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Is the Holy Spirit a Third Person?

Anthony Buzzard

The Spirit of God is not a different person from the Father

It is completely misleading to read into the Bible a third Person, the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:17) is not a different person from Elijah. Nor is the Spirit of God a different person from the Father. The Holy Spirit is the operational presence of God, His mind and character. It is God impacting the creation with His creative influence. It is remarkable that greetings are never sent from the Spirit and in no text in the Bible is the Spirit worshipped or addressed in prayer. In the New Testament the Spirit is also the risen/glorified Messiah Jesus. Paul equates the Spirit with the risen Jesus when he says, “For this comes from the Lord who is the spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18, ESV).

The Holy Spirit is the operational presence of God, His mind and character

The spirit of God and the mind of God are beautifully equated in 1 Corinthians 2:16 where Paul refers to “the mind of Christ,” quoting from Isaiah 40:13 which refers to God’s Spirit. The Hebrew text reads “spirit.” Mind, heart, spirit and word are very closely associated in the Bible. Making the spirit a third Person introduced a great deal of confusion.

The following quotations – including four from Catholic encyclopedias – speak for themselves as testimony against reading into the Bible the conclusions of post-biblical creeds:

“Although the spirit is often described in personal terms, it seems quite clear that the sacred writers [of the Hebrew Scriptures] never conceived or presented this spirit as a distinct person.”[1]

“Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find any clear indication of a Third Person.”[2]

“The Jews never regarded the spirit as a person; nor is there any solid evidence that any Old Testament writer held this view…The Holy Spirit is usually presented in the synoptic gospels and in Acts as a divine force or power.”[3]

“The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person…God’s spirit is simply God’s power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly…The majority of New Testament texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.”[4]

“On the whole the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power.”[5]

“The third Person was asserted at a Council of Alexandria in 362…and finally by the Council of Constantinople of 381.”[6]

“The grammatical basis for the Holy Spirit’s personality is lacking in the New Testament, yet this is frequently, if not usually, the first line of defense of the doctrine of many evangelical writers. But if grammar cannot legitimately be used to support the Spirit’s personality, then perhaps we need to reexamine the rest of our basis for this theological commitment.”[7]

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[1]Fortman, The Triune God, 9.[2]The Catholic Encyclopedia, 15:49.[3]Fortman, The Triune God, 6, 15.[4]New Catholic Encyclopedia, 14:574, 575.[5]William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, 1916, rep. Kessinger, 2004, 2:810.[6]Ibid., 2:812.[7]“Greek Grammar and Personality of the Holy Spirit,” Bulletin for Biblical Research, 2003, 108, 125.

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