Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity?

by COGwriter

How did the early Christians view the Holy Spirit? And was it considered to be a third person, co-equal with the Father and the Son in a particular trinity?

While we in the Continuing Church of God believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, does that make it co-equal to them or a separate person?

What was the position of the majority of those who professed Christ before the fourth century Councils?

This article will provide a brief scriptural overview and show what first, second, fourth and even 21st century writers understood on this subject.

New Testament (First Century) Writers Were Defined as Binitarian

In the New Testament, the Apostle John begins by making the duality of God clear when he wrote,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).

Thus the Word was God and was with God. And the Word, Jesus, is a lot like God the Father, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). John never refers to the Holy Spirit as God.

The Apostle Paul mentions the Father and Jesus in every introduction of every book he wrote (Rom 1:7;I Cor 1:3;II Cor 1:2;Gal 1:3;Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2;Col 1:2;I The 1:1;II Thes 1:2;I Tim 1:2;II Tim 1:2;Ti 1:1;Phi 1:3;Heb 1:1-2;), but he never mentions the Holy Spirit--this is known as a binitarian position. If the Holy Spirit was a co-equal member of the trinity, could this possibly be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29) (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?)?

Like Paul, Peter also made the duality of God clear in the introduction of his two books (I Peter 1:3; II Peter 1:2), where he too left out the Holy Spirit. Peter confirmed that he knew that Jesus was part of the God Family when he said to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Peter also seems to confirm that the Holy Spirit is not a person when in Acts 2:17-18 he quotes Joel about God pouring out His Spirit.

(This may be a good time to remind everyone that although the NIV gets I John 5:7-8 right, in the KJV and NKJV I John 5:7-8 includes words not in the original text. On page 1918, The Ryrie Study Bible reminds everyone "Verse 7 should end with the word witness. The remainder of v. 7 and part of v. 8 are not in any ancient Greek manuscript...". In other words the words "in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth" are not inspired and are not supposed to be in the Bible--for more details see Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?).

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that the reason that the Bible teaches, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19) is that through being begotten by the Holy Spirit through baptism (Luke 3:16), we will ultimately be born in the family of God.

The one verse that supposedly proves that the Holy Spirit is God (according to most trinitarians) involves the following story:

But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God (Acts 5:3-4).

This story shows that those that are baptized and sin willfully are ignoring the Spirit of Truth (Jesus' term for it in John 16:13), and sin it is given as a gift by God, in that sense they are lying to God.

While some may have a different opinion, further study will show that the second century church did not understand Acts 5:3-4 the way most trinitarians have chosen to interpret it.

The truth is that it was not until the third and fourth centuries that the trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit developed:

But we must come down towards the year 360 to find the doctrine on the Holy Ghost explained both fully and clearly. It is St. Athanasius who does so in his "Letters to Serapion" (P.G., XXVI, col. 525 sq.).St. Basil, Didymus of Alexandria, St. Epiphanius, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Ambrose, and St. Gregory of Nyssa took up the same thesis ex professo, supporting it for the most part with the same proofs. All these writings had prepared the way for the Council of Constantinople which, in 381, condemned the Pneumatomachians and solemnly proclaimed the true doctrine. (Forget, Jacques. "Holy Ghost." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 21 Jul. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07409a.htm)

Even then it took Imperial might to enforce the trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit. Notice the following from one of Emperor Theodosius’ edicts which demostrates that:

…let us believe in the one deity of the father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in out judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that the shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation an the second the punishment of out authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict...(Theodosian Code XVI.1.2. From Medieval Sourcebook: Banning of Other Religions. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/theodcodeXVI.html viewed 7/28/08)

And the Cathecism of the Catholic Church admits:

245 The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was announced by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381) (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 72).

Perhaps it should be pointed out that the apostles had all been dead for hundreds of years before the position was agreed upon in 381 A.D.

Dr. Ray Pritz correctly observed:

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit was the slowest to develop in the doctrine of the trinity by the Church catholic (Pritz R.  Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, p.90).

Which, of course, shows that the Catholic "sacred tradition" on that did not come from the Bible nor the original apostles.

While we in the Continuing Church of God do believe in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), we do not believe that the Holy Spirit is the third triune person as a council in 381 declared.

At least one trinitarian scholar has admitted:

The language of the New Testament permits the Holy Spirit to be understood as an impersonal force or influence more readily than it does the Son...The attempt to develop an understanding of the Holy Spirit consistent with the trinitarian passages...came to fruition at Constantinople in 381. There were a number of reasons why the personhood of the Holy Spirit took longer to acknowledge than the Son: (1) the term pneuma, breath, is neuter in general and impersonal in ordinary meaning; (2) the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit, influencing the believer, does not necessarily seem as personal as that of the Father...in addition, those who saw the Holy Spirit as a Person, were often heretical, for example, the Montanists; (3) many of the early theologians attributed to the Logos or Word, the revelatory activity later theologians saw as the special, personal work of the Holy Spirit (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 140).

In other words trinitarian scholars understand that:

1) a concept close to what is trinitarians teach about the Holy Spirit was not widely accepted until the fourth century,
2) normal understanding of koine Greek reveals that the Holy Spirit would be impersonal, not a person,
3) the work of the Holy Spirit can be attributed to an impersonal force from God,
4) second-century heretics were associated with treating the Holy Spirit as a person,
5) early church writers made statements contradicting the current trinitarian view of the Holy Spirit, and
6) after the trinity was accepted, later writers decided statements must support the trinity, hence essentially PROVING that the Holy Spirit as part of a divine trinity WAS NOT an original early Christian teaching.

