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The meanings of the term “pneuma” (the Spirit, spiritual thing, wind…) in the Gospel of John
I. Introduction

In the Bible, the word “SPIRIT” comes from the Greek term: “pneuma”, and the Hebrew: “ruah”. The original meaning is “breath”, “respiration”. The term “pneuma” appears 24 times in the Gospel of John: 1:32.33a.33b; 3:5.6a.6b.8a.8b.34; 4:23.24a.24b; 6:63a.63b; 7:39a.39b; 11:33; 13:21; 14:17.26; 15:26; 16:13; 19:30; 20:22. The first letter of the word “Spirit” (pneuma) in capital letter does not appear in the other ten chapters (Jn 2; 5; 8–13; 17; 21) but appears mostly in chapter three (six times). Passages from the Gospel of John cited here are taken from the Revised Standard Version - Second Catholic Edition, 2006 (RSV-SCE).
These versions are used to compare different translations of the term “pneuma” in the Gospel of John:
- RSV-SCE (Revised Standard Version - Second Catholic Edition, 2006).
- NAB-RE (New American Bible, Revised Edition, 1991 - Present).
- NASB (The New American Standard Bible, 1995).
- NIV (The New International Version, 1984).
- NKJV (The New King James Version, 1982).
- NOV (Nova Vulgata Version).
- BJ (La Bible de Jérusalem, 2000).
- TOB (Traduction Œcuménique de la Bible, 2011).
- Joseph LÊ MINH THÔNG (bản dịch, Bản văn Gio-an, TIN MỪNG và BA THƯ, Hy Lạp – Việt, 2011).
- NPD/CGKPV (Nhóm Phiên Dịch / Các Giờ Kinh Phụng Vụ, 2011).

II. Six categories of the meanings of the term “pneuma”

In the Gospel of John, the meanings of the term “pneuma” can be classified in six categories: (1) The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, (2) The Spirit or spiritual thing, (3) Spiritual thing, spirit(4) The spirit of man, (5) The spirit of Jesus and it refers to the Holy Spirit (19:30), (6) The wind (3:8a).
  
1. 
The Spirit, the Holy Spirit (14 times)

The first meaning is the Spirit (the Holy Spirit). We usually write the first letter of this word in capital letter: “the Spirit”. This particular meaning appears 14 times in the Gospel of John in three different forms: (a) the Spirit(pneuma) appears eight times: 1:32.33; 3:5.6.8.34; 7:39a.39b; (b) the Holy Spirit (pneuma to hagion) appears three times: 1:33; 14:26; 20:22; (c) theSpirit of truth (pneuma tês alêtheias) also appears three times: 14:17; 15:26; 16:13. Here are some examples:
   - Jn 7:39a,29b: the Spirit
On the last and greatest day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stood up and exclaimed in 7:37b-38“37b If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. 38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” In the next verse, the narrator explains the meaning of Jesus’ proclamation in 7:39: “Now this he (Jesus) said about the Spirit (pneumatos), which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit (pneuma) had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  The word “pneuma” with the meaning “the Spirit” (in capital letter) appears twice in 7:39.
   - Jn 1:32b-33a: the Spirit; 1:33b: the Holy Spirit
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist testifies Jesus in 1:32b-34:“I saw the Spirit (pneuma) descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him (Jesus). 33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit (pneuma) descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (pneumati hagiôi).’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” In these two verses (1:32b-33), John the Baptist talks about the Spirit (pneuma) and the Holy Spirit (pneuma to hagion), and at the end, he testifies that Jesus is the Son of God (1:34).
   - Jn 14:17: the Spirit of truth; 14:26: the Holy Spirit
In chapter 14, the author of the Gospel assimilates the Paraclete (hoparaklêtos) with the Spirit of truth (to pneuma tês alêtheias) and the Holy Spirit (to pneuma to hagion). Jesus says to his disciples in Jn 14:15-17: “15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor (allon paraklêton), to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth (pneuma tês alêtheias), whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
The RSV-SCE translates the term “paraklêtos” to “Counselor”. In fact, the meaning of the word “paraklêtos” in the Gospel of John is not only “Counselor” but this term has many senses. For this reason, we want to use the Greek word: “Paraklêtos” as “Paraclete” in English. The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) uses this transcription in 14:16: “I (Jesus) shall ask the Father, and he will give you (the disciples) another Paraclete (allon paraklêton) to be with you forever.” In the Gospel of John, the other Paraclete in 14:16 is the Paraclete who is assimilated with the Holy Spirit in 14:26. Jesus says to his disciples in 14:26: “But the Counselor (ho paraklêtos), the Holy Spirit (to pneuma to hagion), whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
In brief, in 14:15-17,26 of the Gospel of John, there are three titles to name the Paraclete (ho paraklêtos): (1) Other Paraclete (allos paraklêtos), (2) the Spirit of truth (pneuma tês alêtheias) and (3) the Holy Spirit (to pneuma to hagion).
  
