Holy Spirit

by A.E. Knoch

THE doctrine of holy spirit has been concealed beyond solution in the popular versions of the Scriptures. Any attempt to criticize or correct their unwarranted addition and capitalization is sure to call down the anathemas of those who cleave to tradition. Perhaps no single feature of the CONCORDANT VERSION has occasioned so much criticism as its lack of capitals in spelling holy spirit. This calls for more explanation than has hitherto been given. It is the aim of this version to avoid all interpretation. The use of capitals for holy spirit is, in every case, a matter of judgment. There can be no real reason given why holy spirit should be capitalized. It is not a name of deity. It is God's possession, not His person. Unless it is figuratively used for God or Christ, it should always be printed and written with small letters.

Spiritually-minded translators and revisers have experienced much confusion in this matter. They seldom settled the question to their own satisfaction. J. N. Darby, who would be the last to put a small "s" where a large one should be, calls attention to this in the preface to his translation. Since he sees a glimmer of light as to the reason of this, we quote his words: "The use of a large or small "s" is of extreme difficulty in the case of the word Spirit; not in giving it when the Holy Spirit is simply spoken of personally. There it is simple enough. But as dwelling in us, our state by it, and the Holy Spirit itself, are so blended as to make it then very difficult; because it is spoken of as our state, and then as the Holy Ghost. If it be put large, we lose the first; if small, the Spirit personally. I can only leave it with this warning, calling the attention of the reader to it..." Note that he calls the spirit "it," and dimly perceives the cause of the confusion, which arises from the fact that the saints share the spirit of God, and are one spirit in the Lord.

A cloud is cast over the eighth chapter to the Romans by the capital S's. For many years I could not seem to get an intelligent concept of the argument because the Holy Spirit has everywhere intruded. The very first verse is evidently wrong. "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" is out of balance. It is the believer's flesh and spirit here, primarily. So also in the second verse. The spirit's law of life, refers first of all to our spirit, as in the tenth verse. Verse four speaks of our flesh and our spirit. Surely "the things of the spirit" and "the mind of the spirit" cannot ignore our spirit. Note the curious contradiction in verse nine. "Ye...are...in the Spirit, if...the Spirit of God dwell in you." We are in spirit, not in the Spirit. That is in us. It takes both spirits to "mortify the deeds of the body" (verse 13). Surely "spirit of bondage" should be balanced by "spirit of sonship" (verse 15). Note that even the Authorized Version speaks of "the Spirit itself "(verses 16,26) as Tindale did in his basic English version, which has been modified in this matter to meet the prejudice of ecclesiastical traditions.

The Authorized Version has changed greatly in the course of time. At first it capitalized quite a few nouns, such as Priest, and Sabbath, but now all such words are spelled with small initial letters. The word spirit, however, has been greatly altered in the contrary direction. In many places where they had a small "s" we now have a capital. These changes are not "authorized." The alteration of other nouns is hardly worthy of notice. It is a mere matter of printers' "style." But the change of spirit to Spirit fixes the interpretation. As a result any study of this theme in the Authorized translation is worse than useless. It is misleading.

The Revised Version has followed the same tendency as the previous editorial revisions of the Authorized Version. They use fewer capitals as a rule, yet they still further increase the number of occasions where spirit is capitalized. The result of this tendency is evident on all sides. Not only is there great ignorance on the subject of holy spirit, but editors and reviewers are quite outspoken in acknowledging the fact, though they do not see the inconsistencies in the common translations, and vehemently oppose the uniform rendering of the concordant method. The only possible remedy is the constant use of a version which agrees with the Greek and nowhere inflicts the opinion of the translator on the text by the use of capitals.

The same remarks apply to the Greek texts. Modern editors all differ among themselves, and their opinion on a matter outside their proper province is worth no more than any other man's. The uncials are all in capitals. The cursives have very few, and these are mere matters of style. In none of the ancient texts is the word spirit distinguished at any time as in the later Greek and English reproductions. This is why the concordant Greek text follows the most ancient evidence. This avoids even those unconscious alterations which cast a cloud over our understanding and give the traditions of men all the authority of the Word of God.

