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A Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit

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A Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit

Table of Contents

Notes:

  • You can freely use all or part of this study as the Lord leads you to witness to the members of the Watchtower Society.
  • Any Witness is free to correct me if he feels that I have misrepresented any Watchtower Society doctrine. If I agree, I will fix my error and if I disagree, I will post what you think I have misrepresented with a link from the place you believe the error is on this page.
  • In some passages we use the New World Translation (NWT, The Jehovah Witnesses' Bible). Where the NWT varies significantly from the Greek text:
    • [Brackets] in the (NWT are my corrections, in hope that the reader will compare the NWT with the original Greek manuscripts.
    • Some words in the NWT have been struck through. These words were added to the NWT by the translators. If the reader will compare the NWT to the Greek manuscript he will find these words are not even implied.
  • Unless noted, all bold emphasis [and all words in brackets] are the author's.

Why is This Study Important?

Does the Bible teach that the Holy Spirit is deity, or does the Bible teach, as the Witness's contend, that the Holy Spirit is a force or power emanating from God? The importance of properly understanding this was emphasized by Jesus' teachings:

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. - Matthew 12:31-32 KJV

What is blasphemy? Blasphemy comes from two Greek words. One is βλάπτω: to hurt or injure, and the other is φήμη: a report or fame. Jesus taught that any report which injures the reputation of Holy Ghost will not be forgiven. He said this to the the religious leaders who were giving the Prince of Devils credit for the miracles that the Holy Spirit performed. The application for us is that it is better not to teach about the Holy Ghost than to teach falsehoods.

The JW's teach that the Holy Spirit is a force; most of Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit is God. One side or the other is teaching a falsehood about the Holy Spirit. I believe that one must lie about the Holy Spirit intentionally in order to be accused of blasphemy; yet, to teach about the Holy Spirit, while remaining willfully ignorant about all the relevant Scriptures, comes dangerously close.

Do we say, 'Holy Spirit' or 'The Holy Spirit'?

While the definite article "the" is often used before the words Holy Spirit, even in the New World Translation (Examples in Matthew alone include 12:31, 12:32 and verse 28:19). The Watchtower Society avoids using the definite article in their literature and conversation. Is this only to distance themselves from other Bible believing Christians? Or, are they trying to remove the personhood of the Holy Spirit? The witnesses themselves may argue that they are only trying to be faithful to the Greek, however the definite article in Greek functions much differently then it does in English. I suspect that there is not one witness in one thousand that can explain their differences.

The Person of the Holy Spirit

Seeking only the truth, let us see whether the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as an inanimate force, or as being alive. Let us start by looking at the following passage from the New World Translation:

Yet he who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in accord with God for holy ones. - Romans 8:27 NWT

This is an interesting verse because the Greek from which the NWT was translated reads quite differently

ὁ δὲ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας οἶδε τί

the and or but (cannot stand first in sentence) he who searches the hearts knows what's

 

τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅτι κατὰ Θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων.

the mind of-the spirit, because according-to God entreats over holy-[ones].

 

A careful study of the original text shows that the Greek word φρόνημα (mistranslated meaning in the NWT) really means mental inclination or purpose, thus it should have been translate mind. To have a mental inclination or purpose you need to be conscious. The word φρόνημα (pronounced fron'-ay-mah), is passed down to the English in words such as phrenology defined as the science of the human mind and its various properties. The apostle Paul said "the mind of the spirit" not " the meaning of the spirit". Every single English Bible, except the New World Translation, translates this properly. Why would the Watchtower Society use the word 'meaning' instead of 'mind'?

Let us look another verse,

... and I will request the Father and he will give YOU another helper to be with YOU forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. YOU know it, because it remains with YOU and is [ ἔσται: shall be (future tense) ] in YOU. - John 14:16-17 NWT

The NWT refers to the Holy Spirit as 'it' rather than 'he'. Yet other translations read very differently, for instance let us look at the King James Version:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
- John 14:16-17 KJV

One might think that this contradiction can be resolved by looking at a Greek manuscript. Unfortunately, the issue can't be so easily resolved.

καὶ ἐγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν, ἵνα μένῃ μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα,

τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὃ ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν, ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτὸ οὐδὲ γινώσκει αὐτὸ· ὑμεῖς γινώσκετε αὐτό, ὅτι παρ᾿ ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται. - John 14:16-17 (Received Text)

The word αὐτό is the word translated HIM in the King James Version and IT in the New World Translation. Our problem is that Greek does not parse like English does. Here is a short grammar lesson from the New Testament Greek: for Beginners, pg 72, 2nd Edition, by J. Gresham Machen:

1. A pronoun is a word that stands instead of a noun. Example: The sentence I see the disciple and teach him means the same thing as I see the disciple and teach the disciple. The pronoun him stands instead of the second occurrence of the noun disciple.

