Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Preacher Says the Word "Ghost" is Not in the Bible

Some members of a local church contacted me about their preacher who said from the pulpit in a sermon that the word "ghost" is not found anywhere in the Bible.  I was not there, as I no longer attend this church.  According to these people it was said, but they know better than accept it and have contacted me to let me know.  The members themselves are giving me scriptures that directly contradict what the preacher supposedly said, and are revealing that the Bible does, of course,  mention the word "ghost" or use "spirit" to mean that of a former human who has passed on.  So, these members of this preacher's church do not need me to correct him.  They just wanted me to know. 

I feel encouraged that they respect me enough to know that I would never believe something if it was not at least defensible in scripture.  I am always amazed at how something I do draws such attack by churches I've been to and people that go there.  If it's true he said ghost is not in the Bible, then this preacher may be the only person who thinks this way, save a few others who choose to turn a blind eye to the scriptures.  It is not my job here, nor my intent, to run this preacher into the ground. He is a good man, and I've known him for a long time.  I wonder why he feels so threatened.  Well, my aim here in this post is simply to point out that if he did say this, that clearly he is incorrect and should be ashamed of himself for saying so.  It is one thing to try and say that ghosts are not former human spirits, it is quite another to say that the word "ghost" does not occur in the Bible!  It is also fair to point out that my preacher friend is the one who chose to go out of his way to "preach" so adamantly on this subject, rather than take the opportunity to say that good Christians can and do differ on our beliefs in this area. He apparently was quick to assume to be an authority, and we know what assumptions can do. He is not an authority in this, has no idea what we do because he has never bothered to inquire, and certainly has not dealt with the people we have dealt with on our investigations.  He chose to speak so adamantly and self-assuredly, and to side with those who choose such a closed-minded view of the subject at hand. Such narrow-minded condescension is tiresome to say the least, and does little to accurately represent the Church of Christ Jesus. To be so outspoken means that it is certainly fair to respond to his obviously incorrect statements and teaching.  In fact, as you will see later in this post, there is a biblical mandate to do so.

I really don't care that much what this preacher believes, just as I'm sure he doesn't really care what I believe.  It certainly is not my job to go around correcting those who have a different view or who utter incorrect things.  Apparently, he thinks it's his job.  However, I do view it as an opportunity, since people are contacting me, to assure them that their understanding and reading of the scriptures is indeed correct, and that it is perfectly fine to refute or disagree with what the pastor is saying and not be bound for hell for doing so.  I certainly am not advocating people leave his church over it.  That's none of my business.

To correct what the preacher said, the word "ghost" is mentioned 6 times in the New International Version of the Holy Bible, the version most commonly used by the majority of Americans.  Simply put, the preacher is wrong, and is apparently allowing his own lack of understanding and fear of the truth to twist the Bible into not saying what it is saying.  Again, for the thousandth time, that is eisegeis.  He is simply reading into the Bible what he thinks in order to make it say what he wants it to say.  Sigh.  How long must this be repeated?  People often do this in order to advance what their own belief is. He, in my view, is choosing to not allow the scriptures to force him to change what he accepts as truth.  To accept that ghosts are real would force him to change a couple of things in his worldview, although certainly nothing major or earth-shaking.  He and those like him would rather deny overwhelming human experience and say ghosts can't be real.  But there again, he certainly can defend a position that ghosts are not former humans, but never can he defend that the word ghost does not occur in the Bible.  I reserve the right to defend my position that ghosts are real, and scripture does not refute this belief.  But yes, to my friends, it is rather dishonest for him to say that the Bible does not use the word "ghost." Reasonable, ordinary people with a brain of their own know better, despite all the twisting and turning and maneuvering he might attempt.  All one has to do is a simple word search on any Bible software program.  There's a free one on the Internet available to anyone, at biblegateway.com:    http://www.biblegateway.com/ 

I ran a search at this site and came back with six results.  Try it yourself.  See if the preacher is correct or not.  The six results are:  Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:49; Luke 24:37; Luke 24:39; 1 Samuel 28:13 ghost(ly); and Isaiah 29:4 ghost(like).  Now is he going to say that the Bible doesn't actually say this?  It's right there in black and white (and in the original Koine Greek - I looked it up).

Christ's Own Words in Luke 24:39:
"Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.”  This verse, spoken by Christ himself, reveals not only that he himself used the word "ghost" or "spirit" (take your choice) but also defines it as what every single one of us understands a ghost or spirit to be - a disembodied spirit of a human, who used to have flesh and bones. It is that which survives the physical body but lives on.