In the The Second Century Heretics Introduced Trinitarian Concepts

There are three views of the Holy Spirit I have found among those who professed Christ in the second century. Probably the one most commonly accepted was written by the famous heretics Valentinus and Montanus in the early to mid 2nd century (note that Valentinus and the Montanists are considered to be a heretic by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant, and Church of God adherents).

According to Roman Catholic sources, it was apparently voiced by the heretic Montanus and developed by a famous Gnostic heretic named Valentinus in the mid-2nd Century.

One of the so-called Montanist Oracles, spoken by Montanus was:

"I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete." (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41. 1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 01/31/06).

This is one of the first references to a trinitarian view of the Godhead (the other earliest one was from the heretic Valentinus--it is unclear which was first). The paraclete is a term used to signify the Holy Spirit (it is from the Greek term parakletos).

Eusebius records (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapters 18-19) that church leaders in Asia Minor and Antioch, such as Apollonius of Ephesus, that Serapion of Antioch, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, and Thraseas of Eumenia opposed the Montanist heresies (Apollinaris of Hierapolis and Thraseas of Eumenia were Quartodecimans, as Apollonius likely was). However, Roman Bishops would not renounce the Montanist heresy until sometime in the third century, after Rome accepted certain Montanus beliefs (see Montanists in The Catholic Encyclopedia)!

A one-time 4th century Catholic bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra wrote about Valentinus' writings, which appears to be discussing perhaps the earliest citation about the Holy Spirit extant (other than scriptural references or references that make no specific claims):

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95 ).

Hence the idea of the Holy Spirit as one of three hypostasis, while it did appear in the 2nd century, was developed by a heretic.

Regarding that heretic, the Catholic historian Irenaeus (c. 180 A.D.) noted that Polycarp had to go to Rome to stop people from listening to his teachings:

To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles...(Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4).

And that sole truth was not trinitarian.

Furthermore, Irenaeus taught:

...the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God.

...according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Son ministers and dispenses the Spirit to whomsoever the Father wills and as He wills (Irenaeus, St., Bishop of Lyon. Translated from the Armenian by Armitage Robinson. The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Chapters 5,7. Wells, Somerset, Oct. 1879. As published in SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO, 1920) .

Notice that Irenaeus clearly is teaching that the Father and Son disperse the Holy Spirit as each of them wills, and that the spirit is the wisdom of God. Thus he is teaching that the Father and Son have separate wills and that they disperse the Holy Spirit. You do not disperse a separate person. Furthermore, Irenaeus taught:

...there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Preface, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The above is clearly a binitarian, not trinitarian view.

Notice, also in the late second century, an apologist named Athenagoras wrote the following:

And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding and reason (nous kai logos) of the Father is the Son of God...The Holy Spirit...which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun...Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?

...the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire. (Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians, Chapter X. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Thus Athenagoras explained that the Father and the Son are God, have a onesness of power and spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is the effluence of God. He never called the Holy Spirit God. And he stated that both, the Father and the Son (the term in English refers to two), are both God and distinct--this is a binitarian view. As are his two assertions that the Holy Spirit is an effluence.

Where did the idea that the Holy Spirit was God come from? Well, believe it or not, in addition to the earlier heretics, two later heretics were involved who built on the "hypostasis" concept of Valentinus. Notice this astonishing admission from a Protestant scholar:

Sabellius taught the strict unity of the godhead: "one Person (hypostasis), three names." God is hyiopater, Son-Father. The different names Father, Son, and Spirit, merely describe different forms of revelation; the Son revealed the Father as a ray reveals the sun. Now the Son has returned to heaven, and God reveals himself as the Holy Spirit...Despite these flaws, Sabelliansim seems to have won the adherence of two bishops of Rome, Victor and Zephyrinus, both who were involved in bitter struggles with the adoptionists. Zephyrinus' successor, Callistus, repudiated Sabellius, but continued to use rather Sabellian language...The entanglement of these three bishops...has proved a continuous embarrassment to the traditionalist Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility...

The modalism of Sabellius influenced later orthodox formulations in that it insisted on the deity of the Holy Spirit...By insisting that the Holy Spirit is also God, Sabellianism helped counteract the tendency to what we might call ditheism (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 103).

If the doctrine of the trinity is so critical to being a "Christian" than why did not even the Roman bishops misunderstand it so much? Could it have been because the true Church was never Sabellian nor trinitarian? If the doctrine of the trinity was true from the beginning (which it was not), why do Protestant scholars feel the need to credit Sabellianism (and two corrupt Roman bishops, for details please see articles on Callistus and Zephyrinus) for insisting that the Holy Spirit is God? The simple truth is that the early true Church never considered that the Holy Spirit was God or that God was some type of trinity.

Notice that Sabellianism was condemned from the start in Asia Minor, then decades later in Rome according to Roman Catholic scholars:

Yet further evidence regarding the Church's doctrine is furnished by a comparison of her teaching with that of heretical sects. The controversy with the Sabellians in the third century proves conclusively that she would tolerate no deviation from Trinitarian doctrine. Noetus of Smyrna, the originator of the error, was condemned by a local synod, about A.D. 200. Sabellius, who propagated the same heresy at Rome c. A.D. 220, was excommunicated by St. Callistus (Joyce GH. The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York ).

It should be noted that the above writing is a bit in error. While it is true that the Church in Asia Minor (Symrna) would not tolerate Sabellian heresy from the beginning, the Roman Catholic Church did until around 220 A.D. (this is further proof that the Location of the Main Early True Church Was Asia Minor, Not Rome).