The spirit of God and the spirit of a man are often in closest cooperation, so that they ought not to be distinguished. For instance, we are God's dwelling place, in spirit (Eph.2: 22). What spirit? Surely it must include God's spirit, for that is the only power which can keep us in His holy presence. Surely it must include our spirit, for this is not true except in spirit. It is in contrast with flesh. How perplexing is the Revision! We are "a habitation of God in the Spirit." Either God lives in us, who live in the Spirit, which is a strange medley of figures, or God lives in the Spirit which lives in us, which is almost as farfetched. The simple fact is that God dwells in us, not in our flesh, but in our spirit, not in any physical sense, but by His spirit. His spirit and ours are both involved in the simple phrase, in spirit. Instead of aiding us to understand, the capital precludes the possibility of intelligent interpretation.

The problem of "personality" is just as complex. The strongest passage which can be produced for the personality of the holy spirit gives it an impersonal name (John 16:13-15). In contrast with the spirit of deception it is called the spirit of truth. Truth is an abstract quality. Yet, in contrast with the false spirits which seek to lead astray, it is called a guide, which is neutral. These evil spirits spoke from themselves, but it speaks only what it has heard from God, which seems to be personal. All this refers to the paraclete, the holy spirit. As replacing Christ and opposing evil spirits it is given the attributes of personality, but when considered as opposed to the spirit of error, it is the impersonal spirit of truth. In itself it is neutral, but it reflects the character of that with which it is composed. When replacing a person it is personified.

The doctrine of the distinct personality of the holy spirit probably arose from this passage. Our Lord's figures of speech were often misunderstood by His disciples. When He spoke to them of leaven, they worried about bread. "This is my body" was taken literally, and earnestly defended by the church for a thousand years. So the personification of the spirit of truth, because it was to take the place of a Person, and was in contrast to evil spirits, has been taken literally, leading to the creation of another god in the Christian pantheon. We may rest assured that the disciples never understood it so. No Jew would believe in another deity. They looked for no person at Pentecost. They received a spirit, God's spirit, the spirit of truth, which was in them and abode with them in a manner impossible to a person.


In the original there are a number of striking variations in combining the two words, holy and spirit. There is holy spirit, spirit holy, the holy spirit, and the holy the spirit. A laudable attempt has been made to show that these differ in meaning. It is supposed that the longest phrase, the holy the spirit, is applied only to the "Giver" and the shortest, spirit holy, only to His "gifts." The difficulty with this is that it has no analogy in any language. The definite article does not change the meaning of the words to which it is prefixed. It cannot change a power into a person. For instance, "spirit of-God" (God's spirit, Rom.8:9, C. V.) differs from "the spirit of-the God" (1 Cor.2:11) in emphasis, but surely not in sense. "The God" is only a restricted application of "God." The latter is not a mere power.

In order to show that "spirit" may refer to God's spirit quite as well as "the spirit" we will give the occurrences in which it is in direct combination with the name of God. These will, at the same time, give further light on the fact that God's spirit is not a separate deity from God Himself. The two phrases are distinguished, where possible, in the latest revision of the CONCORDANT VERSION by rendering one "the spirit of God" and the other "God's spirit."

the spirit of-the God

1 Cor.   2 :11    that which is of God no one has known except the spirit of God
  :14    the soulish man is not receiving that which is of the spirit of God
  3 :16    you are the temple of God and the spirit of God is making its
home in you
  6 :11    you were justified...by the spirit of our God
1 John   4 :2    In this you are knowing the spirit of God

spirit of-God

Matt.    3 :16    God's spirit descending as if it were a dove 
   12 :28    I am casting out demons by God's spirit
Rom.    8 :9    if so be the God's spirit is making its home in you
   :14    as many as are being led by God's spirit
   15 :19    in the power of God's spirit
1 Cor.    7 :40    Now I presume that I, also, have God's spirit
   12 :3    no one, speaking by God's spirit, is saying, "Anathema Jesus."
2 Cor.    3 :3    but with the spirit of the living God [living God's spirit]

Who can distinguish between "the spirit of God" (1 Cor.3: 16) and "God's spirit" (Rom.8:9), which makes its home in us? It is "God's spirit" that leads us, not "the spirit of God." In each case the difference is entirely in the relation of the phrases to the context, not in its meaning.

