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Holy Spirit

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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Holzmann, Michael
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Biblical View of the Spirit.

The most noticeable difference between sentient beings and dead things, between the living and the dead, is in the breath. Whatever lives breathes; whatever is dead does not breathe. Aquila, by strangling some camels and then asking Hadrian to set them on their legs again, proved to the emperor that the world is based on "spirit" (Yer. Ḥag. 41, 77a). In most languages breath and spirit are designated by the same term. The life-giving breath can not be of earthly origin, for nothing is found whence it may be taken. It is derived from the supernatural world, from God. God blew the breath of life into Adam (Genesis 2:7). "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4; comp. ib. 27:3). God "giveth breath unto the people upon it [the earth], and spirit to them that walk therein" (Isaiah 42:5). "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:10). Through His spirit all living things are created; and when He withdraws it they perish (ib. 34:14; Psalms 104:29,30). He is therefore the God of the spirits of all flesh (Numbers 16:22, 27:16). The breath of animals also is derived from Him (Genesis 6:17; Psalms 104:30 [A. V. 29]; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21; Isaiah 42:5). The heavenly' bodies likewise are living beings, who have received their spirit from God (Job 26:13; Psalms 33:6). God's spirit hovered over the form of lifeless matter, thereby making the Creation possible; and it still causes the most tremendous changes (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 32:15).

Hence all creatures live only through the spirit given by God. In a more restricted sense, however, the spirit of God is not identical with this life-giving spirit. He pours out His own spirit upon all whom He has chosen to execute His will and behests, and this spirit imbues them with higher reason and powers, making them capable of heroic speech and action (Genesis 41:38; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; Judges 3:10; 2 Samuel 23:2). This special spirit of God rests upon man (Isaiah 11:2, 42:1); it surrounds him like a garment (Judges 6:34; 2 Chronicles 24:20); it falls upon him and holds him like a hand (Ezekiel 11:5, 37:1). It may also be taken away from the chosen one and transferred to some one else (Numbers 11:17). It may enter into man and speak with his voice (2 Samuel 23:2; Ezekiel 2:2; comp. Jeremiah 10:14). The prophet sees and hears by means of the spirit (Numbers 24:2; 1 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 42:1; Zechariah 7:12). The Messianic passage in Joel 2:28-29, to which special significance was subsequently attached, is characteristic of the view regarding the nature of the spirit: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit."

The Divine Spirit.

What the Bible calls "Spirit of Yhwh" and "Spirit of Elohim" is called in the Talmud and Midrash "Holy Spirit" ("Ruaḥ ha-Ḳodesh." never "Ruaḥ Ḳedoshah," as Hilgenfeld says, in "Ketzergesch." p. 237). Although the expression "Holy Spirit" occurs in Psalms 51:11 (LXX. πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον) and in Isaiah 63:10,11, it had not yet the definite meaning which was attached to it in rabbinical literature: in the latter it is equivalent to theexpression "Spirit of the Lord," which was avoided on account of the disinclination to the use of the Tetragrammaton (see, for example, Targ. to Isa. 13). It is probably owing to this fact that the Shekinah is often referred to instead of the Holy Spirit. It is said of the former, as of the Holy Spirit, that it rests upon a person. The difference between the two in such cases has not yet been determined. It is certain that the New Testament has πνεῦμα ἅγιον in those passages, also, where the Hebrew and Aramaic had "Shekinah"; for in Greek there is no equivalent to the latter, unless it be δόξα (="gleam of light"), by which "ziw ha-shekinah" may be rendered. Because of the identification of the Holy Spirit with the Shekinah, πνεῦμα ἅγιον is much more frequently mentioned in the New Testament than is "Ruaḥ ha-Ḳodesh" in rabbinical literature.

Nature of the Holy Spirit.

