It is written:
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. (1 Corinthians 2:11)
The English word translated as “spirit” is the Hebrew word “ruach.”
When we turn to the New Testament, we see the Greek equivalent of ruach is the 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).
Pnemua May Mean Wind
Sometimes pneuma means the word.
John 3:8-The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
It is important to realize that this is the basic meaning of the word pneuma.
“(b) pneuma, spirit, denotes the result of the action of breathing, namely, air set in motion, with an underlying stress on its inherent power. It thus can mean wind or breath, but increasingly it took on the functions of related concepts, so that by the Hel. period it was a term of some importance, though still with a somewhat materialistic connotation. The air that we breathe was considered to be the bearer of life. From the 5th cent. on Gk. physicians drew a distinction between one’s inward, innate pneuma and the air one breathed. In Aristotle this pneuma was the formative power that, beginning already in the embryo, gradually produced the mature individual and then became the instrument whereby the soul controlled the body. pneuma, in other words, approached the meaning held by psychē, soul (→ 6034), the distinction being that the latter was a purely functional term, while pneuma was regarded as a substance. In Stoic philosophy, however, pneuma took over the functions of psychē in relation to the senses and to thought and speech (some even identified pneuma with nous, the human power of intellect, → 3808). Stoicism also regarded pneuma as an elemental principle that gave coherence to the different entities in creation, while at the same time differentiating them from each other. Thus, it arranged the world in terms of a descending scale, without which the world’s existence would be impossible. It came to be regarded as the fifth element (along with air, fire, water, and land). Probably under Stoic influence, pneuma came to denote inspiration, a material substance that filled a human and enabled one to prophesy. This prophetic pneuma was ecstatic, visionary, demonic, holy, even divine. It played an active role in popular religion (always given to magic and soothsaying). Finally, pneuma is also found in the sense of spirit or demon in Hel. inscriptions and papyri….“2. In the LXX the Heb. equivalent of pneuma is almost always rûaḥ. Of the 377x rûaḥ occurs in the MT, 264 are translated by pneuma (the next most frequent rendering is anemos, wind, 49x; → astrapē, lightning, 847). The idea behind rûaḥ is the extraordinary fact that something as intangible as air can move; at the same time it is not so much the movement per se that excites attention, but the energy manifested by such movement. (a) In roughly one third of all occurrences, pneuma is used for the wind, which has God as its immediate cause (e.g., Gen. 8: 1; Ps. 104: 4; Amos 4: 13). In this same connection, rûaḥ takes on two special senses: the direction of the wind (e.g., Ezek. 37: 9; 42: 16–20) and fig., because of the wind’s ephemeral nature (cf. Ps. 78: 39), nothingness (e.g., Eccl. 5: 15, LXX anemos). (b) The same phenomenon occurs in the breath, both of humans (Ezek. 37: 8, 10) and of animals (Eccl. 3: 19, 21). It denotes the life-force of the individual (Jdg. 15: 19) and of the group (Num. 16: 22), that which is lacking in idols (Jer. 10: 14) but not in God (Ps. 33: 6) or the Messiah (Isa. 11: 4). God gives (42: 5) and protects it (Ps. 31: 6) but is free to take it back again (104: 29), whereupon it returns to God (Eccl. 12: 7). As a life-force it manifests itself in varying degrees of intensity, the dominant idea being that of its vitality. It can be adversely affected by emotions ranging from anxiety (Gen. 41: 8) and grief (26: 35) to utter despair (Job 17: 1). It is heightened by jealousy (Num. 5: 14) or anger (Jdg. 8: 3), while there is a clear echo of the word’s basic meaning in the vivid phrase expressing God’s wrath: “the blast [pneuma] of your nostrils” (Exod. 15: 8).” (Verlyn D. Verbrugge, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition, 473 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
Notice especially that “ruach” and “pneuma” are virtually synonymous, as well as that roughly 1/3 of the occurrences of pneuma have reference to the wind. This was the basis of the identification with the immortal spirit of man.
