What is the Holy Spirit? This question is on the minds and lips of many good people. There are a lot of contradicting answers out there too. Everyone seems to have their own opinion as to who or what the holy spirit is. Is it a being, is it God himself or is it a thing, like a force? This bible study article is an in-depth bible study to answer this tough question once and for all. This is a long article (parts 1 and 2) but please read both all the way through. You’ll be blessed with the info, I promise!
What Exactly is Holy Spirit?
God is great. He blessed me really big with this teaching. I have to admit, I have a deep interest in the subject of holy spirit. Through reading, study and research I’ve come to know what holy spirit does, but not exactly what holy spirit is. Up until recently I only knew that God is a spirit and that He is holy.
I knew that holy spirit is also a gift from God; it allows you the opportunity to dispense supernatural powers as God wills and directs. Holy spirit bears fruit in your life as you use it, and God placed holy spirit on people in the OT and in people in the NT.
I searched English translations of the bible for proof text but nothing was coming clearly into view on what exactly holy spirit is.
However the answer was right there in front of me the whole time! The problem is that there is a breakdown in understanding due to translational errors. And there are a lot of them.
Another problem is that sometimes words lose their full meaning and impact in a translation into another language, even when they are translated correctly. Sometimes one word in Greek might mean a whole sentence in English but is only translated as one or two words. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get into it.
I want to be very clear on these two points:
1) That there two holy spirits referenced in the bible. There is God. He is spirit and He is holy therefore He is a holy spirit. Not just A holy spirit, but THE Holy Spirit. There are times where The Holy Spirit is mentioned and it is referring to an individual, to God Himself. Like in Matthew 12:31 “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
2) When the bible speaks of holy spirit, without an article; meaning the word “the”, as in “holy spirit shall come upon you”, then it is not referring to God or to a specific separate individual, but to something else. And I say something else, not someone else, because this holy spirit is a what, not a who. And we’ll be looking at some of those verses in a few minutes.
There is a Holy Spirit “Who”, it’s God himself, not someone else. Not the 3rd person in a mythical “trinity”. It’s just God himself.
And there is a holy spirit “What”. This holy spirit “what” in point #2 is precisely what we will be discussing in greater detail today.
God’s holy spirit (what), and the fruit thereof, is a most amazing and valuable gift to us and it behooves us as God’s children to properly understand it. Bible students who are not familiar with the original languages can only do this when the Greek and Hebrew texts are properly translated into their own language.
If the translation is not accurate, then we do not have the Word of God, we have something close to it that is open to error and misunderstanding. Translating scripture is one of the most important of all spiritual responsibilities, because millions of people who do not read the original languages trust the translators to accurately represent the original.
When it comes to the subject of God’s gift of holy spirit, BILLIONS of Christians have been confused and misled by the improper use of articles such as “the” and pronouns “he”, “who” or “whom”. In many places in the Greek text there are no articles or pronouns preceding the words “holy spirit”. Those were added later by well meaning however confused or misguided translators.
These added words must be omitted in order to maintain the integrity of God’s word and to properly interpret what the bible is saying. When the pronouns associated with the Greek word “pneuma”, meaning spirit are translated correctly, it is much easier to see that the gift of holy spirit is just that; a wonderful gift, a thing and certainly not a separate individual, person or being.
Greek Words for Holy Spirit: Pneuma Hagion
Let’s take a look at the translations of holy spirit from the Greek “pneuma hagion”.
The Greek word pneuma comes from the root verb form pneo. Pneo means I blow, to blow, breathe or blowing wind. Basically it denotes some type of air movement regardless of its source. Its usage is commonly a current of air, a breath or a breeze.
Pneuma is a noun that means wind, breath or spirit. It can be used in a sentence literally, figuratively, by analogy or metaphorically.
Metaphorically is the way in which pneuma is used in scripture in order to convey a physical representation of a spiritual concept. The definition of Metaphorical is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our god.”
Hagion is the word translated as “holy”. Hagion is an adjective. It literally means set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred. The fundamental core meaning of hágion is “different” – thus a temple in the 1st century was hagios (“holy”) because it was different from other buildings as it was set apart for God.
Get it? One word in Greek, long meaning in English. Since pneuma is “breath” and holy means “of God” then pneuma hagion (holy spirit) can literally be translated “The breath of God”.
Holy spirit, this breath of God, also known in the bible as the spirit of God, is mentioned all though out the bible. When we group them together we clearly see that holy spirit is something from God and it fills men.
Holy Spirit Bible Verses where Holy Spirit is a “What, not a “Who”
Exodus 31:3 “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.”
Psalm 51:11 “Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”
Isaiah 63:11 “Where is He (God) who put His Holy Spirit within them”
Daniel 4:18 “but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.”
Joel 2:28 “It shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh”
Matthew 10:19 “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, BUT THE SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER who speaks in you.”
Luke 4:1 “And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led the by the spirit into the desert”
John 4:24 “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”
1 Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Those verses we just read are fairly straight forward about holy spirit being a what.
God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, and it is the Spirit of God the Father that is inside believers. There is no need to complicate things beyond what the bible says.
However there are some other scriptures that aren’t as clear. They tend to be frequently misunderstood by large groups of people. Because of poor translations these people are erroneously led to believe that holy spirit is a “who”, not a “what”.
Oddly, those that believe holy spirit is a who tend to focus only on the poorly translated verses that seem in English to support their claim while completely ignoring all the other clear verses that prove otherwise. That’s a big No-No.
We are to be workmen of God’s word and diligently search out answers to apparent contradictions. Not ignore or even throw out verses we don’t think fit into our personal theology. The word says what it means and means what it says!