Although the Holy Spirit is often named instead of God (e.g., in Sifre, Deut. 31 [ed. Friedmann, p. 72]), yet it was conceived as being something distinct. The Spirit was among the ten things that were created on the first day (Ḥag. 12a, b). Though the nature of the Holy Spirit is really nowhere described, the name indicates that it was conceived as a kind of wind that became manifest through noise and light. As early as Ezekiel 3:12 it is stated, "the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing," the expression "behind me" characterizing the unusual nature of the noise. The Shekinah made a noise before Samson like a bell (Soṭah 9b, below). When the Holy Spirit was resting upon him, his hair gave forth a sound like a bell, which could be heard from afar. It imbued him with such strength that he could uproot two mountains and rub them together like pebbles, and could cover leagues at one step (ib. 17b; Lev. R. 8:2). Similarly Acts 2:2 reads: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (it must be noted that this happened at Pentecost, e., the Feast of Revelation). Although the accompanying lights are not expressly mentioned, the frequently recurring phrase "he beheld ["heẓiẓ"] in the Holy Spirit" shows that he upon whom the spirit rested saw a light. The Holy Spirit gleamed in the court of Shem, of Samuel, and of King Solomon (Gen. R. 85:12). It "glimmered" in Tamar (Genesis 38:18), in the sons of Jacob (Genesis 42:11), and in Moses (Exodus 2:12), e., it settled upon the persons in question (see Gen. R. 85:9, 91:7; Lev. R. 32:4, "niẓoẓah" and "heẓiẓ"; comp. also Lev. R. 8:2, "hitḥil le-gashgesh"). From the day that Joseph was sold the Holy Spirit left Jacob, who saw and heard only indistinctly (Gen. R. 91:6). The Holy Spirit, being of heavenly origin, is composed, like everything that comes from heaven, of light and fire. When it rested upon Phinehas his face burned like a torch (Lev. R. , end). When the Temple was destroyed and Israel went into exile, the Holy Spirit returned to heaven; this is indicated in Ecclesiastes 12:7: "the spirit shall return unto God" (Eccl. R. 12:7). The spirit talks sometimes with a masculine and sometimes with a feminine voice (Ecclesiastes 7:29 [A. V. 28]); e., as the word "ruaḥ" is both masculine and feminine, the Holy Spirit was conceived as being sometimes a man and sometimes a woman.

In the Form of a Dove.

The four Gospels agree in saying that when Jesus was baptized the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove came down from the opening heaven and rested upon him. The phraseology of the passages, especially in Luke, shows that this description was not meant symbolically, as Conybeare ("Expositor," , 9:455) assumes, following Alexandrian views (comp. Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 4:33; and Hastings, "Dict. Bible," 2:406a). This idea of a dove-like form is found in Jewish literature also. The phrase in Song of Solomon 2:12, "the voice of the dove" (A. V. "turtle"), is translated in the Targum "the voice of the Holy Spirit." The passage in Genesis 1:2, "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," is interpreted by Ben Zoma (c. 100) to mean, "As a dove that hovers above her brood without touching it" (Ḥag. 15a). As the corresponding passage in the Palestinian Talmud (Ḥag. 77b, above) mentions the eagle instead of the dove, the latter is perhaps not named here with reference to the Holy Spirit. A teacher of the Law heard in a ruin a kind of voice ("bat ḳol") that complained like a dove: "Wo to the children, because of whose sins I have destroyed my house" (Ber. 3a, below). Evidently God Himself, or rather the Holy Spirit, is here referred to as cooing like a dove (comp. Abbot, "From Letter to Spirit," pp. 106-135). See See DOVE.

Dissemination of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit dwells only among a worthy generation, and the frequency of its manifestations is proportionate to the worthiness. There was no manifestation of it in the time of the Second Temple (Yoma 21b), while there were many during the time of Elijah (Tosef., Soṭah, 12:5). According to Job 28:25, the Holy Spirit rested upon the Prophets in varying degrees, some prophesying to the extent of one book only, and others filling two books (Lev. R. 15:2). Nor did it rest upon them continually, but only for a time. The stages of development, the highest of which is the Holy Spirit, are as follows: zeal, integrity, purity, holiness, humility, fear of sin, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit conducts Elijah, who brings the dead to life (Yer. Shab. 3c, above, and parallel passage). The pious act through the Holy Spirit (Tan., Wayeḥi, 14); whoever teaches the Torah in public partakes of the Holy Spirit (Cant. R. 1:9, end; comp. Lev. R. 35:7). When Phinehas sinned the Holy Spirit departed from him (Lev. R. 37:4; comp. Gen. R. 19:6; Pesiḳ. 9a).

