Thinking Cap #2 - The Question: "Spirit" or "Ghost"?

I've been reading 1 Cor. 2 recently and came upon an interesting observation in verses 11 through 13. I noticed the usage in the word "Spirit" and also the word "Ghost." Are they not interchangeable? Is not the former just a better term to use rather than the archaic later term? Time to put your thinking cap on again and let know what you believe. Let's get that gray matter working. Don't just sit back and ponder your navel. The deadline for submissions is 1/12/95.

I received input from Dan, John, Scott and Alan (2 con, 1 for and 1 open). This is a very interesting question with some other ramifications. All one needs to understand the Scripture is the Holy Spirit/Ghost. There are times when a good dictionary is also useful (this is one of the elements we teach in our Church Discipleship Ministry).

Here is an answer that I would have you consider.

  • Consider a parallel line of thought. I go by several names: Pastor, Dr.,Dad, Doc, Kent, Honey, etc. Which one is used depends upon who is talking to me and the role that I am playing. I continue to be the same person, but I also operate differently depending upon which role I am playing. Wouldn't life be dreary if I had but one "name" and everyone used that same name. The intimacy would gone as well as a title distinguishing the role in which I was operating.
  • Consider another example from Scripture. The dictionary tells me that "charity" is an active love; it is benevolent goodwill, generosity and helpfulness. On the other hand, "love" is broad enough to encompass the emotions, irrespective of action. It affection, attraction and attachment. With that in mind, read 1 Cor.8:1,3. Verse 1 uses "charity" in that it is describing an action. In verse 3, we find the word "love" because it is discussing a relationship with God. Now both word translate from the same Greek word *agape*. It would be best that you check this out in the KJV, as most other modern translations just use the word "love" in both verses and the NIV has the word in verse 2 rather than verse 1. So, is this an error on the part of the translators? Similar to the concept expressed in point 1, is it not reasonable to say that they were drawing from the richness of the English language to convey the meaning of the word in context?
  • Consider another example from scripture. In our 1/8/95 PM sermon, Pastor Burrell was preaching from Eph. 6:4. Look up the phrase "provoke ... to wrath." It is a phrase that translates the single Greek word *parorgizo* (number 3949 in Strong's if you are interested - both the words "provoke" and "wrath" from that verse reference that word and likewise that is the only reference to that Greek one word listed under "provoke" and "wrath"). However, that same Greek word (*parorgizo*) is translated as "I will anger you" in Romans 10:19. Just a little fine-tuning done by the translators to make our English version more understandable, so that we don't all have to be fluent in Greek (isn't that a good thing) to read God's Word. By the way the NIV and NASB both have differing variations of this same approach. Are we willing to give the translators the same freedom in regards to the Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost, especially if it will amplify the contextual meaning of the passage?
  • I know that he did not write under inspiration of the Holy Spirit (or was it Ghost), but I do think that Charles H Spurgeon had a keen insight into scripture and he also was closer to the meaning of the KJV words (chronologically speaking). In his book Lectures to My Students, he makes two interesting statements (for what it's worth):
  • 1) "We know that there is a Holy Ghost, for we feel Him operating upon our spirits." and,
  • 2) "If you wait upon the Holy Ghost in simple dependence upon His teaching, you will lay hold of very much of the divine meaning."
  • Again, back to the dictionary. I see that the richness of the English language gives me "ghost" as a spirit taking bodily form. As a proof text, I take you to the movie "Ghost" starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore or the Bill Cosby movie "Ghostdad" (I hope that you are still with me and don't take me too seriously on the movie stuff - but, then I did see both at home with Jan and loved the music of the former). Back to reality. Would it not make sense then to use the word "Spirit" when referring to the third person of the Trinity and His work as the third member of the Godhead. His is an "external" influence and work. When He takes up residence in a believer and indwells the Christian, His work is now "internal." The issue is not advanced revelation per se, but that the English language has two words for "Spirit," one denoting *the* Spirit himself, and one referring to His operation when he has taken up residence inside the believer by the new birth. They both translate the same Greek word *pneuma*, but care was taken by the translators to use the word Spirit or the word Ghost to indicate the context of the passage drawing upon the richness of our spoken language (just like the koine-heads - to draw on an Alan Shelby phrase - did when they were alive and koine Greek was a living-language).
  • To help understand this principle look at some passages where both are used in the same verse. Again, I would advise using the KJV, as the NIV and NASB do not make this distinction:

    Luke 4:1 "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost [*internal*] returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit [*external* influence] into the wilderness." It's just a word, but as I, the English reader see that verse, I can quickly draw greater meaning once I understand the distinction of the word "Ghost" and the word "Spirit." Is it a mistaken translation? I think not. It certainly makes it easier to read, understand and apply the subject passage for this "Thinking Cap" in 1 Cor. 2. Also consider John 1:33, John 7:39, Acts 2:4 and 1 Cor. 12:3 where the two words are used in the same verse.

  • Closing thought to ponder. When Bible revisers change Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit, they don't necessarily clarify the word of God, or update it to make it easier for modern men to understand. Instead, is it possible that unknowingly or through use of a less appropriate manuscript, they have really obscured the real meaning to the English reader?

    Just a thought........

    Coming next week: Thinking Cap #3 (this one won't be a theological one, but one that is very practical) - Stay tuned,

  • Pleasant Thinking
    Kent, Doc, Pastor, Dr. Haralson, Dad, Honey, or whatever..... :-)


    Return to Thinking Cap Homepage


    Copyright 1998 by the Gospel Martial Arts Union All rights reserved.