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How do you think of holy spirit?  In this lecture we’ll build up a biblical theology of the spirit, in an effort to comprehend its variegated facets. We’ll consider the Old Testament and the Synoptic Gospels before spending a good deal of time in John, looking at the fascinating way that Jesus talks about the spirit in the upper room discourse.

—— Notes ——

The Old Testament on Spirit

How ruach is translating in the NASB:

air          2

anger     1

blast      2

breath   31

breathless           1

cool       1

courage               1

despondency      1

exposed               1

grief       1

heart     1

inspired                1

mind      3

motives 1

points    1

side        4

sides      2

Spirit      76

spirit      127

spirits    3

strength               1

temper  2

thoughts              1

trustworthy         1

wind      98

winds     7

windy    2

wrath    1


Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period

When used of living beings, ruach refers to the essence of the life and vitality in both human beings and animals that is manifested through movement and breathing (Genesis 2:7; 6:17; 7:15; Numbers 16:22; Ezekiel 10:17).  Just as “spirit” was considered the essence of human life, so analogously the term “spirit” was used of the presence, activity, and power of God, that is, characteristics that demonstrate that God is truly a “living God” (Deuteronomy 5:26; Joshua 3:10; 1 Samuel 7:26; Isaiah 37:4; Daniel 6:20; Matthew 16:16; Revelation 7:2).

Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green editors, Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period ©1996, Hendrickson Publishers, page 298

New Bible Dictionary

At its heart is the experience of a mysterious, awesome power—the mighty invisible force of the wind, the mystery of vitality, the otherly power that transforms—all ruach, all manifestations of divine energy.

JDG Douglas, New Bible Dictionary (second edition) ©1962, ed. By JD Douglas, FF Bruce, JI Packer, N Hillyer, D Guthrie, AR Millard, DJ Wiseman, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., pages 1137

James Dunn on the Holy Spirit

There can be little doubt that from the earliest stages of pre-Christian Judaism, ‘spirit’ (ruach) denoted power—the aweful, mysterious force of the wind (ruach), of the breath (ruach) of life, of ecstatic inspiration (induced by divine ruach)…In other words, on this understanding, Spirit of God is in no sense distinct from God, but is simply the power of God, God himself acting powerfully in nature and upon men.

James  DG Dunn, Christology in the Making (second edition) ©1989, Eerdmans Publishing Co., page 133.

Examples of Ruach:

  • The spirit of God may be taken from one and distributed to others (Numbers 11:17)
  • inspire prophecy (Numbers 11:25, 29; 24:2-3; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 1 Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 15:1; 20:14; 24:20; Nehemiah 9:30; Zechariah 7:12)
  • be a way God speaks to people (2 Samuel 23:2)
  • lead someone to a different location (1 Kings 18:12)
  • transport someone from one location to another (2 Kings 2:16)
  • be defined parallel with the anointing of Yahweh (Isaiah 61:1 cp. Acts 10:38)
  • empower leaders to judge/rule the people (Judges 3:10)
  • impart warlike energy/confidence (Judges 6:34; 11:29; 14:6, 19)
  • supply supernatural strength (Judges 15:14)
  • cause righteous anger (1 Samuel 11:6-7)
  • impart regeneration/peace (Isaiah 32:15)
  • give the Messiah wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, the fear of Yahweh, and the ability to judge justly (Isaiah 11:2; 41:2)
  • endow artisans with skill (Exodus 31:3; 35:31)
  • be defined parallel to the presence of God (Psalm 139:7)

Each of these listed functions of the spirit refers to the one God, Yahweh, in action.  The spirit of God is one of the primary ways of talking about God’s involvement in His creation.

For a more exhaustive list see The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon pages 924-6.

Transcendence vs. Immanence

  • Is God here or is he in heaven above?
  • Literary metaphors like God’s word, spirit, and wisdom preserve his transcendence while talking about his immanence.

Is the spirit personal
or is it impersonal?

  • is a hand-written letter personal or impersonal?
  • what about a text?
  • a message is not a person but the expression of a person
  • it is personal not a person
  • contrast this w/ the JWs theory of electricity

Patrick Navas on the Spirit

Perhaps the matter is best put in terms like these: the Spirit is God’s active approach to us.  Where the Spirit operates, there God himself is at work.  The Spirit is not a ‘thing,’ over against God, but a way of expressing God in his relation to us…Where the Spirit is given a personal quality such as teaching, revealing, witnessing, interceding, creating, and so on, it is not as an entity distinct from God, but as God himself doing these things and yet not compromising his transcendence.

Patrick Navas, Divine Truth or Human Tradition: A Reconsideration of the Roman Catholic-Protestant Doctrine of the Trinity in Light of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2007), pp. 483-484.

