy Spirit – one of the key differences between the teachings of the main Western Churches and various Eastern Christian denominations (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East).[119][120]

The Filioque debate centers around whether the Nicene Creed should state that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father" and then have a stop, as the creed was initially adopted in Greek (and followed thereafter by the Eastern Church), or should say "from the Father and the Son" as was later adopted in Latin and followed by the Western Church, filioque being "and from the Son" in Latin.[121]

Towards the end of the 20th century, discussions took place about the removal of Filioque in the Nicene Creed from Anglican prayer books along the lines of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox approach, but these still have not reached a state of final implementation.[122]

The majority of mainstream Protestantism hold similar views on the theology of the Holy Spirit as the Roman Catholic Church, but there are significant differences in belief between Pentecostalism and the rest of Protestantism.[2][123] Pentecostalism has a focus on "Baptism with the Spirit", relying on Acts 1:5 which refers to "now you will baptize with the Holy Spirit".[124] The more recent Charismatic movements have a focus on the "gifts of the Spirit" (such as healing, prophecy, etc.) and rely on 1 Corinthians 12 as a scriptural basis, but often differ from Pentecostal movements.[125]

Non-trinitarian views about the Holy Spirit differ significantly from mainstream Christian doctrine.


The Holy Spirit has been a topic in at least two papal encyclicals:

The topic of the Holy Spirit is discussed extensively in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as "I believe in the Holy Spirit" in paragraphs 683 through 747.

Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians

Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians view the Holy Spirit not as an actual person separate from God the Father, but as God's eternal "energy" or "active force", that he uses to accomplish his will in creation and redemption.[126][127]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) believe that the Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones.[128] Unlike in many other denominations, the term "Holy Ghost" remains much more common than "Holy Spirit" in LDS contexts.[129] Nevertheless, the Holy Ghost is sometimes referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Comforter.[130] Latter-day Saints believe in a kind of social trinitarianism and subordinationism, meaning that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are understood as being unified in will and purpose, but not in substance.[131] The Holy Ghost is believed to be subordinate to the Father and the Son and operates under their direction. The Holy Ghost, like all intelligent beings, is believed to be fundamentally eternal, uncreated, and self-existent.[132]

The LDS Church teaches that the influence of the Holy Ghost can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost – which comes by the laying-on of hands by a properly ordained priesthood holder with a line of authority traced back to Christ through Peter – is obtained only after baptism when a person is confirmed.[133] Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, taught, "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man," he said, "if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half  – that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost".[134]

Symbolism and art


The Holy Spirit as a dove on a stamp from Faroe Islands.

The Holy Spirit is frequently referred to by metaphor and symbol, both doctrinally and biblically. Theologically speaking these symbols are a key to understanding of the Holy Spirit and his actions, and are not mere artistic representations.[85][135]

  • Water – signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, such that in the manner that "by one Spirit [believers] were all baptized", so they are "made to drink of one Spirit".[136] Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified[137] as its source and welling up in Christians to eternal life.[135][138] The Catechism of the Catholic Church, item 1137, considers the Water of Life reference in the Book of Revelation[139] "one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit".[140]
  • Anointing – The symbolism of blessing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Spirit is referred to as his "anointing".[141] In some denominations anointing is practiced in Confirmation; ("chrismation" in the Eastern Churches). Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. The title "Christ" (in Hebrew, messiah) means the one "anointed" by God's Spirit.[135][138]
  • Fire – symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions. In the form of tongues "as of fire", the Holy Spirit rested on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost.[135][138]
  • Cloud and light – The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and "overshadows" her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of transfiguration, the Spirit in the "cloud came and overshadowed" Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and "a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!'"[138][142]
  • The dove – When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him.[135][138][143]
  • Wind – The Spirit is likened to the "wind that blows where it will,"[144] and described as "a sound from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind."[145][135]

Art, literature and architecture


The Holy Spirit as a dove in the Annunciation by Rubens, 1628.

The Holy Spirit has been represented in Christian art both in the Eastern and Western Churches using a variety of depictions.[146][147][148] The depictions have ranged from nearly identical figures that represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity, to a dove, to a flame.

The Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove, based on the account of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove when he was baptized in the Jordan.[149] In many paintings of the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit is shown in the form of a dove, coming down towards Mary on beams of light, as the Archangel Gabriel announces Jesus Christ's coming to Mary. A dove may also be seen at the ear of Gregory the Great – as recorded by his secretary – or other church father authors, dictating their works to them. The dove also parallels the one that brought the olive branch to Noah after the deluge, as a symbol of peace.[149]

The book of Acts describes the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles at Pentecost in the form of a wind and tongues of fire resting over the apostles' heads. Based on the imagery in that account, the Holy Spirit is sometimes symbolized by a flame of fire.[150]

Ancient Celtic Christians depicted the Holy Spirit as a goose called Ah Geadh-Glas, which means wild goose.[151] A goose was chosen rather than the traditional dove because geese were perceived as more free than their dove counterparts.[152][153]


The Holy Spirit has traditionally been a subject matter of strictly theological works focused on proving the central doctrines concerning the Holy Spirit, often as a response to arguments from religious groups who deny these foundational Biblical truths. In recent years, however, the Holy Spirit has made an entrance into the world of (Christian) literature through books such as The Shack published in 2007.

Visual arts

Holy Spirit cathedrals

See also


  1. Gilles Emery (2011). The Trinity: Jesus could not be God because God said I am not a man. 1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have reqret. An Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God. Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0813218649. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Millard J. Erickson (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine. Baker Book House. p. 103. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 T C Hammond (1968). David F Wright. ed. In Understanding be Men: A Handbook of Christian Doctrine (6th ed.). Inter-Varsity Press. pp. 54–56, 128–131. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan p. 226.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Catechism of the Catholic Church: Expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit (nos. 711–712).
  6. Parsons, John. "Hebrew names for God". "The Holy Spirit as revealed in the Brit Chadashah" 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Acts and Pauline writings by Watson E. Mills, Richard F. Wilson 1997 ISBN:086554512X, pp. xl–xlx
  8. 8.0 8.1 Grabe, Petrus J. The Power of God in Paul's Letters 2008 ISBN:978-3161497193, pp. 248–249
  9. 9.0 9.1 Spirit of Truth: The origins of Johannine pneumatology by John Breck 1990 ISBN:0881410810, pp. 1–5
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology by Scott Horrell, Donald Fairbairn, Garrett DeWeese and Bruce Ware (2007) ISBN:080544422X pp. 208–213
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Millard J. Erickson (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine. Baker Book House. pp. 267–268. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 John by Andreas J. Köstenberger 2004 ISBN:080102644X, p. 442
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Gospel of John: Question by Question by Judith Schubert 2009 ISBN:0809145499, pp. 112–127
  14. Matthew 28:19
  15. 15.0 15.1 Lord, giver of life (Lona) by Jane Barter Moulaison 2006 ISBN:0889205019 p. 5
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Vickers, Jason E. Invocation and Assent: The Making and the Remaking of Trinitarian Theology. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008. ISBN:0802862691, pp. 2–5
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 The Cambridge Companion to the Trinity by Peter C. Phan 2011 ISBN:0521701139, pp. 3–4
  18. "Pentecost". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-06-03. "Pentecost... major festival in the Christian church, celebrated on the Sunday that falls on the 50th day after Easter.". 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Companion Bible – KJV by E. W. Bullinger, Kregel Publications, 1999. ISBN:0825420997. p. 146.
  20. Robin W. Lovin, Foreword to the English translation of Karl Barth's The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life (1993 ISBN:0664253253), p. xvii
  21. Millard J. Erickson, L. Arnold Hustad, Introducing Christian Doctrine (Baker Academic 2001 ISBN:978-0801022500), p. 271
  22. "Norfolk schools told Holy Ghost 'too spooky'". The Guardian (London). 2005-04-11.,13882,1457028,00.html. 
