Matthew 14:26 English Standard Version

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

a ghost!”
Φάντασμά (Phantasma)
Noun - Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong's Greek 5326: An apparition, ghost, spirit, phantom. From phantazo; a show, i.e. Spectre.

Luke 24:39

See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

a spirit
πνεῦμα (pneuma)
Noun - Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong's Greek 4151: Wind, breath, spirit.

What is the difference between Φάντασμά and πνεῦμα? Can a Φάντασμά possess a person and make them do things?


What's the difference between a ghost and a spirit?

A ghost, or apparition, can be thought of as in our modern age like a hologram or even a mirage. These are immaterial and have no substance but are illusionary.

The article "Apparition" in the Insight on the Scriptures gives a definition:

An apparition is an illusion; something actually not present but temporarily believed in because of excited imagination or other cause. Assuring the disciples that such was not the case and that he was real, Jesus said: “It is I; have no fear.”​—Mt 14:27; Mr 6:50.

'Spirit', in Greek, has different meanings. The 'spirit' that Jesus is talking about, is more in line with the idea of heavenly creatures. The same pneuma is used to describe God himself:

God is invisible to human eyes (Ex 33:20; Joh 1:18; 1Ti 1:17), and he is alive and exercises unsurpassed force throughout the universe. (2Co 3:3; Isa 40:25-31) Christ Jesus states: “God is a Spirit [Pneuʹma].” The apostle writes: “Now Jehovah is the Spirit.” (Joh 4:24; 2Co 3:17, 18) The temple built on Christ as foundation cornerstone is “a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”​—Eph 2:22. ("Spirit" in Insight on the Scriptures) [bold mine]

  • 1
    The KJV translators chose to use the word 'Ghost' (meaning God, the Spirit) wherever the words pneuma and hagios occurred together. It may well be that they, in doing so, affected the development of the English language (as in other ways, also). Personally, I think you are correct. English needs a word to represent a false apparition. English also needs a word to represent a genuine spirit. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 11 at 7:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.