(long) Re: Simeon's spirit

From: Rolf Furuli (furuli@online.no)
Date: Sat Nov 29 1997 - 12:41:08 EST

Thomas A. Kopecek wrote:

<Rolf: What was your conclusion regarding Acts 2:33 within its larger
<context in the first couple of chapters of Acts? If this is the first
<sermon in the history of Christianity, then Peter's "trinity" appears to
<be the one God, a man of Davidic descent who has been resurrected by God
<"to be made both Lord And Messiah," and perhaps God's force or Spirit
<which the resurrected Jesus "pours out" on the Jerusalem church. If that
<is the case, then Luke means that "made" not be taken in the sense of
<"made for the first time," as perhaps Paul, using the second Psalm and
<the title Son, intended for Jesus' resurrection (cf. the first few
<verses of Romans for a similar claim, taking over surely from a source
<prior to Paul).

Dear Tom,

I will comment on the "trinity" of Acts 2:33 from the point of view of
translation, which also was the setting of Pete«s original question, on
which he still waits for a satisfactory answer. My target group: Bible
students who want to come as close to the original text as possible. My
intention: to help the readers to be able to decide for themselves the
relationship between Father, Son and Spirit.

There are three ways to translate anarthrous PNEUMA hAGION (P h.):
(1) "The Holy Spirit" (Capitals and article added)
(2) "the holy spirit" (article added)
(3) "holy spirit"
The biblical witness regarding the nature of P h. is indeed meagre. P h.
was only mentioned casually at Nicaea in 325 and NOT as "God The Holy
Spirit". In 380 Gregory Nazianzus wrote about the different views of the
Spirit: "But of the wise men amongst ourselves, some have conceived of him
as an Activity, some as a Creature, some as God; and some have been
uncertain which to call Him." At the council at Constantiopel in 381 a
compromise was reached regarding P h. but still P h. was not declared to be
fully God, as P h. is in the Athanasianian creed from the sixth century.

There is some evidence in the NT which can show that P h. is a person and
is divine, perhaps the strongest being the formula in Matt 28:19 TO ONOMA
PARAKLHTOS in John 14-16. This evidence is in no way conclusive and is also
compatible with the view that P h. is non-personal. This last view has a
much stronger backing in the NT. Compare for instance Luke 24:49 RSV
"clothed with power from on high", Acts 1:8 "receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you" and Acts 2:17 EKCEW APO TOU PNEUMATOS MOU. To
pour out a part of something suggests a substance which is a liquid or
something similar. I am not familiar with pouring out parts of persons.

To describe P h. as a mere force may however be misleading. The forces in
the world are all functions of the four fundamental forces: the strong and
weak force of the atom, gravity and electro-magnetism - and they are blind!
Yet P h. conveys God`s personality and warmth, so P h. is unique and cannot
be compared with anything in this world. The word "force" is perhaps the
best we have, but in no way is it adequate. This is how I see it, but I
have no right to force this view upon the reader through my translation of
the Bible. So how should the passages with P h. be translated if one really
has the interests of the readers in mind (given my target group)?

If we translate all occurrences of P h. both the articular and anarthrous
ones with "The (or the) Holy Spirit", which is the usual way, we give the
readers no chance to make up their own minds, but the dogma of "God The
Holy Spirit" is forced upon them. If we on the other hand use the
renditions "the holy spirit" and "holy spirit", supplied with footnotes and
an appendix explaining the different possibilities, we really serve the
readers. Along the same lines I would perhaps give this wooden translation
of Luke 2:25: "and spirit, holy was upon him", and then have a footnote.
Supplying a relative pronoun would give a better language, but then I would
by my choice (either which or who) prevent the reader from choosing. Carl`s
comments, which are logical and possible, and Martin`s references to
similar constructions could be used as a basis for a footnote/appendix and
they could also justify the translation "and holy spirit was upon him."

Regarding Acts 2:33 I agree with your "economic trinity" stressing the one
God of the jewish "Shema". The "man of Davidic descent" was the one who was
born because P h. came upon Mary (Luke 1:35). The aorist of POIEW in Acts
2:33 probably has past reference. God made Jesus the Messiah by anointing
him with P.h., which occurred at his baptism, and he made him Lord at his
resurrection when he, by an act of grace (CARIZOMAI) gave him the name
above every name (Phil 2:9). In Rom 1:4 Paul applies, as you say, the title
"Son" from the second Psalm to his resurrection, but Jesus may also be
viewed as a "Son" of God from his birth and as an anointed "Son" from his
baptism. In any case do we find nothing of the orthodox trinitarianism in
the first chapters of Acts.


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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