Praying To The Holy Spirit In Early Christianity -- By: Boris Paschke

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 64:2 (NA 2013)
Article: Praying To The Holy Spirit In Early Christianity
Author: Boris Paschke


Praying To The Holy Spirit In Early Christianity1

Boris Paschke

Summary

This article studies praying to the Holy Spirit in early Christianity of the first three centuries AD. The relevant primary sources are presented and interpreted. While the New Testament remains silent on the topic, some early Christian texts from the Second and Third Centuries AD (i.e. writings of Tertullian and Origen as well as the Acts of John and Acts of Thomas) testify that the idea and practice of addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer (either alone or together with Jesus Christ) existed in early Christianity. However, the paucity of express early Christian quotations of or references to prayers to the Holy Spirit suggests that praying to the Holy Spirit was not widespread but rather remained an exception in early Christianity.

1. Introduction

Today, prayer to the Holy Spirit is practised not only in charismatic/ Pentecostal Christian communities2 but also in more ‘mainstream’ churches within the Catholic3 and Protestant traditions.4 The Common

Worship of the Church of England, for instance, suggests the English translation of the ninth-century Latin hymn Veni creator Spiritus as preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist. The first verse of this hymn ‘Come, Holy Ghost’ reads:

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire;
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.5

The goal of the present article is to study the early Christian roots of directly addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer. To date, scholarship largely neglected the issue of praying to the Holy Spirit in early Christianity. Various studies have been devoted to the ‘spirit epicleses’ in chapters 27 and 50 of the third-century apocryphal Acts of Thomas (ATh).6 With regard to praying to the Holy Spirit in early Christianity as a whole, however, a comprehensive overview in either article or book form is still a desideratum. This short study is thus a first step to fill this gap in research. In the following, the relevant early Christian texts of the first three centuries AD are presented and interpreted.

2. Early Christian Interpretation Of Ezekiel 37:9

According to some scholars, the...

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