Back to Home Page or Contents Page or Christianity or Index
The Holy Spirit is believed in Christianity to be the Third person of the Trinity coming after God, the Father, and God, the Son. In Hebrew it comes from ruah, elohim, "Spirit of God," or ruah, YHWH, "Spirit of Jehovah"; in Greek, it was changed to pneuma to hagain "the Holy Ghost," or "the Holy Spirit." This divine personage is known by a variety of terms such as "the Spirit," "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of the Lord," or "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:22; 4:18; Acts 5:19; Philippians1:10).
According to the prophetic announcement of John the Baptist, "I have baptized you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8), the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ were to initiate the new age of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus predicted the coming of the Spirit: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
The recognition of the coming of the Holy Spirit is known as Pentecost, which is recorded in Acts 2: They, the apostles, were gathered in one place in accord when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a rushing, mighty wind, filling the house where they were setting. Then appearing to them were cloven tongues of fire which sat on each of them. Suddenly they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. At the same time there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under the sun. When hearing of the noise many came and gathered to discover what had occurred. What they discovered was amazing, everyone head them speak in their own tongue. Some asked what this meant while others said they were drunk on new wine (Acts 2:1-14).
Peter answered that they were not drunk on wine, but this was what was prophesied by the prophet Joel. That God said in the last days the he would pour his Spirit upon all flesh, your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…and there shall be wonders in the heavens above, and signs in the earth beneath: blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and noble day the Lord come; and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:15-21).
Peter further explained that this was did by the God who had raised Jesus, which David prophesied, who is now at the right hand of God, and received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit which they saw and heard (Acts 2:22-35). The people then asked Peter and the apostles what they should do; and they were told to be baptized and repent for the remission of their sins, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And, that day nearly three thousand souls were added (Acts 2:37-38, 41).
There has been little dispute as to the deity of the Holy Spirit since the beginning of Christianity by those acknowledging it; the Spirit is believed to be the Spirit of God. The exception, however, is the Arian heresy in the fourth century which represented the Holy Spirit as the earliest of all creatures created by the Son. Various New Testament passages, however, do establish the deity of the Holy Spirit, with some distinctly calling the Spirit God, and other names which properly belong to God (Acts 5:3, 4; 28:5; Hebrews 10:15).
Within the doctrine of the Trinity the Holy Spirit is believed to be in relation to the Father the Son. During the first four centuries controversies arose related principally to the son. The Council of Nicaca (325 AD) put forth a simple clause respecting the third Person in the Trinity "We believe in the Holy Spirit." The Second Council of Constantinople (381 AD) added "the Lord and Giver of Life who proceeds from the Father, who is to be worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Son, and who spoke through the prophets." The Third Synod of Toledo (589 AD) added the words "and the Son" to assert the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son as well as the Father. This was a principle for the division between the Western and Eastern churches, the former maintaining and the latter denying, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The prevailing doctrine may be summed up as: 1. The Holy Spirit is the same in substance and equal in power and glory with the Father and the Son. He is, nevertheless, as to his mode of subsistence and operation, subordinate to both the Father and the Son, as he proceeds from them, and they operate through him.
Proceeding from this doctrine is the Christian belief in the holy Trinity; affirming that there is one God, who exists of three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
There is held that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, frequently known as the unpardonable sin, cannot be forgiven. It is cited in three Books, Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:20, and Luke 12:10. "Wherefore, I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men" (Matthew 12:31). The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has never been exactly defined because of the uncertainty surrounding it. Some think the sin involved attributing to the power of Satan those unquestionable miracles which Jesus performed by the "finger of God" and by the power of the Holy Spirit. If this be the case, then it is questionable whether the term can be extended beyond this limited and special sin. While others hold that this is not the case, for them the unpardonable sin can be committed by those who possess in their soul a state where there is no disposition for repentance of faith in Jesus Christ, even those God's sufficient grace for forgiveness still persists. These people are commonly referred by Christians as the hardened of hearts, and believed to hate God. A.G.H.
Unger, Merrill F., Unger's Bible Dictionary,
Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 148, 1028-1029, 495-497
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 438-439