In Biblical times the Holy Spirit was widely disseminated, resting on those who, according to the Bible, displayed a propitious activity; thus it rested on Eber and, according to Joshua 2:16, even on Rahab (Seder 'Olam, 1; Sifre, Deut. 22). It was necessary to reiterate frequently that Solomon wrote his three books, Proverbs, Canticles, and Ecclesiastes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Cant. R. 1:6-10), because there was a continual opposition not only to the wise king personally, but also to his writings. A teacher of the Law says that probably for this reason the Holy Spirit rested upon Solomon in his old age only (ib. 1:10, end).

Holy Spirit and Prophecy.

The visible results of the activity of the Holy Spirit, according to the Jewish conception, are the books of the Bible, all of which have been composed under its inspiration. All the Prophets spoke "in the Holy Spirit"; and the most characteristic sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy, in the sense that the person upon whom it rests beholds the past and the future. With the death of the last three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit ceased to manifest itself in Israel; but the BAT ḲOL was still available. "A bat ḳol announced twice at assemblies of the scribes: 'There is a man who is worthy to have the Holy Spirit rest upon him.' On one of these occasions all eyes turned to Hillel; on the other, to Samuel the Lesser" (Tosef., Soṭah, 13:2-4, and parallels). Although the Holy Spirit was not continually present, and did not rest for any length of time upon any individual, yet there were cases in which it appeared and made knowledge of the past and of the future possible (ib.; also with reference to Akiba, Lev. R. 21:8; to Gamaliel II., ib. 37:3, and Tosef., Pes. 1:27; to Meïr, Lev. R. 9:9; etc.).

The Holy Spirit rested not only on the children of Israel who crossed the Red Sea (Tosef., Soṭah, 6:2), but, toward the end of the time of the Second Temple, occasionally on ordinary mortals; for "if they are not prophets, they are at least the sons of prophets" (Tosef., Pes. 4:2). The Holy Spirit is at times identified with the spirit of prophecy (comp. Seder 'Olam, 1, beginning; Targ. Yer. to Genesis 41:38, 43:14; 2 Kings 9:26; Isaiah 32:15. 13, 44:3; Cant. R. 1:2). Sifre 170 (to Deuteronomy 18:18) remarks: "'I will put My words into his mouth,' means 'I put them into his mouth, but I do not speak with him face to face'; know, therefore, that henceforth the Holy Spirit is put into the mouths of the Prophets." The "knowledge of God" is the Holy Spirit (Cant. R. 1:9). The division of the country by lot among the several tribes was likewise effected by means of the Holy Spirit (Sifre, Num. 132, p. 49a). On "inspiration" see Jew. Encyc. 3:147, s. BIBLE CANON, § 9; especially Meg. 7a; and INSPIRATION. It may simply be noted here that in rabbinical literature single passages are often considered as direct utterances of the Holy Spirit (Sifre, Num. 86; Tosef., Soṭah, 9:2; Sifre, Deut. 355, p. 148a, six times; Gen. R. 78:8, 84:12; Lev. R. 4:1 [the expression "and the Holy Spirit cries" occurs five times], 14:2, 27:2; Num. R. 15:21; 17:2, end; Deut. R. , end).

Gentiles and the Holy Spirit.

The opposite of the Holy Spirit is the unclean spirit ("ruaḥ ṭum'ah"; lit. "spirit of uncleanliness"). The Holy Spirit rests on the person who seeks the Shekinah (God), while the unclean spirit rests upon him who seeks uncleanness (Sifre, Deut. 173, and parallel passage). Hence arises the contrast, as in the New Testament between πνεῦμα ἅγιον and πνεῦμα ἀκάθαρτον. On the basis of 2 Kings 3:13, the statement is made, probably as a polemic against the founder of Christianity, that the Holy Spirit rests only upon a happy soul (Yer. Suk. 55a, and elsewhere). Among the pagans Balaam, from being a mere interpreter of dreams, rose to be a magician and then a possessor of the Holy Spirit (Num. R. 20:7). But the Holy Spirit did not appear to him except at night, all pagan prophets being in possession of their gift only then (ib. 20:12). The Balaam section was written in order to show why the Holy Spirit was taken from the heathen—e., because Balaam desired to destroy a whole people without cause (ib. 20:1). A very ancient source (Sifre, Deut. 175) explains, on the basis of Deuteronomy 18:15, that in the Holy Land the gift of prophecy is not granted to the heathen or in the interest of the heathen, nor is it given outside of Palestine even to Jews. In the Messianic time, however, the Holy Spirit will, according to Joel 2:28,29, be poured out upon all Israel; e., all the people will be prophets (Num. R. , end). According to the remarkable statement of Tanna debe Eliyahu, ed. Friedmann, the Holy Spirit will be poured out equally upon Jews and pagans, both men and women, freemen and slaves.

