Holy Spirit

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The dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit ( St. Peter's Basilica , Cathedra Petri , Gian Lorenzo Bernini )

The Holy Spirit ( ancient Greek ἅγιον πνεῦμα hágion pneûma or πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον pneûma tò hágion , Latin Spiritus Sanctus ) is in Christianity one of the three persons of the divine Trinity , as it was formulated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan confession, an important ancient church. The Holy Spirit, often called the Spirit of God , is God , not a separate deity or substance. At Pentecost , Christianity celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is already mentioned in the Old Testament .

The Holy Spirit in the Bible

Tanach and Old Testament

In the Tanach the feminine noun means ( Hebrew רוּחַ ruach ), with which the "spirit" is later designated, first "wind" (e.g. Ex 14.21  EU ), then also "breath", "breath" ( Ps 33.6  EU ; Ez 37.5– 14  EU ). In other contexts it means the mental state, the mood, the attitude, the attitude ( Ex 35.21  EU ; Esra 1.1  EU ; Haggai 1.14  EU ). The attitude of a person, his ruach , is in a certain way considered an independent being. It can spread, jump over to and penetrate another person.

The concept of the spirit, which was initially applied to people, was transferred to God in accordance with the human-like conception of God ( Isa 40:13  EU ). Only very rarely does the Tanach emphasize the spirit's belonging to God by using the attribute “holy” ( Ps 51.13  EU ; Isa 63.10f.  EU ; Weish 1.5  EU ); mostly he speaks of the “Spirit of God”: ruach YHWH - “Breath of the Lord”; ruach ha-Elohim - "God's breath"; ruchaká - "your breath". These expressions denote the powerful presence of God in people's lives. The term “Spirit of God” is particularly related to Israel and the prophets , but also applies to all of creation .

The term combination ruach ha-qodesh appears in the Hebrew scriptures once as ruach qodesho (“his holy spirit”, Isa 63,10–11  EU ) and once as ruach qodeshcha (“your holy spirit”, Ps 51,13  EU ). The combination of ruach with the name of God or the address of God, however, is common. The most significant statements include:

In Isaiah 63.14  EU , “the Spirit of the Lord” appears immediately next to “his Holy Spirit” (ruach qodesho) .

Further statements can be found in the Apocrypha , especially in the wisdom literature .

New Testament

In the Greek New Testament the term “Holy Spirit” (πνεῦμα ἅγιον pneûma hágion ) appears around a hundred times. In the Gospel of John he is also called Paraclete (παράκλητος, "Comforter", "Advocate"). In particular, the following passages are of greater importance in the theology of the Holy Spirit :

  • Mary receives Jesus through the Holy Spirit ( Mt 1.18-20  EU , Lk 1.35  EU ).
  • The Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus at baptism ( Mt 3 : 13-17  SLT ).
  • Jesus 'farewell speeches in the Gospel of John: The Holy Spirit is the supporter of the disciples, teacher in Jesus' place and “spirit of truth”. ( Joh 14,16-17; 26  EU , Joh 16,13-16  EU ).
  • The missionary and baptismal command: “Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” ( Mt 28:19  EU ).
  • The Pentecost event: After Jesus' parting, the Holy Spirit comes down on the disciples and they begin to preach ( Acts 2 : 1–13  EU ).
  • The Holy Spirit can be received from the crucified and risen Jesus through hearing the message of faith, not through actions ( Acts 10.44  EU , Gal 3.1–6  EU ).
  • Whoever is baptized in this faith receives the Holy Spirit Acts 2,38  EU .
  • The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians 1 Cor 3:16  EU .
  • The life of Christians in the Spirit ( RomEU ).
  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit ( Rom 12  EU , 1 Cor 12  EU ).
  • The fruit of the Spirit ( Gal 5:22  EU ).

Christianity has also related various Old Testament passages to the Holy Spirit, in particular the prophecy that God will pour out his Spirit on all people in Joel 3: 1-5  SLT ; and the mention in the creation story : "God's spirit hovered over the water" ( Genesis 1,2  EU ). In the further course of the biblical story, it was individual persons who, according to Christian interpretation, were particularly filled with the Spirit of God, e. B. Joshua ( Dtn 34.9  EU ).