  23. Interlinear Bible on Bible Hub.
  24. Interlinear Bible on Bible Hub.
  25. Interlinear Bible on Bible Hub.
  26. Interlinear Bible on Bible Hub.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Interlinear Bible on Bible Hub.
  28. "Strong's Hebrew: 1847. דָּ֫עַת (daath) – knowledge". 
  29. "Matthew 1:18 Greek Text Analysis". 
  30. "Matthew 12:28 Greek Text Analysis". 
  31. "John 16:7 Greek Text Analysis". 
  32. "John 16:13 Greek Text Analysis". 
  33. "1 Peter 1:11 Greek Text Analysis". 
  34. "John 3:8 Interlinear: the Spirit where he willeth doth blow, and his voice thou dost hear, but thou hast not known whence he cometh, and whither he goeth; thus is every one who hath been born of the Spirit.'". 
  35. See: Darshan, Guy, "Ruaḥ 'Elohim in Genesis 1:2 in Light of Phoenician Cosmogonies: A Tradition's History," Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 45:2 (2019), 51–78.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 "Holy Spirit". 
  37. Matthew 12:30–32, Mark 3:28–30 and Luke 12:8–10
  38. Blomberg, Craig L., Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, 2009 ISBN:0805444823, p. 280
  39. "Bible Gateway passage: Matthew 28:19 – English Standard Version" (in en). 
  40. Luke 1:15
  41. Luke 1:35
  42. 42.0 42.1 Luke 3:16
  43. Luke 11:13
  44. Mark 13:11
  45. Matthew 10:20
  46. The Gospel of Luke by Luke Timothy Johnson, Daniel J. Harrington 1992 ISBN:0814658059, p. 195
  47. 47.0 47.1 The Acts of the Apostles by Luke Timothy Johnson, Daniel J. Harrington 1992 ISBN:0814658075, pp. 14–18
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 A Bible Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles by Mal Couch 2004 ISBN:0825423910, pp. 120–129
  49. 49.0 49.1 Acts 1:2
  50. Acts 2:1–4
  51. Acts 4:28–31
  52. Acts 8:15–17
  53. Acts 10:44
  54. Acts 19:6
  55. Acts 1:5 and 8
  56. Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by Charles H. Talbert 2005 ISBN:1573122777, pp. 24–25
  57. John 14:17
  58. 58.0 58.1 John 15:26
  59. John 16:13
  60. 1 John 4:6
  61. 1, 2, and 3 John by John Painter, Daniel J. Harrington 2002 ISBN:0814658121, p. 324
  62. John 14:26
  63. The anointed community: the Holy Spirit in the Johannine tradition by Gary M. Burge 1987 ISBN:0802801935, pp. 14–21
  64. 1:6
  65. 4:8
  66. 66.0 66.1 66.2 Theology of Paul the Apostle by James D. G. Dunn 2003 ISBN:0567089584, pp. 418–420
  67. 67.0 67.1 A Concise Dictionary of Theology by Gerald O'Collins, Edward G. Farrugia 2004 ISBN:0567083543 p. 115
  68. Holy People of the World: A Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia, Volume 3 by Phyllis G. Jestice 2004 ISBN:1576073556, pp. 393–394
  69. Romans 8:4
  70. 1:5
  71. 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Jon A. Weatherly 1996 ISBN:0899006361, pp. 42–43
  72. Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:34 –35
  73. Koch, Glenn Alan (1990), "Hebrews, Gospel of the", in Mills, Watson E.; Bullard, Roger Aubrey, Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, Mercer University Press, p. 364, ISBN 978-0865543737 
  74. "Gospel of Philip". 1996. 
  75. Karl Barth (1949). Dogmatics in Outline. New York Philosophical Library. p. 95. 
  76. The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary by Colin G. Kruse (2004) ISBN:0802827713, p. 123
  77. Matthew 3:13–17
  78. Mark 1:9–11
  79. Luke 3:21–23
  80. Matthew 4:1
  81. Matthew 12:28
  82. Luke 10:21
  83. Hebrews 9:14
  84. 84.0 84.1 84.2 84.3 The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine by Colin E. Gunton (1997) ISBN:052147695X, pp. 280–285
  85. 85.0 85.1 85.2 "Catholic Encyclopedia:Holy Spirit". 
  86. See discussion in Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "Person". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  87. CCC: The Dogma of the Holy trinity.
  88. "Bible Gateway passage: Luke 1:35 – English Standard Version" (in en). 
  89. Harrington, Daniel J., SJ. "Jesus Goes Public." America, Jan. 7–14, 2008, p. 38
  90. Mt 3:17 Mk 1:11 Lk 3:21–22
  91. "Bible Gateway passage: John 15:26 – English Standard Version" (in en). 
  92. "Bible Gateway passage: John 14:16 – English Standard Version" (in en). 
  93. Theology for the Community of God by Stanley J. Grenz (2000) ISBN:0802847552 p. 380
  94. Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries by Everett Ferguson (2009) ISBN:0802827489, p. 776
  95. Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer 1993 ISBN:0825423406, p. 25
  96. 96.0 96.1 The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament by Warren W. Wiersbe 2007 ISBN:978-0781445399, p. 471
  97. The mystery of the Triune God ... Whatever, therefore, is spoken of God in respect to Himself, is both spoken singly of each person, that is, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and together of the Trinity itself, not plurally but in the singular. by John Joseph O'Donnell 1988 ISBN:0722057601 p. 75