The Trinity and Mistranslations of Theophilus

The trinity is a doctrine that was not originally taught by the Christian Church. According to Roman Catholic sources, it was originally developed by a famous Gnostic heretic named Valentinus in the mid-2nd Century.

Here is what it is recorded that a one-time Catholic bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century,

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95 ).

Valentinus also wrote this in the heretical Gospel of Truth,

The Father uncovers his bosom, which is the Holy Spirit, revealing his secret. His secret is his Son! (Valentinus.  Gospel of Truth.  Verse 17.  English translation by Patterson Brown).

Hence Valentinus is the earliest known professing Christian writer to make clear trinitarian claims (though he, himself, did not come up with the term trinity, Tertullian did). It also should be noted that Valentinus was denounced by Polycarp of Asia Minor, when Polycarp visited Rome as a heretic (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4)and is considered to have been a heretic by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, most Protestants, and those in the Churches of God.

The position of most Roman Catholic scholars is that the term 'trinity' (from the Latin trinitas) was developed 85 years after the last book of the Bible was written

In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together...The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180...Afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian ("De pud." c. xxi) (The Blessed Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight).

First of all it should be understood, that claims of Catholic scholars to the contrary, that Theophilus of Antioch did not teach the trinity or that the Holy Spirit was a person (though Tertullian, who became a Montanist did--the leaders of the churches in Asia Minor and Antioch opposed the Montanists--who taught a type of trinity--before the Romans ever did). It was not until Tertullian (over 100 years since the Book of Revelation was written) that professing Christian writers suggested the concept of the trinity as now understood.

Here is a mistranslated version of what Theophilus wrote:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is mistranslated because trinity is NOT a Greek word. Thus, the proper translation would be:

In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the threes of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.

Now the trinitarian may argue that this is just a semantics issue and that Theophilus is actually still talking about the trinity. Well, he is not as the third part is what Theophilus is teaching that man becomes. And that is what Theophilus is teaching--that now man is a fourth, but will become part of God, a third part, when humans become God's offspring! And that he seems to see this as the wisdom of God's plan. This seems to support a binitarian view.

Lest anyone suggest that I am reading something into Theophilus that he does not mean, he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:

if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter III. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

We are to be God's offspring! We are to be God in the family of God. Paul verified that when he wrote:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

Lest anyone suggest that I am further reading something into Theophilus of Antioch's writings that he does not mean, he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Theophilus did not teach that the Holy Spirit was, or somehow was, one of three persons in any trinity. He verified that when he taught the following about the Spirit of God:

...if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath...For as the pomegranate, with the rind containing it, has within it many cells and compartments which are separated by tissues, and has also many seeds dwelling in it, so the whole creation is contained by the spirit of God, and the containing spirit is along with the creation contained by the hand of God (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters III,V. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

This is my God, the Lord of all, who alone stretched out the heaven, and established the breadth of the earth under it; who stirs the deep recesses of the sea, and makes its waves roar; who rules its power, and stills the tumult of its waves; who founded the earth upon the waters, and gave a spirit to nourish it; whose breath giveth light to the whole, who, if He withdraw His breath, the whole will utterly fail (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters VII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Therefore, do not be skeptical, but believe; for I myself also used to disbelieve that this would take place, but now, having taken these things into consideration, I believe. At the same time, I met with the sacred Scriptures of the holy prophets, who also by the Spirit of God foretold the things that have already happened, just as they came to pass, and the things now occurring as they are now happening, and things future in the order in which they shall be accomplished (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapters XIV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

It is not totally clear how Theophilus views the Holy Spirit, though life-giving breath may be close. The above writings suggest that it is the power of God, as opposed to a specific person--in no place does he suggest that the Holy Spirit is a separate person. Nor when he mentioned threeness did he speak of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, even trinitarian scholars who believe that Theophilus's writings do support the trinity will admit that the Greek expression used cannot clearly be used about the Holy Spirit, though they seem to wish to overlook that. Note the following admission:

An eminent authority notes that the title σοφια, is here assigned to the Holy Spirit, although he himself elsewhere gives this title to the Son (book ii. cap. x., supra)...Consult Kaye’s Justin Martyr, p. 157. Ed. 1853.

That admission is also outrageous. The term "spirit" or "Holy Spirit" is not even in the improperly translated versions of Theophilus' To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. So basically an honest reading of Theophilus' writings are that he NEVER wrote that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were the three persons of the trinity. He wrote that there is a threeness associated with God that includes the Son and the Wisdom of God's offspring.

Others in Antioch and Asia Minor Were Binitarian

Around 108 A.D., Ignatius of Antioch referred to the Father as God and Jesus as God (see Binitarian article) , but not the Holy Spirit. Actually, here is what he taught about the Holy Spirit:

...using as a rope the Holy Spirit (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians, 9:1. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.143).

For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God's plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit (Ignatius. Letter to the Ephesians, 18:2, p.149).

appointed by the mind of Jesus Christ, whom he, in accordance with his own will securely established by his Holy Spirit...the Spirit is not deceived as it is from God (Ignatius. Letter to the Philadelphians. 0:1,7:1, pp.177,181).

Referring to the Holy Spirit as it and a rope suggests that it is the power of God and not a person.

Also, Polycarp (famous bishop of Smyrna and disciple of the Apostle John) specifically called the Father God and Jesus God (see Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians), he never referred to the Holy Spirit that way. Here is the only extant direct quote from Polycarp that clearly mentions the Holy Spirit:

I bless you because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them in your presence today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you have prepared and revealed beforehand, and have now accomplished, you who are the faithful and true God. For this reason, indeed for all things, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom to you with him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now and for the ages to come. Amen (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14:2-3. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.143).