Understanding of the Holy Spirit in different religions


Ruach HaQodesh , ( Hebrew רוח הקודש ruach ha-kodesh ) literally “breath of the holy”, “holy wind”, meaning the holy breath (= spirit) , also referred to as Ruach YHWH (“breath Adonais ”), is used allegorically in the Tanach . In Judaism, the Holy Spirit is viewed as the power of God, not as a divine person, and accordingly is not called upon as a person. This power can possess and empower people.

With regard to the gender problem , an analysis of the Old Testament by Manfred Dreytza (1998) showed that the word Ruach appeared there a total of 387 times, in 200 cases it was used in a grammatically feminine sense, in 63 cases in a masculine form, the rest remained not clear.

It was rabbinical literature, the origins of which lay in the Pharisaic movement and which became more and more differentiated after the Jewish-Roman war , the conquest of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the destruction of the Second Herodian Temple and which the relationship from the Ruach HaQodesh and the Jewish prophet. In Sota u. a., a treatise of the Mishnah , it is stated that the Ruach HaQodesh with the prophets Haggai , Zechariah and Malachi have disappeared from the people of God. According to the Pharisaic scholar Hillel , the Ruach HaQodesh can rest on the people of Israel as a whole. In the Midrash it is repeatedly held that everyone can grasp the 'holy breath' ( Tanna de-be Elijahu 10).


Old church

The Old Church went a long way in doctrinal development also with regard to the Holy Spirit; the discourse was reflected in the early church confessions.

In Christianity the Holy Spirit is "one" with God the Father and God the Son and is at the same time one of the three persons or hypostases of God, respectively. understood as the third person of the Triune God (see Trinity ). Before the establishment of the Trinitarian dogma , this was controversial, especially among the Pneumatomachen group in the 4th century. Holy is used in the sense of divine to distinguish the spirit of God from other spirit beings.

The Christians of almost all churches celebrate Pentecost 50 days after Easter as the day on which the disciples of Jesus were “filled with the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 2,4  EU ) and were authorized to preach the Gospel ( Acts 2,11  EU , Acts 4 , 8-10  EU ).

The filioque dispute

The so-called Filioque dispute, i.e. the dispute as to whether the Holy Spirit emanates from God the Father or from God the Father and God the Son, was a decisive disagreement between the Eastern and Western churches and still represents an important dogmatic difference between the Roman Catholic Church today and the Reformation churches that grew out of it on the one hand and the Orthodox churches on the other. The Western Church generally adheres to the filioque , thus emphasizing the origin and origin of the Holy Spirit by means of a breath from God the Father and God the Son. The Eastern Church retains the original version of the Nicano-Constantinopolitanum and emphasizes the divinity of the spirit, which is equal to God-Father and God-Son.

Roman Catholic Church

The coming out of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son; Altarpiece from Saint-Marcellin , Boulbon (Provence, around 1450; now in the Louvre )

According to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church , the Holy Spirit emerges from the Father and the Son as a single principle through "a single breath ". In contrast to the Son, who arises from the Father through “procreation”, the Spirit follows the path of breath from the Father and the Son.

Like the Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church knows the sacrament of Confirmation . In it the confirmant receives the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit , which are to produce its fruits . Confirmation is usually donated to young people by a bishop , in contrast to the Orthodox churches, where it is donated immediately after the baptism by the priest , and the adult catechumens , to whom all three sacraments of initiation are usually donated in a single celebration.

Anglican Church

The Anglican Church emerged from the Western tradition; her credo therefore contains the filioque. With a view to Orthodoxy and after the preparatory resolutions of the Lambeth Conference in 1978 and 1988, the primates of the various church provinces decided in 1993 that the filioque should no longer be used in future editions of liturgical books. The American Episcopal Church made the same decision in 1994. Both resolutions were inconsequential.

In the Anglican Church too , confirmation is given by the bishop by the laying on of hands, so that the confirmant is strengthened in the Holy Spirit.

Protestant churches

From their common roots, the Protestant churches are shaped by the Filioque in a similar way to the Catholic Church.

In ecclesiastical practice, the action of the Holy Spirit plays a central role in confirmation , which since the Ziegenhainer Zuchtordnung of 1539, influenced by Martin Bucer , has started its triumphal march through the Protestant regional churches from Hesse.

Movements that emerged from Reformation Christianity and strongly emphasize the experience of the Holy Spirit and the teaching about him are the Pentecostal Movement from 1906 (see below) and the Charismatic Renewal Movements since the 1960s .

