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Question: If you do not believe the Holy Spirit is a person, then what is it?

The Bible includes over 100 verses that mention the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God or just the Spirit. Here are four examples:

Genesis 1:1-2 NIV:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

John 14:26 NIV:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Matthew 12:32 NIV:

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

John 16:7-15 NIV:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

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    Do not also forget a very powerful Holy Spirit verse spoken by the Apostle Peter...Act 5:3 3 "Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and withhold some of the proceeds from the land? 4Did it not belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How could you conceive such a deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God!” Lying to the Holy Spirit is a very grave sin!
    – Adam
    May 15 at 23:25
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    @jong ricarfort you dont understand the principle. Peter further explains very clearly in this passage, you have lied not to men but to God! Thus he is saying that the Holy Spirit is a person and is God. Lying to The Holy Spirit is a grave sin...Ananias paid the ultimate price for his sin (as did Saphira)
    – Adam
    May 16 at 7:46
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When reading translations of scripture, it is important to remember that the original Greek and Hebrew text didn't use capital letters to personify the "holy spirit" expression. It is the translators, inspired by the Trinity doctrine, that decided to add the capitalization. Similarly, the use of "he", "who", etc. rather than "it", "which", etc. in reference to God's spirit is also a decision of the translators.

For instance, Jewish translations of the Hebrew scriptures do not capitalize "spirit" nor refer to it as "he".

Compare the passage quoted in the question:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

with what it looks like without personification:

But when it, the spirit of truth, comes, it will guide you into all the truth. It will not speak on its own; it will speak only what it hears, and it will tell you what is yet to come. It will glorify me because it is from me that it will receive what it will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the spirit will receive from me what it will make known to you.”

Both translations are equally correct, but depend on the influence, or lack thereof, of the Trinity doctrine.

Anyone reading the second version would have no reason to even suspect that "spirit" refers to a sentient living being. It doesn't, but the "spirit" in this passage could just as easily be referring to "The Bible" in the way the words are used here.

Read in this way, God's spirit is simply a spiritual force that belongs to God and through which God acts. The expression is treated no differently than "God's finger" or "God's judgement" would be.


  • Allowing preconceived ideas to influence one's understanding is known as eisegesis (using scripture to confirm what one knows).
  • Looking at scriptures without the influence of preconceived ideas is known as exegesis (using scripture to derive what one knows).

In terms of strengthening one's existing faith, eisegesis can help and exegesis can hurt. But in terms of objective translation, eisegeis is bad and exegesis is good.

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  • Ray: In your answer, you made a statement that confused me: “For instance, Jewish translations of the Hebrew scriptures do not capitalize "spirit" nor refer to it as "he". The passage you were quoting is: John 16:7-15 NIV. The Gospel of John is part of the New Testament and was written in the Greek language. John was certainly Jewish, but it seems odd that you would label the Book of John as Hebrew scriptures. And I’m certain that many Jewish translators would not recognize the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity (which includes Jesus). Can you clarify what you meant? May 17 at 19:54
  • @KurtBrouwer, no, I was referring to the practice of many English bibles to use capitalization in their OT translation, again influenced by the Trinity doctrine. For an example, look at the Genesis quotation in your Question: "Spirit" is capitalized. Jewish translations of the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament) would not capitalize that word, and Jews would consider it blasphemous to consider that word to refer to a part of a Trinity. May 17 at 20:57
  • … continued. A more poetic translation might be something like "and the breath of God blew across the waters", while a more practical translation might be "and the hand of God stretched over the waters". These are images of what happened; they don't have any implication that the breath or hand have a powerful hidden meaning. May 17 at 21:20
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    @RayButterworth Now I agree fully, the "holy spirit" emanates from God, it is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, as was written in the Novena to the Holy Spirit. But, there is a capital Holy Spirit that does not emanates from God but it is part of the Holy Trinity. Have you encounter Plotinus "The One and the Intelligence", it is "The Eternal God and the Artisan" or Proverbs8:22 and Wisdom7:22. Is the artisan the small "holy spirit" or breath of God according to your understanding or faith? May 23 at 23:51
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    sorry but these comments completely ignore Act 5:3 3 "Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit ...How could you conceive such a deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God!”
    – Adam
    May 24 at 9:00
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The Q asked is a simple one that requires little biblical effort to answer. However, the answer should also oppose long held beliefs that run contrary to the plain revelation of Scripture.

There is no clear unambiguous case for a divine 'person' called the Holy Spirit who is separate from the Father. There is only supposition and extrapolation to arrive at a view that there IS a separate 'person' who is God but not the Father.

And again, the tedious stating that one scripture does not stand alone to deduce truth or doctrine, must be repeated.

The disciples had no problem understanding what the Holy Spirit was. They certainly didn’t make more of it than what they learnt from Jesus.

for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Luke 12:12

for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:20

We see here the two terms used refer to the same thing. The HS is the power and presence of God.

