What the Bible Says About Ghosts
Do Christians believe in ghosts? Before we answer that, we’ll delve into the definition of a ghost. In today’s context, “ghost” often conjures images of sheet-clad Halloween costumes, Caspar, or even Hollywood’s terrifying depictions in films like The Conjuring.
But, for Christians, the concept of ghosts and psychic phenomena takes on a different meaning. While we can’t make a blanket statement about what all Christians believe regarding whether ghosts exist, the Bible does provide insights on this topic:
How the Bible defines a “ghost”
Before we explore the Christian perspective on ghosts, we first need to look at how the Bible defines the term.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, ‘ghosts’ is an old Saxon word equivalent to ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’. The Bible translates from the Hebrew ‘nephesh‘ and the Greek ‘pneuma‘. Both signify ‘breath,’ ‘life’, and the ‘living principle’.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the term “ghosts” appears over 90 times. And is often used interchangeably with ‘spirit’.
Interestingly, it’s never used to describe a spirit returning from the dead. Instead, it’s used in two specific ways:
- ‘To give up the ghost’, which means ‘to die’; ‘to yield up the breath or spirit’; ‘to expire’.
- ‘The Holy Ghost’ represents the Holy Trinity’s third part.
Do Christians believe in ghosts?
The Bible is pretty clear about the existence of a spiritual realm beyond what we can see. It discusses angels appearing, demons being cast out, and angels fighting for God’s people. So, Christians are on board with the supernatural when it comes to angels and demons.
But what about ghosts? Can the living really connect with the dead?
The answer is yes. Christianity does believe there are aspects beyond the physical. When someone passes away, their spirit leaves their body, so there are disembodied spirits.
But here’s where it gets tricky. This issue arises when people claim that these disembodied spirits stick around on earth. The Bible doesn’t quite paint that picture.
According to Scripture, there’s no lingering state after death where spirits roam the earth and “haunt” the living. When someone passes away, their spirit heads to Heaven or Hell, while their body stays behind.
Are Ghosts Mentioned in the Bible?
As we said earlier, the word “ghost” in the Bible is translated from Greek words like ‘phantasm’. This means illusion or ghost; ‘pneuma’ refers to wind, breath, or an immaterial substance akin to a ghost.
In more modern translations, “ghost” is used more sparingly, usually referring to spectres or apparitions.
Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible, there are a few instances where the term “ghost” or “spirit” is used. For example, Jesus’s disciples thought they saw a ghost when they witnessed him walking on water. Matthew 14:26 (NIV) reads, “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. It’s a ghost, they said, and cried out in fear”.
Similarly, after Jesus’s crucifixion, his disciples mistook him for a ghost in Luke 24:37 (NIV), which reads, ‘They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost’.
There are a few other instances where ghosts or ghostly figures are mentioned. One particular mention of a dead spirit was in 1 Samuel 28 (NIV) when King Saul sought answers from a medium who brought forth the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel.
In Job 4 (NIV), Job’s friend Eliphaz recounts a hair-raising encounter with a mysterious spirit. Again, in Isaiah 29:4, the prophet Isaiah discussed a “ghostlike voice” coming from the earth to warn the City of Ariel of their impending downfall.
So, while ghosts are mentioned in the Bible, it’s essential to consider the context and understand that the biblical view of ghosts is not (or rather not at all) the same as the ones we see in modern films and ghost stories.
What the Bible Says About Spirits
Now that we’ve explored what the Bible says about ghosts, let’s look at what it has to say about spirits. While these two terms have been used interchangeably, they carry different meanings.
So, for our fellow ghost hunters out there – we’re not talking about the things that go bump at night!
In the book of god, spirits come up quite a bit. But this term refers to “spirit beings” who can interact with the physical world and be either good or evil. These beings are identified as angels and demons – quite different from the typical stuff in pop culture or ghost-hunting shows.
Scripture teaches a broader meaning of spirits. It goes beyond just wandering spirits of the dead. Rather, it encompasses the heavenly realm with angelic beings who serve God and the rebellious demons (or fallen angels) that went against God.
And, of course, there’s the Holy Spirit. You might have noticed that, in some versions of Bible verses, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Holy Ghost. But this isn’t some wispy white cloud or bedsheet with cut-out eyeholes. The Holy Spirit is the third “person” of the Trinity – the book of god states it is the only spirit Christians should seek out.
What about human spirits?
When it comes to the human spirit, this is where many misconceptions come from. According to the Bible, humans have a spiritual aspect, considered an immaterial part.
Some cultures believe that the spirits of our ancestors stick around on earth, still influencing us. In many places, including the modern world, people commonly think they can sense or communicate with the spirits of deceased loved ones.
But, according to the Bible, there’s no basis for this idea of a dead human staying in contact with the living after death.
Do Christians believe in psychics?
As we said, we can’t make a blanket statement for all believers. But, the Bible does provide some insights on this matter.
It condemns practices like mediums, the occult, and psychics (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-13). Other practices such as tarot cards, astrology, palm readings, fortune-telling, and séances also fall into this category.
What religions believe in ghosts?
There are a few religions that acknowledge the existence of ghosts. Among them are Judaism, Buddhism (Tibetan and Indian Buddhists), and Hinduism. These belief systems incorporate the concept of spirits or ghosts as part of their religious understanding.
Do Christians really believe in spirituality?
Spirituality in biblical faith refers to the interaction or relationship between God and humanity. It’s about experiencing a deep relationship and connection between the believer and God. But spirituality is not exclusive to Christianity; it also extends beyond the Christian faith.