The Synoptic Gospels on the Spirit

The Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke

the pneuma in the Synoptics

  • The holy spirit caused the generation of life in the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35);
  • Jesus baptizes with it (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16);
  • it descended upon Christ at his baptism (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22);
  • it drove Jesus to go into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1);
  • it gave the disciples words to speak when on trial (Matthew 10:20; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12);
  • it enabled Christ to proclaim justice (Mat 12:18);
  • it empowered the Messiah to cast out demons (Matthew 12:28);
  • it inspired David to write psalms (Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36);
  • it caused prophetic utterances (Luke 1:41, 67),
  • it was upon Simeon (Luke 2:25),
  • it reveals truth about the future (Luke 2:26),
  • it empowered Jesus (Luke 4:14),
  • it is given by the Father to those who ask (Lk 11:13).

Matthew 12:28

But if I cast out demons by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 11:20

But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

The spirit is the means by which God acts, much like a body.  I interact with the world through my body.  God interacts with the world through His spirit—like a finger.

The Spirit in John

Early in the Gospel of John, the spirit is used in the same way as the Synoptics

The Spirit in John

  • something descending from heaven to remain upon Jesus (John 1:32-33),
  • the means by which one is born again (John 3:5),
  • an enablement for Christ to speak the words of God (John 3:34),
  • a way in which one worships the Father (John 4:23),
  • the essential nature of God (John 4:24)
  • a life giver (John 6:63)
  • something to be received by the disciples (John 7:39)

John 7.39

But this he spoke of the spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for the spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

But, haven’t we seen the spirit was given in the OT and in Jesus’ own ministry!?

There must be some newness to the spirit they would receive compared to what was previously available to warrant such strong language

Upper Room Discourse

Statements made about the advocate (ὁ παράκλητος)

John 14.17 abides with you John 14.26 teach you all things John 14.26 bring to your remembrance John 15.26 testify about me [Jesus] John 16.8 convict the world John 16.13 guide you into all the truth John 16.13 will not speak on his own initiative John 16.13 hears…speaks…discloses John 16.14 will glorify me John 16.14 take of mine…and disclose to you

Patrick Navas on the Paraclete

The fact that the Spirit is sometimes depicted as “teaching,” “speaking,” “interceding,” “guiding,” and “helping” in the Scriptures has influenced many theologians to conclude that the Spirit must be a distinct “person” like God the Father and Jesus Christ.  But because the holy Spirit does not have a personal/proper name like the Father and Son, is never shown to be an object of worship or recipient of prayer, and never depicted or identified as a member of a “triune” God in Scripture, other Bible students believe that these are simply a few of numerous examples where the Bible uses the common linguistic device of personification—that is, the practice of ascribing personal attributes or qualities to subjects that are not actually or literally persons

Patrick Navas, Divine Truth or Human Tradition: A Reconsideration of the Roman Catholic-Protestant Doctrine of the Trinity in Light of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2007), p. 477.

Option 1: Personification

John 16.25 

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.

examples of personification

Genesis 1.10 voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground Isaiah 3.26 gates will lament and mourn, Jerusalem will sit on the ground Isaiah 35.1-2 the desert will be glad, rejoice, shout for joy Isaiah 49.13 heavens shout for joy, earth rejoices, mountains break forth into joyful shouting Psalm 98.8 the rivers clap their hands, the mountains sing together for joy Proverbs 8 wisdom calls, understanding up her voice, she [wisdom] cries out at the entrance to the city, wisdom speaks noble things and opens her lips, wisdom dwells with prudence, wisdom walks in the way of righteousness, wisdom was a master  workman with God, etc.

more examples of personification

Luke 7.35 wisdom is vindicated by all her children John 3.8 the wind blows where it wishes Romans 10.6 righteousness based on faith speaks 1 Corinthians 13 love is patient, kind, not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, etc. 1 John 2.27 the anointing abides in you and teaches you 1 John 5.7 spirit, water, and blood testify


Option 2: a Person

The Advocate Will Come

He will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever 14.16 the helper, the holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you 14.26 when the helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father… 15.26 if I do not go away the helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you 16.7 when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth 16.13


Jesus Will Come

I will come again and receive you to myself 14.3 I will come to you 14.18 you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you 14.17 he who loves me…I will love him and will disclose myself to him 14.21 if anyone loves me, he will keep my word…and we will come to him and make our abode with him 14.23 I go away, and I will come to you 14.28 ‘a little while, and you will see me;’ and, ‘because I go to the Father’ 16.17

We find the word παράκλητος only five times in the NT, four of which occur in the Gospel of John in reference to the spirit. However, the last, and most interesting is in 1 John:

1 John 2.1

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

More examples

Mark 13.11 Luke 21.14-15 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I [Jesus] will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. Romans 8.9 Romans 8.10 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Summarizing a bit

  • The spirit appears to be just another way of referring to Christ’s on going work in his heavenly ministry—a role he was preparing his disciples to understand in his last meeting with them before his death.

