"a spirit of {....]" - what is meant?

I am wondering if anyone here has done some study, given some consideration to the meaning of the word "spirit"" when used with a qualifying term such as for example in in followingexpressions:

  • Lk 13:11   And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity ...
  • Acts 16:16   .., a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, ...
  • Rom 1:4   And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, ...
  • Rom 8:2   For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
  • Rom 8:15   For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
  • 1Cor 4:21   What will ye ? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and [in] the spirit of meekness?
  • 2Cor 4:13   We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written,...
  • Eph 4:23   And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
  • 2Tim 1:7   For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

What does this genitive ("SPIRIT OF {whatever}") indicate? For example: is "spirit of fear" about a spirit that causes fear? is it a fearful spirit? something else? And to what does the term "spirit" refer ... a spirit being (like angel)? an attitude or character? perhaps the person said to have such attitude? something else?

How would you understand the above listed passages?


  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    Here is another scripture passage from Rom 11, where such an expression "spirit of ..." occurs:

    Rom 11:8 (AV)

     (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

    In some circles "spirit of slumber" is claimed to be an evil spirit (demon) ... however, the verse here states rather plainly that God gave this "spirit of slumber". Any ideas on how to correctly understand what this passage means and teaches?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    In this topic regarding "spirit of {something}", perhaps one should include in the consideration also the use of the term "demon" which in places occurs within same or similar contexts. In other words, who or what is a "demon"?

    Mt 12:22 (AV)

    Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil [demon], blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.

    Was what is called "a devil [demon]" somehow connected to the person being sick - specifically, blind and dumb)? Jesus is said to have healed the man, and healing is usually addressed to removing sickness.

    Anyone have insights?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    Some further thoughts from textual considerations of verses in the NT scriptures where "spirit" is used, in particular in the expression "[unclean] spirit". For example, have a look at Lk 9:42:

    Lk 9:42 (ASV)

    And as he was yet a coming, the demon dashed him down, and tare [him] grievously. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

    It seems that "unclean spirit" and "demon" are commonly equated and understood to be a reference to one and the same thing, not a reference to two two distinct and different things. In addition, in many groups / churches, these terms are then interpreted to refer to "some evil spirit being", at times described as one of the "fallen angels" of the devil's angelic host.

    However, the text in the above mentioned passage seems to indicate in rather clear terms that "unclean spirit" is a reference to an illness with which the boy was afflicted and of which Jesus healed him. Thus, we see in this passage that what is termed "demon" as well as "unclean spirit" is some sort of sickness, affliction, most likely - as can be seen from other passages reporting similar healings from unclean spirits/demons - it refers to some kind of affliction affecting the mental capabilities and self-control of the person thus afflicted.

    Some claim that the terminology of Jesus "rebuked" the unclean spirit/demon indicates that the unclean spirit/demon must be some spirit being, acting spirit "person", and the same is claimed about the expression of the demon "coming out of" the person. This argument however doess not hold true, as the same type of language is used when Jesus healed SImon's mother in law from a fever, where Jesus "rebuked" the fever and the fever "left" the woman.

    Lk 4:38-39 (ASV)   

    And he rose up from the synagogue, and entered into the house of Simon. And Simon's wife's mother was holden with a great fever; and they besought him for her.

    And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she rose up and ministered unto them.

    The whole concept of "demon" and "unclean spirit" as being devil spirit beings / fallen angels / spirit beings of a top fallen angel's host seems more and more unbiblical to me ... and I am rather embarrassed at myself to have not noticed such for 4 decades of rather dedicated study of the Scriptures.

  • PagesPages Posts: 76


    The following is not a specific answer to your questions asked; rather, it is what came to mind when thinking about your posts in this thread. 

    Here demons or unclean spirits are driven or cast out along with every disease and every affliction cured or healed:

    • “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,” (Luke 9:1 NIV11)
    • “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matt. 10:1 NIV11)

    Here we have listed those possessed by demons and those who have various diseases:

    • “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (Matt. 4:24 NIV11)
    • “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matt. 10:8 NIV11)
    • “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.” (Mark 1:32 NIV11)
    • “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.” (Luke 6:17–19 NIV11)
    • “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;” (Luke 8:1–2 NIV11)

    There seems to be the possibility of an impure spirit returning after being exorcised – “...never enter him again.“ – (cf. Matt. 12:43-45; Josephus Ant. 8:47 “he abjured him to return into him no more“).

