Re: Holy Spirit and grammar

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Sep 21 1998 - 16:35:11 EDT

At 05:04 PM 9/21/98 -0400, Dan Ebert 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.

It's really helpful to have a specific grammatical question, like the one
you just phrased, because otherwise the conversation can go anywhere and
everywhere without ever getting near to what you want to ask!

In Greek, names or titles may occur with or without the article. The
article can be used to indicate a particular individual who is well known,
so we can have PAULOS, or hO PAULOS, but Paul can be referred to with or
without the article, especially since PAULOS alone is usually sufficient to
identify him. Since "father" can refer to any number of fathers, hO PATHR
is a lot clearer than PATHR. To be even clearer, it may be qualified
further. The same holds for "son".

>However, I have noticed that the
>"Spirit" or "Holy Spirit" when in relation to God's Holy Spirit, many
>times has it missing.

I think it is inaccurate to speak of the article as "missing", as though
the absence of the article has a particular significance. I believe that
the use of the article is marked, but its absence is unmarked. In other
words, the presence of an article means something, but the absence of an
article is not meaningful in itself. You may want to take a look at my
discussion of the use of the article at:

I think this will clear a lot up for you.

>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

This would be easier to answer for a specific passage; as it is, I feel
like I'm answering a generality with a generality. But I'll let my hair
down and give you a quick and sloppy answer: no. There isn't any significance.



Jonathan Robie

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