I think some of the members of this church understand that the preacher, a well-meaning man, just cannot say otherwise due to influences on him by closed-minded people with a lot of influence.  To the lengths he is going however, is a bit too far, a compromise of the truth, and should not be condoned.  I think deep inside he knows better, or may have a nagging suspicion, but he just can't go there.  However, by saying such an obviously incorrect statement, he only succeeds in discrediting himself and making all his other teachings subject to being called into question.  Does he not realize this?  Did he just get over-excited in a moment of zeal?  Did he not do his Bible research?  Who knows.  If he can say that the word ghost is not in the Bible when it so obviously is, how can he defend anything he says, and how can he ask his members to trust anything he says? He does not seem to be offering an opinion. Rather, he seems to be declaring unequivocally that his version of the subject is definitively what "the Bible says is truth."  He is not, in the main, an obtuse and bigoted man; and yet, in this subject matter, he is being exactly that: obtuse and bigoted. How curious. And why does he feel the need to be so...condescending? It is interesting that this same preacher would (and should) defend the concept of the holy Trinity, which is a word that is NOT found in the scriptures.  However, he so easily says that the word ghost, much less the concept, is not!  Rather interesting, don't you think? 

So Why?
This leaves us with the most important aspect: why would he deny the Bible says "ghost" when it so obviously does?  I find it odd and peculiar that he is in such a hurry to so quickly take a swing at this subject.  What has him (and them) so nervous and jumpy?  Three possible answers we might consider: Fear, Control and Influence.  Grown men and women fear changing their beliefs more than anything.  We fear change.  We fear the unknown. We would rather believe the lie we know than believe a truth we can't quite wrap our minds around and control.  This fear rules our faith, and it leads to a closed-system of belief in which no fresh ideas or illumination can break through.  These folks simply keep teaching themselves the same things over and over.  To change their understanding on a matter involving a tenant of their belief system would be tantamount to changing who they are.  Regrettably, they have confused their identity with their beliefs, instead of melding their identity in Spirit and wisdom, which only comes from the scriptures being enlightened by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This only works when one comes openly and humbly to the scriptures with an attitude that you will allow your mind to be molded, like clay in the Potter's hands, Romans 12:1-2. All of us are guilty of these fears, the need for control, and subject to influence, me included.

As someone who has grown up in the modern version of the Christian Church, and who has been an ordained minister in two denominations (including the one this pastor is of), I have come to understand from the inside how the modern church so easily compromises scriptural truth and often abandons it for the safety and comfort of man's traditions and social culture.  The apple core is a bit rotten.  It is fair to say that while much good is done in churches today, it could be far, far better.  It is also fair to say that much damage is also done in and through the mindless "machine" of the modern "church."  It is absolutely vital to remember there is a huge difference between the visible "church" and the Church "invisible" - the true bride and Church of Jesus Christ. We have indeed compromised far too many of the rich scriptural truths of the Bible in favor of hunkering and bunkering inside of man's warm and fuzzy little box that so many have come to be so comfortable in.  We actually (almost - but not quite) force preachers like this good man to feed us what we want our itching ears to hear, and to stay away from feeding us that which we do not want to hear.  To hear such a obviously wrong statement about ghosts shouldn't surprise us.  It is a product of a closed-minded church to what the Bible really says, and belongs in the trash heap with such teachings as "drinking is a sin" and "anger is a sin."  The scriptures teach that drunkenness is a sin, not drinking (Christ's first miracle was changing water into the very best wine; John 2:1-11.)  Anger is not always a sin, unrighteous anger is a sin (Christ himself was justifiably and righteously angry when he beat the money-changers out of the temple with a self-made whip; Matthew 21:12.)  Ghosts are real, and at the very least Christ himself used the word ghost or spirit to speak of them; Luke 24:39. So, this latest hooey should not surprise us.  Our teachers and preachers tell us what we want them to tell us.  St. Paul warned us this would happen:

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.   - 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The result is a scrubbed clean, sanitized version of the Gospel, where evil, vile monsters don't exist, we all just need to have good manners, and Jesus is transformed from who He really was to a Mr. Roger's who wants you to be a good neighbor.  People are fearful of the truth and those who are so fearful often have great influence - through money and their power - on those who lead and direct the church.  That's the sad truth. The good preacher almost had to say what he said.

I have severed the ties to such encumbrances and non-truths (at great cost), but I would not have it any other way.  Scripture again is so true: the truth will set you free (John 8:32).  I feel that I have been liberated from the shackles of man's attempt to force me to believe what man wants me to believe.  I am liberated by God's holy Word to the "true truth" not "man's truth." I have no power and have little influence, but I have more of God's truth because I am now outside the pathetic little box he would have me chained in, and can allow scripture to direct my mind and soul, rather than be subject to man's influence and pressure to conform and compromise myself to a safe and sanitized belief system. In other words I am no longer under their undue influence. Awareness is nine-tenths of the battle to get out of the box. Yes, I am attending a Church, but not one that denies such obvious truths.  Yes, I am held accountable, but not by well-intentioned but misguided spiritual confessors. 