  98. 1 Corinthians 6:19
  99. "'De Trinitate', Book V, chapter 8". 
  100. 100.0 100.1 100.2 Millard J. Erickson (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine. Baker Book House. pp. 265–270. 
  101. Though the term "born again" is most frequently used by evangelical Christians, most denominations do consider that the new Christian is a "new creation" and "born again". See for example the Catholic Encyclopedia [1]
  102. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts. J. Oswald Sanders. Inter-Varsity Press. chapter 5.
  103. T C Hammond (1968). David F Wright. ed. In Understanding be Men: A Handbook of Christian Doctrine (Sixth ed.). Inter-Varsity Press. p. 134. 
  104. John 15:26
  105. Meyendorff 1989.
  106. Martínez-Díez & Rodriguez 1992, p. 79.
  107. Wilhite 2009, pp. 285–302.
  108. Phillips 1995, pp. 60.
  109. 109.0 109.1 109.2 109.3 109.4 CCC nos. 1830–32.
  110. 110.0 110.1 110.2 The Epistle to the Galatians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) by Ronald Y. K. Fung (1988) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing ISBN:0802825095, pp. 262–263
  111. Galatians 5:22–23
  112. 1 Corinthians 12
  113. 12
  114. Ephesians 4
  115. 115.0 115.1 115.2 115.3 115.4 Erickson, Millard J. (1992). Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0801032158.  2nd ed. 2001. Chapter Thirty – "The work of the Holy Spirit" (pp. 275ff.). ISBN:978-0801022500.
  116. Tozer, A. W. (1994). I talk back to the devil. Carlisle: OM Pub. ISBN 978-1850781486. OCLC 31753708. 
  117. 11:1–2
  118. 118.0 118.1 118.2 Shaw, Russell; Stravinskas, Peter M. J. (1998). Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. p. 457. ISBN 978-0879736699. 
  119. Kasper, Walter (2006). The Petrine ministry. Catholics and Orthodox in Dialogue: Academic Symposium Neld at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Paulist Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0809143344. 
  120. Kinnamon, Michael; Cope, Brian E. (1997). The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 172. ISBN 978-0802842633. 
  121. The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings by Eugene F. Rogers Jr. (2009) Wiley ISBN:1405136235, p. 81
  122. Introduction to Theology by Owen C. Thomas and Ellen K. Wondra (2002) ISBN:0819218979, p. 221
  123. David Watson (1973). One in the Spirit. Hodder and Stoughton. pp. 39–64. 
  124. Encyclopedia of Protestantism by J. Gordon Melton 2008 ISBN:0816077460, p. 69
  125. Encyclopedia of Protestantism by J. Gordon Melton 2008 ISBN:0816077460, p. 134
  126. "Is the Holy Spirit a Person?". Awake!: 14–15. July 2006. "In the Bible, God's Holy Spirit is identified as God's power in action. Hence, an accurate translation of the Bible's Hebrew text refers to God's spirit as 'God's active force.'". 
  127. "Doctrines to be rejected". Doctrines to be Rejected. "We reject the doctrine – that the Holy Spirit is a person distinct from the Father". 
  128. "Doctrine and Covenants 130". 
  129. "Gospel Topics: Holy Ghost". 
  130. "True to the Faith", p. 81.
  131. "For Youth". 
  132. "Doctrine and Covenants 93". 
  133. "Holy Ghost – the Encyclopedia of Mormonism". 
  134. TPJS, p. 314.
  135. 135.0 135.1 135.2 135.3 135.4 135.5 David Watson (1973). One in the Spirit. Hodder and Stoughton. pp. 20–25. 
  136. 1Cor 12:13
  137. Jn 19:341 Jn 5:8
  138. 138.0 138.1 138.2 138.3 138.4 CCC: Symbols of the Holy Spirit (nos. 694–701).
  139. Revelation 21:6 and Revelation 22:1
  140. "Catechism of the Catholic Church – Celebrating the Church's liturgy". 
  141. 2Cor 1:21
  142. Lk 9:34–35
  143. Mt 3:16
  144. Jn 3:8
  145. Acts 2:24
  146. Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary by Irene Earls 1987 ISBN:0313246580, p. 70
  147. Gardner's Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective by Fred S. Kleiner ISBN:0495573558, p. 349
  148. Vladimir Lossky, 1999 The Meaning of Icons ISBN:0913836990, p. 17
  149. 149.0 149.1 We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Ancient Christian Doctrine, No. 4) by Joel C. Elowsky (2009) InterVarsity ISBN:0830825347, p. 14
  150. The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings by Eugene F. Rogers Jr. (2009) Wiley ISBN:1405136235, pp. 121–123
  151. "Ah Geadh-Glas Archives" (in en-US). 
  152. "Christians on a Wild Goose Chase" (in en). 2013-09-25. 
  153. Downs, Annie (2018). Remember God. B&H Publishing Group. ""But did you also know that Celtic Christians call the Holy Spirit Ah Geadh-Glas, which means "Wild Goose"? Don't you love that? Because if you've ever tried to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, for sure it can feel like a wild goose chase."" 


Further reading

External links