Athenagoras was an Athenian philosopher who became an apologist. Around 170 A.D. he wrote:

The Holy Spirit...which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun...Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists? (Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians, Chapter X. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Athenagoras calls the Father and the Son both God, but never does so concerning the Holy Spirit, which he calls an effluence.

Furthermore, Melito of Sardis was a leader who Polycrates claimed to be faithful to the teachings he learned from the Apostle John and Polycarp. And here is what Melito (whom Catholics and others consider to be a saint) wrote:

No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: `Father, and God of Truth" (Melito. A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar).

Melito also wrote, "For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise...He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages" (Melito. On the Nature of Christ. From Roberts and Donaldson).

This clearly shows that Melito considered Christ to be God, as well as the Father. There is no indication in any of the surviving writings of Melito that he considered that the Holy Spirit was also God. His writings, like those of Ignatius and Polycarp, suggest that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God as he wrote:

The tongue of the Lord-His Holy Spirit. In the Psalm: "My tongue is a pen." (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion, IX. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 7/26/06).

The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written (Melito. From the Oration on Our Lord's Passion. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 7/26/06).

Since God had the written the ten commandments Himself (Exodus 31:18), this shows that Melito only considered the Holy Spirit to be the power of God, not a separate person.

An other view, seems to be that the Holy Spirit was either the Father or the Son, but not a separate person. Although the following makes trinitarian claims, it is consistent with that view:

In the second and third centuries, the dynamic or modalistic Monarchians (certain Ebionites, it is said, Theodotus of Byzantium, Paul of Samosata, Praxeas, Noëtus, Sabellius, and the Patripassians generally) held that the same Divine Person, according to His different operations or manifestations, is in turn called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; so they recognized a purely nominal Trinity...

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost. They placed Him among the spirits, inferior ministers of God, but higher than the angels (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Two points about that quote:

First, the Ebionites, according to the research I have done generally did not believe in the trinity (they held either an Arian or Semi-Arian position--there were different beliefs amongst those labeled Ebionites).

And second, the idea that the Holy Spirit was not considered to be a separate person did not originate in the fourth century. The fact that some 4th century Catholic/Orthodox bishops did not believe that the Holy Spirit was a separate person clearly demonstrates that the idea of the trinity as now understood clearly was not understood by the early church. The early church has a binitarian (sometimes called semi-arian) view of the Godhead.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes this about Bardesan (second century):

His acceptance of Christianity was perfectly sincere...Bardesanes showed great literary activity against Marcion and Valentinus, the Gnostics of the day...Misled by the fact that "spirit" is feminine in Syriac, he seems to have held erroneous views on the Trinity (Bardesanes and Bardesanites. Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by Susan Birkenseer. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

I would like to add here that the word "spirit" is also feminine in Hebrew. Hence, Bardesan was not the only one who did not believe that the Holy Spirit was a third male member of any trinity.

Thus there are three ideas about the Holy Spirit found in the second century. The first, by the heretic Valentinus, who apparently considered that the Holy Spirit was one of three hypostases (hypostasis literally mean under stable, or foundation, it did not mean person in 2nd century Greek). The second idea, that which was written by Melito of Sardis is that the Holy Spirit is something that God uses (or as Athenagoras noted, flows from God). And the third that the Holy Spirit could be the Father or the Son.

It is important to note that there are no quotes from Asia Minor Christians in the second century that state that the Holy Spirit is a person or the third person of the trinity.

The Holy Spirit and Rome in The Second Century

Other than the heretics Montanus and Valentinus, there are a few early references to the Holy Spirit that were made by writers in Rome.

Yet, none of them indicate that the Holy Spirit is the third person of a trinity--the ones that I have located basically say that the Holy Spirit is Christ.

The first may be in what has been called "the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived" (Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p. 102)--outside those in the Bible--sometimes erroneously referred to as Second Letter of Clement. It was given perhaps with a year or so of John's death (though others have suggested that perhaps the Roman Bishop Soter wrote it c. 170, ibid, p103), says the following:

Now the church, being spiritual was revealed in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that if any of us guard her in the flesh and do not corrupt her, he will receive her back again in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is a copy of the Spirit. No one, therefore, who corrupts the copy, will share in the original. This, therefore, is what he means, brothers: guard the flesh, in order that you may receive of the Spirit. Now if we say that the flesh is the church and the Spirit is Christ, then the one who abuses the flesh hath abuses the church. Consequently such a person will not receive the Spirit, which is Christ. So great is the life and immortality which this flesh is able to receive, if the Holy Spirit is closely joined with it, that no one is able to proclaim or to tell "what things the Lord hath prepared" for his chosen ones (An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement), 14:3-5. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

Thus, what is perhaps the oldest preserved sermon (which can be found in its entirety at Ancient "Christian" Sermon) indicates that the Holy Spirit essentially is or is from Christ.

The next (and perhaps first) reference from Rome, is The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians which is commonly called First Clement, states:

...an outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon everyone as well (2.3)...The ministers of the grace of God spoke about repentance through the Holy Spirit (8.1)...The spirit of the Lord is a lamp searching the depths of the heart (21.2) (The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians (1 Clement). In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 2nd ed. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2004, p.121).