Third Person or Something Else in John 14:26
Those who say the holy spirit is a third person like to lean into John 14:26. They say it is something only a person would do (a force or thing does not). They say it proves that He teaches you things about God and yourself. But as we’ll soon discover that is not accurate according to scripture.
John 14:26 reads, “But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (KJV)
That’s from the King James Version, and it looks like the holy spirit it a who. But it’s actually a mess of a translation. The New International Version gets it a little better. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (NIV)
Let’s compare the two: Reading the King James version it looks like the holy spirit it a who. The NIV shows the holy spirit as a what. The NIV leaves out the added text “[which is] the Holy Ghost” and leaves out the word “he” just before “will teach you all things”.
Let’s see what the Greek says
Looking at some of the most important words in this verse:
Is the Greek word parakletos meaning advocate. Properly, a legal advocate who makes the right judgment. Parakletos is the regular term in NT times of an attorney (lawyer) – i.e. someone giving evidence that stands up for you in court. Comforter is the wrong word to use and councilor doesn’t quit give the full impact. Advocate might be a better choice.
These words do not appear in the Greek text and should therefore be omitted from the English translation.
He will teach:
There is a word omitted in the NIV. The word translated as “he” in the KJV is the Greek word ekeinos (ek-i’-nos). It means “that”, or “that one there”, “that thing”, “same” or “selfsame”. It’s male dominative like “los” in Spanish used to assign male gender to an object. This is very common in many languages. Not so common in English. Although we do assign gender to cars and boats and nobody seems to be confused over whether the car is a what or a who.
I think this word was left out of the NIV for reasons of readability. However it does lower the full impact of the meaning of the verse.
A literal translation of John 14:26 would read: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that selfsame thing will teach you all and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
1 Cor 2:10
Some people assert the (gift of) Holy Spirit is a with intellect because 1 Corinthians 2:10 says, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” (NASV)
This verse is an allegory. It’s a physical representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; it’s a figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another. How else can things of the spirit be explained in physical terms that we humans can understand?
We know that pneuma means wind, or breath of God. The example used here is like a wind blowing through your home. The wind searches out every nook and cranny as high pressure seeks out the yielding low pressure areas. Eventually, all accessible areas are filled with the wind.
Filling Something with Water is a Good Analogy
An analogy is the similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based. Water searches out all places for it to flow into. Not because it’s alive or has a will of its own, or because it’s a person but just because that is the nature of what water is and what water does.
Same thing with holy spirit, it flows and it fills. “…for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” You see now how the full meaning of those few Greek words are lost in the English translation? What a wonderful illustration of the nature of holy spirit using wind as the analogy. It’s descriptive, poetic, beautiful, it’s short and to the point and it’s perfect… In the Greek.
Now that we have a solid foundation of some word study under us, I want to share with you the revelation God gave to me when I asked Him to define what exactly holy spirit is.
Revelation / Word of Knowledge from God on What Holy Spirit is:
“My spirit, in Greek known as pneuma hagion, is my essence, that which I am or have. It is not easy to convey in words all that I am so I will make it simple for people to best understand.
I am. I am he who is from the beginning. I am he who will be forever. There is no way to describe or for you to comprehend anymore than that of which I truly am as I reside in and out of space / time as people know it to exist, Time is temporal, I am not. I am he who gives life and sustains.
As I figuratively live and breathe, this life force and breathing is my holy spirit, pneuma hagion, or breath of God. As your breath carries life so does mine. It’s an analogy. As your breath carries words, so does mine. As your breath carries knowledge, likewise does mine. As knowledge sets in it grows wisdom.
Holy Spirit is conceptual. Just like your essence can be translated and absorbed by another, your thoughts, feelings, that which is you can be interpreted, felt and understood by another, so is the same for me.
But more so with me. Your life force, your essence is small and yet your influence can be large. There is great power in small vessels. I am God. My essence fills all space. My power is all powerful and everlasting. If your vessel be small yet wield great power, how much more can I?”
That my friends is what holy spirit is as defined straight from the mouth of God.
Expounding on a few of the key points:
1) Holy spirit is God’s essence. Essence is the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features. Synonyms for essence are: substance, spirit, lifeblood, heart, principle, soul and core.
2) It’s not easy for God to convey in words all that He is so He simplifies it for us. I’m sure the larger scope is not seen.
3) God is from the beginning and is forever. Also known as eternal. He can live inside and outside of space and time as we know it.
4) Holy spirit is better translated as “breath of God”. This is an analogy because obviously God does not physically breathe. When we speak our breath carries words and knowledge. As does His when He speaks.
5) Holy Spirit is conceptual. Just like your essence can be translated and absorbed by another, your thoughts, your feelings, that which is you can be interpreted, felt and understood by another, so is the same for God.
6) But it’s more so with God. Our life force and essence is small and finite yet our influence can be large. God’s essence fills all space. He is all powerful, infinite and everlasting. If we can do a whole lot with the little essence we have, think how much more God can do with His.
7) God’s spirit is like the wind. You can’t stop the wind. You can block part of it, but it just flows around the blockage. And the wind will flow into any opening no matter how small and eventually fill that space. You can also catch part of the wind in a sail and use some of its power, as long as you are going in the same direction as the wind is traveling.
This is why God says it’s not easy to convey in words all that He is. We have no point of reference. It’s too big for our little corporeal minds to grasp. He makes a spiritual concept simple for us to understand by using physical examples in analogy.
By understanding the expanded meaning of pneuma hagion, which is holy spirit or the breath of God, along with 1 Corinthians 2:10 where it says, “for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God”.
This wonderful analogy of how wind searches for places to flow into, a wind that carries with it knowledge, wisdom and power, THIS gives us something with which to begin to understand what is the true nature of God’s great gift to us… That gift is His essence.
God be with you.