The Use of Pneuma in the New Testament

Let us next note the various ways in which the Greek word πνεῦμα, pneuma, is employed: i.e., the way in which it is used (apart from its meanings, or the sense which is given to it: i.e., its usage):—

  1. It is used alone, in two ways
    1. without the article: simply πνεῦμα (pneuma).
    2. with the article: τὸ πνεῦμα (to pneuma) the pneuma.
  2. It is employed with ἅγιου (hagion) holy, in four ways:
    1. pneuma hagion (holy spirit) Matt. 1:18, and in 49 other places.
    2. hagion pneuma (spirit holy) 1 Cor. 6:19, etc.
    3. the hagion pneuma, Matt. 28:19, etc.
    4. the pneuma the hagion, Matt. 12:32, etc.
  3. It is used with pronouns: e.g., the pneuma of me: i.e., my pneuma, Matt. 12:18, etc.
  4. It is used with prepositions, which affect its sense:
    1. ἐν πνεύματι (en pneumati), by or through the Spirit: denoting agency.
    2. Adverbially, as meaning spiritually and sometimes (like ἐν δόλῳ, (en dolō), craftily, 2 Cor. 12:16): thus turning the phrase into an adverb.
  5. It is employed in combination with the Divine Names in seven different forms; of which four have the article, and three are without: e.g., pneuma Theou; pneuma Christou, etc.
  6. It is employed with ten other nouns in the genitive case, which (by Enallage) qualify the meaning of pneuma. These again are used with and without the article: e.g., a pneuma of sonship (Rom. 8:15), i.e., a sonship-pneuma.
  7. It is employed with a second noun with which it is joined by a conjunction (Hendiadys). Thus used it becomes a superlative adjective.

Here are seven different ways in which the word pneuma is employed. Bach class is distinct, to say nothing of the minor variations.

Now, the question is, are we to make no difference in our reading and understanding of these various uses? Can it be that God employs the word pneuma in all these different ways, and yet has no object in so doing and has only one meaning for them all?

Surely, no one will contend that this is the case. Judging by the perfection of all God's other works, we know that His Word and His words are alike perfect. He not only means what He says, but He has a meaning for everything He says. If He uses one word, there is a reason why no other word would do. If He uses this word in several distinct ways, then there must be a reason for His so doing.


"The words of Jehovah are pure words:

As silver tried in a furnace.

[Words] pertaining to the earth,

But purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6).


His way is perfect...His word is refined (Ps. 18:30, marg.).

The words of which the Word is made up are perfect in themselves, perfect in their use, perfect in their order, and perfect in their truths.

If God has given a revelation in writing, then it must be in words, and the words must be His words. There-fore they must be inspired. They may be spoken by human lips, and written by human hands, but He calls them "His words." Whatever human agency or instrumentality may be employed, it is still His act. Hence we read "this scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas" (Acts 1:16). David's lips uttered them; David's pen wrote them down; but they were not David's words. They were the words "which the Holy Ghost spake." It was He who spake them. We cannot get beyond this, if we would seek a definition of Inspiration. All theories are useless in the face of this statement of fact: (compare Acts 3:18. Heb. 1:1. 2 Peter 1:21).

Whatever the difference may be, therefore, in the various uses of the word pneuma, we may be certain that there is a Divinely perfect reason for such use in each case; and it is our great business to search it out.


The works of the Lord are great,

Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein

(Ps. 112:2).


His Word is the greatest of His works; and His words, therefore, are to be sought out by all who, through grace, have been made to value them more than their necessary food.

If we confound that which God has carefully distinguished, we must of necessity be landed in hopeless confusion; and all doctrine based on that confusion must itself be confused, and can only mislead.

If God has made a difference in His employment of the word pneuma, we cannot ignore that difference without serious loss.

Our business must be to read, mark, and study what He has written for our learning.