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I have heard that there is a lot of influence from the Greeks in the development of Christianity, the Stoics and Platonists, and the concept of logos, the Word, and Jesus. You can see this in the Gospels, the book of Enoch, Daniel, etc. This, as far as I know, is an established fact of modern biblical scholarship (not from a religious but an academic point of view), But where does the Holy Ghost fit into this Greek influence and what is he (they?) supposed to be?

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but does the Holy Ghost come from Greek influence? Are they the ghost of a dead Jesus? How does that make sense if Jesus was said to be resurrected? What is the origin, as far as scholarship can tell (textual analysis, archeology, etc.), of the Holy Ghost and what is their nature and relationship to the other two?

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    Point of clarification: the traditional meaning of "ghost" does not refer specifically to spirits of deceased persons. The more modern rendering "Holy Spirit" is intended to emphasize that the third Person of the Trinity is not a "ghost" in the modern sense.
    – Matthew
    Sep 28 at 4:12
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    Welcome to the site, Lina Jane. The question is not 'dumb' but you've asked at least 4 questions covering disparate topics. The wide-ranging nature of your enquiries is not suited to this Site which asks for 1 question at a time. Then answers can be focused on 1 point. It also helps if you can scope requests for answers to particular groups and not just anybody and everybody. Do you want to know from those that are happy to incorporate Greek philosophy into their religion, or do you want to know from those who stick to what the Bible says on the topic? Do take the Tour at the bottom l.h.s.
    – Anne
    Sep 28 at 15:56
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    The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, not a concept dreamed up by antiquity. I am baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Unless I am in union with that blessed Person, I shall know nothing whatsoever about God (except the technical knowledge I might glean from reading). You seem to regard the knowledge of God as something that humanity has constructed - a myth, a system, a ritual. To me, He is the eternal Deity who preceded all things.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 28 at 23:10
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    @NigelJ I do not seek to offend you. Sorry if I did that. I just wanted to get your perspective. Sorry again
    – Lina Jane
    Sep 29 at 1:53
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    @NigelJ There is no reason to be offended, and the question does not imply a contradiction with your wolrld view (and even if it had, there is no offence in holding a different view). The solar system existed before the birth of humanity, but that does not mean the concept of "solar system" did not come into being in the ideas of certain people, and the question of its historical origin is a valid one. The same goes for theological notions, even if they refer to timeless entities. Sep 29 at 5:33

4 Answers 4

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Origination of Holy Spirit Very important topic! But first a humble correction: the non-biblical origin of Christianity's doctrines and rituals is indeed a teaching of some scholars, but they belong to a class of scholars called "liberals." Other just as qualified and credentialed scholars of academia hold alternative views, which allege a more conservative outlook. Greek origination of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is therefore not an established fact.

The Holy Spirit of God is not the ghost of the dead Jesus. Rather, He is part of the Tri-unity of the Godhead (Trinity): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three separate gods, but manifestations of the One true God. Ancient scholars used the illustration of the "Sun." The Sun manifests itself to Earth in two ways: heat and light. These represent the Spirit and Jesus who interact with earthlings. But they come from the One Sun, which represents the Father. One God manifested as a Tri-unity!

From time Immemorial To show that the Holy Spirit of God is not a conjecture nor manufacture of the later Greek philosophers, we need only go to the very first chapter of the very first book in the Holy Bible!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters...(Genesis 1:1-2)

The Holy Spirit is seen to exist from the beginning of time...and before...since He was instrumental in the creation. From that chapter on, in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is mentioned as interacting with creation and creatures (men):

And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man for that he also is flesh..." (Genesis 6:3)

Cast me not away from Thy Presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51:11, a prayer of David)

I (God) will come down and talk with thee there, and I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them...And the Lord came down in a cloud, and took of the Spirit that was upon him and gave it to the seventy elders, and it came to pass, they prophesied, and did not cease! (Numbers 11:17,25-29)

And Pharaoh said to his servants,"Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? (Genesis 41:38)

Then all the Midianites (armies)...pitched in the valley of Jezreel. But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet (call to arms)... (Judges 6:34)

And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Obed, and he went out to meet (King) Asa (to prophesy)...(2 Chronicles 15:1-2)

And they shall know that I am the LORD their God...Neither will I hide my face any more from them, for I have poured out My Spirit upon the House of Israel. saith the LORD God. (Ezekiel 39:28-29)

These scriptures dealt with events in eras before the Greeks. It is more than abundantly clear that the concept (reality) of the Holy Spirit was known long before the Greek Empire with its classical philosophers existed.

And that this same Holy Spirit was to continue interacting with mankind was voiced by the prophet Joel: In the latter days I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. (See Acts 2) This Holy Spirit was seen as active in the Early Church (Christianity) and is taught throughout the Epistles of the Apostles. The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink (rituals), but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Romans 14:17)

This is an important topic for struggling humanity in a world of differing philosophies vying for attention, and it is much appreciated that it was raised.