The HS -

  • is never greeted, not sends greetings by/through any NT author.
  • has no name
  • proceeds from the Father - not God! John 15:26
  • doesn't know basic things - in fact is oblivious to essential things Mark 13:32, Luke 10:22
  • being called 'he' and 'him' is unwarranted in our bibles. Unless it is referring to God or the Father specifically, then 'He' etc would be appropriate. Matt 1:20 Heb 9:8
  • when referred to as 'a' gift etc., 'it' or 'which' would be more appropriate. Acts 10:45, Luke 11:20
  • has needed some support for a 'person', hence 1 John 5:7 has been extended to supply that which God never intended. (even though now corrected in most bibles, some shamelessly or ignorantly still quote this)
  • is missing from every vision of the throne whether Jesus is there or not. God is invisible, yet He is 'seen' there with His firstborn human son.
  • is never taught by the Apostles to be a 'person', but is made dogma centuries after the church began.

There are many more examples of the HS being expressed as the power and presence of God, and now of Jesus also.

No, there is no need from the scriptures to see the Holy Spirit as distinct from the Father or God. 1 Cor 8:6 pronouncing the truth clearly and providing no reason at all to add another to this dynamic duo of Father and son.

for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Are we to consider that the 'spirit of' truth, wisdom, Christ, etc are separate entities? Of course not. So why should the Spirit of God be separate from God the Father?

Therefore, since He (Jesus) has been exalted at the right hand of God, and has received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He has poured out this which you both see and hear. Acts 2:33

So there is no 'person', unless we make one up from poorly considered verses that are persuaded to fit the dogma - while ignoring all those that are quite clearly contrary and explicit in not making the Holy Spirit a person.

None of the verses cited by OP insist on a 'person', unless it is read in.

John 14:26 for example has 'ho' - this is translated 'which' in most other places so the publishers bias has provided 'he' or 'whom'. This widespread use of personal pronouns confuses correct understanding.

More here

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  • you start out in your referenced stack exchange by saying The Holy Spirit only comes from the Father. Then a handful of paragraphs later, this same answer then says "Jesus said he will send the 'comforter" . The answer quoted in the referenced stack exchange question is a convoluted mess. Consequently, is got the number of upvotes it deserved "-1"! The correct answer voted up hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/48685/39283
    – Adam
    May 15 at 23:31
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    This answer is well below the standard commonly expected of, and experienced by, this particular site. It is hardly even a comment. The link is to a completely different aspect being discussed. It is an insufficient response to a well thought out and well expressed question. I cannot see how this answers the question in any way.
    – Nigel J
    May 16 at 14:59
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    This is one of those questions and answers where people will vote for/against each answer based on whether it supports their own doctrinal beliefs, rather than on how well it answers the question. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any way around this all too common situation. May 17 at 17:54
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Let me answer by examining the 4 verses that were quoted in the OP Question.

  • Genesis 1:1-2

The description of the "Spirit of God ... hovering over the waters" is a poetical image that presents the Spirit of God, a power of God, as though it was distinct from God. Not unlike God's Wisdom, which in Proverbs is even personalized "creature" (Prov 8:22).

  • John 14:26

Here it is the Evangelist John who personalizes God's Spirit, calling it "Advocate" (Greek παράκλητος, paraklētos)

  • Matthew 12:32

It is necessary to put this verse in context, which is that of Jesus exorcising "a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute" (Matt 12:22-32). The unbelieving Pharisees said “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” But Jesus replies accusing them: "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."

The "unforgivable sin" is not the "rejection of Jesus Christ" (and so says with crystal clarity Jesus himself), but the blasphemy against God's Holy Spirit, that is the refusal of recognizing God's presence at work, and the attribution of God's signs even to Beelzebub.

  • John 16:7-15

All this pericope appears to refer to the "Advocate", to the Spirit of truth as though it was a person. See above, John 14:26.

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    Is the Holy Spirit a person? How can one commit the Unforgivable Sin or blaspheme the Holy Spirit if it was not a person? A good ex. is Peter in Act5:3-ff. When Ananias spoken a lie to Peter, he directly blaspheme the Holy Spirit, meaning the Unforgivable Sin can be committed if we attack the work of the person identified as holy or pious indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a perfct ex. is Blessed Virgin Mary who are perfectly indwelt by the Holy Spirit and all Her thoughts, words & actions comes from the Holy Spirit. May 23 at 23:56
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    @jongYou have been accustomed to read the Spirit, the “person” in all those passages, so you see it there. Try to read them, every time with “spirit of God” in mind. It may be a refreshing experience. May 24 at 6:08
  • I agree, it is a refreshing experience and it really a great help and it clears most of the troublesome passages. Thanks. May 24 at 8:04

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