2. The 
Spirit or spiritual thing (4:24; 6:63)

The second category of the meanings of the term “pneuma” is not clear, it may be “the Spirit” (the first letter is in capital letter) or “spirit” (in small letter). In the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, the word “pneuma”(spirit) was always written either in all capital letter (PNEUMA) or in small letter (pneuma). The oldest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament that we have today dated back to the second century, all of them were written incapital letters. Since the ninth century, the text was copied in small letters. For this reason, there are three cases in the Fourth Gospel (4:24a,24b; 6:63a) in which the word “pneuma” can be understood one of the two meanings: “the Spirit” or “spiritual thing” (spirit). We can see different translations of the word “pneuma” by comparing the following versions.
   - Jn 4:24
The word “pneuma” (spirit) appears twice in Jn 4:24: “GOD IS SPIRIT” (4:24a) and “WORSHIP IN SPIRIT” (4:24b). Different versions show us three different  ways to write the word “pneuma”: (a) The word “spirit” appears in small letter in both sentences, (b) The first sentence, the first letter of the term “Spirit” appears in capital letter, the second, “spirit” appears in small letter, (c) The word “Spirit” appears in capital letter in both sentences.
      a) The word “spirit” appears in small letter in both sentences.
RSV-SCE, Jn 4:24: “God is spirit (pneuma), and those who worship him must worship in spirit (pneumati) and truth.
BJ, Jn 4,24: “Dieu est esprit (pneuma), et ceux qui adorent, c’est dans l’esprit (pneumati) et la vérité qu’ils doivent adorer.
TOB, Jn 4,24: Dieu est esprit (pneuma), et c’est pourquoi ceux qui l’adorent, doivent adorer en esprit (pneumati) et en vérité.
NPD/CGKPV, Ga 4,24: Thiên Chúa là thần khí (pneuma), và những kẻ thờ phượng Người phải thờ phượng trong thần khí (pneumati) và sự thật.”
      b) The first sentence, “Spirit” appears in capital letter, the second, “spirit” appears in small letter.
NKJV, Jn 4:24: “God is Spirit (pneuma), and those who worship Him must worship in spirit (pneumati) and truth.”
Joseph LÊ MINH THÔNG, Ga 4,24: “Thiên Chúa là Thần Khí (pneuma), và những kẻ thờ phượng Người phải thờ phượng trong thần khí (pneumati) và sự thật.”
      c) The word “Spirit” appears in capital letter in both sentences.
NAB-RE, Jn 4:24: “God is Spirit (pneuma), and those who worship him must worship in Spirit (pneumati) and truth.”
NOV, Jn 4,24: “Spiritus (pneuma) est Deus, et eos, qui adorant eum, in Spiritu (pneumati) et veritate oportet adorare.”
   - Jn 6:63a
The term “pneuma” appears 2 times in 6:63. The first can be understood: “the Spirit (in capital letter) who gives life” or “the spirit (in small letter) that gives life” (6:63a). The second time of “pneuma” in the sentence: “the words that I (Jesus) have spoken to you (the disciples) are spirit and life” (6:63b) means spiritual thing, spirit (in small letter).
      a) “The spirit (in small letter) that gives life” (6:63a).
RSV-SCE, Jn 6:63: “It is the spirit (pneuma) that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit (pneuma) and life.
NAB-RE, Jn 6:63It is the spirit (pneuma) that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit (pneuma) and life.”
BJ, Jn 6,63: “C’est l’esprit (pneuma) qui vivifie, la chair ne sert de rien. Les paroles que je vous ai dites sont esprit (pneuma) et elles sont vie.”
NPD/CGKPV, Ga 6,63: “Thần khí (pneuma) mới làm cho sống, chứ xác thịt chẳng có ích gì. Lời Thầy nói với anh em là thần khí (pneuma) và là sự sống.”
Joseph LÊ MINH THÔNG, Ga 6,63: “Thần khí (pneuma) thì làm cho sống, xác thịt chẳng có ích gì. Những lời chính Thầy nói với anh em là thần khí (pneuma) và là sự sống.”
      b) “The Spirit (in capital letter) who gives life” (6:63a).
NASB, Jn 6:63: “It is the Spirit (pneuma) who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit (pneuma) and are life.”
NIV, Jn 6:63: “The Spirit (pneuma) gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit (pneuma) and they are life.”
TOB, Jn 6,63: “C’est l’Esprit (pneuma) qui vivifie, la chair ne sert de rien. Les paroles que je vous ai dites sont esprit (pneuma) et vie.” 
In summary, when the word “pneuma” is translated in capital letter “the Spirit”, it means the Holy Spirit (the first meaning of “pneuma”). When the word “pneuma” is translated in small letter “spirit”, it means spiritual thing.
 
