Truth, Understanding, Insight


9th August 2009, mgh


3) Holy Spirit in the New Testament

In English translations where the text reads 'holy spirit', (which occurs 84 times) there are no less than 8 different Greek phrases.

When literally translated they are,

1.'a-spirit holy' (pneuma hagion πνευμα αγιον)

2.'with-spirit holy' (pneuma hagio πνευματι αγιω)

3.'of-spirit holy' (pneumatos hagios πνευματος αγιου

4.'the spirit the holy' (to pneuma to hagion, το πνευμα το αγιον).

5.'to-the spirit to-the holy' (to pneuma to hagio τω πνευματι τω αγιω)

6.'of-the spirit of-the holy' (tou pneumatos tou hagiou του πνευματος του αγιου).

7.'the holy spirit' (to hagios pneuma τὸ αγιον πνεῦμα)

8.'of-the holy spirit (ton hagios pneuma του αγιου πνευματος)

Though clearly some of the difference is due to grammar, there are three basic expressions: spirit holy, the spirit the holy, the holy spirit.

Why were these three variations lost in the English translation? It is suspected it was because the translators had a theory about “the Holy Spirit”. They ignored the subtleties of meaning of 'spirit', ranging from 'mind' to 'breath', and applied their theory to all cases.

The following reveals the significant differences that were concealed by those who applied what turns out to be a very poor theory.

Spirit Holy

1. 'A-spirit holy' (pneuma hagion πνευμα αγιον)

Perhaps the simplest expression is 'a-spirit holy' with 9 occurrences in 8 verses. This is a spirit that is described by its character as holy, hallowed and separate. The examples are:

Mary was told “'a-spirit holy' would come upon her” (Luke 1:35). God would “give 'a-spirit holy' to those asking him” (Luke 11:13). “Not yet was (given) 'a-spirit holy' because Yeshua not yet was glorified” (John7:39). Before Yeshua ascended he breathed on the disciples saying “receive you 'a-spirit holy'” (John 20:22). Prayer was offered “so that they might receive 'a-spirit holy'” (Acts 8:15). “They placed the hands on them, and they received 'a-spirit holy' (Acts 8:17, 8:19). Baptised believers were asked “If 'a-spirit holy' you received having believed?” They replied, “But not even if 'a spirit holy' exists, have we heard” (Acts19:2).

All these speak of a singular spirit that comes upon them that is described as being 'holy' in character. The spirit that came upon Mary had a different function to the one Yeshua gave when he breathed on his disciples. And this singular 'spirit' was not that 'comforter' (John 14:26) or 'power from high' (dunamis) that they were to wait in Jerusalem to receive (Luke 24:49). It would be absurd to say they were to wait in Jerusalem to receive it if they already had it! One type of spirit came with Jesus' breath the other type came with cloven tongues like fire (Acts 2:3), and they were not the same. One spirit came from Yehsua and was 'separate' and 'hallowed' in nature and gave them unity with the mind of Yeshua but seemed to have done little visibly, the other spirit from Yahweh was greater. We will return to this.

The translators were so sloppy they translated it as 'the holy spirit' when Luke wrote of Simeon that 'a-spirit was holy upon him' (Luke 2:25). Clearly Simeon felt moved by 'a spirit' and knew it was holy in character.

2. 'With-spirit holy' (pneuma hagio πνευματι αγιω)

Very similar but slightly different in grammar is 'with-spirit holy' which occurs 15 times. They are:

John the Baptist says of Yeshua, “He shall baptise 'with spirit holy'” (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, and Acts 11:18). Y'shua said you shall be baptised in 'spirit holy', not after many these days (Acts 1:5). The apostles say how God anointed Jesus “'with-spirit holy' and power” (Acts 10:38). Paul says “truth I speak ... in 'spirit holy' (Romans 9:1). The “Kingdom is joy in 'spirit holy'” (Romans14:17). The offering of the Gentiles was acceptable being “sanctified in 'spirit holy'” (Romans 15:16). “No one is able to say Lord Jesus, if not by 'spirit holy' (1 Cor 12:3), “in/by 'with-spirit holy' by love unfeigned” (2 Cor 6:6). “That the gospel of us not came in word only but also in power even with 'spirit holy' (1 Thes 1:5), “which now were announced to you through the -ones having preached to you by 'spirit holy' sent-forth from heaven” (1Peter1:12). Jude ends, “But you, beloved, building up yourselves in the holiness of your faith in 'spirit holy' praying” (Jude 1:20).