Pnemua May Have Reference To The Breath
2 Thessalonians 2:8-And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
Revelation 11:11-Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
Revelation 13:15-He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
Pnemua May Refer To The Holy Spirit
Matthew 3:11-I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John 1:32-And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.
John 14:16-17-And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
Pnemua May Refer To Unclean Spirits (Demons)
Demons may be referred to as “spirits” (pneuma):
Matthew 8:16-When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,
Luke 4:33-Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice,
Luke 11:24-When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’
The phrase “unclean spirit” may have reference to the Second Temple association of “demons” with the nephilim (the deceased offspring of fallen angels and human beings):
“Wahlen has marshaled evidence that suggests “unclean spirits” was used in Second Temple Judaism specifically to draw attention to the origin of these evil spirits as the result of an unnatural mixture and the subsequent emergence from (and contact with) the corpses of the dead Nephilim. These two concepts are at the heart of much of the Levitical uncleanness legislation. Wahlen demonstrates that the description of demons as “unclean” is not about associating demons with ritual impurity or the transmission of such impurity. It is true (see the ensuing discussion in this chapter) that Second Temple Jews associated the spawn of the fallen Watchers with disease, but it is noteworthy that these disembodied spirits of the Nephilim are the focus of that belief. One of the more puzzling features of early Christian attitudes toward purity is the Gospels’ frequent reference to spirits as impure. The absence of similar language in Graeco-Roman literature up through the second century C.E. is striking.… References to impure spirits in 4QIncantation and to “unclean demons” in Jubilees are clearly based on the Watcher myth of 1 Enoch , whereby evil spirits proceeded from dead bodies of the fallen giants, who were born as a result of the miscegenation of angels with women. These spirits are called unclean in analogy to the similar classification of unclean animals: an unnatural combination of heavenly and earthly beings, they represent an anomalous mixture of categories.… Evil spirits, in many Jewish sources, ultimately trace their origins to the defiling union of these heavenly beings with women. Like unclean animals, these “impure spirits” represent an anomalous mixture of categories. 6 That the phrase “unclean spirit” is found in the New Testament is clear evidence that New Testament writers stood firmly in the Second Temple Jewish tradition regarding the origin of demons. The idea is isolated to Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament before the second century AD.” (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 3420-3425 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)
The phrase “unclean spirits” could also have reference to the association of demons with the spirits of dead human beings in the ancient world:
“But despite the evil that they bring, these spirits are mostly called ‘unclean spirits’. They are ‘unclean’ because they are from the underworld, bringing with them all of its uncleanness, its miasma, pollution, impurity, filth and corruption—the rottenness of the grave. These spirits are also called demons, which is simply an English rendering of the original Greek word daimon. Across the years an elaborate picture of these beings has grown up around this term, so much so that they have often been explained as a fourth species of being in the universe—so that alongside God, his angels and human beings, there is this fourth class known as ‘demons’. With this kind of thinking in the background, it comes as a surprise to most English-speakers that the Greek word daimon was regularly and frequently used to refer to the spirits of the dead. That’s right: daimon was just another word for ghost.” (Peter Bolt, Living With The Underworld, 580-585 (Kindle Edition); Kingsford NSW, Australia; Matthias Media)
Pneuma And Angels
Pneuma is also used in the New Testament to refer to angels of God:
Hebrews 1:7, 14-And of the angels He says: “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS SPIRITS AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”…Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
Pneuma And Attitudes Or Dispositions
Luke ruach, pneuma also have reference to certain attitudes or characteristics:
Luke 1:17-He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS TO THE CHILDREN,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
2 Timothy 1:7-For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Pneuma As The Nonphysical Element Of Mankind
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.
The words “soul” (Hebrew “nephesh,” Greek “psuche”) and “spirit” (Hebrew “ruach,” Greek “pneuma”) therefore often have reference to the nonphysical part of man that survives the death of the body.
In our next several lessons, we will learn how the differences between the soul and the spirit.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.