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The Holy Ghost

Acts 2:4 as translated by the King James Version:

"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

Acts 2:4 as translated by the Revised Standard Version (which was based on the American Standard Version, which was based on the King James Version):

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."

The "Holy Ghost" Is The Old English Term For God's Spirit

Holy Bible Although most later translations of The Bible use the term Holy Spirit, many people are very well aware of, and use, the term Holy Ghost, as read in the classic King James Version. That's not to say that the King James writers (see The King James Preface) didn't frequently also use spirit when translating, but they selectively used, at their own discretion, either ghost or spirit for the very same original word. For example, for Acts 2:4 as shown above:

"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost [original Greek word pnoo-mah], and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit [again, the original Greek word pnoo-mah] gave them utterance."

The King James translators tended (although not always) to use ghost for when there was a physical manifestation of some sort, and spirit when it was "spiritual." Their choice of words may well be the result of the custom of their own time when the definitions of ghost and spirit were more differentiated than they are today i.e.

  • Ghost (from Anglo-Saxon gast, from a root word seen in Icelandic geisa, to rage as fire, and Swedish gusa, to ferment): a visible spirit, a disembodied spirit, an apparition.

  • Spirit (from Latin spiritus, from spiro, to breathe): the vital or essential part of anything; a supernatural existent life.

The Original Words Of The Bible

There are 3 words of the Bible, 2 Hebrew of the Old Testament and 1 Greek of the New Testament, that are translated into English as either spirit or ghost. Surprisingly, the literal meanings of all 3 of the original words of the Scriptures simply meant breath, or to breathe:

  • Hebrew (pronounced) gaw-vah, meaning to breathe out

  • Hebrew (pronounced) roo-akh, meaning wind or breath

  • Greek (pronounced) pnoo-mah, meaning a current of air, or breath

Fact Finder: How is the Holy Spirit involved in the Biblical term to "quicken"?
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