The first examples speak of special skills given by God that were later called by Yeshua 'the holy spirit', but, in the last example the 'spirit', in the context, is the disciple's mind. If their faith is holy (separate) then their spirit of mind is holy, and in this holy thinking they are to pray (all other prayer being of little use as we may gather from John's comments in 1John 5:14). For Paul this 'spirit' that was called 'holy', could be either a way of thinking in us (2 Cor 6:6), or the power given to the Apostles (1 Thess 1:5). We need to look at the context to determine whether the 'spirit' described as holy, refers to 'an energy' or if it refers to 'a way of thinking'. They are distinct and different and must not be confused.

3.'Of-spirit holy' (pneumatos hagios πνευματος αγιου)

The predominate Greek expression with 22 occurrences is the expression 'of-spirit holy'. The passages are

“Mary was found with child in womb 'of spirit holy'” (Matthew 1:18). Zechariah says of John “of 'spirit holy' he will be filled even from womb” (Luke 1:15). When Mary greets Elizabeth, the babe leaps and Elizabeth was filled 'of-spirit holy' (Luke 1:41) Zechariah is filled 'of-spirit holy' and prophesied (Luke 1:67). Yeshua full of 'spirit holy' returned from the Jordan (Luke 4:1). “Yeshua having given charge to the apostles, through 'spirit holy' whom he chose, he was taken up” (Acts1:2). “And they were all filled 'of-spirit holy' and they began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them to speak” (Acts2:4). Peter speaks being filled 'of- spirit holy' (Acts 4:8). Stephen was “a man full of faith and 'of-spirit holy'” (Acts 6:5, 7:55). Barnabas was a man good, and full 'of-spirit holy' and faith (Acts 11:24). Paul is told he would see again and be filled 'of-spirit holy' (Acts 9:17). Paul being filled 'of-spirit holy' gazing at him said: 'O full of all deceit”(Acts 13:9). “The disciples were filled of-joy and 'of-spirit holy' (Acts 13:52).

In all of these instances there is a dwelling of a spirit described as holy.

Paul says the love of God was shown “through 'spirit holy'” given to them (Romans 5:5). Paul says to Timothy to keep the words “given through the 'spirit holy' of-that (which) dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). Peter adds (word for word from Greek)

“For not by will of man was-borne prophecy at-any-time, but by 'of-spirit holy' being borne men spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).

Paul writes, “in power 'of-spirit holy'” (Romans 15:13), “with joy 'of-spirit holy'” (1 Thess 1:6) and “through washing regeneration and renewing of-spirit holy” (Titus 3:5). Paul and Timothy partake of the same in-dwelling spirit, which they described as being holy. Paul puts it this way, (a literal translation) saying that God bore witness through

various miracles and 'of-spirit holy' broken-off-to-be-given according to that himself determines (Hebrews 2:4)

Though disciples could wander from the faith and repent, according to Paul it was impossible for those who were partakers 'of-spirit holy' to do so without, in effect, crucifying Yeshua afresh (Hebrews 6:4). This implies that this 'of-spirit holy' was something special, or separate. There were people of the Apostle's day that possessed part 'of-spirit holy' that was 'broken-off' and given them. Those people were without excuse. It is at this point we must remember, despite modern translations that make it feel otherwise, that the New Testament is an ancient text written to others long dead, and not to us about our lives. Some at that time had felt the Apostles hands and been given part of a spirit the Apostles had.

Summary of the 3 terms

For the set of three different terms above, if writing in Hebrew they would merely have spoken of 'spirit' as ruach, as ruach only referred to aspects associated with Yahweh Elohim, but in Greek the word pneuma needed clarification or further description. However the Greek terms for 'spirit' have subtle variants, where pneumatos implies an indwelling spirit and it should not to be confused with pneuma which could mean an energy or by contrast, a way of thinking.

