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Bible Dictionaries
Holy Spirit

Holman Bible Dictionary

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The mysterious third Person of the Trinity through whom God acts, reveals His will, empowers individuals, and discloses His personal presence in the Old and New Testament.

Old Testament The term “Holy Spirit” in the Old Testament is found only in Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11 . References to the spirit of God, however, are abundant. In one sense the Spirit of God is depicted as a mighty wind, Hebrew using the same word ruach for wind, breath, and spirit. During the time of the Exodus, God deployed this wind to part the sea thus enabling the Israelites to pass through safely and elude Pharaoh and his army ( Exodus 14:21 ). God used this agent in two ways: as a destructive force that dries up the waters (Hosea 13:15 ), or as the power of God in gathering clouds to bring the refreshing rain (1 Kings 18:45 ). The spirit exercised control over the chaotic waters at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:2; Genesis 8:1; Compare Psalm 33:6; Job 26:13 ). Of the eighty-seven times that the Spirit is described as wind, thirty-seven describe the wind as the agent of God, mostly baneful, and ever strong and intense. This property of the Spirit clearly reflects the power of God. An additional quality of the Spirit is that of mysteriousness. Psalm 104:3 demonstrates that the Spirit as wind is able to transport God on its wings to the outer limits of the earth. No one can tell where He has been or where He is going. Power and mystery state the nature of God.

God's Spirit can be expressed as an impersonal force, or it can manifest itself in individuals. The Old Testament has numerous examples when God inspired the prophets indirectly by the Spirit. The prime revelation of the Spirit in the Old Testament, in the personal sense, is by means of prophecy. Joseph's dreams are perceived to be divinely inspired (Genesis 41:38 ); King David, as a mouthpiece for God, proclaimed that “the Spirit of the Lord speaks” (2 Samuel 23:2 ); and Zechariah announced the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' saith the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6 ). Much like the power of the wind, the Spirit equipped the heroes of Israel with extraordinary strength (Judges 14:6 ). The judges are described as being Spirit-possessed individuals as in the case of Othniel (Judges 3:10 ). Sometimes, The Spirit came upon individuals mightily, so as to alter their normal behavior (1 Samuel 10:16; 1 Samuel 19:23-24 ).

The Spirit is also the ultimate origin of all mental and spiritual gifts, as it is in the underlying inspiration of the men of wisdom (Exodus 31:1-6; Isaiah 11:2; Job 4:15; Job 32:8 ). Not only did the prophets benefit from the influence of the Spirit, but also the Spirit will be shed upon the people of God (Isaiah 44:3 ) and upon all the people (Joel 2:28 ). Ezekiel and Isaiah express the idea of the Spirit more than any other Old Testament source. Many of Ezekiel's allusions to the Spirit are in regard to Israel's restoration in the future. The reception of the new Spirit, prophesied in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, is dependent upon repentance (Ezekiel 18:31 ) and is associated with the creation of a new heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ). This prophetic foreshadowing, in light of the individual, sporadic, and temporary manifestation of the Spirit in the Old Testament, looked forward to a time when the Spirit of God would revitalize His chosen people, empower the Messiah, and be lavishly poured out on all humankind.

New Testament When John the Baptist burst on the scene proclaiming the advent of the kingdom of God, the spirit-inspired prophetic voice returned after a 400-year absence. Zechariah and Elizabeth, John's parents, were informed that their son will “be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb” (Luke 1:15 ). Similarly, the angel Gabriel visited Mary with the news that “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest will overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 ).

A watershed in biblical history occurred at the event of Jesus' baptism when He was anointed by the Spirit of God (Luke 3:22 ). The Holy Spirit was then responsible for thrusting Jesus out into the wilderness to undergo temptation (Luke 4:1-13 ). Luke has many more references to the Holy Spirit than do the other synoptic accounts. This can be accounted for by Luke's theological interests which are extended in the Acts of the Apostles, which has been rightly named “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because of the prominence given to the Spirit.

All apostolic writers witnessed to the reality of the Spirit in the church; however, the apostle Paul, who wrote more than any other author, offers the most theological reflection on the subject. The main chapters to consult are Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 2 Corinthians 3:1; and Galatians 5:1 .

Johannine theology is rich in its doctrine of the Spirit. In the Gospel of John, the Spirit possesses Christ (John 1:32-33 ); is indicative of the new birth (John 3:1-16 ); will come upon Jesus' departure (John 16:7-11 ); and will endow the believer after the resurrection (John 20:22 ). The Christian community is anointed by the Spirit (1 John 2:20 ); and the Spirit assures the believer of the indwelling presence of Jesus (1 John 3:24 ). In the prophetic Book of Revelation, John, in Old Testament fashion, depicted himself as a prophet inspired by the Spirit. See God .

Paul Jackson

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Holy Spirit'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​h/holy-spirit.html. 1991.
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