In the 20th century, new communities were formed in the Protestant sector, most of which became independent; these events are collectively referred to as the Pentecostal Movement , especially in the United States. In the meantime, they are seeing the greatest influx of members in Africa, Asia and South America. The work of the Holy Spirit is understood in them to be anti-hierarchical. Therefore, the local communities are independent and autonomous. The following are emphasized:

  • the lay element - so it is not absolutely necessary that the assignment of offices is linked to academic training
  • the liveliness in worship - which affects the formation of a new song
  • the appreciation of the church members as faith-builders - they can be recipients of divine messages
  • the variety of gifts and services - not by commissioning, but by becoming aware of yourself
  • healing powers - which are effective in the action of the community
  • a simple understanding of the Bible - oral tradition is more formative than theological-scientific research
  • high willingness to donate - which can easily exceed tenth (10%) of gross income
  • missionary lifestyle - both global and local (paired with social commitment)

Other denominations

Some denominations speak of sealing with the Holy Spirit instead of anointing or confirmation ( Catholic-Apostolic Congregations , New Apostolic Church ).

Christian denominations that do not believe in the dogma of the Trinity ( non- trinitarians ) see the Holy Spirit not as a person, but as God's working force.


The doctrine of the Trinity, which is represented by almost all Christian denominations, is a main point of criticism from an Islamic point of view, as it contradicts monotheism according to Islamic understanding. In sura 4: 171:

“You people of the Scriptures! Don't go too far in your religion and say nothing against God but the truth! Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, is only the Messenger of God and his word, which he gave to Mary, and Spirit from him. Therefore believe in God and his messengers and do not say (of God that he (is) in one) three! Stop (saying something like that)! This is better for you. God is only one God. Praise be to him! (He is above) having a child. Everything that is in heaven and on earth belongs to him. And God is enough as trustee. "

The concept of the Trinity in Christianity is often misinterpreted by the Islamic side as a 'God trinity', consisting of the Creator, Jesus and Mary. Therefore it represents a shirk (addition of another being to God), which corresponds to a belief in many gods .

The Ruh al-Qudus often identified with the 'Holy Spirit' ( Arabic روح القدس Ruh al-Qudus) is mentioned a total of four times in the Koran, where it functions as a means of divine action or communication and therefore not with the Holy Spirit of 'Trinitism' is identical. So in Suras 2, 5, 16 ( al-Baqara ayah 87, al-Baqara ayat 253, al-Māʾida ayah 110 and an-Nahl ayah 102).

The Muslim interpretation of the Holy Spirit is generally consistent with other interpretations, such as those of the Torah and the New Testament . Furthermore, the Koran refers to rūḥ as Ruh al-qudus (Arabic روح القدس, "the holy spirit" "or" spirit of holiness ") and al-Ruh al-amin (" the faithful or trustworthy spirit ").

According to the Sunni view of Islam, the archangel Djibril is also called Ruh al-Qudus  /روح القدس / Called 'Spirit of Holiness'. Compare the Islamic view of the Trinity and Gabriel (Archangel) .

In Shiite Islam, Ruh al-Qudus is described as something more powerful than Archangel Djibril or Archangel Mika'il . This Ruh al-Qudus was sent to Muhammad to inform and guide him. In some Shiite traditions, Ruh al-Qudus is seen as one of the five spirits by which an imam is inspired. In contrast to the other four spirits, he was always vigilant and available to inform the Imam on any subject. There is disagreement about whether Ruh al-Qudus is an angel.


There are parallels to the concept of the Holy Spirit in other religions. The concept “ Hagion pneuma ” can be found in a very similar form in pre-Christian times in Greek and ancient Indian religious and philosophical treatises.

The shamanic pantheon also knows the highest spiritual beings among some peoples, to which all other spiritual entities are subordinate. However, this is not always the case with the various North and Central Asian peoples.

Spiritual writings and hymns

The most influential text on the Holy Spirit at all is the late writing by Basil of Caesarea , which comprises 79 chapters, Peri tou hagiou pneumatos ("on the Holy Spirit"). Other important texts of the early Church are the fifth theological discourse On the Holy Spirit of St. Gregory of Nazianz and De Trinitate of the Church Father Augustine .

