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  1. This question does NOT ask the definition of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
  2. By "Non-trinitarians" I mean those who do not believe in the personhood of the Holy Spirit such as Binitarians and Unitarians, etc.
  3. Rom 8:9 - You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. If we accept that the Holy Spirit is the both the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God -

What do anti-trinitarians understand by blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as declared by Jesus in Matt 12:31, 32?

31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the one to come.

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  • Some non-trinitarians would simply affirm the personhood of the Holy Ghost =) (I recognize that such viewpoints are outside the scope of this question) May 31, 2023 at 1:37

4 Answers 4

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Having to hand two large volumes of alphabetic biblical topics produced by one staunchly non-trinitarian group, I examined them to come up with an answer (though I disagree with this group's understanding on this, and other beliefs). Despite this, an objective answer can be given, fairly representing their view, purely by quoting from their own official literature.

First I looked under "Blasphemy". It correctly pointed out that the first one guilty of blasphemy was the one named Diabolos (meaning 'devil' or 'slanderer'). Then it went through blasphemy under the law covenant, then in the Greek scriptures. This was where the text in question was mentioned. Here is the explanation given:

Since Jesus was God's Son and direct representative, the things spoken against him may also properly be defined as blasphemy. (Lu 22:65) So, too, since the holy spirit or active force emanates from God and is intimately connected with God's person, Jesus could speak of "blasphemy against the spirit." This is stated to be the unforgivable sin. (Mt 12:31) Blasphemy is shown to originate within one's heart (Mt 15:19; Mr 7:21, 22); hence the heart condition, manifest in the willfulness involved, must relate to such blasphemy against the spirit. The incident that led to Jesus' statement concerning the unpardonableness of such sin demonstrates that it refers to opposing the operation of God's spirit. This would not be because of deception, human weakness, or imperfection; but the opposition would be willful and deliberate. The Pharisees clearly saw God's spirit at work in Jesus to accomplish good, yet for selfish reasons they attributed this power to Beelzebub, Satan the Devil, thereby blaspheming God's holy spirit. - Mt 12:22-23" Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1, pp. 337-339, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1988

Next, I looked for a "Holy Spirit" heading but that only said, "see SPIRIT". However, two pages previously, under the heading "Holiness" there was a sub-heading, 'Holy Spirit' which agreed with the quote above about 'holy spirit' [their way of writing this]. No personality is attributed to this 'active force' from Jehovah. This was further confirmed when I looked under the main heading "Spirit".

Its first sub-heading was, "Not a person"; the second was, "Personification does not prove personality"; the third was, "Lacks personal identification". Six pages on came the sub-heading, "Gaining and retaining God's spirit" where the last sentence in that short section repeated the previous quotation about blasphemy against that spirit, citing the text in question. (Ibid. Vol. 2, pp. 1017 - 1024)

This needs to be detailed, if ever so briefly, to let readers understand why the Watchtower Society speaks of blaspheming against an impersonal energy, or invisible power from Jehovah, by implying that one would actually be blaspheming against Jehovah God. It is not possible to blaspheme against any impersonal energy, such as electricity, or wind, or fire.

As the first quote in this answer shows at its start, one can blaspheme against the person of Jesus Christ (although they deny that he is God incarnate), and other quotes show that one can blaspheme against Jehovah God. But - technically - any charge of blasphemy against what they speak of as 'impersonal holy spirit' is actually blasphemy against Jehovah God, from whom this active force emanates.

As for the Romans 8:5-9 text in the question, their own NWT rendering of that text speaks of "God's spirit", and "Christ's spirit", as though those are two distinct things. This seems to be supported in verse 11 where it speaks of the spirit of him [i.e. God] who raised Christ from the dead dwelling in [anointed] Christians, and that same indwelling spirit of God making those believers' bodies alive.