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    @LinaJane : Even if you were a 100% committed atheist who holds that everything in Christianity is completely made up and none of it has anything to do with the truth, it would be still factually incorrect to say that the Holy Ghost (or to better translate it into modern English, the Holy Spirit) was just a concept stolen from the Greeks, because it is mentioned in Genesis, which is also part of Jewish scripture, and was written long before the Jews had any contact with the Greeks.
    – vsz
    Sep 29 at 4:10
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    Your answer would be a lot more credible if it didn't start with a random attack on "liberals".
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 29 at 8:18
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    You don't need to be a "liberal" to see similarities or find inspirations between historic worldviews, and it's quite dismissive to suggest that any scholar who does so is not "qualified and credentialed". But then I suppose you can play with semantics and define someone to be "conservative" and "qualified" only if they hold the Bible as unquestionably true and directly inspired by God. Although that would make those words meaningless in this context, as then you'd basically be saying "some scholars are liberal, but they're 'liberal'; non-liberal scholars are non-liberal, which is not liberal"
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 29 at 8:33
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    @ OrangeDog-When the Questioner said "this is an established fact" this was indeed an attack on the scholarship of conservatives who hold differing conclusions. Editing has taken place in the Answer to reflect the academic qualifications of conservatives---and not to impugn the character of any liberal researchers. Thanks for pointing out the need for clarification. Peace.
    – ray grant
    Sep 29 at 20:02
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    @raygrant you still appear to be trying to bring a US-centric culture war into unrelated discussions of the history of theology
    – OrangeDog
    Sep 30 at 22:50
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Your comments to other answers show that you are primarily interested in

  1. The historical origin of the terminology "Holy Ghost"
  2. How "Holy Ghost" as a concept for "Person" #3 in the Trinity relates to the concept of the other 2 "persons", namely
    • "Person" #1: God
    • "Person" #2: the Logos / the Word who took on flesh and appeared to us as Jesus
  3. The work of God in the 3rd Person ("Holy Ghost") in Christianity understood through the function of the concept of the 3rd Person

History of the term and relationship to Jesus the man

  1. First, the term "Holy Ghost" became popular due to KJV (1611) translation, but to us the term is practically synonymous with "Holy Spirit" since both are English words for the underlying Hebrew ruaḥ ha-qodesh / Greek Pneûma tò Hágion / Latin Spīritus Sānctus. (source: Wiktionary). Chapter 1. The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible and Its Connections to the New Testament by Richard E. Averbeck of the 2013 book Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit? shows how the terminology and its variations are used in both the Old and New Testament in both Hebrew and Greek. This shows that the origin of the term is Jewish thought, not Greek philosophy !

  2. Although informally we refer to the Holy Spirit as the "spirit of Jesus", it is ontologically different than the "spirit of Peter" or the spirit of any other human being. Jesus as man does has a human "spirit" like us, but the "spirit" in the "Holy Spirit" refers to God himself, since Jesus is also God.

  3. So when Jesus died, it's his human nature that died as he yielded up his human spirit (Matt 27:50). But his divine spirit cannot die because it is the "spirit of God" which is identical with the divine nature of Jesus.

  4. When Jesus was resurrected, it's also his human spirit who was resurrected and given a glorified body that can move between walls (John 20:19, John 20:26).

As a concept for the 3rd "person" in the Trinity

  1. When the Greek philosophical language made its contribution though, is in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity within the first 300-400 years of Christianity, in order to clarify Christian understanding of God in light of further revelation of the One God in Jesus Christ, in the Helper (Paraklēton) whom Jesus promised to send (John 14:16), the Holy Spirit (Pneuma Hagion) that Jesus breathed on the apostles (John 20:22), and the sign of the Holy Spirit's coming after Jesus's ascension in the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2). Most Christians believe that the divine essence of all 3 is ONE, requiring a conceptual formulation that the early church fathers agreed on at the First Council of Nicea in AD 325 which issued the Nicene Creed later updated in 381 to become the form we use now in liturgies, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of AD 381. The part that concerns the 3 Persons:

    We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;

    ...

    And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

  2. Then further clarification on the dual nature of Jesus required more borrowing from Greek philosophical language in the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) producing the Chalcedonian Definition of the exact nature of Jesus:

    ... our Lord Jesus Christ is to us One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man; the Self-same of a rational soul and body; co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead, the Self-same co-essential with us according to the Manhood; like us in all things, sin apart; before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead, but in the last days, the Self-same, for us and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin Theotokos as to the Manhood; One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He was parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers hath handed down to us.

  3. Notice the language in the 2 creeds above which contains the terms "only-begotten", "begotten not made", "consubstantial", "proceedeth", "co-essential" "Two Natures", etc. What is very important to know, evident if one studies the Patristic writings leading to these 2 creeds, is that Christian theologians assigned new meanings (based on Biblical revelation) to existing philosophical terms, meanings that ARE NOT BORROWED from Greek philosophies like Neoplatonism & Stoicism or from Near-Eastern philosophies like Zoroastrianism. It is too long to demonstrate here, but there are many books supporting this thesis.

