(long) RE: Simeon's spirit

From: Rolf Furuli (furuli@online.no)
Date: Sun Nov 30 1997 - 17:18:52 EST

Martin Arhelger wrote:

<Thomas and Rolf!

<I was astonished to read your e-mails.

<Acts 2:33 is indeed the "first sermon in the history of Christianity" (as
<Thomas Kopecek wrote).
<Now I will quote from some words of Peter a little later:
<Acts 5:3 - 4: Peter said: "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie
<to the Holy Spirit ... You have not lied to men but to God." Acts 5:9 But
<Peter said to her (that is, Sapphira), "How is it that you have agreed
<together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? ..."

<This verses proof, that Peter had a clear awareness of a Holy Spirit being
<a) a person (How could Ananias have lied to a thing or force ?)
<b) divine (5:4 !)

<As to Luke 2:25, I encourage again to look at the context:
<Luke 2:26 "And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should
<not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ." Itās difficult for me
<to imagine somebody (something ?) that is able to reveal something while
<being no person but a thing (force, abillity ?).
<Look also at Acts 8:29; 13:2.4; 16:6-7 etc.

Dear Martin,

Because your points relates to the understanding of the Greek text and its
translation, I will make some comments. Your references represent evidence
for P h. both being a person and being divine, but they are hardly proofs
for this, and taken alone the evidence is not very strong. What needs to be
taken into account is the Semitic idiom of "representation" which literally
is used hundreds of times throughout the Bible. To illustrate: Who gave the
law and spoke to the people at Sinai? YHWH (Ex 20:1)? No, angels (Gal 3:19,
Acts 7:53). Who hardened the heart of Pharao? YHWH (Ex 7:3)? No, Pharao
himself (Ex 8:15). Who wisited Abraham and spoke in the 1st person? YHWH
(Gen 18:17)? No, evidently angels (Ex 33:20). Who did Paul persecute? Jesus
(Acts 9:5)? No, the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1). Even when P h. is
mentioned in one line and God is mentioned in a parallel line, this does
not prove that P h. IS God. It need not show anything more than that P.h.
REPRESENTS God (remember "the problem of induction"!).

But how can something not being a person represent God? As already
argued,while the word "force" may be our best choice, applied to P h., it
gives unfortunate connotations. We should, however realize, that even if it
is impersonal, this does not mean that it is "nothing". Einstein`s
equation E=mc2 shows that power is matter and matter is power, so
"power/force" can have visible manifestations. P h. was active in creation,
and P h.`s function as PARAKLHTOS was, according to 1 Cor 12-14 manifested
in many powerful gifts and according to 2 Tim 3:16 in the writing of
texts. All these things and many others represented God.

What we definitely know is that P h. "proceeds from the Father" (John
15:26). Even Jesus used P h. as an instrument to expel demons (Matt 12:28).
Why could words spoken against Jesus (and God) be forgiven, but not words
spoken against P h. (Matt 12:31,32)? The context seems to suggest that the
manifestations of P h. was so clear that people had no excuse for not
accepting that they were from God. So P h.is something proceeding from the
Father serving as a helper/advocate for Christians on earth. So even if P
h. is impersonal it is something which in a forceful way represents God,
and using the Semitic idiom of "representation", to lie for P h. is to lie
for God, and when P h. speaks, God speaks.

Our view of P h. certainly affects our translation. In John 14:17 we find
the relative pronoun hO and its antecedent is TO PNEUMA. The use of the
neuter is grammatically conditioned and does not show that TO PNEUMA is
impersonal. However, the writer COULD have made a construction ad sensum
and used hOS to indicate personality if that was his meaning, but this is a
very weak argument in favour of P h. being impersonal. In John 16:13,14 we
find the demonstrative pronoun EKEINOS two times and there is no masculine
antecedent in the preceding verses. We must jump back to v 7 to find one,
namely hO PARAKLHTOS. True enough, we find EKEINOS in v 7, and therefore,
both this word and the other two occurrences may refer back to hO
PARAKLETOS of v 7, but because the distance between vv 7 and 13,14 is so
big, a good case, but in no way a conclusive one,can be made for P h. being
personal. But who should decide? I opt for the readers, and therefore I
would use "which" in John 14:17 " and a masculine personal or demonstrative
pronoun in 16:7,13,14 (In 14:17, NIV has "him", TEV has "he", NRSV, Darby,
ASV,NASB;Young, NJB, NKJV and RSV have "whom" and only NAB has "which".)


Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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