How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

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Paidion
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How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by Paidion » Sun Feb 28, 2021 8:45 pm

Trinitarians hold that God consists of 3 divine Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and this point of view has come out in virtually all modern translations. I think that Paul clearly stated that there is One God, the Father. Nowhere did he state that God is a Trinity of three Persons:

Notice in the following passage Paul taught that there is one God; I believe he was referring to the Father. And he doesn't call Jesus "God", but rather the mediator between God and man:


For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5 ESV)


Now let me suggest that modern translations inject the concept of a "third divine Person" in various texts.
First let me explain how I think the New Testament writers understood "spirit". I think they understood a person to consist of a body and a spirit. The person's spirit was the conscious, thinking, self-aware aspect of him, as distinguished from his body. We also read of the spirit of God, which is the conscious, thinking, self-aware aspect of Him. Indeed, since God does not have a body, the apostle John wrote that God IS spirit (John 4:24).

Now let's consider a passage in the ESV that translates the "holy spirit" of God into a Divine Person:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this manner: When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. (Matt 1:18 ESV)

Virtually every modern translation renders the words in a similar manner.
First they inject "the" into the translation, and secondly, they capitalize "holy" and "spirit".

Now consider the phrase in Greek that the translators rendered "by the Holy Spirit":
εκ πνευματος αγιου (ek pneumatos haiou) in English characters.
Now I have used lower case Greek as in modern Greek testaments. But in early Greek manuscripts every letter was capitalized.
Also in any Greek manuscript the article for "the" was not included.
So the literal translation of the Greek phrase ought to be "out of holy spirit". It was God's holy spirit (not a Person separate from God), the thinking, conscious God who chose to cause Mary to have the child, the child who was thereby the divine Son of God.

To my mind, it is dishonest of all those translators to inject their idea of a third Divine Individual into the picture by adding the article "the" and capitalizing "holy spirit".
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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by backwoodsman » Sun Feb 28, 2021 10:55 pm

Paidion wrote:
Sun Feb 28, 2021 8:45 pm
Now consider the phrase in Greek that the translators rendered "by the Holy Spirit":
εκ πνευματος αγιου (ek pneumatos haiou) in English characters.
Now I have used lower case Greek as in modern Greek testaments. But in early Greek manuscripts every letter was capitalized.
Also in any Greek manuscript the article for "the" was not included.
So the literal translation of the Greek phrase ought to be "out of holy spirit". It was God's holy spirit (not a Person separate from God), the thinking, conscious God who chose to cause Mary to have the child, the child who was thereby the divine Son of God.
Alford has a good explanation of why, grammatically, "the Holy Spirit" is a good translation (see the last paragraph under Verse 18):

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries ... hew-1.html
or
https://biblehub.com/commentaries/alford/matthew/1.htm
To my mind, it is dishonest of all those translators to inject their idea of a third Divine Individual into the picture by adding the article "the" and capitalizing "holy spirit".
So you're suggesting EVERY SINGLE translator, everywhere, throughout history, is dishonest? That's quite an accusation. Are there any you think are honest?

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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by darinhouston » Mon Mar 01, 2021 9:35 am

Perhaps dishonest is not the right word. But, I do think it's highly anachronistic (more on that in another post). But, just looking critically at this commentator's position, I have a few thoughts that are relevant to what can only be seen as a high interpretational bias based on doctrinal presuppositions. That's not to say it's wrong, but the bias is plainly evident and at least colors the issue further where it is already somewhat speculative in light of the biblical revelation.
ἐκ πν. ἁγ.] by (the agency of) the Holy Ghost. See reff. and those to Matthew 1:20 : and compare by all means Chrys.’s remarks, Hom. iv. 3, p. 50 f. The interpretation of πν. ἁγ. in this place must thus be sought: (1) Unquestionably τὸ πν. τὸ ἅγ. is used in the N.T. as signifying the Holy Ghost. Luke 3:22; Acts 1:16; Ephesians 4:30. (2) But it is a well-known usage to omit the articles from such words under certain circumstances, e.g. when a preposition precedes, as εἰς λιμένα (Plato, Theæt. § 1), &c. We are therefore justified in interpreting ἐκ πν. ἁγ. according to this usage, and understanding τὸ πν. τὸ ἅγ. as the agent referred to. And (3) even independently of the above usage,—when a word or an expression came to bear a technical conventional meaning, it was also common to use it without the art. as if it were a proper name: e.g. θεός, νόμος, υἱὸς θεοῦ, &c.
"We are therefore justified"... note that this isn't the same as "we are therefore persuaded that this is the correct interpretation." Finding some support in making something sound like it requires your doctrinal position is not a fair-minded translation approach if you are trying to be true to the text. It simply isn't good scholarship to come up with a translation because it "can be" twisted in a justifiable way to prove your doctrinal presuppositions. Particularly if you are pretending to do an essentially word for word textual translation. It may be fair in a doctrinal debate like we have on here to show (as unitarians do) that a translation COULD support their theory and so it's worthy of consideration and can't be dismissed out of hand as inconsistent with scripture or conventional understanding based largely on another interpretation. When a speculative translation is more true to the larger teachings of scripture and the underlying jewish understanding and words of Jesus, well that's something worth considering. But, we shouldn't officially translate a text in a way beyond the literal text to reinforce our position in scripture and call ourselves intellectually honest.

