Re: Holy Spirit and grammar

From: Jim West (jwest@Highland.Net)
Date: Mon Sep 21 1998 - 16:19:48 EDT

At 05:04 PM 9/21/98 -0400, you wrote:
>My reason for asking about the Holy Spirit and grammar really had
>nothing to do with the fact the word 'spirit' has a nuetral gender. It
>really had more to do with the use of the 'definite article' with it. I
>just noticed with the word "Father" when in relation to God, the
>definite article rarely is missing. The same is true of the word "Son"
>when in relation to Jesus Christ. However, I have noticed that the
>"Spirit" or "Holy Spirit" when in relation to God's Holy Spirit, many
>times has it missing.

The presence or the absence of the article is really, in my humble opinion
(I have to say that now because some folk evidnetly, in the past, have taken
my opinions as ex cathedra statements even though, of course, I never
represented them as such), utterly insignificant.

Now, to be sure, the purists will argue that Attic Greek is very meticulous
about the use of the article. However, and this we should never forget, the
NT is written in Koine- the language of the market and the gutter. If you
expect pure style in the NT you will be sorely disappointed. Just as the NT
writers used less than excellent language to communicate the Gospel, so do
modern shoppers, housewives, and politicians use less than perfect grammar
to communicate their ideas. In fact, if I may be so bold, the only folk who
use perfect grammar are those dreadful folk whose living it is to teach grammar.

In other words, you are looking for something in the NT that it is not
interested in providing- i.e., a grammar book.

So, if a writer uses the definite article, slap him on the back and thank
him for speaking correctly. If he doesn't, don't worry about it.

The fact is simply this- there is no reason to suspect that the NT writers
did not consider the Spirit less than divine just because they did not slap
a "ta" in front of the name.

> It appears that the English translators have had
>to insert the 'definite article' in the English many times where it
>would naturally occur if the "Holy Spirit" were a Being or Person. Now I
>know that Greek and English are different in this regard, I was just
>wondering if there is any significance to this difference between the
>way Father, Son and Holy Spirit are designated with the definite

None at all. None whatsoever. NEIN!

>I am not looking for a theological debate at all, just some
>honest grammatical evaluations.

Oh, but theology and lingusitics are hopelessly interlocked- and you cant
disentangle their interlocking threads without unravelling the whole fabric
of both.



non ex cathedra
Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

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