JWs and the Holy Spirit

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JWs and the Holy Spirit

Post #1

Post by Overcomer »

I would like to look at the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses. To that end, I will be posting information from JW.org followed by my comments. I will not alter any of the material from that site, but will copy and paste it as is.

So let’s look at the Holy Spirit. Christians see him as the third person of the Triune Godhead. To establish him as a person, we have to establish what we mean by the word “person�. A person has a mind and is able to think. A person has a will and is able to make decisions and act. A person has emotions and demonstrates them.

According to JW.org, the Holy Spirit is “God’s power in action, his active force.� They also write of him that “God sends out his spirit by projecting his energy.�

At JW.org, we also read this:

Misconception: Jesus’ apostles and other early disciples believed that the holy spirit was a person.

Fact: The Bible does not say that, nor does history. The Encyclopædia Britannica states: “The definition that the Holy Spirit was a distinct divine Person . . . came at the Council of Constantinople in ad 381.� This was over 250 years after the last of the apostles had died.

My response:

I looked up the citation from the Encylopaedia Britannica and discovered that the whole statement reads as follows:

“The definition that the Holy Spirit was a distinct divine Person equal in substance to the Father and the Son and not subordinate to them came at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381, following challenges to its divinity.�

Notice the words I have put in bold. JW.org left them out. Without that clause, it suggests the Christian Church didn’t decide to declare the Holy Spirit the third person of the Triune Godhead until the late fourth century. But with it, we see that the Holy Spirit had been regarded as divine prior to that and that it was an attack on his personhood as a member of the Trinity that led the Council to make that understanding of him official.

Further on in the article, we read, “From apostolic times, the formula for baptism has been Trinitarian.� https://www.britannica.com/topic/Holy-Spirit

That makes it clear that the apostles considered the Holy Spirit to be part of the Trinity and, as such, a divine person. After all, Jesus told his followers to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19), so why wouldn’t they? And why would Jesus include the Holy Spirit in that command if he were not equal in person?

And there were early church fathers who supported the Trinity, including Tertullian (155 – 220 A.D.). See here:

http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/ ... rinity.htm

And we can see from the Bible that the apostles understood the Holy Spirit to be a person. Take the story of Ananias and Sapphira found in Acts 5. Peter says to Ananias that he has lied to the Holy Spirit (v. 3) and then says that he lied to God (v.4) In other words, he is equating the Holy Spirit with God. And you lie to a person, not to mere energy.

Then there’s Paul. Bible scholar Gordon Fee wrote a book entitled God’s Empowering Presence which deals entirely with the apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit. He writes, “personhood is confirmed by the fact that the Spirit is the subject of a large number of verbs that demand a personal agent� (p. 830).

He lists many examples including the Spirit searching all things (1 Cor. 2:10). He knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11). He teaches the gospel to believers (1 Cor. 13). He raises Jesus from the dead (Rom. 1:11). He bears witness (Rom. 8:16). He intercedes on our behalf (Rom. 8:26-27). In fact, in that last passage, it states that God knows the mind of the Spirit. Mere energy does NOT have a mind. But Paul states that the Holy Spirit has one, making him a person.

Again, from JW.org, we read this:

Misconception: The “Holy Ghost,� or holy spirit, is a person and is part of the Trinity, as stated at 1 John 5:7, 8 in the King James version of the Bible.

Fact: The King James version of the Bible includes at 1 John 5:7, 8 the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth.� However, researchers have found that those words were not written by the apostle John and so do not belong in the Bible. Professor Bruce M. Metzger wrote: “That these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament is certain.�—A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.

My response:

The KJV may include “the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost�, but modern versions do not. Metzger did indeed reject those words because they didn’t appear in early manuscripts. Note that Metzger, a renowned Bible scholar, is a Trinitarian.

I don’t know of any Christian apologist who uses those words in those verses to argue for the reality of the Trinity. The NET Bible has a detailed footnote about them, making it clear that they are not considered authentic. They are found only in nine very late manuscripts (16th century), four of which are notes in the margin and not part of the text at all.

Therefore, to suggest that Christians use a bogus text to argue for the Trinity and the personhood of the Holy Spirit is simply wrong. In fact, it amounts to a fallacious straw man argument.

Interestingly, verse 6, a legitimate verse from 1 John 5, argues for the personhood of the Holy Spirit. It states that the Spirit testifies to the truth – and only a sentient being can provide testimony.

Back at JW.org, we read:

Fact: The Scriptures do at times personify the holy spirit, but this does not prove that the holy spirit is a person. The Bible also personifies wisdom, death, and sin. (Proverbs 1:20; Romans 5:17, 21) For example, wisdom is said to have “works� and “children,� and sin is depicted as seducing, killing, and working out covetousness.—Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35; Romans 7:8, 11.

