The Trinity (IVa2)

The NT Witness: The Deity of the Holy Spirit


In this section, I intend to examine the NT data relative to the deity of Holy Spirit-- accepting the conclusion from the previous piece on the Personality of the Spirit that the Spirit is a personal Agent, distinct from the Father and the Son.

The approach I will take here is to note the NT data that ONLY makes sense if the Holy Spirit were indeed 'fully God'.

Fortunately (at least for the length of this document, that is!), the DIFFICULTY we had in distinguishing the Spirit from the Father will constitute an EASE here. That is, if the Spirit is SO CLOSELY united with the Father, that it is sometimes difficult to perceive their respective individuality, then that SAME CLOSENESS will be a formidable argument for the deity of the Spirit. In other words, "Where the Holy Spirit is, there God is." (We will deal with the issue of "mediation vs manifestation" in the Pushbacks piece subsequently.)

Nevertheless, there is ample data in the NT to support the ascription of deity to the gracious Individual we know as the Holy Spirit.

Let's look at the data/arguments.

  1. He is explicitly called God.

  2. His extremely intimate link with the inner life of God the Father CAN ONLY be explained by His being a member of the Godhead.

  3. Blasphemy against the Spirit was a greater crime than blasphemy against the Son of God!

    Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt 12.32)

  4. The Holy Spirit is identified as the YHWH of the OT.

  5. The Spirit occurs in the nomina sacra of the early church manuscripts.

    This refers to the scribal practice of abbreviating divine names/titles (generally considered to be after the model of the tetragrammaton "YHWH") cf. MTNT3:261; COMFORT:47-48; TRKW:13-14. Metzger defined them as "divine names written in contracted form with a supralinear line". Although the practice is common in the earliest of NT fragments, it only occasionally occurs in pre-NT times. In the LXX for example, its usage is sporadic--sometimes "kurios" (Gr. for "YHWH") is NOT abbreviated, sometimes it is replaced by a old-style Hebrew "YHWH", sometimes the "YHWH" is vocalized with Greek vowels! (as in 4QLxxLev-b).

    The only words in the early documents that are abbreviated are DIVINE names and titles:

    1. Jesus
    2. Lord
    3. Christ
    4. God
    5. Spirit
    6. Father

    [In later documents, the other titles of Christ were added--e.g., David, Savior.]

    The premier study of this phenomena was by Colin Roberts (Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt, London: 1979), who held that this system probably originated in Jerusalem before 70 AD. (due the high "Name" theological orientation of that church).

    The significance of this to our study should be obvious--the use of nomina sacra tips us off to which names were taken to refer to DEITY! And "Spirit" was one of those names (as was Christ). This indicates an early and systematic 'high view' of the Holy Spirit--specifically, that He was worthy of divine status.

    It is also important to note that ONLY references to the HOLY SPIRIT were so abbreviated; refs to our spirits or angelic spirits were NOT.

  6. The Spirit occurs in important early church texts-with FULL EQUALITY of status with the Father and the Son.

SUMMARY: Although there is much less data about the Spirit than about Christ, and although the deity of the Spirit was a virtual 'given' in the NT period (due to the close association of the Father and the Spirit), there are nonetheless strong evidences and arguments that illustrate the pervasive belief in the deity of the Spirit. Without the slightest indication of defensiveness, the NT writers call the Spirit "God", ascribe acts/words of the OT YHWH to Him, describe the intimate relationship of the two (with cognitive aspects), and live their church praxis in liturgical statements and creedal statements that put the Father, Son, and Spirit on a par. The awesome consequences of sins against this One were demonstrated in the 'greater blasphemy' passage of Jesus and in the sudden judgment on the couple who lied against God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). And, when it came time to pass on the written records of the gracious and salvific acts of the Godhead, the Spirit was abbreviated in the documents--along with the other Divine Agents of the redemptive drama.

Indeed, the NT witness to the Spirit is one of highest honor--'true God of true God'.


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