Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit – also called the Spirit of God , Spirit of Truth or Paraclete – is the third god of the Holy Trinity , according to Christian theology . In the Bible it is mentioned with the Hebrew word shechina , which does not represent a person but simply to the action or the presence of the god Yewé The name Paraclete, used in the texts of the New Testament comes from the Greek parakletos (‘he who is called’). In Latin it was called Sancti Spíritus (‘holy spirit’).

As a biblical expression it refers to a complex theological notion through which a supreme and divine “spiritual reality” is described. It has undergone multiple interpretations in different Christian confessions .

This spiritual reality is spoken of in many passages of the Bible , with the expressions quoted, without giving a single definition. This was the reason for a series of controversies that took place mainly throughout three historical periods: the fourth century as the quintessential trinitarian century , the schismatic crises of the East and West that occurred between the 9th and 11th centuries  and, finally, the different doctrinal revisions born from the Protestant Reformation .


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  • 1 Interpretations
  • 2 Provenance
  • 3 Qualities
  • 4 names
  • 5 Gifts
  • 6 fruits
  • 7 The Holy Spirit in history
    • 1 First authors who mentioned the Holy Spirit
  • 8 The symbols of the Holy Spirit
  • 9 Etymology of the word «spirit»
  • 10 Sources
  • 11 Sources


Four interpretations are basically based on the nature of the Holy Spirit:

  • According to modalistic interpretations , the Holy Spirit is a divine force or quality in the manner of wisdom, beauty, love or goodness. The Unitarianism -although keeps basic theological differences with modalism – shares this vision of an impersonal holy spirit, which acts merely being the active force of the god Yewé . In any case, both currents share the vision that the Holy Spirit is not “something” but “someone”.
  • According to Arian interpretations of character , the Holy Spirit is a spiritual entity or an angelic nature of exalted character, very close to divinity, but different from it in its condition as a “creature” created by the god Yewé.
  • According to the interpretations of a tritheistic character, the Holy Spirit is another god, perhaps inferior in character to the main Father god , but who shares with him the quality of being uncreated.
  • Trinitarian interpretations consider the Holy Spirit as a divine person, a notion with which the divinity of the Holy Spirit is assumed, maintaining, however, the uniqueness of the divine principle. This is the doctrine of the Catholic Christianity of the Orthodox Christianity and some Protestant denominations.


On the origin of the Holy Spirit, there is a certain unanimity between the different Christian confessions. With the exception of the tritheistic interpretation, which assumes the Holy Spirit as an uncreated being and independent of the Father God , the other three interpretations consider that it comes from the Father God, although they differ in form.

In modalism, he proceeds as a force, in Arianism as a creature and in trinitarianism as a person. Trinitarianism also addresses an additional question specific to its theological framework. He distinguishes between the provenance of the Father God and the provenance of the Son God , a question known as the filioque clause .


Concerning the qualities of the Holy Spirit, Christian theologians assume that he is the bearer of very diverse supernatural gifts that can be transmitted to man through his mediation. Although the enumeration of gifts may vary from one author to another and between different confessions, there is a broad consensus regarding their excellence and magnanimity.


The Bible contains a set of expressions that allude to a “divine reality” in which Judaism and Christianity believe . The following is a list of such expressions:

  • Finger of God
  • Adoption Spirit
  • Burning Spirit
  • Spirit of christ
  • God’s spirit
  • Spirit of glory
  • Spirit of Grace.
  • Spirit of Truth
  • Spirit of freedom
  • Spirit of Promise.
  • Spirit of Wisdom
  • Spirit of Holiness
  • Spirit of Truth.
  • Spirit of Life.
  • Spirit of the Lord
  • Generous spirit
  • Righteous spirit
  • Holy Spirit
  • Holy Spirit of God
  • Holy Spirit of Promise.
  • Mind of christ
  • Lord Himself

Of all of them, “Holy Spirit” is the main expression, the best known and the most used in Christianity. The Book of Wisdom (of the Bible ) characterizes this holy spirit in the following terms:

Intelligent, holy, unique and multiple spirit, subtle, agile, penetrating, immaculate, clear, harmless, sharp, free, benefactor, stable, safe, calm, almighty, omniscient, who penetrates all the subtle pure intelligent spirits.

Wisdom 7: 22-23


There is a quote from the prophet Isaiah where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed:

Spirit of wisdom, intelligence, advice, strength, science, piety, fear of God.

Isaiah 11: 2

These gifts are completed with the “fruits of the Spirit” that appear in the Letter to the Galatians (of Saint Paul ):

… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.

Gal 5, 22-23


All these names, gifts or fruits are implicit in the expression “Holy Spirit” and make it a very rich theological notion. Despite this diversity of names, in Christian theology it is said, however, that there is only one and the same Spirit, a consideration for which theologians adduce a quote from Saint Paul of Tarsus .