"when a word or an expression came to bear a technical conventional meaning, it was also common to use it without the art. as if it were a proper name."... ok, so convince me from other texts or from extra-biblical apostolic era (or ancient Jewish) understanding that this was a technical convention and seen regularly as a proper name and I will agree that it is appropriate to treat it that way here, but this begs the question I believe and reveals the bias/presupposition of the commentator.

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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by darinhouston » Mon Mar 01, 2021 10:01 am

I am particularly interested in arguments concerning the personhood of the holy spirit because it was this topic which first sent me down the road of exploration of the history and scriptural arguments concerning the trinity as a whole.

Just a brief personal history - growing up I never really questioned the so-called binity of the Father and the Son because I just took the various positions that were repeated from the pulpits all my life on faith, but it has struck me as odd since I was a child that all the discussions on the trinity I had ever heard were justifying the divinity of Jesus and were either silent on the Holy Spirit or just noted the personal pronouns and "case closed." I have always had a bit of a "parking lot" where I placed those questions because there was almost complete silence on the Holy Spirit and it was just assumed. My personality (and training as a patent lawyer) zeros in on assumptions like a laser beam, especially when it comes to matters of textual interpretation. I guess my own working assumption was that the Holy Spirit was simply God (the Father) Himself (as He just IS spirit), and particularly as manifested in his interactions with us, spiritually. I also considered use of personal pronouns equally appropriate if it was God's own spirit (as opposed to a separate person), so I didn't understand the "case closed" mind set. So, I began looking into the biblical bases for seeing the HS as a separate "person" of the Trinity. I was pretty surprised to see that much of it was pretty thin and largely limited to linguistic arguments such as the use of personal pronouns and use of definite articles, so when I found that most of this was either speculative or clearly mis-translated or had manuscript challenges, I was pretty convinced that much of what I had been taught (and was assumed and just repeated by pastors and commentators) about the Trinity as a whole was likely suspect. So, I started exploring the history and scriptural support for the Son as well. I was initially rocked but then affirmed to find that the simple story of the development of the doctrine was demonstrably ridiculous and that there was a robust debate very early on and a very complex history of factions and prevailing movements both before, during, and after Nicea (again largely focused on the Son). Again, the more I looked into it the more dishonesty (or at least convenient over-simplification) I found in discussing the history and the translations. So, I am still on this journey, but I am convinced of one thing -- the prevailing trinity formulation is almost certainly in error (which I now see as having almost no real philosophical consistency among Christians today, hence no real shared understanding even if creedal confessions and trite statements may be similar). The silencing of respectable debate on the subject for hundreds of years (and the burning of books and martyrdom and sidelining of theologians) is unfortunate and has made getting to truth very difficult. I applaud the unitarian efforts as all being on the right track, but I have yet to see one which answers all the questions. Nonetheless, most of them seem to be more coherent than the standard trinitarian arguments and the best of them seem more intellectually honest than the best of the trinitarian apologists.

Just my story, but I think the separate personhood of the Holy Spirit is so often neglected and is a good place to have honest dialogue and inquiry.

So, now the reason for my post...

Restitutio has a fairly thorough two-part set of articles on the translation bias concerning the Holy Spirit. I'd reproduce sections here, but they're quite lengthy and there is too much of interest, so I commend the articles in their entireties. The first, pertaining to gender and pronoun usage, and the second the larger grammatical issues.

https://restitutio.org/2015/11/05/trans ... ly-spirit/
https://restitutio.org/2016/07/30/trans ... -spirit-2/

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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by Paidion » Tue Mar 02, 2021 6:58 pm

Thank you Darin. I think we understand the spirit of God in the same way, including the way John understood it:

"God is spirit..." (John 4:24 ESV)

However, I do believe that though Jesus is not God, he is the Son of God, begotten by God as God's first act, as the early Christians universally believed.

He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ (Matthew 27:43 ESV)

It is on the basis that Jesus is God's only-begotten son, that I believe Jesus to be divine.
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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by Paidion » Tue Mar 02, 2021 9:19 pm

I can't remember whether or not I posted the following somewhere in the forum:

How Many Gods Are There?

Every Christian I have encountered believes that there is one God only.
Many believe that this one God exists as a Trinity of persons. However, all instances in the New Testament of the word θεος (god) preceded by the article (the God) and with no other modifiers, has as its referent the Father alone, and NEVER a Trinity.

Jesus in His prayer to the Father, called Him “the only true God” and in the same sentence referred to Himself as someone other than the only true God.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

If Jesus had said, 'that they know You, Me, and the Holy Spirit as the only true God, then it would be clear that He believed in the Trinity of which He would have been a part

However what Jesus did say, indicates that He believed in only one true God.