In the New Testament.

The doctrine that after the advent of the Messiah the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all mankind explains the fact that in the New Testament such great importance is assigned to the Holy Spirit. The phrase τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον occurs from eighty to ninety times (Swete, in Hastings, "Dict. Bible," 2:404); while the phrase τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ δεοῦ is comparatively rare, it occurs several times. In Acts 1:5,8 it is said, as in the midrash quoted above, that in the Messianic time the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon every one, and in Acts 2:16 et seq. Peter states that Joel's prophecy regarding the Holy Spirit has been fulfilled. "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God" (ib. 10:44-46). Luke also says (Luke 11:13) that God gives the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him. The phrase "joy of the Holy Ghost" (1 Thessalonians 1:6) also recalls the Midrash sentence quoted above referring to the contrast between the clean and the unclean spirit (Mark 3:30). The inspiration of the Biblical writers is acknowledged in the same way as in rabbinical literature (Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; 1:21). Hence the conception of the Holy Spirit is derived from one and the same source. But as the New Testament writers look upon the Messiah, who is actually identified with the Holy Spirit, as having arrived, their view assumes a form fundamentally different from that of the Jewish view in certain respects; e., as regards: (1) the conception and birth of the Messiah through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18 et seq.; Luke 1:35; John 3:5-8); (2) the speaking in different tongues ("glossolalia"; Acts 2 et passim): (3) the materialistic view of the Holy Spirit, evidenced in the idea that it may be communicated by means of the breath (e.g., John 20:22); and (4) the strongly developed view of the personality of the Holy Spirit (comp., for example, Matthew 12:32; Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22; 2:5; Gospel to the Hebrews, quoted inHastings, "Dict. Bible," 2:406, foot, et passim). In consequence of these fundamental differences many points of the Christian conception of the Holy Spirit have remained obscure, at least to the uninitiated.

In the Apocrypha.

It is noteworthy that the Holy Spirit is less frequently referred to in the Apocrypha and by the Hellenistic Jewish writers; and this circumstance leads to the conclusion that the conception of the Holy Spirit was not prominent in the intellectual life of the Jewish people, especially in the Diaspora. In I Macc. 4:45, 14:41 prophecy is referred to as something long since passed. Wisdom 9:17 refers to the Holy Spirit which God sends down from heaven, whereby His behests are recognized. The discipline of the Holy Spirit preserves from deceit (ib. 1:5; comp. ib. 7:21-26). It is said in the Psalms of Solomon, 17:42, in reference to the Messiah, the son of David: "he is mighty in the Holy Spirit"; and in Susanna, 45, that "God raised up the Holy Spirit of a youth, whose name was Daniel." Josephus ("Contra Ap." 1:8) expresses the same view in regard to prophetic inspiration that is found in rabbinical literatur (comp. Jew. Encyc. 3:147b, s. BIBLE CANON; Josephus, "Ant." 4:6, § 5; 6:8, § 2; also Sifre, Deut. 305; Ber. 31b, above; Gen. R. 70:8, 75:5; Lev. R.; Deut. R. —the Holy Spirit defending Israel before God; Eccl. R. 7:23; Pirḳe R. El. , beginning). also Hosanna; INSPIRATION; ORDINATION; TABERNACLES, FEAST OF.

  • F. Weber, Jüdische Theologie, 2d ed., pp. 80 et seq., 190 et seq., and Index, s. Geist, Leipsic, 1897;
  • Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. 3d ed., 6:444-450 (with full bibliography);
  • Hastings, Dict. Bible, 3:402-411;
  • Bacher, Ag. Tan. passim;
  • idem, Ag. Pal. Amor. passim;
  • E. A. Abbot, From Letter to Spirit, ch. et passim, London, 1903;
  • E. Sokolowsky, Die Begriffe Geist und Leben bei Paulus, Göttingen, 1903;
  • H. Weinel, Die Wirkungen des Geistes und der Geister (his quotations [pp. 81, 131, 164, 190] from Christian writers are interesting from a Jewish point of view).
L. B.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Holy Spirit'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​h/holy-spirit.html. 1901.
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