Similarly, when the apostle John quoted Jesus, he personified the holy spirit as a “helper� (paraclete) that would give evidence, guide, speak, hear, declare, glorify, and receive. He used masculine personal pronouns such as “he� or “him� when referring to that “helper.� (John 16:7-15) However, he did so because the Greek word for “helper� (pa•raʹkle•tos) is a masculine noun and requires a masculine pronoun according to the rules of Greek grammar. When John referred to the holy spirit using the neuter noun pneuʹma, he used the genderless pronoun “it.�—John 14:16, 17.

My response:

Personification is a literary device meant to emphasize a point. For example, Paul speaks of death reigning in Rom. 5:17 to emphasize the fact that, because it is like a totalitarian ruler, we are powerless against it. It’s an obvious metaphor.

I don’t see that same literary device used with regard to the Holy Spirit. He is NOT presented in metaphorical terms. He is presented as a real person.

For example, with regard to the verse in which Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit, he doesn’t say “a� helper as the JW site states. He says that he is going to send them “another� helper. The word “another� is key. There are two Greek words that can be translated as “another�. “Heteros� means another of a different kind. “Allos� means another of the same kind. It is the latter that appears in this verse. So Jesus says that he is going to send another helper who is the same kind of being as himself. And the Greek word for “helper� is used primarily of people, and never of mere energy. So it speaks to the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Bottom line: If the Holy Spirit is the same as Jesus and is called a helper who can think, speak, teach, guide, etc., he’s a person, not simply “energy�.

As for the word “pneuma� being a neuter noun, that’s true. Nouns in Greek can be masculine, feminine or neuter. But those designations have nothing to do with the sex of the subject.

For example, the word for “girl� is neuter (το κο�άσιον), but we use the feminine pronoun for her. The word “το δαιμόνιον� means demon or evil spirit. But we use masculine pronouns to refer to them because we recognize that they are persons who can think, act, etc.

And, interestingly, the word “πνεῦμα� is also translated as an evil spirit in some places and yet the JWs consider them persons. So why not the Holy Spirit? And what does the JW church make of the fact that the Hebrew word for the Spirit (ruach) is feminine?

Bottom line: We cannot simply dismiss the Holy Spirit as a non-person just because the word “το πνεῦμα� is neuter. In fact, if you look up the word in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, you will see that the word is NEVER used to refer to a depersonalized force. See here:

https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fu ... pneuma.htm

Then there’s this:

John uses “�κεινος� to refer to Holy Spirit in John 16:13. That is the masculine form of the pronoun. He did NOT use “�κεινο� which is the neuter form of the pronoun and would be translated as “it�. In other words, he broke the rule of grammar that says we are to use a neuter pronoun for a neuter noun. Why would he do that if not to point out that the Holy Spirit is a person? In fact, the word is used of people, NOT energy, as we read here:

b. of noted persons (as in classic Greek): in a bad sense, that notorious man, John 7:11; John 9:28; in a good sense — of the Lord Jesus, 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3, 5, 7, 16; 1 John 4:17; of the Holy Spirit, with an apposition added, �κεῖνος, τό πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, John 16:13.

See http://biblehub.com/greek/1565.htm

I know there are quite a few JWs here. I hope that they will seriously consider what I have written. I will post information re: Jesus, the Trinity, and other topics in separate threads. My thanks to all those who took the time to read this long post.

For further reading, check this out:

http://bib.irr.org/biblical-basis-of-do ... spirit-god

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Post #2

Post by Bust Nak »

Moderator Action

A trio of threads about Christian concepts were misplaced in the non Christian forum and is now moved here.

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Post #3

Post by dianaiad »

:warning: Moderator Warning


The OP of this thread contains no topic for debate, and as such can be seen as nothing but preaching. There is nothing to comment on.

Please review our Rules.

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Post #4

Post by Overcomer »

Hi, Dianaid!

I was interested in examining the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses and compared them with the beliefs of Christian orthodoxy. I expected that people would comment on the comparisons if they so wished. That was my only intent. And I did see the possibility of debate arising from my post. My apologies if I did not present the information according to the rules of the forum.

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Post #5

Post by Wootah »

Overcomer wrote: Hi, Dianaid!

I was interested in examining the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses and compared them with the beliefs of Christian orthodoxy. I expected that people would comment on the comparisons if they so wished. That was my only intent. And I did see the possibility of debate arising from my post. My apologies if I did not present the information according to the rules of the forum.
Moderator Comment
A lot of good posts get lost for not having a debate question but the site isn't for proselytising. I actually wonder if Holy Huddle isn't a better place for your topics given they are places for more general discussion.

As for who is and isn't a Christian, well God will sort it out and many will be surprised. But for now the moderating team feels that anyone that thinks Jesus is important to them can be called a Christian and whilst I disagree in principle I also think that if I prevent a conversation with someone because of terminology that teaches them about Jesus then Jesus would not be pleased. So I let it go.

Please review the Rules.


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Post #6

Post by Overcomer »

Thanks for the explanation, Wootah. That clears up a lot for me.

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