There are numerous hymns in which the Holy Spirit is addressed directly, for example Nunc sancte nobis spiritus of St. Ambrosius , the Pentecost sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come down, o Heilger Geist) , Komm, Schöpfergeist or the Veni Creator Spiritus by Rabanus Maurus , Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God after the Pentecost Veni Sancte Spiritus, imple tuorum corda fidelium , continued by Martin Luther , come to your gates by Paul Gerhardt , consecration to the Holy Spirit (after Pius X. ), or Holy Spirit, the victory is yours (by Pius XI.).

Symbols for the Holy Spirit

Depiction of the Holy Spirit as a dove (ceiling painting in the Karlskirche in
Vienna , by Johann Michael Rottmayr , 18th century)

Thomas C. Oden lists the following New Testament symbols and metaphors for the Holy Spirit that have been found in the writings of the Church Fathers and Doctors :

The most comprehensive compilation of the attributes of the Holy Spirit can be found in the Father of the Church, Basil the Great .


Many religious orders submitted to the patronage of the Holy Spirit, such as the Spiritans , the servants of the Holy Spirit or the Orders of the Holy Spirit . In particular, the brothers from the Order of the Holy Spirit , who were primarily dedicated to nursing the sick, founded the Holy Spirit Church , Holy Spirit monasteries and hospitals that were consecrated to the Holy Spirit. (For the institutions named in this way, see Holy Spirit .)

See also


Old church sources

Secondary literature

  • Michael Böhnke : God's spirit in the actions of people. Practical Pneumatology . Herder, Freiburg 2017.
  • Francis Chan : The Underrated God: Rediscovering the Holy Spirit. Luqs, Francke, Marburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86827-280-2 (Original title: Forgotten God: Reversing our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit ).
  • Yves Congar : The Holy Spirit . Freiburg i.Br. 1982, ISBN 3-451-19425-2 .
  • Managing Director of the Catechism Commission of the VELKD (Ed.): Evangelical Adult Catechism . Gütersloh 6th edition 2000, ISBN 3-579-04900-3 , pp. 497-514.
  • Siegfried Großmann : I need your strength every day. Live with the Holy Spirit. Brunnen, Gießen 2004, ISBN 978-3-7655-5499-5 (2nd edition 2014).
  • Daniel Munteanu : The comforting spirit of love. On an ecumenical teaching of the Holy Spirit on the Trinitarian theologies of J. Moltmann and D. Staniloaes . Neukirchen-Vluyn 2003.
  • Thomas C. Oden : Life in the Spirit. Systematic Theology Volume Three , Chapters 1 and 2 (systematic overview of the ecumenical consensus in pneumatology).
  • Ludwig Ott : Outline of Catholic Dogmatics . 11th edition with literature supplements, nova & vetera, 2005, ISBN 3-936741-25-5 .
  • James Innell Packer : In the footsteps of the Holy Spirit. In the field of tension between orthodoxy and charismatics . Brunnen, Giessen 1989, ISBN 3-7655-2413-1 .
  • Heinrich Christian Rust : Spirit of God - Source of Life: Basics of a missional pneumatology. Neufeld, Schwarzenfeld 2013, ISBN 978-3-86256-032-5 .
  • Werner H. Schmidt, Peter Schäfer, Klaus Berger , Wolf-Dieter Hauschild a. a .: Spirit / Holy Spirit / Spiritual gifts I. Old Testament II. Judaism III. New Testament IV. The history of dogmas V. Dogmatic and ethical VI. Practical-Theological VII. The Philosophical Concept of Spirit . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 12 (1984), pp. 170-254 (comprehensive scientific overview).
  • Annegret Südland : The Holy Spirit in religious instruction. Empirical, exegetical, systematic and religious pedagogical studies as a stimulus for the education of religion teachers. Contributions to child and youth theology, vol. 44, kassel university press, Kassel 2019, ISBN 978-3-7376-0768-1 . ( [5] on uni-kassel.de)
  • Reuben Archer Torrey : The Holy Spirit. His essence and work. Elmer Klassen, 1967; Herold, 1971 a. ö.
  • Thomas Weißenborn : God very close: The Holy Spirit and us. Francke, Marburg 2003 and 2011, ISBN 978-3-86122-650-5 .
  • Ulrich Winkler : For a pneumatological theology of religion. SaThZ 11 (2007) 175-200 ( [6] on sbg.ac.at)

Web links

Wikiquote: Spirit  - Quotes
Commons : Holy Spirit  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Holy Spirit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


Current introductory presentations

  • Herbert Frohnhofen: Pneumatology , lecture script, Mainz 2009.
  • Helen Schüngel-Straumann: Art. Geist, in: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen (eds.): The scientific biblical dictionary on the Internet (WiBiLex), 2007ff.