Clearly, the apostle Paul also believed that there was only one God—the Father, and did not indicate Jesus as being that one God or part of that one God, but as someone other than that one God:

... for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV)

(There is) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6 ESV)

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 2:5 ESV)


Elohiym is a plural noun in Hebrew, the singular of which is “Elowahh.” The word “God” frequently appears in the Old Testament in the singular form “Elowahh.” Here is one example:

They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God (Elowahh), Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17)

But strangely, the plural form of the word also appears to have been applied to God. Perhaps the most unusual example is found in Psalm 82:1. Here is the Douay translation (A Catholic translation that was published in 1609-1610)

God hath stood in the congregation of gods: and being in the midst of them he judgeth gods.

However, the word “he” doesn't occur in the Hebrew. Without it, the verse would read:
God hath stood in the congregation of gods: and being in the midst of them judgeth gods.

Now the peculiar matter is that in this verse both the first word and the last word is the plural “elohiym.” The second occurrence was translated “gods” in the Douay, whereas the first is translated “God.” Is there any justification in translating the word in these two different ways?
By the way, in the phrase “congregations of gods” a different Hebrew is used for “gods.” It is “el ale.” This is said to mean “god-like ones.”

You may be interested in the way the words appear in the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew into Greek around 300 B.C.

ο θεος εστη εν συναγωγη θεων εν μεσω δε θεους διακρινει

Literally in English this would read:
The God is in [the] synagogue of gods and judges gods.

So the translators of the Septuagint, obviously took the first “elohiym” to mean THE God, and the second to mean “gods,” that is, if they were translating from the same Hebrew text. However, they may have been translating from an older form of Hebrew such as was found in cave 4 of the Dead Sea scrolls, and the first word may have been the singular Hebrew word “elowahh.”
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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by dwight92070 » Tue Mar 02, 2021 10:13 pm

Paidion wrote:
Tue Mar 02, 2021 6:58 pm
Thank you Darin. I think we understand the spirit of God in the same way, including the way John understood it:

"God is spirit..." (John 4:24 ESV)

However, I do believe that though Jesus is not God, he is the Son of God, begotten by God as God's first act, as the early Christians universally believed.

He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ (Matthew 27:43 ESV)

It is on the basis that Jesus is God's only-begotten son, that I believe Jesus to be divine.
Dwight: I'll say it again, there's no such thing as "God's first act" - that implies that God had a beginning, which we know He did not. Now if you mean God's first act of creation, at least that would make sense, even though I don't accept that position.

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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by darinhouston » Tue Mar 02, 2021 10:49 pm

dwight92070 wrote:
Tue Mar 02, 2021 10:13 pm
Paidion wrote:
Tue Mar 02, 2021 6:58 pm
Thank you Darin. I think we understand the spirit of God in the same way, including the way John understood it:

"God is spirit..." (John 4:24 ESV)

However, I do believe that though Jesus is not God, he is the Son of God, begotten by God as God's first act, as the early Christians universally believed.

He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ (Matthew 27:43 ESV)

It is on the basis that Jesus is God's only-begotten son, that I believe Jesus to be divine.
Dwight: I'll say it again, there's no such thing as "God's first act" - that implies that God had a beginning, which we know He did not. Now if you mean God's first act of creation, at least that would make sense, even though I don't accept that position.
I hate to retread this ground, but I have to agree with Dwight on this one - that first act position just doesn't make any more sense to me than the Nicene eternal begetting. Interestingly, they were afraid to recognize a time when "the Son was not" not to save Jesus' divinity, but to prevent God from having changed (from having not been the Father and then be the Father). But, Paidion has a different view of time than I do since he doesn't believe there was time (or a "before") before creation (or something like that). I frankly am not smart enough to wrap my head around anything approaching that position, philosophically.

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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by dwight92070 » Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:04 pm

Paidon,

I really don't see how putting the definite article "the" in front of the Holy Spirit, somehow makes Him a third person. Nor do I see how leaving the definite article out, somehow shows us that He is not a third person. The New Testament is filled with BOTH usages. Just a cursory look at the following verses in the Greek shows that they all used the definite article "the" before "Holy Spirit":

Matthew 12:32; 28:19; Mark 3:29; 12:36; 13:11; Luke 2:26; 3:22; 10:21; 12:10; 12:12, and the list goes on.

And yes, there were many verses where the definite article was left out.

So what? This has no bearing on the Trinity whatsoever.

If including "the" or excluding "the", makes such a big difference, then why is the Greek New Testament replete with BOTH?

Dwight

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Re: How Translators Injected "the Third Person" into the New Testament

Post by Paidion » Wed Mar 03, 2021 10:50 am

Dwight wrote:I'll say it again, there's no such thing as "God's first act" - that implies that God had a beginning, which we know He did not
I don't see that there being a beginning to God's acts implies that God had a beginning.

Do you think that God was always "doing something" for an infinite time into the past?
If so, what was He doing? And for what purpose? He had not yet created any thing. So would could He do (other than think).
Perhaps He was thinking about what He would do when He would beget His Son, and later when He would begin to create the stars, suns, planets, and the various forms of life.

Do you classify God's thoughts as "acts"? I don't. I consider His begetting of His Son as His first act in the sense of doing something outside Himself.
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