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  • Cory Trout

Why was “Holy Ghost” Removed From Bibles? The Answer

INTRODUCTION


The name Holy Ghost occurs 90 times in the KJV. In contrast, the name Holy Ghost occurs zero times in most modern bibles.


This article gives a condensed overview of when and why the name Holy Ghost began to be omitted from English bibles. For an in-depth look at the matter, consider getting my book Holy Ghost: The Forgotten Name, available on Amazon.


HISTORY


Every English bible before the 1700s has the name Holy Ghost, and those bibles use the name dozens of times more than Holy Spirit. Even small versions containing only the four Gospels use the name Holy Ghost more than Holy Spirit.


In the early 1700s, some translators began using Holy Spirit more than Holy Ghost. Beginning around the mid-1700s, other translators started leaving out the name Holy Ghost entirely, putting Holy Spirit or something similar in its place, e.g., the Spirit. Nevertheless, there were translators who still used Holy Ghost more than Holy Spirit.


In the 1800s, as the number of newly published bibles increased, it became more common for translators to leave out the name Holy Ghost entirely and put Holy Spirit or an equivalent in its place, e.g., the Spirit.

The evidence shows that a somewhat equal number of bibles omitted and kept the name Holy Ghost through most of the 1800s.


Here is the reason some 19th-century translators left out the name Holy Ghost:


In the 1500s & 1600s, the word ghost signified the soul or spirit, as the principle of life; the soul of man; soul, spirit; breath. By the early to mid-1800s, the word ghost had become strongly associated with an apparition; the soul or spirit of a deceased person. This shift in the word’s definition attributed to 19th-century translators using Spirit instead of Ghost.


In 1833, Noah Webster published his own version of the KJV which omits the name Holy Ghost completely. Webster’s explanation: “The word ghost is now used almost exclusively for an apparition, except in this phrase, Holy Ghost. I have therefore uniformly used Holy Spirit.”


New American Supplement to the Latest Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1898) says on page 1,600 of volume three: “… many religious writers now prefer the name Holy Spirit, owing to the associations suggested to certain minds by the word ghost.”


In the 1909 book The Psychology of Christ, Emily Dudley Wright says this: “An effort is being made to substitute the word Holy Spirit for Holy Ghost, as though one will ever take the place of the other. Horrible, indeed, will it be for those who accept such change! ‘If any man shall take away from the words of the book of will-prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life and out of the holy city’. The excuse given for the substitute is, that the word Ghost has an unpleasant, uncanny effect upon them. These are not they who have received the spirit of adoption, and can pray the Lord’s Prayer; they may say it, but they can not pray it, for the Spirit is not discerned.”


CONCLUSION; SUMMARY


The evidence (which I document in my aforementioned book) shows a clear yet slow progression of the omission of the name Holy Ghost from English bibles beginning around the mid-1700s. As to why some 18th-century translators decided to omit the name Holy Ghost, I am unsure, as I have not found any writings by these men stating why they had omitted the name.


Throughout the 1800s, some translators used Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost because in their minds, and in the minds of some people in the general public, the word ghost signified an apparition; a specter; the disembodied spirit of a dead person. To avoid associating the third person of God with a spooky or ghastly phantom, translators used Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost. This persisted into the early 1900s.


From the early 1900s onward it became increasingly common to leave out the name Holy Ghost completely and use Holy Spirit or an equivalent, e.g., the Spirit. Nowadays nearly all bibles exclude the name for various reasons.



 

In addition to appearing in Old English copies of the Scriptures (e.g., 12th century Wessex Gospels), the name Holy Ghost is found in a religious writing from about AD 900, Halsuncge in Durham Ritual (Surtees) 114 “Ic eow halsige on fæder naman, and on suna naman..and on ðæs halgan gastes.” The words halgan gastes is modern Holy Ghost. Thus we see that the name has been used as far back as circa 900.


 

References:


  1. “Ghost.” The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary: Complete Text Reproduced Micrographically, I A-O, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 1138.

  2. “Holy Ghost.” The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary: Complete Text Reproduced Micrographically, I A-O, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 4094.

  3. “Ghost, Noun & Adjective.” OED, Oxford University Press, www.oed.com/dictionary/ghost_n?tab=meaning_and_use#3149330.

  4. “Ghost.” A Complete Christian Dictionary, by Thomas Wilson. 1612.

  5. Webster, Noah, and Rosalie J. Slater. “Ghost.” Noah Webster’s First Edition of an American Dictionary of the English Language, Foundation for American Christian Education, 2009.

  6. Wright, Emily Dudley. “Spirit as Self-Energy, or in Opposition to Soul.” The Psychology of Christ, Cochrane Publishing Company, 1909, p. 54.

  7. Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Manuscripts. “‘Written in Troublous Times’: The Wessex Gospels.” British Library, 22 Mar. 2013, blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/03/written-in-troublous-times-the-wessex-gospels.html.

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