For as God liveth, and as the Lord Jesus Christ liveth, and the Holy Spirit, the confidence and hope of the elect, he who observeth in humility with earnest obedience, and repining not, the ordinances and commands given by God, he shall be reckoned and counted in the number of them that are saved by Jesus Christ (THE FIRST EPISTLE OF CLEMENT TO THE CORINTHIANS, Verse 58:2. Translated by Charles H. Hoole, 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

Notice that while God and Christ are declared to live, this is not the case of the Holy Spirit--the Holy Spirit was not considered to be a separate but equal member of the Godhead in the extant accepted writings of the Roman Church in the second century (the Roman Church correctly considers Valentinus and Montanus to have been heretics, thus it does not accept their writings as "Christian").

The Muratorian Canon claims that The Shepherd of Hermas was written by Hermas the brother of Pius, who it considered to have been the bishop of Rome at the time of its writing. It contains such statements about the Holy Spirit such as:

...hear now how grief crushes the Holy Spirit and saves again (Shepherd of Hermas. Mandate 10.2.1 also called Chapter 41.1 in: Holmes M. The Apostolic Fathers--Greek Text and English Translations, 3rd printing 2004. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI) p. 403).

For no spirit given by God needs to be consulted; instead having the power of deity, it speaks everything on its own initiative, because it is from above, from the power of the divine Spirit. (ibid. Mandate 11.1.5, chapter 43:5, p.407).

...the Holy Spirit speaks to the multitude, just as the Lord wills. In this way then, the Spirit of the Deity will be obvious (ibid. Mandate 11.1.9-10, chapter 43:9-10, p. 407).

...the divine Spirit that comes from above (ibid. Mandate 11.1.20, chapter 43:20, p.409).

...the son is the Holy Spirit (ibid. Parable 5.5.2, chapter 59:5.2, p.437, see also p. 471).

Hence, other than the views of the heretics Valentinus and Montanus, it appears that the Roman writers considered that the Holy Spirit was either the Son or a power from above.

Pneumatomachi or "Semi-Arians" of the Fourth Century

Did you know that the majority of those who profess Christ until sometime in the fourth century did not believe in the trinity. The majority in Asia Minor, Jerusalem, Antioch, and other areas of "the East" where labeled as Semi-Arians.

One Orthodox scholar wrote:

"Since the Council of Constantinople (381), which condemned the Pneumatomachians ("fighters against the Spirit"), no one in the Orthodox East has ever denied that the Spirit is not only a "gift" but also the giver--i.e., that he is the third Person of the holy Trinity" (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Basic Doctrines: Holy Spirit. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine1.html#Holy%20Spirit 8/20/05).

But what about prior to the council in 381?

Did most of the Greek Orthodox accept or deny that the Holy Spirit was the third divine person in a trinity?

Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

Semiarians and Semiarianism
A name frequently given to the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century...showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance...rejected the Divinity of the Holy Ghost (Chapman J. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Semiarians and Semiarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost. They placed Him among the spirits, inferior ministers of God, but higher than the angels (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The expression "the East" refers to the area also known as Asia Minor. It was always at least as important as Rome among those that professed Christ for the previous centuries (as well as for many later centuries)--and notice that MOST of those living there WERE Semi-Arian--including Macedonius, who is in the list of successors of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (the primary "see", if you will, within the Eastern Orthodox faith).  But the Orthodox (who like to claim that theirs is the original church and that it did not change) do not seem to realize that their leaders and members WERE NOT trinitarian until the late 4th century.

Although later Roman Catholic writers have had many definitions of those that they called Pneumatomachi or "Semi-Arians" (most of which disagree with the Church of God position), one that somewhat defines the view held in the early church would possibly be this one written by Epiphanius in the mid-4th Century,

Semi-Arians...hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time...But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

According to The Catholic Encylopedia, at least one 4th century Pope acknowledged soundness of the faith of the Pneumatomachi:

Pneumatomachi…They denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost...The majority of this sect were clearly orthodox on the Consubstantiality of the Son; they had sent a deputation from the Semi-Arian council of Lampsacus (364 A.D.) to Pope Liberius, who after some hesitation acknowledged the soundness of their faith; but with regard to the Third Person, both pope and bishops were satisfied with the phrase: "We believe in the Holy Ghost" (Arendzen, John. "Pneumatomachi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 11 Jul. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12174a.htm>)

Even the Orthodox bishop of Constantinople in the fourth century held to some form of Semi-Arian view:

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, into the middle of the fourth century, the two major leaders of the Greco-Roman churches endorsed Semi-Arian, non-trinitarian positions. How then can the Greco-Romans and Protestants claim then that the trinity was the original view of the church? It is a historical fact that it was NOT.

So, it should be abundantly clear that until the latter part of the 4th century, many (if not most) who professed Christ in Asia Minor and even Rome held to some type of a binitarian view and at least one Pope accepted the denial of the divinity of the Holy Spirit as sound. Have you been taught this before?

Another in the fourth century, the "Orthodox" Gregory of Nyssa, describes the beliefs of non-trinitarians as follows:

But they reveal more clearly the aim of their argument. As regards the Father, they admit the fact that He is God, and that the Son likewise is honoured with the attribute of Godhead; but the Spirit, Who is reckoned with the Father and the Son, they cannot include in their conception of Godhead, but hold that the power of the Godhead, issuing from the Father to the Son, and there halting, separates the nature of the Spirit from the Divine glory ( On the Holy Trinity. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1893. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus, the early Christians (and even later some who professed Christ) clearly did not believe that the Holy Spirit was a separate person in a trinity.