If the absence of the article before spirit denotes that it is a thing, and its presence a personality, then the many passages which treat it as a quality should all be anarthrous. Yet we read of the spirit of the truth (1 John 4:6), the spirit of the grace (Heb.10:29), the spirit of the deception (1 John 4:6), the spirit of your mind (Eph.4:23), though, of course the article is usually lacking in such cases. We would also expect that personal spirits always have the article. Yet we read "nor spirit" (Acts 23:8), [a] spirit (Acts 23:9), [a] spirit (Luke 24:37), unclean spirits (Luke 6:18), [an] unclean spirit (Mark 1:23; 5:2; 7:25), etc. The article has no such function.

Moreover, the same spirit is sometimes referred to as "the spirit" and "spirit." Our Lord spoke of the spirit which the disciples were about to get, and then calls it "holy spirit" (John 7:39). Then it is called "the holy spirit" (Acts 1:8; 2: 33). Later it is called "the spirit the holy" (Acts 15:8, see 11: 15). So, in many instances, these variations are applied quite freely to the same spirit operating on the same occasion.

We will now give the various phrases in which holy and spirit are combined, with all their variations in grammar as well as those produced by the presence of the article. Such an analysis is needed, that those who really wish to study the facts as they are in the original may do so with ease and profit. First we give the forms without the article, later those with it. It should be observed that, in Greek, the adjective, as holy, normally comes after the noun, so that pneuma hagion, spirit holy, is the same as our holy spirit.

hagion pneuma, holy spirit

Luke   12:12   for holy spirit will be teaching you

to hagion pneuma, the holy spirit

Luke   12:10   the one who blasphemes the holy spirit shall not be pardoned

In these passages holy is emphatic by position. In both God's spirit and its operations are involved, so that neither can be excluded. Indeed, the broad and comprehensive adjective "holy" is used in all of these passages, rather than the limiting "God's," in order to include whatever is within the scope of the context. It is not necessary, nay, it is undesirable, that we should dissect its manifestations into the "personal," and the operative, and the human aspects. All is operative and due to the contact of God's spirit with the human spirit.

pneuma hagion, spirit holy (nom. or acc.)

Luke    1 :35    Holy spirit shall be coming on you
   2 :25    and holy spirit was on him
   11 :13    be giving holy spirit to those requesting Him
John    7 :39    this He said concerning the spirit which those believing into
Him were about to get. For holy spirit was not as yet given
   20 :22    Get holy spirit
Acts    8 :15    pray for them so that they may be obtaining holy spirit
   :17    and they place their hands on them and they obtained holy spirit
   :19    that on whomever I may be imposing hands,
he may be obtaining holy spirit
   19 :2    Did you obtain holy spirit when believing?
   :2    neither hear we if there is holy spirit