The spirit of the Holy (One)

4. 'the spirit the holy' (to pneuma to hagion, το πνευμα το αγιον).

The second most common Greek expression, used 20 times, which is translated in the English versions as the 'holy spirit' is 'the spirit the holy'. This is the exact expression used by the Greek Septuagint in Psalms and Isaiah, which is not surprising as the Septuagint was widely read when the New Testament was written.

Yeshua when replying to those who questioned the source of the power of his miracles says it was forgiveable to speak against himself but,

“Whoever blasphemes against 'the spirit the holy', has not forgiveness.” (Mark 3:29).

This shows Yeshua knew the spirit he accessed to heal belonged to the Holy One. He confirms this, saying, “I can of my own self do nothing” (John 5:30). This is consistent with Yeshua's advice to the apostles,

“Whatever is given you in the hour, this speak you: for you are not the (ones) speaking but 'the spirit the holy'” (Mark 13:11).

Yeshua is saying the spirit of the Holy One will speak, not themselves.

When Yeshua was baptised there descended “'the spirit the holy' in a bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22). Here again this spirit was seen to come from the Holy-One. This is confirmed by Matthew who says that they saw the “spirit of God (Theos)” descending like a dove on him (Matthew 3:16).

Yeshua speaks of “the helper 'the spirit the holy', which the father will send in the name of me” (John 14:26). We will return to this. Peter speaks of this same spirit, “which spoke before 'the spirit the holy' through mouth of David” (Acts 1:16). Again, the spirit was that of the Holy-One. Peter asked Ananias why he deceived 'the spirit the holy' (Acts 5:3). Peter equates this to 'the spirit of the Lord'(Acts 5:9), which in Hebrew would be 'the spirit of Yahweh'.

Luke would have been familiar with the Septuagint and he records that Peter said, “we are the witnesses of the these matters and 'the spirit the holy' which gave of the God to those obeying him” (Acts 5:32). [As an aside in this verse the Majority Text has an insertion and reads 'the spirit also the holy'. This implies a separation of 'the spirit' and 'the holy', but it is incorrect, and shows the Majority Text is not to be relied on].

The witness of a power coming upon Cornelius' household is consistently described as that of 'the spirit the holy'. “While Peter was speaking these words, “fell 'the spirit the holy' on all those hearing the word” (Acts 10:44). The Apostles saw this was the same as they experienced at Pentecost, saying that they ought to be baptised as they had “'the spirit the holy' received as also we” (Acts10:47, Acts 11:15). This was considered a “witness” from God as he gave “the spirit the holy” (Acts 15:8). When Paul placed his hands on certain chosen people then “came 'the spirit the holy' upon them” (Acts 19:6). Then it is recorded that they were to, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which you 'the spirit the holy' placed overseers” (Acts 20:28).

The term refers often to the word of Yahweh. Paul clarifies this point saying that God “having-given the spirit of-himself the holy to us” (1Thes.4:8). When a group were fasting, “said 'the spirit the holy' separate (Greek: apostle) you indeed for me the Barnabas and the Paul.” (Acts 13:2). Paul said that “'the spirit the holy' every city witnesses to me, saying, that bonds and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:23). Paul, condemning those Jews who would not hear, said 'That well 'the spirit the holy' spoke though Isaiah the prophet to the fathers of us” (Acts 28:25). He says later, “Therefore as says 'the spirit the holy', today if the voice of him you will hear” (Hebrews 3:7) and “witnesses now to-us also the spirit the holy” (Hebrews 10:15). Paul wrote not to “sorrow 'the spirit the holy' of-the God” (Ephesians 4:30) which refers to Isaiah 63:10, which in the Septuagint uses the same Greek expression.

This link suggests that when the writers of the New Testament wrote 'the spirit the holy' they had in their mind the two Old Testament passages. This usage is also consistent with Hebrew thinking and their use of the expression 'the holy' in Greek to speak of Yahweh himself or his dwelling. Therefore 'the spirit the holy' refers to either the mind or the power of Yahweh, himself. By contrast where they used 'of-spirit holy' the Bible is always speaking of humans who possess an extraordinary power.

