Holy spirit

The Holy Spirit is not a person; The identity of God that only gets worse

Most Christians believe in the Trinity since that is what their church teaches. He says that God is an essence composed of three coequal and coeternal persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit is considered a Person in its own right.

The church hasn’t always believed that. During the 2n/a and 3rd centuries, there was no consensus among the fathers of the Church, called “apologists”, on the constitution of the Holy Spirit. Most of them didn’t think it was important. In fact, there was a great fluidity of ideas among Christians on this subject. Some thought the Holy Spirit was an impersonal power; others attributed full personality to the Holy Spirit. The eminent Church historian, Philip Schaff, observes that “the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was much less developed, and until the middle of the fourth century was never the subject of particular controversy”.

The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed only state, “I/We believe… in the Holy Spirit. Because of this brevity, it is absurd for later Trinitarians to assert that a person must believe the Holy Spirit to be a full Person to be a Christian.

The Arian-Nicaea controversy of 4and century was conducted mainly in Greek. The three conflicting parties have agreed that the Spirit is a hypostasis (subsistence) of the Father and the Son. Arius considered the essence of the Spirit to be different from that of the Father or the Son. Eusebius, a church historian who led the middle party, said the Spirit is in essence inferior to that of the Father and the Son, “a third power” in “third rank” to them.

Jannes Reiling contrasts the biblical teaching on the Spirit of God with the above view by rightly alleging: “In the Bible neither rouah or pneumatic are used as a divine name. They are not worshiped as divine beings…. The Old Testament does not represent the spirit as a divine being connected to, but distinct from God. He still functions as an intermediary between God and mankind…. In the NT, the spirit is not seen as a divine being (hypostasis), but as an instrument of divine action or revelation.

James DG Dunn says of the Old Testament (OT), “‘The Spirit of God’ is simply a way of speaking of God working out his purpose in his world and through men.” He adds, “’The Spirit of God’ in Judaism denoted the power of God. He says of the writings of Paul and John in the New Testament (NT), “The idea of ​​the Spirit of God as power and presence (ie that of God)…this thought is well established…. Corn of the Spirit as an entity in every sense independent of God, of the Spirit as divine hypostasis, there is nothing.”

Non-Trinitarian Dutch theologian Ellen Flesseman-van Leer explains that the Holy Spirit is “not an independent entity alongside God, but evidence of God’s active presence in the world.”

The apostle Paul mentions both God the Father and Jesus Christ in the salutations of his ten NT letters (assuming he wrote them all), but he does not mention the Holy Spirit. This absence suggests that Paul did not view the Holy Spirit as a person.

One of the reasons Trinitarians believe the Holy Spirit to be a Whole Person is that English Bibles usually capitalize “Holy Spirit” and “Spirit” when associated with God. Yet the Hebrew and Greek languages ​​had neither uppercase nor lowercase when the first biblical manuscripts were written. Such capitalization is only an interpretation of the translators of these versions since they were Trinitarians. In contrast, Jews do not use capital letters for “holy spirit” or “spirit” because they do not believe it refers to a person.

Most Christians also think of the Holy Spirit as a Person since almost all versions of the Bible assign personal pronouns to the Spirit. The best biblical example is the frequent “he” in Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. But the gender of the pronoun in Greek is irrelevant. Whether pronouns applied to the Holy Spirit should be translated as “he” or “that” is strictly a theological decision. The same is true for the pronoun ekeinos.

Binitarian, British theologian CFD Moule says of the Bible applying personal pronouns to the Holy Spirit, “The appeal to Scripture… proves nothing as to the eternal ‘being’ of the Spirit. It only shows that ‘Spirit’ is a word for the personal activity of a personal God. Moule concludes, “The fact that the Spirit is the mode by which a personal God is present does not seem, in itself, to necessitate the recognition of the Spirit as essentially personal;…it seems pointless to insist on the use of ‘a personal pronoun’ for the Holy Spirit.

Another reason most Christians think of the Holy Spirit as a Person is that the Bible can personify the Holy Spirit as it does the Word or Wisdom of God. When the Holy Spirit is said to have done an activity, such as speaking, this should not be taken to represent the personality. Jesus once said, “The wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles’” (Luke 11:49); yet he had no intention of attributing personality to wisdom. The best OT example of the personification of wisdom is found in Proverbs 8-9.6.

Catholic theologian Karl Rahner and biblical scholar Murray Harris rightly admit that the NT never identifies the Holy Spirit with God. Thus, some Trinitarians have incorrectly held that this is the case in Acts 5.4.

The Bible teaches that man is a tripartite being consisting of body, soul and spirit. Since God created man in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), the spirit of man must correspond to the Spirit of God. Moule declares: “there is a certain kinship between God and man, between the Spirit and the spirit”. Yes, and it must be understood from creation that the spirit of God is to God what the spirit of man is to man. Since the spirit of man is not a person in the sense that we moderns understand person, neither must the Spirit of God be a person. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10.20; Mark 13.11).

(In my book, The restitution of Jesus Christ, I devote 14 pages to an appendix, “The Nature of the Holy Spirit”, citing 25 scholars and their writings as well as the writings of 5 church fathers.)


To see a headline list of over 130 articles (2-3 pages) that talk about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, on Kermit Zarley’s blog, click on “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are digests of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. Check out my website servetustheevangelical.com which is all about this book, with reviews etc. Discover my books and buy them at kermitzarley.com. I was Trinitarian for 22 years before I read myself in the Bible.