The Middle Ages and the Filioque

In the Middle Ages there was a split (called "the Great Schism" by many Orthodox) between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

One of the major doctrinal issues that caused the schism that resulted in the Eastern Orthodox (sometimes called the Greek, or Greek Orthodox, Church) Church to break from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 A.D. was the so-called ''filioque'' clause added to the original Nicene Creed.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Filioque is a theological formula of great dogmatic and historical importance. On the one hand, it expresses the Procession of the Holy Ghost from both Father and Son as one Principle; on the other, it was the occasion of the Greek schism (Maas A.J. Filioque, 1909).

Eastern Orthodox writers (like Timothy Ware), and others, have suggested that this clause is supportive of binitarianism, and thus should not be accepted by the Roman Catholic Church who insisted on this addition to the original Nicene Creed.

The ''filioque'' clause states that the Holy Spirit, "proceeds from the Father and the Son". Most binitarians would agree with that statement (though not certain others) in the Creed.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also states:

The dogma of the double Procession of the Holy Ghost from Father and Son as one Principle is directly opposed to the error that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, not from the Son. Neither dogma nor error created much difficulty during the course of the first four centuries...As to the Sacred scripture, the inspired writers call the holy Ghost the Spirit of the Son (Gal., iv, 6), the spirit of Christ (Rom., viii, 9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil., i, 19), just as they call Him the Spirit of the Father (Matt., x, 20) and the Spirit of God (I Cor., ii, ll). Hence they attribute to the Holy Ghost the same relation to the Son as to the Father. Again, according to Sacred Scripture, the Son sends the Holy Ghost (Luke, xxiv, 49; John, xv, 26; xvi, 7; xx, 22; Acts, ii, 33,; Tit., iii.6)...as the Father sends the Holy Ghost (John, xiv, 26) (Maas A.J. Filioque, 1909).

I would basically agree that the above quote is true and in accordance with history and with scripture. I believe that since Roman Catholics acknowledge that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, that this clearly shows that the Holy Spirit is not a separate divine Being as the Father and the Son are.

And while this was known from the beginning, the Church of Rome still understood part of that from the Middle Ages to present. Notice something else that it somewhat understands, according to the late Cardinal James Gibbons:

...most Christians pray to the Holy Ghost, a practice which is nowhere found in the Bible. (Gibbons J., Cardinal.  The faith of our fathers: being a plain exposition and vindication of the church founded by Our Lord Jesus Chris, reprint edition.  P. J. Kenedy, 1917.  Original from Pennsylvania State University, Digitized Oct 14, 2009, p. 73)

Since the Bible never says to pray to the Holy Spirit (only to pray to receive it and/or gifts from it), the Cardinal and others should realize that this is not something that God wants done.

The 21st Century: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants Teach the Holy Spirit is a Person

Even trinitarian scholars understand that the Holy Spirit is not biblically shown to be clearly a person. Notice the following:

Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians agree in recognizing a certain anonymity characterizes the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While the names Father and Son denote very clear personal distinctions, are in no sense interchangeable, and cannot in any case refer to the common nature of the two hypostases, the name Holy Spirit does not have that advantage. Indeed, we say that God is Spirit, meaning by that the common nature as much as any one of the persons. We say that he is holy...Taken in itself, the term Holy Spirit thus might be applied, not to a personal distinction...In that sense, Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that...the name Holy Spirit has been given to him...we find an image of the economy of the Third Person rather than an image of his hypostatic character: we find the procession of a divine force or spirit which accomplishes sanctification. We reach a paradoxical conclusions: all that we know about the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all that we do not know makes us venerate him as a person (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 165-166).

What an astounding admission! The main trinitarian groups admit that the Holy Spirit is simply a procession of a divine force and that it is venerated as a person based upon what scripture does not say.

What about Protestants? Well Protestant scholars use a somewhat different logic. Essentially Protestant scholars quote scriptures, say that certain scriptures are proof, and make many assertions that the trinity is true and the Holy Spirit is a person. Below is a list of verses one text cited to support the view that the Holy Spirit is a person (note that bolding is in the original):

The Holy Spirit is a Person...

However, when we explore the New Testament we find that the Holy Spirit is constantly spoken of in personal terms. The most obvious example of this is found in the use of the verbs that describe his activities.

Take the following examples:

The Spirit convicts people of guilt and judgement (John 16:8)

guides God's people (John 16:13)

tells things that are to come (John 16:13)

brings glory to Jesus (John 16:14)

hears God's truths and makes them known (John 16:13,15)

appoints pastors over God's people (Acts 20:28)

speaks God's message (Acts 28:25, etc.)

bears witness together with our own spirits (Romans 8:16)

helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26)

intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26, 27)

searches all things (1 Corinthians 2:10)

knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11)

teaches the content of the gospel to believers (1 Corinthians 2:13)

lives among and within believers (1 Corinthians 3:16, etc.)

washes, sanctifies and justifies God's people (1 Corinthians 6:11)

gives gifts to his people as he determines (1 Corinthians 12:11)

gives life to those who believe (2 Corinthians 3:6)

cries out from within our hearts (Galatians 4:6)

leads us in the ways of God (Galatians 5:18)

has desires that are in opposition to the flesh (Galatians 5:17)

strengthens believers (Ephesians 3:16)

is grieved by our sinfulness (Ephesians 4:30)

can be blasphemed (Luke 12:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3)

The Bible is more concerned to describe the Spirit's activity, what he does, than to deal directly with the question of his person, who he is. However, it is obvious that all these activities are those we associate with persons (Tripp D. The Doctrine of the Trinity. Indus School of Apologetics and Theology Textbook 124A1. 1999).

While the above list may look attractive to one who WANTS to believe the Holy Spirit is a person, none of those verses are actually PROOF that the Holy Spirit is a person. Nearly all of them simply show that the Holy Spirit is the power of God.