It does not seem, as supposed in the question, that they "accept that the Holy Spirit is the [sic] both the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God" After all, they claim that Christ had a starting point in time, but Jehovah never did, and Jehovah has never been without "his holy spirit". Perhaps, however, they think in terms of Jehovah giving some of his holy spirit active force to Christ at a certain time. They do say this under the main heading, 'Christ':

"The personal name of Jesus followed by the title Christ may call attention to the person himself and that he is the one who became the Anointed One of Jehovah. This occurred when he reached about 30 years of age, was baptized in water, and was anointed with Jehovah's spirit visibly observed in the form of a dove descending upon him. (Mt 3:13-17) This is the point Peter made at Pentecost [quoting Acts 2:36-38]." (Ibid. Vol. 1, p. 438)

Further, under "God's Active Force: Holy Spirit" re. Matthew 28:19, believers being baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit:

"Hence baptism 'in the name of the holy spirit' implies recognition of that spirit as having its source in God and as exercising its function according to the divine will." (Ibid. Vol. 2, p. 1020, last sentence under sub-heading 'How baptized in its "name")

That might best be dealt with in a separate question as this point in the question risks deviating from the main question. However, the quotes serve to show how this particular non-Trinitarian group view 'holy spirit' and blasphemy against it.

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  • Many thanks for this excellent research. Great work. +1. I agree that one cannot blaspheme an inanimate object unless the object represent something sacred, in which case, desecrating the object is to blaspheme what it represents. Thus, their position is illogical.
    – Dottard
    May 17, 2023 at 10:18
  • @GreatfulDisciple, see To hand definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary. May 17, 2023 at 13:51
  • @RayButterworth Thanks. I rolled back my edit. Learn something new everyday ! May 17, 2023 at 14:00
  • @GratefulDisciple More options: english.stackexchange.com/questions/55040/…
    – Mark
    May 17, 2023 at 14:26
  • @Mark Thanks. Given more choices it seems to me that (at least in American English) "at hand" feels more right? Oh, wait, the top answer mentions that "to hand" is more common in British English. May 17, 2023 at 14:35
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First, look at Romans 8 in more detail:

Romans 8,3–11 (NLT, with "Spirit" depersonified") Comment
3The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. The result of sin is death. The Law defines sin. By their own nature, humans are unable to never sin. The sacrifice system symbolized how the penalty could be paid, but by itself did not remove the ultimate penalty.
So God did what the law could not do. God had a plan to help people refrain from sin, and to pay their penalty when they did sin.
He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. As a fully human being, Jesus was able to refrain from all sin, with the help of God's holy spirit.
And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Being sinless, Jesus didn't deserve the death penalty that he received. So he will use that sacrifice to pay the penalty for others.
4He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the spirit. This payment isn't for all sinners, only those that have accepted God's holy spirit.
5Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the holy spirit think about things that please the spirit. Those that have God's spirit combined with their own human spirit will develop a character like Jesus's, one that can resist the temptation to sin.
6So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. If one rejects that spiritual guidance, one also rejects Jesus's offer of salvation, and so is subject to the death penalty.
But letting the spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Allowing God's spirit to guide one's thoughts and actions to follow God's laws will lead one to salvation.
7For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. Allowing oneself to sin is to reject the guidance.
It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. The human mind, of itself, cannot remain sinless.
8That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. Without God's spirit, people will sin, and that goes against God's plan.
9But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. Paul is speaking to those that have accepted God's spirit.
You are controlled by the spirit if you have the spirit of God living in you. As James points out, the fruit of having God's spirit will be obvious.
(And remember that those who do not have the spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) Those that have not accepted God's spirit cannot be saved.
10And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. Yes, your body will eventually die, but you will eventually be resurrected as an immortal spirit.
11The spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. The same spirit (a combination of human and divine) lives in all fully converted Christians.
And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same spirit living within you.. Jesus proved that it could be done, and the same thing will happen to you.

Now, in that context, consider Matthew 12:31–32:

So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven …
Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven …

Jesus is willing to forgive all sins, even those that are explicitly against himself. All that is required in order to receive that forgiveness is that one truly repent of that sin (alter character to avoid it happening again) and that one ask Jesus for his forgiveness.

… except blasphemy against the holy spirit, which will never be forgiven.
… but anyone who speaks against the holy spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.

