"gift of the Holy Spirit"
Below you will find a summary of the responses I received to the question which
is listed immediately below:
> Please comment on the meaning of the greek phrase which is translated "gift
> of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38. Does it clearly mean either "gift which is
> the Holy Spirit" OR "gift belonging to (from) the Holy Spirit"?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (D. Andrew Kille)
Subject: Re: "gift of the Holy Spirit"
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 93 16:51:40 PDT
It can mean either, although there are more occurrences of genitive
relationships of the second type than the first. The phrase is "dwrean
tou `agiou pneumatos"- an accusative modified by the genitive.
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 93 19:26:04 CDT
From: email@example.com (David B. Peabody)
The word gift is in the accusative case and is the object of the verb, receive.
The words following are all in the genitive case, typically translated "of the
Holy Spirit." Your second translation would construe the words as "subjective
genitives," and that would be one possible translation. For your first
translation one would expect "the Holy Spirit" to be in the accusative case and
stand in apposition to the word "gift" which is accusative. Your first
translation, therefore, seems to me to be unlikely.
From: "R. Glenn Wooden" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1993 08:53:50 ADT
At a distance of some 2000 years from the time of writing, I doubt we
will ever be able to say it "clearly" is the subjective or objective
or possessive genitive. I could be wrong, but it would take a great
deal of effort to isolate all such examples from the NT and
contemporary literature and devise a means of differentiating
"clearly" between subjective and objectives.
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 18:21:49 EDT
From: email@example.com (Religious Center)
In the Strong's concordance, #1431,
the translations for "gift" of the Holy Spirit" is translated as a
gratuity; gift. This is pronounced do-reh-ah'. The root is #1435,
do'-ron, a present, or specifically, a sacrifice:- gift offering.
in this verse, Acts 2-38, their are two gift given, the second or gift of
the Holy spirit can be found in Luke 24:47; Act 3:19 and John 20:22. The
promise which Peter is teaching of can be found in Isa 44:3, 65:23.
This gift is also spoken of by Jesus when he told his disciples of the
comforter, which would be with them after his ascension. The gift of the
Holy spirit, which before hand, departed back to the father after it had
completed the work with which it agreed to do. This gift, this
indwelling, brings with it, power and authority. This present represent
the true witness of the Godhead, first being God the Father who brought
forth the Law after delivering the children of Isreal out of bondage,
secondly, Christ Jesus fulfilling the Law in the flesh and paying the
price for our sin nature, and lastly the gift of the Holy Spirit, which
empowers the children of God, who's work or ministry of reconciliation has
been commission 2 Cor 5:18.
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1993 18:28:28 -0500 (EST)
From: Peter Orlowski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to Arelius (spelling?) Augustine ("On Christian Doctrine"), any
interpretation of Sacred Scripture which is consistent with the Great
Commandment, that is, with Love of God and Neighbor, is a correct
interpretation. This is because he believes that no human being could
invent an interpretation of the text of Scripture which furthered these
Loves that God Himself was not aware of, nor that God Himself would not
have willed and intended. (Man, he would say, cannot outdo God in these
So scholars can argue and dispute over what Luke was thinking of when he
said "gift of Holy Spirit", what kind of genitive he intended,
but Augustine would not rule out any suggestion upon what _God_ had
intended by this phrase, (provided, of course, that the interpretation was
consistent with the Two Loves) and that is what he would be more
I am not sure what the seminaries are teaching about the Spirit these
days (especially now that non-Trinitarian biblical interpretations are all
the vogue in some evangelical circles), but the Trinitarian
denominations that I know of generally give the account of the Spirit
according to the medieval biblical scholar Thomas Aquinas. In this vain,
Thomas Aquinas argues that "Gift" is a proper name for the Holy Spirit,
since in his understanding, the Spirit of God is the Love of the Father
for the Logos. Since any gift worthy of the name is given gratuitously,
then every other gift is preceeded by the gift of love, which is the first
thing given gratuitously. Since, in the great scheme of things as the
Christian sees it, the Spirit of God is the first thing given
gratuitously, that is, the first Love, it is most properly called "Gift".
Thus, given the ambiguity of the genitive case, and the context, one can
take the genitive to mean that the Holy Spirit is the substance of the
gift. This would not be contrary to love of God, to say that His Spirit
can be Given as a Gift.
[Of course, in a non-Trinitarian account, their is no such thing as
"giving" before their are created persons distinct from God. Thus, "gift"
would not be a proper name for God, but only a name applied to Him in
respect to creatures, expressing something real about us, and not Him. I
think in this interpretation, the Spirit is not "gift" in Himself, but
rather "gift" expresses something "from" Him.]
[I do not think you can use this passage, or any passage for that matter,
to "prove" one interpretation or the other, however. The history of
Christianity, I think, gives ample evidence of this.]
In a Trinitarian theology, one can also interpret this passage as referring
to a gift given by the Spirit or belonging to It. This tradition of
interpretation is better known, especially in the charismatic communities,
although this would be a Pauline thrust which may not have been familar to
Luke. (By Luke, I simply mean the author of Acts.)
I am more symaphetic to Glenn's comment that we cannot recover the
original intent of the Semitic authors with any surety, and so I would
suggest that the greater latitude offered by Augustine's hermaneutic is
advantageous here, for surely, it leaves room for the author's intention
as well, as one permissible exegesis. I am not altogether sure what the
benefits of the other method would be.