But what about the ones that seem to have "personal characteristics"?

Well, they are simply referring to aspects of SPIRIT not aspects of PERSONHOOD. What the real issue is that those who do not understand that the Holy Spirit is not a person simply do not fully understand what the Bible says about spirit.

A couple of biblical passages that help make this clear are the following:

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV).

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:15-16 KJV).

(Note: I chose the KJV for the second passage because it translates the literal Greek word autos as "itself"--the NKJV translates autos non-literally as "Himself" in an apparent attempt to justify an inaccurate position--no wonder Protestants get confused.)

Now no one that I am aware of teaches that the spirit in man is a separate person (nor does anyone teach that the spirit of bondage is a person). But notice that it (and it is an it), works in similar manner to the Spirit of God. The truth of course is that the Holy Spirit simply is NOT A PERSON.

Here are several more verses which demonstrate that things associated with spirit do not make the spirit a separate person:

Because of the news; when it comes, every heart will melt, all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint (Ezekiel 21:7).

Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him...I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream (Daniel 2:1).

But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride (Daniel 5:20).

So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:14).

Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1).

Therefore take heed to your spirit (Malachi 2:16).

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled (John 11:33).

So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel (Luke 1:80).

The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).

When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit (John 13:21).

And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all (2 Corinthians 7:13).

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols (Acts 17:16).

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit (Acts 18:25).

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit (Romans 1:9).

God has given them a spirit of stupor (Romans 11:8).

For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit (1 Corinthians 5:3).

There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit (1 Corinthians 7:34).

The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

For they refreshed my spirit and yours (1 Corinthians 16:18).

I had no rest in my spirit (2 Corinthians 2:13).

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1).

Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit (Galatians 6:18).

be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4).

Notice that the spirit mentioned in these verses can faint, is anxious, was hardened by pride, can be stirred up, can be formed, can be heeded, can become troubled, has a will, groaned, has strength, can be words, was troubled, was refreshed, was provoked, can be fervent, can serve, can cause a stupor, can judge and be present, can be holy, can be life-giving, was restless, can be cleansed of filthiness, can be gentle, can have the grace of Jesus, can be renewed, can be preserved, and/or can be gentle and kind. However, none of these were referring to the spirit as a separate person--even though these can be considered attributes often associated with a person.

Thus, having a list of attributes does not prove that the Holy Spirit is a separate person or a member of a trinity.

Does Acts 5 or Acts 13 Really Teach That The Holy Spirit Is God?

Is the Holy Spirit God?

The answer to that question essentially depends upon how that is intended.

Is the spirit in man human?

Essentially since it is part of a human, it is a human spirit.

The same is essentially true of the Holy Spirit.

Since it proceeds from God, it is God's spirit. But just like the spirit in man is not a separate person, neither is the Spirit of God a separate persons.

This is why the following verses (which are the ones most frequently cited by trinitarians to supposedly prove that the Holy Spirit is God, thus a third person of their trinity) only show that sin against the Holy Spirit is a sin against God, as opposed to teaching that the Holy Spirit, itself, is a separate God being:

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:1-5).

There are two main points about the above. The first is that Ananias did lie to men and the Holy Spirit. The second is that Peter and others in the Bible (Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Micah, etc.) ultimately equate all sin to being sin against God.

Perhaps it may be of interest to note that after David sinned against Uriah the Hittite, he claimed he had only sinned against God (II Samuel 12:13). Notice the following:

For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight (Psalm 51:3-4).

Similarly, all sin is against God.

Is the Holy Spirit in Acts 5 the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit of the Lord, or a separate person only called the Holy Spirit? Well, continuing on in Acts 5 we find the answer:

Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out" (Acts 5:7-10).

Notice that Peter makes it clear that both Ananias and his wife Sapphira tested "the Spirit of the Lord". This is not some separate being.

Therefore, contrary to the assertion by many trinitarian scholars, Acts 5 is not definitive proof that the Holy Spirit is a separate God or person in any trinity.

What about Acts 13:2 which states:

2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2)

While some conclude that the above must mean an audible speech, this is not necessarily the case. The Bible is clear that in the past the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets (cf. 1 Kings 14:18; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20). Also, the word translated as "said" (εîπε) can include concepts other than direct personal speech.

Some Protestant commentators seem to also realize this:

The Holy Ghost said; either with an articulate voice, or by an internal impulse, upon the minds of three of the prophets: (Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible. http://bible.cc/acts/13-2.htm)

2. As they ministered to the Lord-The word denotes the performance of official duties of any kind, and was used to express the priestly functions under the Old Testament. Here it signifies the corresponding ministrations of the Christian Church.

and fasted-As this was done in other cases on special occasions (Ac 13:3, 14, 23), it is not improbable that they had been led to expect some such prophetic announcement at this time.

the Holy Ghost said-through some of the prophets mentioned in Ac 13:1.

Separate me-So Ro 1:1.

for the work whereunto I have called them-by some communication, perhaps, to themselves: in the case of Saul at least, such a designation was indicated from the first (Ac 22:21). Note.-While the personality of the Holy Ghost is manifest from this language, His supreme divinity will appear equally so by comparing it with Heb 5:4. (Jamieson-Faucett-Brown. http://bible.cc/acts/13-2.htm)

The Holy Ghost said. By an inspiration given to some one of these prophets. God has spoken at sundry times and in divers manners unto the fathers by the one of these prophets (Heb 1:1). Compare Ac 20:23. (Peoples New Testament. http://bible.cc/acts/13-2.htm)

Precisely how this information was conveyed is not completely clear and it is possible that this information came from a prophet who told the Apostles. Hence, to declare Acts 13:2 as proof of personhood for the Holy Spirit is shaky ground at best.

