Holy Spirit

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In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity and one of the agents by which God exercises influence on the course of human events. Despite the mention of the Holy Spirit in early baptism, the doctrine and theology of the Holy Spirit was slow to develop. Perhaps for this reason, different Christian denominations place different emphasis on the actions of the Spirit.

The Spirit in the New Testament

Despite the prominence of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the godhead, the Holy Spirit was relatively de-emphasized in the early church. Along those lines, the Spirit is only mentioned a few times in the New Testament.

The most prominent mention of the Holy Spirit occurs in the story of John the Baptist in the gospels. John, who has gained prominence as a preacher and prophet, claims that he baptizes with water, but that the one who comes after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit[1] When Jesus himself is baptized by John, the spirit descends like a dove onto Jesus, and Jesus is said to be "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1) afterwards.

The text most important for the theological working-out of the trinity is Matthew 28:19: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Gifts of the Spirit

Many Christians believe that the Holy Spirit can give a variety of gifts to human beings. The Roman Catholic Catechism defines seven gifts of the Spirit - these were originally identified in Summa Theologica by St Thomas Aquinas as: wisdom, knowledge, judgment, courage, understanding, piety and fear of the Lord.

Another list of gifts of the Spirit appears in 1 Corinthians 12:8-13 (NIV):

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

Earlier in the same chapter, "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit".

Aquinas' version of the gifts of the Spirit are rather more intellectualised, while in many of the evangelical and charismatic forms of Protestant Christianity, one finds many of the gifts being practiced: faith healing, miracle working, claims of prophetic visions (sometimes including apocalyptic end-times scenarios) and glossolalia.

Controversy, and the Council of Constantinople

The Holy Spirit East and West

The Holy Spirit in the Christian Tradition

The Pentecostal Movement


  1. Matthew 2:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33. Interestingly, in Luke John the Baptist claims that Jesus will baptize with the "Holy Spirit and fire." In the gospel of John, John the Baptist says "I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'"