Catechetical presentations

Wisdom [7] ; Insight [8] ; Council [9] ; Starch [10] ; Knowledge [11] ;

Older introductory presentations

Individual evidence

  1. in Hebrew or the Torah , the term Ruach HaKodesh is found in Hebrew רוח הקודש ruach ha-kodesh (see e.g. Psalm 51 ) or the term Shechina ( Hebrew שְׁכִינָה šəchīnāh ) that is the "dwelling" or "abode" of God or also as the epitome of the presence of God ( YHWH )
  2. further meanings around this word ruach (רוּחַ) are "breath", "draft", "force", "wind", "breeze", metaphorically also "spirit", "courage" or "state of mind"
  3. 380 times according to other information, see Hans Hermann Henrix : Israel carries the Church: On the theology of the relationship between Church and Judaism. Vol. 17 Forum Christians and Jews, LIT Verlag, Münster 2019, ISBN 978-3-6431-4248-1 , p. 220.
  4. Manfred Dreytza : The theological use of Ruah in the Old Testament: A study of words and sentences semantics. Brunnen, Giessen 1998, ISBN 978-3-7655-9358-1 .
  5. Hans Hermann Henrix : Israel carries the Church: On the theology of the relationship between Church and Judaism. Vol. 17 Forum Christians and Jews, LIT Verlag, Münster 2019, ISBN 978-3-6431-4248-1 , pp. 218–227.
  6. Jürgen Moltmann : Trinity and Kingdom of God. To the doctrine of God. Chr. Kaiser, Munich 1980, ISBN 978-3-4590-1630-3 , p. 186.
  7. ^ Resolutions from 1978: Resolution 35th Lambeth Conference , archived from the original on November 27, 2014 ; accessed on January 16, 2014 (English, see point 3).
  8. ^ Resolutions from 1988: Resolution 6th Lambeth Conference , archived from the original on November 21, 2013 ; accessed on January 16, 2014 (English, see point 5).
  9. ^ Anglican Consultative Council, ACC-9, Resolution 19, "Filioque Clause." . Anglicancommunion.org. December 5, 1991. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  10. Resolution 1994-A028, "reaffirm intention to Remove the Filioque Clause From the Next Prayer Book." . Episcopalarchives.org. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  11. See e.g. B. The Nicene Creed, The Nicene
  12. ( see above ) Evangelical Adult Catechism, p. 506.
  13. (see above) Evangelical Adult Catechism, p. 512f.
  14. Evangelical Adult Catechism, pp. 511f.
  15. Michael Molthagen: The "Islamic Charter" of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) . In: Islam and Christian Faith . No. 2 , 2002, p. 3–4 ( PDF; 106 kB ). PDF; 106 kB ( Memento from September 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  16. 'ru al-qudus' spirit of holiness, 'Ruh al-Iman' spirit of faith, 'Ruh al-haiyat' spirit of life, 'Ruh al-quwa' spirit of power, 'Ruh as-sahwa' spirit of the physical desire
  17. Bärbel Beinhauer-Köhler : Fāṭima bint Muḥammad: Metamorphoses of an early Islamic female figure. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 978-3-4470-4572-8 , p. 184 ( [1] on books.google.de)
  18. Thomas C. Oden: Life in the Spirit , pp. 41-47.
  19. “That the spirit is compared to a dove can easily be explained in the visionary context. ως is the specific apocalyptic comparison particle with which the heavenly - invisible is presented as visible through comparison. Within the vision the spirit must have a form, a ειδος (cf. Lk par.) For the catabase of the spirit only the bird comes into question as the creature belonging to ουρανος, the air space between heaven and earth. The dove is adequately explained as an appropriate comparative figure "if one takes into account the abundance of associations" through which the dove in OT as in general on Near Eastern (and Greek) soil was connected with the divine for millennia "(H. Greeven, in : ThWb VI, 68; see E. Pax, Epiphaneia (Munich 1955) 23.26; ER Goodenough: Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, Vol. VIII. New Haven 1956, pp. 41-46; (R. Pesch: The Gospel of Mark, Part I. Herder's Theological Commentary on the New Testament, Freiburg 1976, p. 91f.))
  20. Basil of Caesarea : Peri tou Hagiou Pneumatos (written 374/6), especially chap. 19th