St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

The Apostles’ Creed consists of twelve articles of faith. These articles are divided into three paragraphs corresponding to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The first paragraph (the briefest) deals with the Father; the second (the longest) deals with the Son; the third, which we now begin to examine, deals with the Holy Ghost and His work. The eighth article of the Apostles’ Creed merely affirms our belief in the Holy Ghost; while the Nicene Creed (“commonly so called”) provides more detail relative the Third Person of the Holy Ghost.

This is an issue of terminology (at least for some). [I rely on an article by the late Dr Peter Toon for what follows.] The Latin of this Western Creed for Holy Ghost is Spiritus Sanctus. The English word Spirit of course, derives from the Latin. The Hebrew word for spirit used in the Old Testament is ruach; and the New Testament Greek word is pneuma. Both of these words can be translated as either “spirit” or “wind.” The English Holy Ghost used in the Authorized Version (1611) of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer derives from the old Saxon halig gast.
The term ghost refers to a unit of psychic energy within a man that is active even in a disembodied state. It is a personal energy, whether human or divine. In popular culture, the term ghost has many negative connotations associated with death & haunting. As a result, modern biblical translations and liturgies have discontinued use of the word Ghost in referring to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, preferring the Latin-based word Spirit. But it should be pointed out that there are important theological issues involves in the use of the word Spirit as opposed to Ghost. The word Spirit is a more impersonal term; and it too can have equally negative connotations, as is the case regarding “evil” or “unclean” spirits. Spirit is best used when referring to the Third Person of the Trinity as the agent of God in the world. The term Ghost, on the other hand emphasizes the personhood or personality of this Third Person; and it also is in keeping with the Anglo-Saxon character of traditional Anglicanism.

It should also be kept in mind that when we use either the word spirit or ghost with reference to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, we use language that is used by God Himself in revealing Himself to us; and so such language is appropriate. However, such language, as is the case with all of the attributes of God, is analogical. God is a spirit or ghost in a divine sense that is different in essence from the human spirit or ghost. (See St John 4:24) The Holy Ghost in the whole of Scripture is shown to be a distinct, active personality within the Godhead; not merely an impersonal force or power of God. He is called Holy because God is Holy; and His primary office in connection with mankind is to make us holy, to “sanctify” us, as well. (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 St Peter 1:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11)


The Old Testament emphasized the unity of God, though the Holy Trinity is certainly to be found there. The Holy Ghost is mentioned at the beginning of the Bible, where the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters as God prepared to call the order of heaven & earth into being out of the depths of disorder or chaos. (Genesis 1:2-3) By analogy, the Spirit of God also inspires man, made in the image of God, to be creative in terms of the arts and technology of all sorts. (Genesis 1:26-27; Exodus 31:1-6) As the Nicene Creed states explicitly, the Lord anointed the prophets of old with the Spirit of the Lord God to be His spokesmen. (Isaiah 61:1) Certain individuals were endued with the Spirit of God that they might lead & defend God’s people from their enemies. (Judges 13:25; 14:19; Zachariah 4:6) This would especially apply to the coming Messiah or Christ. (Isaiah 11:2) The Spirit was also at work in the lives of both individuals and the community of the faithful as a whole, bringing holiness and renewal. (Psalm 51:11; Ezekiel 36:26-29; 37:1-14) The Apostles affirmed the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in the words of the Prophets and of the Hebrew Scriptures before the New Testament was even written. St Peter, writing from the perspective of the Incarnation, affirmed the work of the Holy Ghost in the prophets, who looked forward to the coming of Christ: We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 St Peter 1:19-21; see also 1 St Peter 1:10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)