We could say that if the spirit belonging to the Holy One is given out then people show forth and are full 'of-spirit holy'. This distinction is lost in the English translations.

5.'to-the spirit to-the holy' (to pneuma to hagio τω πνευματι τω αγιω

The expression 'the spirit the holy' has a Greek grammatical variant of 'towards-the spirit to-the holy'. It has 3 occurrences. They are as follows:

David himself said through (the action of) the spirit through-the holy: (Mark 12:36)
Uncircumcised in the heart and the ears you always 'towards-the-spirit towards-the holy' fight against (Acts 7:51)
It seemed good indeed 'to-the spirit to-the holy' and to us (that) nothing more be put on you (Acts 15:28)

An action towards, or relating to the spirit is involved in each case above, but it translates poorly into English. The sense of an action towards, or to, or through 'the Holy' was not valued by the copyists of the Majority Text who leave out the prepositions in Mark 12:36 saying “David said by 'spirit holy'”. In Acts 15:28 both the Majority Text and Textus Receptus change the word order to read “it seemed good to 'the holy spirit'”.

But this Greek expression encapsulates an idea that words may come by God 'through' a human which is also in this Hebrew proverb,

To man belongs the plans of the heart,
and/but from out of Yahweh is the answer of the tongue. (Proverbs 16:1)

6.'Of-the spirit of-the holy' (tou pneumatos tou hagiou του πνευματος του αγιου).

There are 4 more instances of a slightly different grammar perhaps best rendered 'of-the spirit of-the holy'. These instances are:

Whoever speaks thus 'of-the spirit of-the holy' it will not be forgiven to him (Matthew 12:32)

Luke says it was revealed to Simeon,

“under (or though the means of) 'of-the spirit of-the holy' he would see the Anointed (Luke 2:26)

Peter speaks of Yeshua,

The right hand therefore of-the God having been exalted, and also promise 'of-the spirit of-the holy' having received from the father (Acts2:33)

Paul speaks of Yeshua's role in opening the way into the Most Holy

This revelation 'of-the spirit of-the holy' not yet to have been manifested the way of-the holies (Greek of Hebrew for Most Holy) (Hebrews 9:8)

After an exhausting exhaustive search of the Greek definite article tou it was found there were no other instances than these four where that word was used and it was not translated as something in English.

Why did (and do) translators consistently think the word (tou) was unimportant only here? It is possible it was because the translators into English were so used to the idea of an entity called “the Holy Spirit” they couldn't conceive of another idea? Perhaps they forgot that to a Hebrew 'The Holy' and 'of-the Holy' was another way of referring directly to Deity. Jews still do it today speaking of 'Hashem', literally 'the name', but they mean Yahweh as a living being, not his name. Jeremiah said that Judah after going to Egypt would no longer name the “great name” of Yahweh (Jeremiah 44:26), this could explain why the Hebrews used 'the Holy' instead of 'Yahweh'.

[As an aside, the Acts 2:33 passage above is from the minority texts. The Majority Text has instead that 'the holy spirit' made the promise. The Majority Text is not consistent as elsewhere the Apostles quote the Old Testament they speak of 'the spirit the holy' (Acts1:16, 28:25, Heb. 3:7.]

There is a distinction the Majority Text scribes felt was unimportant between 'the spirit of the holy' and 'the holy spirit', but it is incredibly revealing. Where the Majority Text says of Barnabas and Paul they were “sent forth by 'of-the spirit of-the holy' (Acts 13:4) the minority texts have instead they were sent 'of the holy spirit'.

The minority text shows two things happened. Firstly it was revealed by 'the spirit of the Holy' (Acts13:2) that Barnabas and Paul were to be separated for a work. We note they were not given specific instructions. Then after the Apostles laid hands on them 'the holy spirit' guided them as to where to go (Acts 13:4). This is not an insignificant difference.

When 'the holy spirit' is used it signifies something more specific than 'the spirit of the Holy One'

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