    • “When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”” (Mark 9:25 NIV11)

    Demon in place of deity:

    • “They sacrificed to *false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear.” (Deut. 32:17 NIV11)
    •  “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to *false gods.” (Psa. 106:37 NIV11)
    • * שֵּׁדִים֙ demons
    • “A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign *gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18 NIV11)
    • * δαιμονίων demons
    • “No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:20 NIV11)

    Demons speaking and exhibiting personal self-awareness:

    • “The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.””(Matthew 8:31 NIV11)
    • ““Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”” (Luke 4:34 NIV11)
    • “Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.” (Luke 4:41 NIV11)
    • “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”” (Luke 8:28 NIV11)
    • “One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (Acts 19:15–16 NIV11)

    It is a possibility that this fever had its origin from a demonic source:

    • “Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.” (Luke 4:38–39 NIV11)

    Fever demon in a non-biblical exorcism text 4Q560 from Qumran (250 BC – 50 AD):

    • 4[… I adjure you by the name of the Lord, “He Who re]moves iniquity and transgression” (Exod. 34:7), O Fever-demon and Chills-demon and Chest Pain-demon (Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg Jr., and Edward M. Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (New York: HarperOne, 2005), 566).

    Other exorcists alluded to:

    • “And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out?” (Matt. 12:27 NIV11)
    • “and He forgave my sins. An exorcist—a Jew, in fact, a mem[ber of the community of exiles—came to me and said,]” (4Q242 f1_3:4 QUMENG)

    Here it seems that demons and unclean spirits are two distinct entities:

    • “With a mighty voice he shouted: “ ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every *impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.” (Rev. 18:2 NIV11)
    • * unclean

    Yet, in this passage demon and impure spirit are said to be one and the same:

    • “In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice,” (Luke 4:33 NIV11) – though some translations render this phrase as “...who had the spirit of an unclean demon“ –NET, MOUNCE; "...unclean demonic spirit" – CSB.

    Spirit adversaries to God’s angels:

    • “So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.” (Dan. 10:20–21 NIV11)

    In the following passages God is the one sending the lying or evil spirit. In the case of the lying spirit sent to Ahab this is a spirit being. (Judges 9:23, 1Ki. 22:20-23, 1Sam. 16:14-15, Ezek. 14:9, and 2Thes. 2:11-12).   

    Wolfgang asked:

    Was what is called "a devil [demon]" somehow connected to the person being sick - specifically, blind and dumb)? Jesus is said to have healed the man, and healing is usually addressed to removing sickness.

    Anyone have insights?

    In Matt. 12:22 the man is healed of his physical afflictions quite possibly resulting from being demon-possessed. Unfortunately, this text doesn’t explicitly answer whether this is the case.     The exorcism of the demon is then referenced in Matt. 12:24 by the accusation from the Pharisees. 

    However, in Lk. 11:14 we can infer that the muteness of the possessed is the direct result of that particular demon. (see above 4Q560 – reference to fever demon, etc.). 

    But, in Lk. 11:14 there is no mention of healing along with the exorcism; so, this may imply that the demon itself was mute and that this mute condition was transferred to his host.

    Anyway, good luck and wishes on sorting through your questions on this topic. Perhaps others may now respond with their thoughts.

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    @Pages ...thank you for the various references to occurrences of the word for demon etc ... and your wishes for me while sorting out my questions regarding the topic at hand.

    It seems to me - in particular also from the references you mentioned to extra-biblical sources (cp. comment about 4Q560 and "fever-demon" above) that at those times, certain sicknesses (such as fever) where one did not see or know of a physical or visible cause were often ascribed to being caused by "gods", or "demons", "evil spirit beings". The question is, why does Jesus never really teach such a concept as actually being fact?

    Language such as a sickness "leaving" or being "rebuked" is not necessarily a proof that such "sickness" is actually not a sickness but a "god" or "demon" living being / spirit-person. ...

    Sometimes, it has been seen that people have a certain mental-derangement of "multiple personalities" or "split personality". But nobody would say that there actually two persons present in that one human being ... just because some person "John Doe" sometimes claims to be "Beethoven" and at another time is convinced he is "EInstein" does NOT constitute a reality of him bein 3 different people that "live inside each other" and an "inner spirit-person/demon" controlling possessing the actual human person. Rather, such situation has nothing to do whatever with the common (and apparently quite wide-spread) idea of fallen angel devil demons "floating around and entering people etc .... does it?

    A person afflicted in such manner is simply sick ... not in their physical body as such, but in their mind and spirit. Same would hold true in other situations as well, when a human person has convinced themselves or has been convinced by others (cp. such terms as "brain washing", "programming" by propaganda, hypnotism, etc.) that he/she is someone or something which they are truly not!

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