2. The noun for which a pronoun stands is called its antecedent. Thus in the sentence I see the disciple and teach him, the antecedent of him is disciple. [In the same way the word IT or HIM stands in the place of the word SPIRIT]

3. A pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender and number, but the case of a pronoun is determined by its function in the sentence.

In the Greek, the word spirit is a neuter word, and therefore the pronoun it, which stands in its place, is neuter. In the same way, the word κοράσιον, translated damsel, is also a neuter word. Thus, the Greek could use the word it for the pronoun, which we would translate 'her' in English. Again, I suspect there is not one witness in a thousand who has been taught this concept.

The truth is that the pronouns used in John 14:16-17 do not provide evidence either for or against the personhood of the Holy Spirit. This being the case, we must read the sentence carefully in order to understand it. To gain a clearer understanding, let's replace each pronoun with its antecedent.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that [the Comforter] may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth not [the Spirit], neither knoweth [the Spirit]: but ye know [the Spirit]; for [the Spirit] dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. - John 14:16-17 KJV+

I think that the unbiased reader can see the personhood of the Holy Spirit in these verses. However, for those who still struggle with the issue, let's keep going.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. - John 16:13 KJV

I have shown that the Greek pronoun it in John 14:17 does not prove the personhood of the Holy Spirit because the gender of a pronoun must agree with its antecedent. In John 16:13, the word he, or ἐκεῖνος, does not replace an antecedent. Therefore, the Greek text uses the masculine pronoun ἐκεῖνος (he), which shows the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the NWT obscures this truth.

However, when that one [ἐκεῖνος or he] arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide YOU into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse [ἑαυτοῦ: self], but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to YOU the things coming. - John 16:13 NWT

It is to bad that the NWT obscures this verse where Jesus shows us the spirit of truth is living by using the word He. Unfortunately the obscurations start from the very beginning of the NWT.

Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of the watery deep; and God’s active force [רוּח or Spirit] was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters. - Genesis 1:2 NWT

The word is Spirit, not active force. The Hebrew has words for both active and force (like חיל ליעפ). If Jehovah had wanted Moses to write active force, that's how it would have been written.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. - Genesis 1:2 KJV

In 1st Corinthians 6:19, the NWT makes it seem like Holy Spirit is a corporate experience by adding the word people to their translation. Perhaps this is because the Witnesses have never experienced the Holy Spirit in their own lives.

What! Do YOU not know that the body of YOU people is the temple of the holy spirit within YOU, which YOU have from God? Also, YOU do not belong to yourselves. - 1 Corinthians 6:19 NWT

The reason the word YOU is plural in this verse is because Paul was writing to all the saints in Corinth, and not just to one individual.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? - 1 Corinthians 6:19 KJV

Many passages in the NWT replace the word spirit with words like inspired utterance or inspired expressions. For example:

However, the inspired utterance [spirit] says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances [spirits] and teachings of demons, - 1 Timothy 4:1 NWT

Does the Watchtower Society really believe that misleading utterances really inspired?

Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression [spirit], but test the inspired expressions [spirits] to see whether they originate with [are from] God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.

YOU gain the knowledge of the inspired expression [spirit] from of God by this: Every inspired expression [spirit] that confesses Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh originates with God, but every inspired expression [spirit] that does not confess Jesus does not originate with God. Furthermore, this is the antichrist’s inspired expression [spirit] which YOU have heard was coming, and now it is already in the world. - 1 John 4:1-3 NWT

By using words like expression or utterance, the NWT leads us to believe that a spirit is simply the words proceeding from a person's mouth. If the apostles had meant ’utterance', they would have said so. It is a dangerous practice for translators to correct the doctrine of the apostles.

In the next passage, the NWT re-sorts the word order, significantly changing the sentence's meaning.

They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit [of Christ] in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. - 1 Peter 1:11 NWT

VS.

Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
- 1 Peter 1:11 KJV

In the Greek, the words for Spirit of Christ are Πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ. Πνεῦμα means Spirit. Χριστοῦ is a contraction of two words: the suffix, -οῦ, means of (genitive case), and the root, Χριστ-, means Christ. Thus, the literal translation of Πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ is Spirit of Christ. The NWT misses this because they shuffle the words around.

I have compared the New World Translation with the King James Version. It would be better to compare it with a Greek manuscript, however I have never met a Witness who has studied Koine Greek. Any mistake in a translation is sad. A pattern of repeated mistakes with a certain slant implies deliberate deception. Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven, in this life or in the life to come; I am concerned that deliberately teaching false doctrine about the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven. I don't mean to condemn JW's with this accusation of blasphemy; rather, I hope that they will check to see if what I have said is true, and, if it is, that they will take it as a call to repentance. The apostle John warns:

I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. - 1 John 2:21

Evidence for the Deity of the Holy Spirit

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. - Matthew 12:32 KJV

Jesus taught us to not love or esteem anything in creation, even power, so the Holy Spirit must be more than an 'it' or a force. Jesus taught that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit a greater offence than blasphemy against Himself. If Jesus is deity, as Christians believe (even the Watchtower Society teaches that Jesus is a god), we can use this warning against blasphemy to established the deity of the Holy Spirit. That Jesus esteems the Holy Spirt greater than himself, a god.

