Sends no greetings

At the beginning of each of the thirteen letters written by Paul, all of them include in the first few verses some variation of the following benediction: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”[28] This consistency is remarkable. Paul wishes upon the readers grace and peace from God and Jesus, but never from the holy spirit. If the spirit were a person distinct from the Father and Son, then why does the spirit never send grace and peace in Paul’s letters? In addition, the letter of James opens with “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ….” Apparently, James considers himself a lifetime slave to the Father and the Son, but no mention is made concerning the holy spirit. Furthermore, the first letter of John begins with the following statement of fellowship: “…indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1.3). Again, it would not make sense to leave out the holy spirit from fellowship with the believers if it were an independent person.

Is owned by God

The phrase “spirit of God” appears twelve times in the New Testament. In Greek, the phrase “of God” is one word, theou, which is in the genitive case. This is the possessive case and can be translated into English using either the preposition “of” or the apostrophe “s” designation. For example, if Spot is the dog of Grace, then Spot is Grace’s dog—Grace is Spot’s owner. Thus it is with the spirit. It is God’s spirit—Yahweh is the source and possessor of the spirit. It goes where He sends it and does what He wants it to do. The spirit is not independent of God, but it is His influence and presence.

Not prayed to

Jesus gave explicit instructions for prayer in the Sermon on the Mount and then again at the last supper. He always instructed his disciples to pray to the Father. Then at the last supper, he told them to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. This is especially noteworthy because the teaching contained within John 14-16 primarily concerns the future coming of holy spirit. Why not ask the spirit directly to come into the new believer? Instead, Jesus says, “…if you ask the Father for anything in my name, He will give it to you” (John 16.23) and “…but if I go, I will send him [the helper] to you” (John 16.7). Furthermore, John the Baptist prophesied that one would come after him who would baptize in holy spirit (Matthew 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33). This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Jesus poured forth what the people saw and heard—the holy spirit (Acts 2.33). If the spirit were a person, then why does it not have a say about its own sending? The chain of events is clear, the convert or evangelist prays to God in the name of Jesus to receive spirit, and then Jesus baptizes the new believer in the spirit which proceeds from God.

Left out of key passages

Jesus confirmed the time-honored creed of the Jewish people when he declared, “…Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12.28-29). Jesus held to the belief of strict monotheism that the Hebrew Scriptures taught.[29] Why is the holy spirit left out if it were also God?

When Jesus walked on this earth, he had an incredible oneness with His father (John 10.30). He lived in a state of perpetual communion, always doing the works,[30] obeying the will,[31] and speaking the words[32] of his Father. In fact, several times God speaks audibly to Jesus, and others hear what He says (Luke 3.22; Mark 9.7; John 12.28). This oneness is wonderfully encapsulated in Matthew 11.27: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” No one really knows the Son except the Father. No one really knows the Father except the Son. No one can know the Father unless the Son reveals Him. There is a great deal of exclusivity expressed in this text. Why is the holy spirit left out if it were also God?

The Olivet Discourse is the teaching during which Jesus explained what would happen just before the Kingdom comes (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). After expressing to his disciples that they should be able to tell when the end is near, he clarifies by saying, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24.36). It is evident that in Jesus’ mind, the potential beings who may have end times knowledge include humans, the angels, himself, and the Father. Why is it that only the Father knows when the end will come? If it were also God, why is the holy spirit left out twice (once from those who potentially could know, but don’t; and once from those who do know)?

Several of the prophets had visions of Yahweh on His throne (1 Kings 22.19; Isaiah 6.1; Ezekiel 1.26; Daniel 7.9; Revelation 4.2). Jesus has been promised the throne of David (Luke 1.32). Until then, he is seated with the Father on His throne (Revelation 3.21). What about the holy spirit’s throne? Why is the holy spirit left out if it were also considered to be God?

What about the phrase “the holy spirit says?”

Several texts have been used to support the belief the holy spirit is a person because the holy spirit speaks (2 Samuel 23.2; Matthew 22.43; Mark 12.36; Acts 1.16; 28.25; Hebrews 3.7; 9.8). Although it is certainly an indication of personhood to communicate (i.e. speak one’s mind) this is not necessarily the case for these texts.

“for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the holy spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1.21)

God speaks through holy spirit. This is how we came to have the Scriptures. They were a result of God’s inspiration of the writer through the medium of His spirit/word. It is a well-known fact that the Jews have regularly used other words in an effort not to pronounce the divine name. For example, “heaven,”[33] “blessed,”[34] “holy One,”[35] “Lord,”[36] etc. are ways of referring to Yahweh without uttering and thus making common His name. In like manner, the phrases “word of God,” “spirit of God,” “breath of God,” “wisdom of God,” “glory of God,” “power of God,” etc. are mere circumlocutions for God’s activity in the world. In affect, this literary method does no damage to God’s supremacy and transcendence but expresses His activity.