Those that reject God's holy spirit are no longer "controlled by the holy spirit". They have chosen to reject God's guidance, and chosen instead to follow their sinful nature. They themselves have chosen to reject God's offer of salvation and immortal life. They have rejected God's only mechanism for forgiveness, so there is no way remaining for them to be saved.

Note that this is not a case of God punishing them for rejecting his holy spirit.
This is a case of receiving the natural consequences of their own deliberate bad choice.

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    This does not explain Jesus' use of the word blasphemy in regard to 'Holy Spirit'. One cannot blaspheme against an attribute, (or against a 'mechanism') only against a person. And if blasphemy against Christ can be forgiven, but not against 'Holy Spirit' then said 'Holy Spirit' cannot be lesser than Christ himself.
    – Nigel J
    May 17, 2023 at 1:01
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    (Not my DV) You have created a straw-man argument. I have never heard (and it never entered my head) that this was "punishment" for rejecting the Holy Spirit. My question revolves around how one can blaspheme (injure or wound) a non-person?
    – Dottard
    May 17, 2023 at 2:19
  • @Dottard. The disrespect can be against something other than a deity. Various dictionaries define blasphemy as: "the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things", "something that you say or do that shows you do not respect God or a religion", "irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.", "impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things", "great disrespect shown to God or to something holy". God's spirit is a holy substance that conveys God's message; to disrespect it is indirectly to disrespect God. May 17, 2023 at 4:15
  • @Dottard, I've removed that last sentence about punishment. May 17, 2023 at 4:22
  • @Dottard, would it help to have an analogy of someone smashing a phone or television because they didn't like what they had just heard on it? (It happens all the time on TV programs.) Obviously the attack isn't actually against the object, but against the object's message, which itself was simply passed from someone else. Ultimately there is a person at the end of the chain, but that doesn't make the phone itself a person. May 17, 2023 at 4:30
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Key Text

31Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31-32, KJV; cf. Mark 3:28-29)

What is "Blasphemy"?

While you may not be asking what blasphemy means, clear definitions are important to a proper understanding of the question and its answer. According to our modern dictionary, "blasphemy" is given as:

blasphemy | ˈblasfəmē |
noun (plural blasphemies)
the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk: he was detained on charges of blasphemy | screaming incomprehensible blasphemies.

The Greek word is defined in Strong's Concordance as:

βλασφημία blasphēmía, blas-fay-me'-ah; from G989; vilification (especially against God):—blasphemy, evil speaking, railing.

Essentially, blasphemy has broad application, and, as used in this answer, entails any form of speaking against God, including undermining His character or misrepresenting Him.

Who is the "Holy Spirit"?

Is the Holy Spirit a "person"? While the Bible may not define "person" or its usage, the Bible is clear as to the fact that God is both holy and a spirit.

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy. (Psalm 99:9, KJV)

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24, KJV)

God is both holy and a spirit--a "Holy Spirit." If God is a person, and God is a holy spirit (i.e. the "Holy Spirit" is God), it follows that the Holy Spirit is a person, and to speak against God's holy person is the epitome of "blasphemy."

Throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit is used with respect to the spirit of God, the spirit of the Father, or the spirit of Christ Jesus, in whom the Father dwelt. Because the Father is a spirit, and that spirit was in Christ, the "holy spirit" represents God's own omnipresence, and is not human but divine.

Who is the "Son of Man"?

Jesus called himself the "son of man."

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? (Matthew 16:13, KJV)

This had deep Biblical significance with respect to his identity.

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19, KJV)

And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. (1 Samuel 15:29, KJV)

What is Jesus Saying?

Jesus said that if one were to speak against the "son of man," it would be forgiven. Since Jesus was himself the "son of man," speaking against Jesus can be forgiven.

But to speak against the Holy Spirit is to speak, not against a mere man, but against God Himself. This, according to Jesus, is not forgiven.

Applications to Trinitarianism / Nontrinitarianism

As shown above, the Bible is clear that God is not a man. It is also clear that Jesus is a man. Anytime that a man speaks as if he were God, this is reckoned as blasphemy. The Jews, for example, accused Jesus of blasphemy for this very reason.

32Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. (John 10:32-33, KJV)

The Jews were looking at Jesus' humanity, not recognizing the Divinity within him, which was speaking through him. When Jesus forgave sins, for example, it was not his humanity speaking--but the Spirit of God within him who gave him the words.

It is blasphemy for a man to speak as God. But Jesus did not do this. He spoke for God, not as if he were himself God. He never claimed to be God. He stated plainly that he spoke the Father's words, because the Father dwelt in him.

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. (John 12:49, KJV)

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10, KJV)

If it is blasphemy for a man to say he is God, or to attempt to speak as if he were God, it is also blasphemy to speak as if another man were God. To call any man God, when God says He is not a man, is blasphemy.

"God the Son": Trinitarians have a "God the Son" to whom they give homage. This "God" is never mentioned in the Bible. The expression "God the Son" exists nowhere in the scriptures. God says He is not the "son of man"--whereas Jesus, whom Trinitarians call "God the Son," says he is the "son of man." In this, they essentially call God a liar, saying that God is the "son of man" even though God claims otherwise. This is the epitome of blasphemy.

To avoid blasphemy, one must not misrepresent God. God says He is not a man, and that He is not the son of man. If one portrays God as having lied in saying these things, one blasphemes.

"God the Holy Spirit": Further, Jesus taught that the Father is "the only true God" (see John 17:1-3). If one claims that the "Holy Spirit" is another "true God," other than the Father (as Trinitarians believe), then one likewise misrepresents God, and blasphemes.

Nontrinitarians are clear of this blasphemy, because they accept God's words at face value. God says what He means, and He means what He says.

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    Most of this material is beside the point and does not address the question asked. Great shame because I had hoped for a good answer from you. This reads more like a self defense.
    – Dottard
    May 20, 2023 at 11:32
  • 1
    Your definition of blasphemy is does not accord with the Koine Greek usage. One cannot blaspheme a chair or a house or even a church. My question, therefore, is how one can blaspheme a non-sentient "force"; or at least how this is possible. One can blaspheme Jesus (which should not be possible by your definition because Jesus is not God!) Sop, how does one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?
    – Dottard
    May 20, 2023 at 11:37
  • @Dottard It is quite possible that a Trinitarian will not even comprehend my answer fully, so your response does not shock me. However, the "self defense" portion seems to be an inapplicable ad hominem remark.
    – Biblasia
    May 20, 2023 at 11:38
  • Regarding the definitions, the word "blasphemy" certainly can be used for other than God, but it is typically not used this way, either in the Bible, or in our common vernacular today. My answer follows typical usage, as also indicated by the dictionary definitions.
    – Biblasia
    May 20, 2023 at 11:40
  • @Dottard. The "Holy Spirit" is not a "non-sentient force." If you believe He is, then you are, perhaps, a pantheist, and, though I did not read this expression in your question, if that is what your question is about, then it is made the more unanswerable.
    – Biblasia
    May 20, 2023 at 11:43
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I view the Spirit as the power of God, and the literal spirit of God; hence, "Spirit of God" in scripture.

Paul shows that God has a spirit [Rom 8:11, 1 Thes 4:8] and Jesus has a spirit [Rom 8:9, Phi 1:19]. Paul seems to even equate these spirits as a shared spirit [Rom 8:9, Gal 4:6].

It is stated that the Spirit resurrected Christ [Rom 8:11, 1 Pet 3:18]. It is stated numerous times that God (the Father) resurrected Christ [Acts 2:24, 32, 3:15, 26, 13:30-37, Rom 10:9, 1 Cor 6:14, Gal 1:1, Col 2:12]. This shows further evidence of the Spirit simply being an attribute/property of God.

God does everything by His Spirit. So to blaspheme the Spirit is to deny the power and diminish works of God. You're not blaspheming the Spirit as a person, but blaspheming who/what it represents, namely God. Similar to how blaspheming the name of the Lord is to blaspheme God [Lev 24:16, Rev 13:6].

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