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The Greek Philosophy of Pneuma (πνεῦμα)
The earliest school of Greek philosophy is known as the Milesian School and was begun by the philosopher Thales. One of the philosophies Thales promoted was Material monism which was the belief that the universe was comprised of one substance. For Thales, this substance was water. Anaximenes (c. 585 – c. 528 BCE), a later philosopher of the Milesian school, believed that the one substance the universe was composed of was air/ pneuma. Anaximenes said
Just as our soul (psychē), being air (aēr), holds us together, so do breath (pneuma) and air (aēr) encompass the whole world. — Aetius 1.3.4. Also known as DK13B2.
The concept of pneuma would later be incorporated into Ancient Greek medical philosophies. Aristotle would use the concept of pneuma in his theory of spontaneous generation of life.
Animals and plants are formed in the earth and in the water because in earth water is present, and in water pneuma is present, and in all pneuma soul-heat is present, so that in a way, all things are full of soul; and that is why they quickly take shape once it has been enclosed. — Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals, Book III, Part 11
Praxagoras’s discovery that arteries were empty in a corpse led him to believe that they carried Pneuma which for him was the mystic force of life. Thus for Greeks like Aristotle and Praxagoras, pneuma was the animating force that gave thigs life.
The stoics also promoted the conception of pneuma. Like Aristotle, they believed that Pneuma (Stoic) gave things life. But the stoics also believed that Pneuma (Stoic) was the active, generative principle that organizes both the individual and the cosmos and this force exists even in inanimate objects. In its highest form, Pneuma (Stoic) was the human soul, which was a fragment of the pneuma that was the soul of Zeus. The stoic philosopher Chrysippus regarded Pneuma (Stoic) as the vehicle logos used to structure matter. In other words, Chrysippus essentially believed logos was the reason things in the universe occurred and pneuma was the cause.
In the New Testament, the Greek word pneuma is what translates to the Holy Spirit. This can be seen in such passages as John 3:6-8.
To gegennhmenon ek ths sarkos sarx estin kai to gegennhmenon ek tou pneumatos pneuma estin mh qaumashs oti eipon soi dei umas gennhqhnai anwqen to pneuma opou qelei pnei kai thn fwnhn autou akoueis all ouk oidas poqen ercetai kai pou upagei outws estin pas o gegennhmenos ek tou pneumatos — John 3:6-8 in its original Greek
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. — John 3:6-8 translated into EnglishThe Greek word pnuema (πνεῦμα) is listed as G4151 in Strong’s concordance.