“As for the rabbinic formula (‘The Holy Spirit says’), is this any more than what we might call a literary hypostatization? —that is, a habit of language which by use and wont develops what is only an apparent distinction between Yahweh and one of these words and phrases used earlier to describe his activity towards men (here particularly in inspiring scripture). Have we in all these cases any more than a personification, a literary (or verbal) device to speak of God’s action without becoming involved every time in a more complicated description of how the transcendent God can intervene on earth? —in other words, simply a useful shorthand device (‘Spirit of God,’ ‘glory of God,’ etc.) which can both express the character of God’s immanence in a particular instance and safeguard his transcendence at the same time without more ado.”[37]

What about the intercession of the holy spirit?

The following text is quoted to prove that the holy spirit is person because “he” intercedes on behalf of the saints and has a mind: “In the same way the spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the spirit is, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8.26-27)

“Romans 8.26 means, as the whole context shows, nothing other than this: ‘although we have no very definite conception of what we desire, and cannot state it in fit language in our prayer but only disclose it by inarticulate groanings, yet God receives these groanings as acceptable prayers inasmuch as they come from a soul full of the Holy Spirit.’”[38] The mind of the spirit could be a way of speaking about the thoughts of the person. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2.11). If this is the case here, then verse 27 could be paraphrased: “Christ who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the man’s spirit is, because Christ’s job is to intercede for the saints according to the will of God.” Regardless it is clear from a few verses later that “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8.34). Christ is the intercessor and the spirit is Christ to the believer (Romans 8.9-11). It is not at all unexpected to see a blurring of categories here; this is common in Paul’s letters.

What about blasphemy against the holy spirit?

Some have inferred that the spirit must be a person and to deny this fundamental belief is blasphemy against the holy spirit. A demonized man was healed by Christ and the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons. Christ pointed out the absurdity of “Satan casting out Satan” and then confessed that it was by the spirit of God that he casted out demons. Then he made the statement, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12.32).

Blasphemy against the holy spirit is observing God in action through his human Messiah and declaring that the source of his power was demonic rather than divine. In essence, they were calling God the prince of demons. This sort of unrepentant, hardhearted, intentional blasphemy against God at work in His Messiah is unforgivable.


Jason BeDuhn has noted that “Later Christian theology also applied the technical status of a “person” on the Holy Spirit, which has lead modern translators and readers to think of the Holy Spirit in human terms as a “who,” even a “he,” rather than as an “it” that transcends human measures of personhood.[39]” This intentional cloudiness has been injected into the modern translation in order to “honor” the spirit as God and “help” people to “rightly” understand the Scriptures. Yet, is it more honoring to change the meaning of someone/something or to represent it as it truly is? Certainly if the Bible teaches unequivocally the spirit is a person, then God doesn’t need the translators’ help to teach this doctrine by tweaking pronouns in favor of orthodoxy. However, if one’s doctrine is only a secure as the translation he or she favors then it is time to shed dogma in replace it with a spirit of inquiry.


[28] Romans 1.7; 1 Corinthians 1.3; 2 Corinthians 1.2; Galatians 1.3; Ephesians 1.2; Philippians 1.2; Colossians 1.2; 1 Thessalonians 1.1; 2 Thessalonians 1.2; 1 Timothy 1.2; 2 Timothy 1.2; Titus 1.4; Philemon 1.3

[29] Yahweh alone is God (Deuteronomy 4.24, 25-39; 5.1-7; 6.4; Isaiah 43.10-13; 44.6-8; 45.5-7, 18-22; etc.).

[30] John 8.29; 10.25, 32, 37; 14.10; 17.4.

[31] John 3.34; 5.30; 6.38; 14.31; 15.10.

[32] John 7.16; 8.26, 28, 38; 12.49-50; 14.24; 17.8, 14.

[33] Matthew 19.23-24; Mark 11.30; Luke 15.18, 21.

[34] Mark 14.61; 1 Timothy 6.15.

[35] 2 Kings 19.22; Job 6.10; 1 John 2.20.

[36] Virtually every OT quotation in which Yahweh had appeared has been rendered Lord kurios.

[37] James DG Dunn, Christology in the Making (second edition) ©1989, Eerdmans Publishing Co., page 134.

[38] Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament ©1977, Mott Media, page 522.

[39] Jason David BeDuhn, Truth in Translation ©2003, University Press of America, page 136.