By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
(Note: Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Quotation For Consideration
“The complete man is composed of flesh, soul, and spirit. One of these does indeed preserve and fashion [the man]—the spirit. It is united and formed to another—the flesh. Then there is that which is between these two—the soul. The soul is sometimes indeed raised up by it, when it follows the spirit. But sometimes the soul sympathizes with the flesh and falls into carnal lusts. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.534.”
In our last study we noticed some of the characteristics of the “soul” as used throughout the Bible. We are going to continue our study of the Afterlife and Sheol by now examining the word “spirit” as used throughout the Old and New Testaments.
The word “spirit” is used quite often in Job. Here are a few of the passages where this word is used throughout Job’s Book:
Job 4:15-Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up.
Job 7:11- “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Job 17:1-“My spirit is broken, My days are extinguished, The grave is ready for me.
Job 20:3-I have heard the rebuke that reproaches me, And the spirit of my understanding causes me to answer.
Job 32:8-But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
Job 32:18-For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me.
Ruach In The Old Testament
The word “ruach” is the word that is translated as “spirit” in our English Bibles. It is used over 385 times in the Old Testament.
This Hebrew word is translated in the following ways in the King James Version of the Bible: spirit (227); wind (82); breath (27); winds (11); mind (6); side (5); spirits (5); blast (4); vain (2); air (1); anger (1); cool (1); courage (1); quarters (1); spiritual (1); sides (1); spiritual (1); temptest (1); whirlwind (1); and windy (1).
When we consider the wide range of meaning to this word, we see the need to carefully study the context of the passages where the word is used, to understand and appreciate the specific meaning and usage of that word.
Interesting Facts About Ruach
Let’s notice some of the ideas behind the word ruach.
The first and most obvious use of “ruach” is in reference to God Himself.
Sometimes the word “Spirit” is applied to the the entire Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); and at other times, the word is used to have special reference to the Holy Spirit as distinct from God the Father and God the Son.
Genesis 1:1-2-1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Isaiah 48:16-16 “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”
Sometimes, this word may have reference to storms, winds, and whirlwinds (Genesis 8:1; Isaiah 7:2).
It can also refer to the “breath of life,” and therefore carry the idea of the essence of life itself (Genesis 6:17; Ezekiel 37:8). In fact, ruach can refer (in some contexts) to “breath” itself (Job 9:18).
However, in several passages, the ruach is shown to be distinct from the breath. For example:
Job 34:14-If He should set His heart on it, If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath,
Psalm 31:5-Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
Ruach can refer to certain attitudes or dispositions. We are told that there was no more spirit in the people of Canaan when they were frightened, discouraged and disheartened by the Hebrews (Joshua 5:1).
We read also that it is better to be patient in spirit (ruach) than proud in spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9). We are reminded that a fool vents all of his anger (ruach-Proverbs 29:11).
We see therefore that the word ruach can have reference to emotions, attitudes, and dispositions of humans.
Ruach may refer to intelligent non-physical beings. We see this especially in the Book of Job. Eliphaz speaks of the words that were given to him by a “spirit” to speak to Job:
Job 4:12-16-12 “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.
13 In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men,
14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake.
15 Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up.
16 It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; There was silence; Then I heard a voice saying:
It is also interesting to notice that often in the Old Testament, the words ruach (spirit) and nephesh (soul) may be used interchangeably:
Isaiah 26:9-With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
Job 7:11-Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Ruach is used several times in the Old Testament to have reference to the spiritual “essence” of man, as distinct from the physical body:
Numbers 16:22-Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”
Ecclesiastes 12:7-Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Job 32:8-But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
Job 32:18-For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me.
Isaiah 31:3-Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; And their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out His hand, Both he who helps will fall, And he who is helped will fall down; They all will perish together.
Zechariah 12:1-The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:
Daniel 7:15-I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
Spirit In The New Testament
The word translated as “spirit” in the New Testament is the Greek word “pneuma.”
Like its’ Old Testament counterpart (ruach), pneuma may be translated in several ways in our English language.
The word itself is used 385 times in the Greek New Testament, and is translated in the following ways in the King James Version of the Bible: spirit (257); ghost (92); spirits (32); life (1); spiritual (1); spiritually (1); and wind (1).
Interesting Facts About Pneuma In The New Testament Scriptures
Sometimes in the Scriptures, pneuma may refer to the wind itself (John 3:8; Hebrews 1:7).
Not surprisingly, the word “spirit” can also be used to describe the “breath” (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 11:11; 13:15).
There are also times when the word pneuma has specific reference to the Holy Spirit of God (Matthew 3:11; John 1:32). Sometimes He is referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ (Matthew 3:16; 12:28; Luke 1:35; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Peter 1:11).
There are times when pneuma may refer to “unclean spirits,” or demons, which are the spirits of the wicked dead who (for whatever reason) do not pass on to Sheol (Matthew 8:16; Luke 4:33; 9:39; 11:24).