“The work of Christ’s Spirit as Comforter, Advocate, and Helper was nothing other than the work of Christ Himself as Comforter, Advocate, and Helper through that divine power.”

Alva Huffer, Systematic Theology ©1960, The Restitution Herald, page 92.


“He had been with them for a short time, but the ‘other paraclete,’ his alter ego, would be with them permanently, and not only with them but in them.”

F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John ©1983, Eerdmans Publishing Company, page 302


The Spirit is now definitely the Spirit of Christ, the other Counselor who has taken over Jesus’ role on earth. This means that Jesus is now present to the believer only in and through the Spirit…

JDG Douglas, New Bible Dictionary (second edition) ©1962, ed. JD Douglas, FF Bruce, JI Packer, N Hillyer, D Guthrie, AR Millard, DJ Wiseman, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., pages 1140-1

The Spirit in the Rest of the NT

John’s prediction:

“I baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the holy spirit” (Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33)

Acts 1:4-5

“Gathering them together, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” he said, “you heard of from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the holy spirit not many days from now.”

Spirit as a liquid or Gift

Exodus 31.1; 35.31; Deuteronomy 34.9; Micah 3.8; Luke 1.15, 41, 67; Acts 2.4; 4.8, 31; 5.3; 9.17; 13.9; 13.52; Eph 5.18 filled with the spirit (like a liquid) Proverbs 1.23; Isaiah 29.10; 32.15; 44.3; Ezekiel 39.29; Joel 2.28-29; Zechariah 12.10; Acts 2.17-18, 33; 10.45 spirit poured upon someone (like a liquid) Matthew 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33; Acts 1.5; 11.16; 1 Corinthians 12.13 baptize/immerse in spirit (like a liquid) Acts 2.38; 5.32; 8.19; 10.47; 15.8; Romans 5.5; 1 Corinthians 2.12; 2 Corinthians 5.5; Galatians 3.2; Ephesians 1.17; 1 Thessalonians 4.8; 1 John 3.24; 4.13 something given/received (a gift, pledge, down payment)


Summarizing a bit more

Again, the spirit is not a person but the projection of a person—the risen Christ—within the heart of the believer.  Christ is the one “who searches the minds and hearts” (Revelation 2:23).  He is the head of the body (Colossians 1:18) who causes “the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).  The risen Christ is with us always (Matthew 28:20) and in the midst of two or three gathered in his name (Matthew 18:20).  Yet, at the same time, he is not here; he is seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Hebrews 12:2; etc.) in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20; 1 Peter 3:22; etc.).  So how can Christ enjoy intimacy with his church even while he is in heaven?  Or to put the question differently, how could he disclose himself to his disciples without the world seeing him (John 14:22)?  Christ is present through the spirit.  The spirit which proceeds from the Father connects Christ to his body like a nervous system—making him aware of what is going on and allowing him to coordinate his body.  I experience Christ via the spirit, so to me, the spirit is Christ.

Why the Spirit Is Not a Person apart from God and Christ 1 The Spirit Does Not Have a Name
  • name encapsulates your nature
  • Yahweh = the existing one
  • Jesus = Yahweh saves
  • name implies identity, which implies personhood
  • why doesn’t the spirit have a name?
2 The Spirit Never Sends Greetings
  • standard Pauline greeting:
    • “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Ph 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:2; 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phl 1:3)
  • James’ identity: “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ….”
  • John’s fellowship
    • “…indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3)
3 The Spirit Is Owned by God
  • “spirit of God” appears twelve times in the NT, not counting variations. (Mat 3:16; 12:28; Rom 8:9, 14; 1 Cor 2:11, 14; 3:16; 7:40; 12:3; Eph 4:30; Ph 3:3; 1 John 4:2)
  • this is a possessive construction
    • e. the pen of Bob = Bob’s pen = Bob possesses a pen
  • It is God’s spirit; it is not independent
  • “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the spirit of God” (1Corinthians 2:11).
4 The Spirit Is Never Prayed To
  • “…if you ask the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23)
  • John the Baptist prophesied that one would come after him who would baptize in holy spirit. This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Jesus poured forth what the people saw and heard—the holy spirit
  • If the spirit were a person, then why does it not have a say about its own sending?
  • The chain of events is clear, the convert or evangelist prays to God in the name of Jesus to receive spirit, and then Jesus baptizes the new believer in the spirit which proceeds from God.
5 Spirit Is Left Out of Key Passages
  • “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27)
  • “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36)
  • “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21)

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