  3. S
piritual thing, spirit (3:6; 4:23,24b; 6:63b)

Third, the term “spirit” (pneuma) has the sense of psyche, holy thing or spiritual thing. This meaning appears four times in the Gospel of John (3:6; 4:23.24b; 6:63b) almost in small letter.
In Jn 3:6, the term “pneuma” is used twice, the first is in capital letter (Spirit) which means the Holy Spirit and the second one is in small letter (spirit) which means spiritual thing. Jesus says to Nicodemus in 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit (pneumatosis spirit (pneuma).
In 4:23-24, the phrase “worship the Father in spirit and truth” appears twice (4:23,24b). In some versions  (NAB-RE, NOV), the word “pneuma” was translated in capital letter: the Spirit (see the presentation above), however, in most other versions, “pneuma” was translated as “spirit” (in small letter). Jesus says to the woman of Samaria in 4:23-24: “23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit(pneumati) and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. 24 God is spirit (pneuma), and those who worship him must worship in spirit (pneumati)and truth” (RSV-SCE).
In Jn 6:63, the term “pneuma” occurs twice. Jesus says to his disciples in 6:63: “It is the spirit (pneumathat gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit (pneumaand life” The second word “pneuma” in 6:63b means spiritual thing, it was translated in small letter: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (6:63b). See other versions of 6:63 above.
 
  4. The s
pirit of man (11:33; 13:21)   

Fourth, the term “pneuma” indicates the spirit of man. The Gospel of John uses 2 times this meaning to describe the spirit of Jesus in 11:33; 13:21. In the story of Lazarus (11:1-46), the narrator relates in 11:33-35: “33 When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit (pneumati) and troubled; 34 and he said, ‘Where have you laid him (Lazarus)?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus wept.”
In 13:21 “pneuma” means the spirit of Jesus. After washing the disciples’ feet Jesus explains to his disciples the significance of what he has just done(13:12-20), then the evangelist writes in 13:21: “When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit (pneumati), and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’”
 
  5. 
The spirit of Jesus and it refers to the Holy Spirit (19:30)

Fifth, the first meaning of the word pneuma infers his second meaning in 19:30. This verse is interesting by its double meaning of pneuma. The narrator describes the death of Jesus in 19:30: “When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (pneuma).” This sentence can be understood in two levels. First, Jesus gave up his spirit, it means he was dead. At the same time, this is an unusual way to describe the death of a person in Greek language: “paradiômi to pneuma” (give up the spirit). Therefore, we may interpret this text as: When Jesus is dead on the cross, he gives the Holy Spirit to the world. This idea corresponds to the theology of the Gospel of John: The hour of Jesus’ death is also the hour of his glorification (12:23,28; 13:31-32) and his exaltation (12:31-32). In this perspective, the hour of Jesus’ death coincides with the hour Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to the believers.
The narrator has already referred to this in 7:37-39: “37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. 38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’’ 39 Now this he said about the Spirit (pneumatos), which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit (pneuma) had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The sentence “the Spirit (pneuma) had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7:39b) refers to Jesus’ death on the cross, it is the hour of his glorification and exaltation. Therefore the expression: “Jesus gave up the spirit (pneuma)” (19:30b) describes Jesus’ death and also the act of giving Holy Spirit as well. This Holy Spirit gift became evident on the day of his Resurrection. The evening of that first day of the week, Jesus came to his disciples, “he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit(pneuma hagion)’” (20:22b).   
 
  6. The wind (3:8a)

Sixth, the last meaning of the word “pneuma” returns to its original meaning of the Hebrew word “ruah” (“breath”, “respiration”). In the Gospel of John, only one time in 3:8, the term “pneuma” means the wind. Jesus reveals to Nicodemus about the one who is born of the Spirit in 3:8: “The wind (pneumablows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit (pneumatos).” Two occurrences of the word “pneuma” in this verse have two meanings. The first one means “wind” (3:8a), the second one means “the Spirit” (3:8b).  

III. Conclusion

In summary, the fourth Gospel uses the word “pneuma” (spirit) 24 times. The meanings of this word can be classified in six groups.
1) Pneuma is the Holy Spirit (14 times) in three different forms: (a) the Spirit(pneuma), 8 times in 1:32.33; 3:5.6.8.34; 7:39a.39b; (b) the Holy Spirit(pneuma to hagion), 3 times in 1:33; 14:26; 20:22; (c) the Spirit of truth(pneuma tês alêtheias) 3 times in 14:17; 15:26; 16:13.
2) Pneuma can be understood as the Holy Spirit or spiritual thing, 2 times in 4:24a; 6:63a.
3) Pneuma has the sense of spiritual thing, spirit, 4 times in 3:6; 4:23.24b; 6:63b.
4) Pneuma defines the spirit of man, 2 times in 11:33; 13:21.
5) Pneuma has a double meaning, 1 time in 19:30, the first meaning (the spirit of Jesus) suggests the second (the Holy Spirit).
6) Pneuma means the wind, 1 time in 3:8a, to describe the flexibility of the one who is born of the Spirit.
Only the context in a certain text can reveal the exact meaning of the word. This brief study shows us the richness of meaning of the term “pneuma” that does not appear in general dictionaries. They are only present in Bible dictionaries, especially in the commentaries of the Gospel of John./.