pneumatos hagion, of-spirit holy

Matt.    1 :18    ere their coming together was found pregnant by holy spirit
   :20    that which is being generated in her is of holy spirit
Luke    1 :15    he will be filled with holy spirit
   :41    Elizabeth is filled with holy spirit
   :67    Zacharias, its father, is filled with holy spirit
   4 :1    Now Jesus, full of holy spirit
Acts    1 :2    directing the apostles whom He chooses through holy spirit
   2 :4    and they are filled with holy spirit
   4 :8    Then Peter, being filled with holy spirit
   :25    who through holy spirit...art saying
   :31    and they are all filled with holy spirit
   6 :5    they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and holy spirit
   7 :55    possessing the fullness of faith and holy spirit
   9 :17    recover sight and be filled with holy spirit
   11 :24    he was a good man and full of holy spirit and faith
   13 :9    Saul, who is also Paul, being filled with holy spirit
   :52    The disciples were filled with joy and holy spirit
Rom.    5 :5    God's love has been poured out in our hearts,
through the holy spirit which is being given to us
   15 :13    in the power of holy spirit
1 Thes.    1 :6    receiving the word in much affliction with joy of holy spirit
Titus    1 :14    Guard that ideal thing committed to you, through holy spirit,
which is making its home in us.
Heb.    2 :4    and parting of holy spirit
   6 :4    becoming partakers of holy spirit
2 Pet.    1 :21    holy men of God speak, being carried on by holy spirit

pneumati hagioo, to-spirit holy

Matt.    3 :11    He will be baptizing you in holy spirit and fire
Mark    1 :8    He shall be baptizing you in holy spirit
Luke    3 :16    He will be baptizing you in holy spirit and fire
John    1 :33    This is He who is baptizing in holy spirit
Acts    1 :5    you shall be baptized in holy spirit not many days hence
   10 :38    God anoints Him with holy spirit and power
   11 :16    John, indeed, baptizes in water, yet you shall be baptized in holy spirit
Rom.    9 :1    my conscience joining its witness with me in holy spirit
   14 :17    but righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit
   15 :16    having been hallowed by holy spirit
1 Cor.    12 :3    no one is able to say "Lord Jesus" except by holy spirit
2 Cor.    6 :6    in holy spirit
1 Thes.    1 :5    in holy spirit
1 Pet.    1 :12    preaching the evangel to you by holy spirit dispatched from heaven
Jude    1 :20    praying in holy spirit

It will be a surprise to many to find that most of the mentions of "the Holy Spirit," are simply "holy spirit," without the definite article. The context usually confines it to the manifestation of God's spirit in humankind. Yet it is also used in the most "personal" way possible, for our Lord was generated by "holy spirit" (Matt.1:18,20; Luke 1:35). The theory that the article is latent after prepositions has no support in fact, and is not in point in Luke. There we have a combination which ought to satisfy all that holy spirit is God's personal power.

We repeat it:

Holy spirit shall be coming on you,
And the power of the Most High
shall be overshadowing you.

Here it is actually paralleled by "power," and the nature of the case demands that it should be vital energy yet it is so personal that it resulted in the generation of a Person.

ton hagion pneumatos, of-the holy spirit

Matt.    28 :19    baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit
Acts    1 :8    you shall be obtaining power at the coming of the holy spirit on you
   2 :33    obtaining the promise of the holy spirit
   9 :31    the consolation of the holy spirit
   10 :45    the gratuity of the holy spirit has been poured out on the nations
   16 :6    forbidden by the holy spirit to speak
1 Cor.    6 :19    your body is a temple of the holy spirit in you
2 Cor.    13 :13    the communion of the holy spirit

too hagioo pneumati, to-the holy spirit

Acts 15:28 it seemed good to the holy spirit

Perhaps no other passage is supposed to prove the existence of the "Trinity" so conclusively as Matthew 28:19: "baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit." But there are no logical premises for this idea whatever. Baptism was not necessarily in the name of the deity. The apostles never used this formula. They intelligently varied the name and title of our Lord because this was in harmony with the conditions into which baptism brought its subjects. It is only when the kingdom is set up on earth that this threefold formula will be used. The holy spirit is especially added in that era because it will be a day in which the spirit of God will work marvels among all flesh, and their baptism is the introduction to them. It is a special formula for a special time, not a dissection of the persons of the Trinity. So important a revelation must not be inferred from a casual statement on another theme. When the subject itself is discussed the unity of God is averred and plurality denounced.