Alexander Campbell, in his famous studies in demonology, shows us that this was indeed the meaning of the Greek word daimon:
“But to our proposition: We have, from a careful survey of the history of the term demon, concluded that the demons of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity were the ghosts of dead men. But we build not only upon the definition of the term, nor on its philological history; but upon the following seven pillars:–1. All the Pagan authors of note, whose works have survived the wreck of ages, affirm the opinion that demons were the spirits or ghosts of dead men. From Hesiod down to the more polished Celsus, their historians, poets, and philosophers occasionally express this opinion. 2. The Jewish historians, Josephus and Philo, also avow this conviction. Josephus says, “Demons are the spirits of wicked men, who enter into living men and destroy them, unless they are so happy as to meet with speedy relief. Philo says, “The souls of dead men are called demons.” 3. The Christian Fathers, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Origen, &c. depose to the same effect. Justin, when arguing for a future state, alleges, “Those who are seized and tormented by the souls of the dead, whom all call demons, and madmen.” Lardner, after examining with the most laborious care the works of these, and all the Fathers of the first two centuries, says, “The notion of demons, or the souls of dead men, having power over living men, was universally prevalent among the heathen of these times, and believed by many Christians. 4. The Evangelists and Apostles of Jesus Christ so understood the matter. As this is a very important, and of itself a sufficient pillar on which to rest our edifice, we shall be at more pains to illustrate and enforce it. We shall first state the philological law or canon of criticism, on the generality and truth of which all our dictionaries, grammars, and translations are formed. Every word not specially explained or defined in a particular sense, by any standard writer of any particular age and country, is to be taken and applied in the current or commonly received signification of that country and age in which the writer lived and wrote. If this canon of translation and of criticism be denied, then we affirm there is no value in dictionaries, nor in the acquisition of ancient languages in which any book may be written; nor is there any confidence in any translation of any ancient work, sacred or profane: for they are all made upon the assumption of the truth of this law…We have heard Josephus, Philo, Lucian, Justin, and Lardner, from whose writings and affirmations we are expressly told what the universal acceptation of the term was in Judea and in those times; and in the second place, the Apostles and our Lord, as already said, use this word in various forms 75 times, and on no occasion give any hint of a special, private, or peculiar interpretation of it; which was not their method when they used a term either not generally understood, or understood in a special sense….Are we not, therefore, sustained by the highest and most authoritative decision of that literary tribunal by whose rules and decrees all works sacred and profane are translated from a dead to a living tongue? We are, then, fully authorized to say that the demons of the New Testament were the spirits of dead men.” (Alexander Campbell, Demonology, 138-167 (Kindle Edition))
Pneuma is also used in the New Testament to refer to angels of God (Hebrews 1:7, 14), as well as to attitudes and dispositions of mankind.
So we have John the Baptist going forth in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).
We see Paul reminding Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
We remember Peter talking about godly wives who convert their husbands through a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4).
In this connection, we are also reminded that pneuma may have reference to the desires and perceptions of a person (2 Corinthians 12:18; Philippians 1:27; Ephesians 4:23).
Finally, please notice that often in the New Testament, pneuma has reference to the thoughts and mind-the essence-of a person, as distinguished from their physical body.
Here a few passages which bear this meaning out:
Luke 24:36-43-36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.”
37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?”
42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.
43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
Acts 7:59-And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
1 Corinthians 2:11-For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
Hebrews 12:23-to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,
James 2:26-For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
1 Peter 4:6-For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Steve Bond provides an excellent overview of the word “spirit” as used in both the Old and New Testaments:
“In both the OT and NT, “spirit” is used of humans and of other beings. When used of humans, spirit is associated with a wide range of functions including thinking and understanding, emotions, attitudes, and intentions. Elihu told Job it was spirit in a person, the breath of God, which gave understanding (Job 32:8). When Jesus healed the paralytic, He perceived in His “spirit” that the religious leaders present were questioning His forgiving the man’s sins (Mark 2:8). “Spirit” is used extensively with human emotions including sorrow (Prov. 15:4,13), anguish (Exod. 6:9; John 13:21), anger (Prov. 14:29; 16:32), vexation (Eccles. 1:14), fear (2 Tim. 1:7), and joy (Luke 1:47). A variety of attitudes and intentions are associated with “spirit.” Caleb had a different spirit than most of his contemporaries in that he followed the Lord wholeheartedly (Num. 14:24). Sihon, king of Heshbon, had a stubborn spirit (Deut. 2:30). First Kings 22 refers to a lying spirit. The psalmist called persons who have no deceit in their spirits, “blessed” (Ps. 32:2). A person’s spirit can be contrite (Ps. 34:18), steadfast (Ps. 51:10), willing (Ps. 51:12), broken (Ps. 51:17), and haughty (Prov. 16:18). The Gospel of Mark has numerous references to Jesus healing persons with unclean or foul spirits. Spirit is used of nonphysical beings, both good and evil. Satan is called the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient (Eph. 2:2). One of the perennial points of conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was over whether there are angels and spirits. The latter believed that there were such while the former denied that such existed. When the risen Christ appeared to the disciples, they were startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a spirit. Jesus invited them to touch Him. He then reminded them that a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:37- 39).” (Steve Bond, “Spirit” in Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 51385-51401 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Holman Reference)
What did it mean that the Canaanites had no more spirit (Joshua 5:1)? _________________________________________________________________________________________
In what passage does the Apostle Paul teach that the spirit of man includes his thoughts? ____________________
What are some ways that the Hebrew word ruach are translated in the King James Version of the Old Testament? _________________________________________________________________
Who are some ancient authors who point out that the word daimon had reference to the wicked dead? ___________________________________________________________________________________________
Fill in the blanks:
“______________ are the ______________ of wicked _____, who enter into living men and _____________ them, unless they are so happy as to meet with speedy relief.” (Josephus)
“The __________ of ________ ______ are called demons.” (Philo)
When Jesus arose from the dead, what were some of the evidences He used to convince His Apostles that He was not a spirit (Luke 24:36-43)?
For Prayer Partners
In our studies, we have learned that Sheol is the realm of departed spirits. Yet we have also learned that not all of the dead go to this realm. Why do you think this is the case? What could be the reasons why some of the dead do not pass on to Sheol?
We have learned that often in the Bible, the words “soul” and “spirit may be used interchangeably. However, sometimes the Bible makes a distinction between the soul and the spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). What are the differences between the soul and the spirit?