Work of the Holy Spirit and the function of the concept of the 3rd Person

How does the Holy Spirit (who is the divine spirit of Jesus and who is Father/Creator God Himself) work in us? As the Nicene creed says, the Holy Spirit is the Lord and the Giver of Life. Very briefly:

  • The Holy Spirit was given to us when we believed in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, when are "born again"
  • The Holy Spirit transforms each of us to become more holy in a process called sanctification
  • The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts to assist us in doing good works for others fulfilling the mission God has given each of us
  • The Holy Spirit produces fruits (i.e. character) so we become more like Jesus
  • etc.

Later theologians try to understand further the inner life of the Trinitarian nature of God (as 3 "Persons") and how we participate in the inner life of God because

  • we have the Person of the Holy Spirit living inside us doing the work outlined above
  • we can pray to God
  • we are united to Jesus as branches to the vine to bear fruit of love and obedience (John 15)

Following the teaching in both creeds, they come up with Three Persons as Subsistent Relations of knowing and loving. In this conception:

  • The Generation of the Son helps us understand Jesus as visible manifestation of the eternal Wisdom (Truth) of the Father The Father eternally generates the Word, as the creed also says "eternally begotten, not made". John 14:6 says that Jesus is (literally) the Truth. Just as the Word (divine nature of Jesus) helps the human Jesus to know the Father, we too can know the Father by the same Spirit (since Father = Word = Holy Spirit) who lives in us.

  • The Holy Spirit "spirating" between the Father and the Son can be understood as the love that they have between them. 1 John 4:8b says that "God is Love". Just as the human Jesus is inflamed by the eternal Trinitarian love, we too can love God and neighbors with the same love inflamed in our human souls by the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

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The Holy Spirit is introduced in the Bible in the very first book of creation Genesis and it says that

Genesis 1:2

The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters

Every prophet that ever prophesied or did a marvelous thing that was unheard of did not do these things out of their own authority but the Holy Spirit inspired them to do these things

The coming of The Christ was foretold by the prophet Isaiah but spiritually we say The Holy Spirit speaking through the mouth of Isaih said...

And it is so unfortunate for people to attack the Holy Spirit despite Jesus' warning

Mark 3:29

It will be forgiven the children of men all sins, including those who blaspheme against the Father, even those who blaspheme against the Son but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is guilty of an eternal sin and will not be forgiven

The Holy Spirit is not an invention of man like you suggested because Jesus ordered the apostles to baptize in His name. He is an independent member of the God head and is the greatest because of this eternal sin for blashpheming against him yet the Father is greater than all, how I love the mystery of Godliness

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The Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit is different from the Jewish concept and indeed was influenced by Greek philosophy as well as biblical teaching. In Judaism the term Holy Spirit refers to the spirit of God, who is thought of as one Person only. In Christian thought the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity. So the question boils down to whether and how Greek thought influenced the evolution of trinitarian doctrine, especially what theologians call "pneumatology" - the study of the Holy Spirit.

In an article sub-titled "The influence of Greek philosophy on the doctrine of Trinity" the author attempts to show that:

The Christian Trinity or the inner dynamics of the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been formulated using Plato's distinction between the Good, Nous and Pneuma (World Soul).

Whether this is precisely true or not, it is clear that the biblical teaching of Jesus as the Logos (Word) is related to Greek thought. The exact relationship between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was the subject of continuous debate among the Church Fathers, most of whom wrote in Greek and were clearly influenced by Greek philosophy. (See the article Faith and philosophy in the early church for specific examples.) These debates were highly intellectual and complex, resulting in bitter divisions and excommunications. Even today, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches cannot agree on the question of whether the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father alone, or from the Father "and the Son."

Conclusion: One thing for certain is that the Holy Spirit is not the 'ghost of the dead Jesus' as the OP asks. It is thought of as the Third Person of the Trinity, who gives birth to new Christians and leads the church (and individual Christians) to the Truth. Greek philosophy did influence the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but Christians do not accept that the doctrine in any way contradicts the Bible.

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    What does proceed mean here?
    – Lina Jane
    Sep 28 at 17:03
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    It means "comes from" as in John 15:26 - ”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf." For trinitarians, it does not mean "originates" because that implies something less than eternal existence with the Father. Sep 29 at 3:39
  • It's more accurate to say we have 100% organically updated Jewish thought dressed in Greek philosophical language. Two examples in the paper: ousia and logos. But the resulting doctrines are so different than let's say the Platonic World Soul or the demiurge! The paper notes how "Catholic scholars deny any similarity between Philo's Logos and St. John's Logos. The counter-argument is that John's Logos is conceptually borrowed from the OT (Pr 8), viewing Logos as the embodiment of God's Wisdom" and how Gregory of Nyssa adopts the concept of ousia "with reinterpretation". Sep 29 at 22:42
  • "Dressed in Greek philosophical language" isn't quite accurate either IMO. The Church Fathers specifically referred to Greek philosophers in their arguments about the nature of the Trinity, including the H.S. So they were clearly influenced by Greek philosophy, but this does not mean they adopted Greek ideas without interpretation. Sep 30 at 16:39

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