Holy Spirit

John R. Levison and Volker Rabens

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
Holy Spirit

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In the opening words of Scripture, the Spirit or wind of God hovers over the creative void, brooding perhaps like a mother eagle (Gen 1:2); in the Bible’s closing lines, the Spirit and the bride—the church—offer an invitation to taste the water of life (Rev 22:17). Between the opening and closing of Scripture’s curtain lies a rich terrain, in which the Spirit plays, off and on, a substantial role. However, it is difficult to determine precisely what the expression “Holy Spirit” means. The word ruach, or ruaḥ, in Hebrew, encompasses a wide range of realities in the Hebrew Bible alone, including divine energy and presence, the core of a human alongside the heart, breath, the waxing and waning of life itself, a disposition such as a spirit of lust, an angelic being, a demonic being, and wind. The expression “Holy Spirit” occurs only twice in Israelite scripture—and in different ways. In Psalm 51:13 (MT), the Holy Spirit is the core of a human being, while in Isaiah 63:7–14, the Holy Spirit guides Israel from Egypt to the promised land. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the meaning of the words “Holy Spirit” (spirit of holiness) varies as well, from a lifelong presence within a person that sin defiles to the spirit of holiness that cleanses new members of the community. While in the New Testament the expression “Holy Spirit” predominates, the word “Spirit” (pneuma) occurs frequently without any qualifiers such as “holy” or “of wisdom.” This bibliography organizes a wide swath of secondary literature, for the most part focused on Genesis to Revelation but also including Judaism and Greco-Roman literature. Exceptions to this organization include the History of Religions school, an influential early-20th-century movement that set the Bible in its ancient cultural contexts, and Early Christian prophecy. Readers may notice a bulge in this bibliography that reflects the interests of scholarship; the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Fourth Gospel, Luke-Acts, and Paul’s letters have received the lion’s share of attention. In contrast, the Hebrew Bible, the Synoptic Gospels, New Testament letters other than undisputed Pauline letters (e.g., Pastorals, Hebrews), and Revelation have received relatively scant attention.

Article.  12172 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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