In Luke chapter 1 (niv) we read about the foretold birth of Jesus,and the foretold birth of Elizabeth's son John.

When Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, and greeted her, it is written that The baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.In the same passage of scripture Luke 1:44,Elizabeth informs Mary that,

"As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears,the baby in my womb leaped for joy."

The baby leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb before Elizabeth had been filled with the Holy Spirit and it is written in Galatians 5:22 that Joy is a "fruit of the spirit."

Joy (Greek: chara, Latin: gaudium) See also: Eudaimonia

The Greek word for 'joy' is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for 'grace.' This is significant to note, for chara is produced by the charis of God. This means 'joy' is not a human-based happiness that comes and goes but, rather, true 'joy' is divine in its origin. It is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes best in hard times. For example, in,1 Thessalonians 1:6 the Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet in the midst of it all, they continued to experience great joy. The Greek strongly implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy Spirit working in them. Paul even called it the "joy of the Holy Ghost".

According to Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is your strength", which may be further understood to mean properly as "the awareness (of God's) grace, favor; joy ("grace recognized")". (1)

Did the baby in Elizabeth's womb actually receive the "fruit of the spirit" which is joy, before Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

(1) Wikipedia

  • 5
    That's a pretty tenuous connection, Bagpipes! ;) It might be better to ask a straightforward question about how to understand Gal 5:22, and then work out any potential connections from there yourself. Surprisingly, it seems we haven't had one yet, at least that I have found. As it is, I'm not so sure this is a "fruitful" question!
    – Dɑvïd
    Dec 15, 2014 at 17:20
  • 2
    @David-You are not sure it is a fruitful question! I think there is "food for thought" in there.But i could be wrong?
    – Bagpipes
    Dec 15, 2014 at 18:31

5 Answers 5


The angel Gabriel had already foretold that John would receive the Holy Spirit even before his birth.

13 ... Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.

Luke 1:13-15

Gabriel does describe how this will happen or exactly at what moment just that it would before he was born. At the point in time you referenced there is no evidence that John was not yet filled with the Holy Spirit.


No, not necessarily. I even doubt embryonic John was filled with the Holy Spirit, since the passage does not warrant that conclusion, since it clearly says

". . . and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (v.41, my emphasis)

I believe a better question would be:

"What is the significance of Elizabeth's exclamation,

"'As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy'"?

In other words, how did Elizabeth interpret what we assume was a "kick" from embryonic John in her womb? Also, assuming that Luke recorded Elizabeth's words for a reason, what might that reason have been?

We (read I) automatically think that John's "leaping" in the womb speaks of John's excitement about being in the presence of the Messiah--in embryonic form of course, whose coming John would be the forerunner and herald of. That line of thinking might not be the best way to interpret what was happening in that situation, however.

Perhaps a simpler explanation is this was the first time the baby had kicked Elizabeth, (or that his kick was more vigorous than usual). Perhaps, and perhaps not, Elizabeth interpreted John's "leaping" as something other than what it was. Obviously the text does not tell us, or even give us a clue.

What is clear to me, however, is that the one event--the "leaping"--seemed to trigger Elizabeth's reaction, and her verbal response was to cry out (yes, she "cried out with a loud voice") in the fullness of the Holy Spirit (v.42). What she said in those moments which must have been filled with ecstatic joy, was profound:

"'Blessed are you among women, [Mary,] and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?'" (vv.42b-43 NASB Updated).

Think of it, in the fullness (or because of the fullness) of God's Holy Spirit, Elizabeth voiced a profound truth, which she may not have fully understood at that time; namely, that Mary was the vessel of God whom he had miraculously impregnated by the same Holy Spirit in whose fullness Elizabeth greeted Mary.

Again, did Elizabeth realize fully that Mary was the mother of her Lord? I have my doubts. One thing I do not doubt, however, and that is her utterance was certainly the truth! How could it be otherwise?

  • Interesting reading! you say "What is clear to me, however, is that the one event--the "leaping"--seemed to trigger Elizabeth's reaction."- So would you agree that the "leap of joy" was prompted by the Holy Spirit? and not just by Mary's words reaching Elizabeth's ears? How else would Elizabeth have understood the feeling of joy when kicked by the baby.
    – Bagpipes
    Dec 15, 2014 at 21:50
  • @Bagpipes: No, I don't think John's "leaping" was prompted by the Holy Spirit, but it did prompt an inspired utterance by Elizabeth. I do not deny there is more than a little symbolism in the occurrence which Luke recorded in his Gospel! In light of how much we know today in 2014 regarding the life of the fetus within the mother's womb, however, and how symbiotic the relationship is between mother and child, perhaps a "naturalistic" explanation of John's leaping is sufficient. IOW, Elizabeth's excitement and Spirit-filling simply had a concurrent & noticeable effect on the baby in her womb! Dec 16, 2014 at 0:12
  • Your feedback is very helpful.Worth pondering is the fact that the baby leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb BEFORE Elizabeth had been filled with the Holy Spirit.
    – Bagpipes
    Dec 16, 2014 at 10:29
  • In Elizabeth’s sixth month, he was technically not an “embryo" (x3). ;-)
    – Susan
    Jul 9, 2015 at 7:59

Interesting question, and several thought-evoking answers. One point that I find missing: John was raised in a dispensation wherein the Holy Spirit came upon people rather than when the Spirit came to abide within men. It seems that the text defining that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth must be considered in light of the applied dispensation.

Thus, unlike modern day Christians wherein the Spirit comes to stay but only after Salvation, when the Spirit that came upon John that visitation and indwelling seems limited only by the choice of the Spirit.

Therefore it seems simple enough to accept that the Holy Spirit chose that moment to manifest Himself within the unborn child.

rm Harrington Spiritual Leadership With Christian Character


Elizabeth is not the only mother in whom the leaping of her child led her to spiritual conclusions. In Genesis when the children of Rebekah's womb lept, she is provoked to ask God why. It would seem in both of these occasions that the woman would not have reacted if it was the natural kicks that most every pregnant woman experiences. My own son in the womb lept at my voice when I would arrive home and speak or he would hear me begin speaking from the pulpit during my wife's pregnancy.


There are other bits of knowledge that should be considered here. The Holy Spirit comes to a repentant circumcised heart. An actual baby can not do that nor has a need too. Did John not have free will like everyone else? What would reasonably be the point in a baby having the Holy Spirit from that stage of development? This is likely symbolically talking about the salvation process of being born again. In case no one understood that by applying common sense to these stories--Jesus spells it out clearly later to Nicodemus by using the birth process in explaining it.

  • So the answer is yes. In romans it talks about not worshiping the creature instead of the creator. So if you subtract out any created thing (including individual people) and pay attention to the creators part (which is spirit) the joy was directly because of the holy spirit. The joy was because of being glad of the awareness of the Christ coming.
    – user38152
    Dec 12, 2021 at 16:51

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