Holy Spirit: He, She, or It?

Is the Holy Spirit a He, She, or It?

Some have wondered.

Well, in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for 'spirit' (ruwach) as in 'Spirit of God' is feminine.

In the KJV New Testament, 'he' is sometimes used related to the Greek word for 'spirit' (pneuma), even though it is neuter. The KJV also sometimes translates this as 'it':

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Romans 8:16, KJV)

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26, KJV)

While trinitarians like to be believe the Holy Spirit is a 'he,' the reality is that in many languages words have a 'gender' assigned to them, and that gender often has nothing to do with sex.

Hence, while the Hebrew word for spirit is feminine and the Greek word for spirit is masculine, those designations, of themselves, do not tell us sex or if we would use He, She, or It in English. Because of that, 'it' would be a better choice as he or she tend to contradict each other.

Plus, early Christians simply did NOT believe that the Holy Spirit was a person. Nor something that was male or female.

Some have been misled by improper translations of Greek personal pronouns into English.

Rod Reynolds further explains:

Some have been misled by English translations of John 14:16-17, 26, where the Comforter, the
Holy Spirit, is referred to by the English pronouns he, him and whom. In the Greek each noun is
assigned a gender, which does not necessarily imply sex or personhood. Hamartia, for example,
is a feminine noun meaning sin, though sin is neither male nor female. Hamartolos, on the other
hand, is a masculine noun that means sinner, though a sinner can be either male or female.

The Greek word for “Comforter” or “Helper” is parakletos, a masculine noun. Where a pronoun
is used in the Greek text referring back to parakletos, it follows the gender of its antecedent
which is masculine. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, a neuter noun. Pronouns in the Greek
text referring back to pneuma are neuter. Most of the pronouns referring to the Holy Spirit in the
original Greek in the verses in question are neuter, since most of them refer to pneuma as the
antecedent. These pronouns would be literally translated into English as which or it. Translators
have chosen to use he, him and whom, however, in English, because of their preconceived idea
that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person within a Trinity.

It’s also true that in John 16:5-15 masculine pronouns are used several times in reference to the
parakletos -- Comforter or Helper -- as would be expected since it’s a masculine word.

Elsewhere neuter pronouns are used in reference to the Holy Spirit. Nothing definitive about the
nature of the Holy Spirit can be determined by the gender of pronouns.

As stated earlier in the Old Testament (the Hebrew scriptures), the term for "Spirit" used, ruwach or ruah, (for example in Genesis 1:2) is a feminine word (I once confirmed that with a Hebrew scholar personally). Hence to claim the Holy Spirit is a masculine "person" is not consistent with the words God inspired to be written about it.

Yet, despite that fact, trinitarians still point to that term as proof of a male-trinity:

Gen 1:1-2
The plurality of persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This plural name of God, in Hebrew, which speaks of him... The Spirit of God was the first mover: He moved upon the face of the waters. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Thus, seeing the term "he" in English translations of the New Testament or biased commentaries on the Old Testament in no way supports the concept that the Holy Spirit is a male person. Again, the word for Spirit in Genesis 1 is feminine.

What is the Holy Spirit?

Notice the following:

WHO AND WHAT IS GOD?

The Father and the Son comprise the "Godhead." There is one God (1 Corinthians 8:4 and Deuteronomy 6:4). Scripture shows that God is a divine Family which began with two, God the Father and the Word (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 2:19; 3:15; Hebrews 2:10-11)...

THE HOLY SPIRIT

God is Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the very essence, the mind, life and power of God. It is not a Being. The Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from Them throughout the entire universe (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24). It was through the Spirit that God created all things (Genesis 1:1-2; Revelation 4:11). It is the power by which Christ maintains the universe (Hebrews 1:2-3). It is given to all who repent of their sins and are baptized (Acts 2:38-39) and is the power (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:6-7) by which all believers may be "overcomers" (Romans 8:37, KJV; Revelation 2:26-27) and will be led to eternal life (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. LCG, 2004).

Hence, there are still those today who hold the teachings of the Bible and early Christian writers about the Holy Spirit. A more detailed article to study would be What is the Holy Spirit? In addition, more on the Holy Spirit can be found in the article Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?

Concluding Comments on the Holy Spirit

There are no accepted early writings, prior to the third century, that I have seen that refer to the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Council of Constantinople trinity.

The early church writers such as Ignatius, Melito, and Polycarp all referred to the Father as God and the Son as God, but never the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was always considered to be the Spirit of God, but was never honored as God.

It was not until the heretics Valentinus and Montanus, in the mid-late 2nd century came up with the idea of three hypostases, that any seemed to suggest that the Holy Spirit was somehow equal to the Father. And Valentinus was denounced by Polycarp, and later by the Roman Church. And Montanus and his followers were first denounced by the Christians in Asia Minor in the second century, but not by the Roman Church until sometime in the third century after it absorbed some of Montanus' teachings.

Neither Acts chapter 5, nor any other scripture, teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third person of some trinity.

The view that the Holy Spirit is spirit and is the power of God is one that is consistent with scripture and the writings of early Christian leaders.

More historical and scriptural information on this subject can be found in the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning. Additional information can also be found in the article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?

Thiel B. Ph.D. Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/ 2011/2012/2013/2015 0225, All rights reserved.

Back to Early Christianity Page

Back to Church of God News

Back to COGwriter home page