to pneuma to hagion, the spirit the holy

Mark    3 :29    whosoever should be blaspheming the holy spirit
   12 :36    David himself said, in the holy spirit
Luke    3 :22    the holy spirit descended on Him in bodily appearance as a dove
John    14 :26    the consoler, the holy spirit
Acts    1 :16    the holy spirit predicted through the mouth of David
   5 :3    to falsify the holy spirit and to embezzle
   :21    the holy spirit which God imparts to those yielding to Him
   10 :44    the holy spirit falls on all those hearing the word
   :47    who obtained the holy spirit even as we
   11 :15    the holy spirit falls on them even as on us
   13 :2    the holy spirit said
   15 :8    giving the holy spirit even as to us
   19 :6    the holy spirit came on them and they talked languages and prophesied
   20 :23    the holy spirit, city by city, certifies
   :28    the entire flocklet among which the holy spirit appointed you supervisor
   21 :11    Now this the holy spirit is saying
   28 :25    the holy spirit speaks through Isaiah the prophet
Eph.    4 :30    do not be sorrowing the holy spirit of God by which you were sealed
1 Thes.    4 :8    Who is also giving you HIS holy spirit [the holy spirit of Him]
Heb.    3 :7    according as the holy spirit is saying
   10 :15    the holy spirit also is testifying to us

ton pneumaton ton hagion, of-the spirit the holy

Matt.    12 :32    whoever might say aught against the holy spirit
Luke    2 :26    he was apprized by the holy spirit
Acts    13 :4    being sent forth by the holy spirit
Heb.    9 :8    the holy spirit making it evident

too pneumati too hagioo, to-the spirit the holy

Luke    10 :21    he exults in the holy spirit and said
Acts    7 :51    you are ever clashing with the holy spirit
Eph.    1 :13    you were sealed with the Holy spirit of promise

Many of these passages present the holy spirit acting as a person. We have it as the consoler, it speaks, it predicts, it appoints, it testifies, it sends forth. Yet, on the other hand, it is imparted and it falls on them, it is a seal--all outside the possibilities of personality. It is only as we combine these two thoughts, and consider it the spirit of a Person, that we can understand all of the passages concordantly.

God's holy spirit is not a distinct individual, with a will, a mind, and an independent existence. It is God at work; the localization of Himself, the means of His activities, the medium of His operations. He does all things by His spirit through His Christ. This spirit is just as "personal" as the human spirit. It is so one with God that it is His mouthpiece. The Scriptures are the word of God, yet actually inspired by His spirit. But the spirit never speaks aught but God's words, thinks aught but God's thoughts, is aught but God's manifestation in His creatures.

The problem is, how can the holy spirit have all the attributes of personality combined with the impersonal qualities of a force or power? The answer is simple: it is the power of a Personality. Spirit force is not mere material energy like the wind that figures it. It is a living, intelligent, personal power like that developed in mankind by breathing.

As we also have a spirit, we ought to be able to test the "personality" of God's spirit by our own. There are times when our spirit rejoices, and again it is sad. Only a person can be depressed or joyful. Do we therefore conclude that our spirit is a distinct personality from ourselves? By no means. Do we therefore speak of it as "he" or "she?" By no means. The human spirit, it is refreshed (1 Cor.16:18), it is restless (2 Cor.2:13). My spirit is so intimately mine that, like the soul and body, I may speak of it as if it were myself. God speaks in just this way in order that we may understand Him. If He were speaking to spirit beings He might change His method. But to us, human beings, with spirits, He speaks as if He also were human, and His spirit like ours.

Once we see that the holy spirit is not a distinct spirit being from God, but is His spirit, the many difficulties which surround this subject vanish. This reconciles the passages in which it appears to act as a person with those in which it seems to be an impersonal power. Both are true of God's spirit, for it is the function of that spirit to operate as a power in God's creation and in His saints. If we wish to make a distinction between the "Giver" and the "gift," we will find that God Himself is the Giver, and His spirit the gift. He gives "the holy [the] spirit" (Acts 15:8; 1 Thess.4:8).

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