I am not asking anyone to believe as I do - each person should examine their own thoughts, actions, and lives and decide for themselves what they should believe.  No one should accept what I say, but should search scripture to see if what I say lines up with the truth.  They should do the same with any church, denomination, and especially a preacher.  That is called the Berean principle, and is drawn from St. Paul's writing in Acts 17:10-14.  Some who would not be lemmings and "yes men" have done exactly this.  They have found the pastor's words, in this instance, to not line up with scripture.  Good for these modern-day Bereans!  I do not condemn this man, but consider him a good brother in Christ who is mistaken and misguided on this one issue. What I oppose is his theological position, and especially his attitude within it.  I do believe he is between a rock and a hard place, trying his best to preach the gospel to some people who simply will not hear certain things - not even to consider it as a possibility. I just wish he would be a little less obtuse on subjects he shouldn't be, and a little more courageous in combating the closed-minded.

I note with a smile that those who contacted me know something very important, and so I leave you with the scripture that they apparently are well aware of:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. - 2 Timothy 3:16

I, for one, welcome an open debate on the topic, using reason, tradition (history), human experience, and most importantly that bane of all banes, scripture!


  1. LOL! Now that is quite funny to say the Bible doesn't mention ghost. As I had already coverd with a friend of mine weeks ago on facebook. The 7 translations I have sure say it. Those would be the NIV, Oxford Bible, NLT, CSV, ASV, NKJV, & KJV. Guess those must all be type errors. Lol! Just remember Brother 2 of my favorite verses. "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer pesecution" (2 Timothy 3:12) & "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact I do not judge myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord." (1 Corinthians 4:3-4) In other words we knew this was coming as servants of Christ Jesus & let them talk falsehoods all they want to, cause as long as we know we are right with God & doing His work, NO MAN'S OPINION MATTERS. :-) Just sayin' Lol!

    Chris Jackson

  2. Well, you know the Bible never mentions oxygen, now this is actually true, I can not see this so called oxygen! Science says it exist, but it must not since the Bible obviously fails to mention it.

    Michael DeLorenze

  3. In theology we learned that the word ghost was used in the translation of the KJV because the theologians understood that the Greek word for spirit meant two persons of the spirit- the mother & the daughter. The core word in the Greek is spirit. They wanted to convey in their translating when they felt that scripture was referring to the mother or the daughter, that they needed another word for spirit to distinguish between the two. They took the German word for spirit - geist (pronounced ghost) when they believed that it was referring to the daughter. They used spirit when they believed it was referring to the mother. Most of the other translations we use today are just following what the KJV uses. Technically, spirit & ghost in scripture are referring to two separate persons, you may not want to use the word ghost unless you believe in the two entities of the Holy Spirit.

  4. To Anonymous, I appreciate your post, I really do, but I must respectfully say most of what you said is entirely incorrect. The Koine Greek (New Testament biblical language) word for spirit is pneuma, which means breath or wind. The same is true for the Hebrew word, which is ruach. Both are translated as spirit or soul. The word ghost, found in some versions and which occurs, for example, in Matthew 14:26 (when the disciples thought Christ, who was walking on the water to them, was a ghost) is rendered in the original Greek as the word "phantasma" - or GHOST. This is the word from which we get our English word "phantom" from.

    The "two entities of the Holy Spirit" you speak of is not found anywhere in the scriptures or from the countless scores of biblical theologians who have done translation work that I've ever heard of (which is a significant number). That's a very odd idea and is not tenable with what the Bible says, or what translators or etymologists have said. That is not even mentioned ever, as even a possibility. That idea, in other words, is totally from out of left field. The same with the idea of some "mother-daughter" connection to these words. It doesn't exist. I'm not sure where you got this information, but it is simply, in a word: wrong. It is also, frankly, weird. Somebody has told you something that is not based in reality at all. In fact, to me it sounds like a Wiccan or radical feminist idea or concept. Again, it isn't based on the Bible or what translators or theologians have said. You can, of course, believe what you want, but it's just not there in the real deal.

    I certainly don't hold to a "KJV only" type of belief. I use the original languages in my Bible studies, and several translations. I will say that the King James Version, which is simply one translation into English from the original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, uses the terms Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost, 7 and 90 times respectively. In BOTH instances, the KJV translators meant the exact same thing: an immaterial being. It is entirely untrue that the myriad of other English translations are simply copying the KJV. I'm not sure where you would have gotten that information from, but it certainly sounds to me like someone you are reading has an agenda, and is very willing to bend the facts like a pretzel. No, they used the original manuscripts and codexes to translate their versions straight from the original source manuscripts and codexes. In other words, the New American Standard translators (for example) went back to the original sources to create their version.

    I have a four year B.S. degree in Biblical Literature (Bible) as my major; and a Master's in Theology and Ministry. I have years of study in Greek and some study in Hebrew. So, it's not something I'm just making a comment on, it has been my life's work in many ways. I do have an open mind, but have to draw the line when ideas are just plain and simply erroneous. Again, we welcome your thoughts and comments, but repectfully reserve the right to set the record straight when information exposed to our readers is in gross error. After all, this is our blog. :)