In the following verses, it is hard to tell any distinction between the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. If you read these verses prayerfully, you will see the Holy Spirit is much more than just ''force''.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
- John 4:24 KJV

The NWT reads similarly:

God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth. - John 4:24 NWT

If Jehovah God is a Spirit, He is a Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John, Jesus taught that He and the Father are one.

I and the Father are one. - John 10:30 KJV NWT

There are also verses where Jesus taught that He, the Father and the Holy Spirit are one.

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. - John 14:15-18 KJV

The NWT reads similarly:

If YOU love me, YOU will observe my commandments; and I will request the Father and he will give YOU another helper to be with YOU forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. YOU know it, because it [remember the rule for pronouns and antecedents] remains with YOU and is [future tense: shall be] in YOU. I shall not leave YOU bereaved. I am coming to YOU
- John 14:15-18 NWT

Other verses from the NWT are:

In answer Jesus said to him: ''If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him.'' - John 14:23 NWT

AND

When the helper arrives that I will send YOU from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one [ἐκεῖνος: or He] will bear witness about me; - John 15:26 NWT

Looking at these verses, we can answer these questions:

Let Us Reason Together

JW's claim that their governing body has a special anointing, and are among the 144,000. Because they do not believe in the Holy Spirit as anything other than a force, they do not claim that the Holy Spirit dwells in them. If they did have a special anointing of the Holy Spirit, their work would be equal with the Scriptures, and it would be without errors. However, when shown errors in their early publications (put out by the governing body), they admit those errors. If the governing body can make errors, they clearly have no special anointing.

While Christians don't claim a special anointing, they do believe that Holy Spirit dwells in them. And it is He who guides us into all truth.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. - John 14:26 KJV

Those who don't have the Holy Spirit do not belong to Jesus.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. - Romans 8:9 KJV

The NWT reads similarly:

However, YOU are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in YOU. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him.
- Romans 8:9 NWT

The apostle Matthew records the apostles asking a question.

And in answer Jesus said to them: ''Look out that nobody misleads YOU; for many will come on the basis of [in] my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many''.
- Matthew 24:4-5 NWT

The Greek word translated as Christ is anointed. Jesus has said that many will come in His name claiming to be especially anointed, and they will mislead many. Does the JW's governing body claim to have a special anointing? If they do make that claim, then we should heed Jesus' warning not to be deceived by them. If they don't make this claim, then why do the JW's blindly follow them? Why are their members forbidden to learn from other Christians?

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. - Matthew 15:14 KJV

The blind leaders to whom this verse refers were the governing body over Jehovah's congregation in Christ's time!

Luke records a similar warning:

He said: ''Look out that YOU are not misled; for many will come on the basis of [in] my name, saying, 'I am he,' and, 'The due time has approached.' Do not go after them.''
- Luke 21:8 NWT

Many have come in Jesus name and set dates for the kingdom, including the JW's governing body. The prophecies vary but Jesus' command to not follow them does not.

False prophets mislead people in order to take something from them. In this case, the JW's governing body would take the Holy Spirit, one of God's greatest gifts to mankind, from those who would otherwise ask for Him. Do not let any one talk you out of fellowship with God's Holy Spirit.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? - Luke 11:13 KJV

AND

He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
- John 7:38-39 KJV

If you do not believe in the Holy Spirit, you cannot receive Him.

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
- Ephesians 1:13 KJV

When a person denies Holy Spirit, the Scripture is fulfilled that says:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. - John 14:15-18 KJV

If you cannot receive the Comforter, or the Spirit of Truth, it is because you are of the world. Do you know Him? Has Jesus come to you?

Written by Jeff Barnes


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Related Studies

The study Does the Bible Teach the Deity of Jesus Christ? is a companion to this study. These studies were written in response the JW's booklet Should You Believe in the Trinity? They answer many of the questions posed, and show how the booklet uses selective reasoning to come to their leaders' forgone conclusions.

Recognizing Cults: and Ministering to Cult Members is a study that compares different cults to Christianity. While not directed towards Jehovah's Witnesses, it may be helpful to see the similarity to between JW's other cults. This study also offers help for those who are leaving a cult.

 

The following verses are for those in the witness's governing body to pray over.

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. - Luke 14:11 KJV

AND

So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
- Matthew 20:16 KJV

AND

God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.
- John 4:24 NWT

AND

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. - Ephesians 4:30 KJV

AND

Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
- John 5:39-40 KJV