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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Spirit Spiritual

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(πνεῦμα, πνευματικός)

1. In the Acts and the Epistles πνεῦμα very frequently refers to the Divine Spirit, conceived either as a power proceeding from God (Acts 2:17, Romans 8:11) or as a definite personality (Acts 8:29, Ephesians 4:30). See, further, Holy Spirit.

2. It is applied to created beings other than human, whether angels (Hebrews 1:14) or evil spirits (Acts 5:16; Acts 19:15, 1 Timothy 4:1, Revelation 16:14; cf. Ephesians 6:12, ‘the spiritual hosts [τὰ πνευματικά] of wickedness’).

3. It is used of disembodied human spirits (Acts 23:8 f.), whether in a state of blessedness (Hebrews 12:23) or of condemnation (1 Peter 3:19).

4. It personifies various kinds of influence, as in the phrases ‘spirit of bondage’ (Romans 8:15), ‘spirit of stupor’ (Romans 11:8), ‘spirit of the world’ (1 Corinthians 2:12), ‘spirit of fear’ (2 Timothy 1:7), ‘spirit of truth’ and ‘spirit of error’ (1 John 4:6).

5. It is employed in contrast with ‘the letter’ (γράμμα) to denote inward reality as opposed to outward form (Romans 2:29; Romans 7:6, 2 Corinthians 3:6).

6. Psychologically it occurs in a sense not to be distinguished from ‘soul,’ to designate the whole of man’s inner nature as Something separate from, or contrasted with, his body (Acts 7:59, 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 7:34, James 2:26). See article Soul.

7. In St. Paul’s theology ‘spirit’ receives a specific religious meaning that must be distinguished from the psychological one just noted. The Apostle’s doctrine of salvation, with its antithesis between sin and grace, leads him to recognize an opposition between flesh and spirit which is much more than the natural contrast between spirit and body (Romans 8:1-13). ‘Flesh’ (q.v. [Note: .v. quod vide, which see.] ) stands for fallen human nature, human nature as defiled and determined by sin (cf. Romans 8:3, ‘sinful flesh,’ lit. [Note: literally, literature.] ‘flesh of sin’), in contrast with which ‘spirit’ stands for the Christian’s new or regenerate nature, in which the Spirit of God dwells (Romans 8:9) in such a way as to bring deliverance from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2). And the Apostle had so keen a sense of the difference between the unregenerate and the regenerate condition, and of man’s fallen and sinful estate as affecting his whole nature, that he found it necessary to express the contrast in a way which would make it plain that the soul as well as the body is subject to the dominance of sin. For this purpose he makes an antithesis between ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’-though for ordinary psychological purposes he treats the words as synonyms-and therefore opposes (1 Corinthians 2:14 f., 1 Corinthians 15:44-45) the spiritual (πνευματικός) to the psychical or soulish (ψυχικός, Authorized Version ‘natural,’ ‘sensual’). The soulish man is the merely natural man, the spiritual man is one into whom the Divine Spirit has entered, transforming the natural πνεῦμα and raising it to a higher power by this indwelling. This distinction which the Apostle makes between ‘soulish’ and ‘spiritual’ is not an arbitrary one, however, though he has adopted it for theological purposes of his own, but rests upon a differential use in the OT of nephesh (‘soul,’ Septuagint ψυχή) and rûaḥ (‘spirit,’ Septuagint πνεῦμα). ‘Soul’ in the OT stands for the natural life regarded from the point of view of its separate individuality (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 17:14), while ‘spirit’ is the principle of life considered as flowing from God Himself (Job 27:3, Psalms 51:10, Ecclesiastes 12:7), who is thus fitly called the God of the spirits of all flesh (Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16). Even in the OT ‘spirit’ stood, as ‘soul’ did not, for both the Divine and the human essence, and thus lent itself more readily to the thought of a vital connexion between the two, in which life is imparted from the higher to the lower. Hence St. Paul was only carrying OT usage and suggestion into a region of clearer theological definition when he contrasted the soulish with the spiritual, applying the former to man as he is by nature apart from Divine grace, and the latter to the new man in whom the Spirit of God has taken up His abode (Romans 8:9). This theological use of ‘spiritual,’ which is characteristic of St. Paul though not wholly confined to him, is extended from persons to things, so that we read of spiritual meat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:3 f.), a spiritual body (15:44), spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16), a spiritual house and spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5), In all these cases ‘spiritual’ points to the presence of the Divine Spirit or to the activity of a human spirit that has been Divinely quickened and renewed.

Literature.-H. Cremer, Bib.-Theol. Lex. of NT Greek3, 1880, p. 503 ff.; J. Laidlaw, Bible Doctrine of Man, 1895, pp. 131 ff., 269 ff.; W. P. Dickson, St. Paul’s Use of the Terms Flesh and Spirit, 1883. p. 168ff.; B. Weiss, Biblical Theology of the NT3, Eng. translation , i. [1882] 346 ff.

J. C. Lambert.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Spirit Spiritual'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/spirit-spiritual.html. 1906-1918.

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