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Holy Spirit as the third person - mikethelionheart - 24-02-2010 06:03 PM

Hello
Can anyone help me here with a discussion I have been following between protestants and Jehovah's Witness.
My Koine Greek is non-existent.

He claims that in the original Greek the Holy Spirit is not referred to as He or in any way referred to as a person.

Here's an example of one of the things he says.

"Are lay Trinitarians misled by Trinitarian scholars who seem to mistranslate Greek pronouns into the wrong English pronouns, as is seen in texts like John 14:16, 17, and 26 where they translate the Greek "pneuma hagion" [?holy spirit?] by the English pronouns ?he, him and whom??
Does this seem rather misleading, wrong and smacks of theological bias?
Why do some texts refer to the "Holy Spirit" as "he"?"

He then goes on to say;

"Clearly ?he? is a ?pronoun?, whereas, the Greek clearly has ?ekeinos? [?that one?] at John 16:13, which is not the pronoun ?he? as you make out, but more correctly, a demonstrative pronoun! Why have I raised this point with you? It is to show that ?subtle? difference and here is how and why!
A pronoun will refer to a person i.e. ?he? or ?whom? in English, whereas, the demonstrative English pronoun will specifically point out i.e. identify the pronoun [person], such as, ?that xxxx?, so that, we have in English ?that one? and here we see that the demonstrative ?that? is pointing to or referring to that which comes under the term ?one?! But it is not as simple as that, as you may now begin to appreciate?!

What you have done and you are not on your own here, which really shows your limitations with how Greek works, due to theological bias and possible ignorance, is to turn things upside down, in that, you have called a demonstrative pronoun ?that one? a ?pronoun? ?he?, when clearly the rules of Greek grammar clearly say otherwise?! "

Surely he is not correct. Unfortunately it would take me years to learn Koine Greek. Any one on here with a decent knowledge.

I would also point out that the Holy Spirit was believed in as a person right at the start of Christianity in the 1st century so those early Christians would have been Greek speakers and would have understood the nuances perfectly, and yet they still believed in Him as a person. However, if what this guy says is true it will make arguing for the Trinity with JWs very difficult.


- Simon - 25-02-2010 09:04 AM

Dear Mike,

I am no expert in New Testamanet Greek either but can offer you the following on John 15:26 ""But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of truth." In the Greek the word rendered 'whom' is masculine, the word rendered 'which' is neuter and the word rendered 'he' is masculine. Thus "But when the Comforter is come, whom [masculine] I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which [neuter] proceedeth from the Father, he [masculine] shall testify..."

If the Holy Spirit was an impersonal force and not a person then I would expect only neuter language and no masculine terminology. Given the mystery (something beyond human understanding) of the Godhead and that even terms such as Father and Son though masculine do not actually indicate maleness according to human concepts (for God is spirit) then it does not surprise me to find both masculine and neuter terminology used about the Holy Ghost.

A valuable resource is St Basil the Great's "On the Holy Spirit" (available I believe in a number of editions).

Simon


- Antony-Paul - 25-02-2010 04:48 PM

Dear Mike,

Like you, I am not a Greek scholar, and so I cannot offer a linguistic assessment of your question. I accept that careful examination of the writings is necessary to ensure we understand what they are trying to convey to us. But I can't help feeling that getting technical about the Greek is missing the point. Vast numbers of believers have lived over the past two millennia without benefit of semantics, yet we can be sure they are with God as a result of simple uncomplicated belief. Maybe your JW friend is trying to catch you out by making it complex!

Trying to view this with simplicity (and hopefully not ingenuously) I can't help feeling that this issue demonstrates the poverty of human language. As Father Simon says, the Holy Spirit is referred to as masculine, as is also the Father. Yet they are spirits, and incorporeal, and hence are without gender which is only pertinent to physical beings that can reproduce.

As humans we can only understand things in our own terms. To us a person is either male or female. Neuter is indicative of something not alive. However, spirits do not conform to this pattern. Because they have no gender we cannot regard them as either male or female, yet because they are alive we find it hard to think of them as neuter. Perhaps we simply should not do so. Maybe (from this point of view at least) we could do with a different term for the Father and the Holy Ghost instead of 'He', since technically neither of them are masculine.

I fancy this dilemma was well known to the early Christians, who had to come to terms with the human maleness of Jesus (the Son of) God which was in stark contrast to the hidden spirit nature of the Jahweh of the Jews. Yet, as Father Simon also points out, Jesus referred to the Spirit as 'He' and also to 'Father/My Father/Your Father' - in His wisdom using terms that were as close as humans could cope with.

This aspect of the nature of God is yet another deep mystery that we shall probably never understand properly, even when we are in His presence for eternity. A parallel mystery is time. We exist in time, and our entire life is regulated by it and we relate every action to it. Consequently we cannot grasp the concept of eternity, which implies time without end, either past or future. It actually makes sense to think of God as existing outside of time - pure constant existence. Once we are with God, we are also stripped of our slavery to time, and live with Him constantly.

Gender and time are concepts of creation established by God to allow us to understand the world in which we live, and how we live our lives. Trying to understand the Kingdom of God and His nature in our terms is just asking for a hiding to nothing. This is a classic problem for Biblical fundamentalists, the Bible having been compiled by men who had a different view from ours, and a different perspective about the purpose of their writings.

With love and prayers,

Tony.