In Judaism and Christianity it is believed that the Holy Spirit can approach the soul and transmit certain dispositions that perfect it. These habits are known as the “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The gift ratio varies between different Christian denominations.

Catholic and Orthodox theology recognize seven gifts as they traditionally follow the Isaiah quote. These seven gifts are listed below with a brief description.

  • fear of God
  • wisdom
  • understanding
  • advice
  • piety
  • strength
  • science

For non-Catholic Christians, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to the First Letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12) are:

To some, God gives by the spirit the word of wisdom; to others, by the same spirit, the word of science; to others, faith through the same spirit; to others, and by that same spirit, gifts to heal the sick; to others, doing miraculous; to others, prophecy; to others, the discerning of spirits; to others, speaking in different languages; and to others, interpreting languages.

1 Cor 12: 8-10


In Christian theology, the closeness of the Holy Spirit is said to induce in the soul a series of beneficial habits known as “fruits of the spirit” and recorded in the Letter to the Galatians (5:22). The fruits, twelve according to tradition and the Vulgate version , are:

  • charity
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • longanimity
  • goodness
  • benignity
  • meekness
  • fidelity
  • modesty
  • continence

The Holy Spirit in history

It was only with the passage of time that the Church transformed the scriptural legacy of truth concerning the Holy Spirit into a doctrinal and theological formulation. Many of the early Church Fathers and most of the early creeds made reference to the Holy Spirit, but generally the doctrine was not made controversial, and therefore not developed.

The Apostles’ creed dates from the 3rd century in its original compilation, and simply says, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

Only in the fourth century was it given its modern form. Possibly in the first centuries after Christ, Christians believed only in a unique Father God, Jesus being only a beloved son, and not to mention the Holy Spirit as a person, but as a mere power of the Father God.

First authors who mentioned the Holy Spirit

  • Clement of Alexandria (155-220) wrote: “The Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere.” He taught that the Holy Spirit, descending from heaven on man, made him capable of contemplating divine things.
  • Tertullian (160-222) described water baptism, a specific confession of faith in the Holy Spirit is indicated, before immersion. Tertullian was the first Father of the Church who used the term “trinity of gods” applied in reference to the persons of the Deity, consequently placing the Spirit on the same basis with the Father and the Son.
  • Origen (186-253), in a statement of the doctrines of his time said: “The Holy Ghost is associated with the Father and the Son in honor and dignity. It is not clear whether or not he was begotten. He inspired the sacred writers ” It is evident from other writings that Origen took the position of believing that the Holy Spirit is uncreated. He taught that the ministry of the Holy Spirit was to bestow holiness, and that the doctrine of the Spirit emanated only from revelation.
  • The monarchians , the mid-second century, taught that the Holy Spirit is not distinct from the Father and the Son.
  • Pelagius (360-420) rejected the doctrine of the creative work of the Spirit in regenerating believers, and with this began a line of thought that has come to be represented by Unitarianism and certain extreme liberals.
  • The Macedonian school , prior to the Council of Nicea (from 425) denied that the spirit of the One God was a person.
  • In 325, the Nicene council , in its original Creed,only declared: “We also believe in the Holy Spirit.” In 381, the Council of Constantinople prepared the Nicene Creedbest known, who declared that the orthodox faith includes believing “In the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets.” It is apparent that this corrected version of the Nicene Creed wanted to convey the idea that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are uncreated beings and must be worshiped together as one God. However, it took centuries of discussion before the Creed finally appeared with the statement that completed the Creed’s original intention.

The symbols of the Holy Spirit

The word “symbol” comes from two Greek words: syn , which means ‘just’; and the word balio , which means ‘thrown away’. It literally means something that has been thrown together with something else, side by side, one to represent and explain the other. In other words, a symbol is a material emblem that shows and discovers a spiritual truth.


  • Fire: “He will baptize you in holy spirit and fire” ( Matthew11)
  • The wind: “The wind blows from where it wants … so is everyone who is born of the spirit” ( John8).
  • Water: “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty” ( John14).
  • Clouds, rain, and dew: Psalm6 and Psalm133.3; Hosea 14.5.
  • A seal: “You were sealed with the ‘holy spirit of promise'” ( Ephesians13).
  • The oil: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” ( Luke18; Hebrews1.9)
  • The dove: “The sky opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and coming upon him” ( Matthew16).
  • Wine: “Come without money and buy this wine without price” ( Isaiah1)
  • The down payment (first payment as a guarantee of a future inheritance): “And he has given us the down payment of the spirit in our hearts” ( Second letter to the Corinthians22).

Etymology of the word “spirit”

The word “spirit” is translated from the Greek “pneuma” (πνευμα), which means ‘air’ (as in pneumatic ), and from the Hebrew “ruach” (‘air’). Today, inspired air and soul are two different things, but in ancient cultures they were considered the same (see for example the concept of prana (inspired air and spiritual energy).


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