Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pneumatikos (Written to a Friend)

I remember hearing a conference paper read this year
that dealt with the modern ambiguous nature of the
term "spirituality." The study/lecture also helpfully traced
out the history of the word "spirituality" from
ancient to modern times. At any rate, everyone seems
to have a different understanding of what spirituality
is or entails.

As you know, Jehovah's Witnesses define a "spiritual
life" as a life that is God-oriented. That is, one who
is spiritual has his or her thinking and heart's
desires aligned with God's thoughts and desires (Mt
16:21-24). A spiritual person, we believe, looks at
matters from God's vantage-point (Prov 3:5-6; James
1:27). He or she detests what God abhors and loves
that which God deems righteous and worthy of

Finally, I will just note that the Apostle Paul made a
significant contrast between one who is spiritual and
one who is carnal or fleshly. He wrote in 1 Cor

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him:
neither can he know [them], because they are
spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual
judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no
man" (KJV).

The Greek word translated "spiritual" (PNEUMATIKOS)
can refer to one who is filled with and governed by
the holy spirit of God, say some lexicons. I think
this description aptly sums up the orientation of one
who is truly "spiritual."

How does one come to have a healthy spiritual life? In
addition to what you said about Christian gatherings,
I would say that both study of God's written word and
prayer (1 Thess 5:17) promote a sound life of
authentic spirituality. [Add the field ministry too]

As Paul told young Timothy, "You have been taught the
holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given
you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by
trusting in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 3:15 NLT).

Ave atque vale,


Duncan said...

In OT hebrew there seems to be a significant connection between ruach and shêm there are a number of places where both could be translated into English as character.

Edgar Foster said...

Do you have a particular exam/examples that could be posted for research? Thanks.

Duncan said...



References like this one are confusing

wind = wind
breath = wind
spirit (latin) = wind
Pnuma (with spawns pnumatic - wind driven) = wind

These all hold one function - a wind that follows a prescribed path - breath is a good example of a directed wind.

Gen 41:38, 45:27 Ex 28:3, 31:3 are good candidates. Just a few , I will look for more later.


Edgar Foster said...

I can think of many cases where "spirit" (wind) and character don't fit, but I'm not sure you'd disagree with that claim.

I would also question the iudea that spiritus (the Latin word) necessarily equals "wind"; at least that is not true in all contexts. When we speak of God's spiritus, "wind" is not the predominant notion then. When the Bible speaks about being "bitter in spirit," I don't believe wind is the primary meaning. We also have cases of what might be deliberate ambiguity when pneuma is used. See 1 Cor. 2:1-16. Gen. 41:38 speaks of the divine spirit in Joseph; 45:27 does not appear to focus on one's "character." On the verses in Exodus, compare 1 Kings 7:14; Isaiah 11:2ff.

Duncan said...

What is the divine wind in a man?

Romans 8:15, 2 Tim 1:7.


Note - character as an aspect of its understanding.

Edgar Foster said...

I would say "divine spirit" or "divine breath" in a man (something to that effect). At times, "spirit" refers to a disposition or to one's self-consciousness (not wind).

What's important to remember is that the meaning of words change over time. The diachronic meaning is not necessarily what a term means in a given context or during a certain period of time. While reading Lucretius with some colleagues, we recently came across a Latin denotation that only appears in Lucretius; the same phenomenon happens in Greek. Some meanings from Homer don't carry over to Paul or the Apostle John.

The meaning "character" for the Latin spiritus has to be established by context or use. Besides, spiritus and ruach do not exactly overlap 100%.

Edgar Foster said...

Louw-Nida Greek & English Lexicon on PNEUMA. The senses are listed by their respective Semantic Domains

(12.18) The Holy Spirit.

(12.33) Spirit, in general (a supernatural being). Cf. John 4:24

(12.37) Evil spirit [i.e., demon].

(12.42) A ghost (Luke 24:37). But read this information carefully.

(26.9) Inner being.

(30.6) Wind.

Edgar Foster said...

For the Latin spiritus, see http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0059:entry=spiritus

But OLD is the best for now (i.e., Oxford Latin Dictionary)

Duncan said...

I still think that Louw-Nida Greek & English Lexicon is making artificial divisions in meaning especial when matched with near eastern language and culture:-

(12.18) wind of the special one.

(12.33) I still have problems with this definition in light of 1 John 4:8 - God is action serve him in action and truth.

This also seen contradictory. Does a god who IS wind have a wind - see 12.8

(12:37) https://www.missionislam.com/health/worldjinnsecrets.html

"Allah has created different types of jinn. Among them are some who can take on different forms such as dogs and snakes; some who are like flying winds with wings;"

(12:42) see 12:37


(30.6) wind

Duncan said...

My question should have read:-

Does a god who IS A wind have A wind - see 12.18 ?

Duncan said...


Edgar Foster said...

All I'm going to say about the God/wind question is that I don't view God as a wind, but as spirit. Jehovah God is not a material being, does not have a physical body, so cannot literally be wind--something that he created. But spirit can mean that God is non-material, has no physical body, and he is not constricted by the material world. The Hebrew Bible speaks of God's "breath," spirit or wind. John 3:8ff evidently depicts God's holy spirit as wind.

The link you provided seems pretty good. I notice that the author points to some limitations of Louw-Nida, but concludes with a favorable view of the lexicon. The major lexicon in NT studies is BDAG: I use BDAG more than my LN.

Duncan said...

Just wanted to thank you for the heads up on the new brill release. I hope to order one next week. It significantly cheaper than BDAG which is a boon considering its from brill.

Duncan said...

Let me just put it this way - from the NIV - The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

All one needs to do is visualise this being spoken in the original tongue - there is no divide in the words.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the wind.

Yes we agree that wind depicts something that has effect but cannot be seen but that's why I posted the article on jinn. Not because of these particular beliefs but rather that the near Eastern culture has winds with wings, which functionally could be depicting a whirl wind common to the deserts of the near East. Something that could literally lift on of the ground through unseen hands. This imagery goes back a long way.

We had a similar discussion about angel(Angelus) and messenger(malak) so I am not going to press this.

Edgar Foster said...

You're welcome, Duncan. The price for the work is amazing, considering it comes from Brill, which is normally crazy expensive.

I also look forward to the Cambridge Greek Lexicon. That work will be a boon for students and scholars alike.

You might like this work: https://books.google.com/books?id=iTVVAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA9&dq=ruach&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjayvGyubzNAhULbj4KHV6PAlMQ6AEIRDAG#v=onepage&q=wind&f=false

I've read more up to date works than this book, but the study is free. Concerning "spirit" or ruach, the terms are inherently ambiguous. Even other foreign language counterparts share the ambiguity of ruach/pneuma.

Duncan said...

ABP+ Ezekiel 37:9.

και G2532 And είπε G2036 he said προς G4314 to με G1473 me, προφήτευσον G4395 Prophesy επί G1909 over το G3588 the πνεύμα G4151 wind! προφήτευσον G4395 Prophesy, υιέ G5207 O son ανθρώπου G444 of man, και G2532 and ειπέ G2036 say τω G3588 to the πνεύματι G4151 wind! τάδε G3592 Thus λέγει G3004 says κύριος G2962 the Lord κύριος G2962 the LORD; εκ G1537 From out of των G3588 the τεσσάρων G5064 four πνευμάτων G4151 winds, ελθέ G2064 come πνεύμα G4151 wind και G2532 and εμφύσησον G1720 breathe εις G1519 onto τους G3588 νεκρούς τούτους G3498 G3778 these dead, και G2532 and ζησάτωσαν G2198 let them live!