Acts 13:2 - do personal attributes make the Holy Spirit a "person"

Steven Avery

Facebook - PureBible

Pure Bible Forum - sister threads

Daniel Wallace makes constructio ad sensum theory out of CT corruptions, often ultra-minority

support for the basic Daniel Wallace argument that Spirit is not grammatically personalized in the New Testament

constructio ad sensum

Acts 13:2 - do personal attributes make the Holy Spirit a "person"

Bad Grammar by Trinitarian academics
June 12, 2017

This post was followed by some discussion with Barry Hofstetter.

Just for some context:

Acts 13:2
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said,
Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Daniel Marsh

Acts 13:2 set them apart for the work that I, ego have called them.

Barry Hofstetter

Very clear. The verb actually is first person singular without ἐγὤ, but the personal pronoun, μοι, is used earlier in the verse. Now, if you wait a bit, we'll see some really bad exegesis as certain people try to avoid the inescapable conclusion.

The question is really, who is speaking and therefore personal? The Holy Ghost? Or a man moved by the Holy Ghost?

John Marsom (1746-1833) gives a reasonable argument that we should be thinking in terms of the latter.

On this passage I observe, first, that when the Holy Spirit is here said to speak, that this cannot be understood of the Holy Spirit personally, but must be understood of its speaking by the instrumentality of some proper person. The Holy Spirit said: how did the Holy Spirit say this? Undoubtedly by the mouth of one of the prophets then present; for it will not be pretended that the voice of the Holy spirit was ever heard personally speaking, as the voice of Jehovah is said to have been heard by the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Besides the nounSpirit, as we have seen, is not a personaI name, and therefore it cannot be designed to represent a person, or to convey the idea of personality. The Holy Spirit is never represented as speaking individually, but always as speaking either by the month of Isaiah or Jeremiah, or some other prophet. Here, therefore, it evidently means no more than that the person uttering these words, spake them under the influence of an immediate Divine inspiration, as the old prophets are said by Peter to have spoken as they were moved by the Holy Spirit: and the writer to the Hebrews tells us, that it was God that spake by those prophets, (not God the Holy Ghost, but God the Father,) who hath, as it is added, in these last days spoken to us by his Son.Will it be contended, that the words in question were uttered by two distinct individual persons, first, distinctly by the Holy Spirit, and then by an inspired prophet, and that those present distinctly heard the two voices? No one, I suppose, would venture to adapt so strange a position, and if any one were to adopt it, most certain it is that in support of it no evidence could be adduced. They must, then, have been the words of one individual person, and that person could not be the Holy Spirit, unless he appeared personally amongst them, at least by an audible voice which they must have heard, and which woufd have indicated a personal presence. If when the Scriptures use the expressions, "the Holy Spirit spake,” or, "the Holy Spirit said,” it means, that it did so personally, (as it must, if the ascription of these actions to it move its personality,) it would set aside as unnecessary the inspiration of the prophets, both of the Old and New Testament; for what necessity could there be to inspire them to deliver that which the Holy Spirit himself personally delivered? But if the words under consideration were spoken by a prophet, they were not spoken personally by the Holy Spirit, and can only be ascribed to it, as that by which that prophet was inspired, and by the motion of which he spake. Secondly, on the words, “Separate me, (or to me, Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them: So they being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed,” &c. I observe, that although it must be admitted that the pronouns contained in it are of the masculine gender, yet it does not follow that those pronouns refer to the Spirit, and are a ‘proof of its personality.

It, is a well-known rule, that all pronouns and verbs must have an antecedent noun, either implied or expressed, agreeing with them, and that antecedent noun may be the immediately preceding, or a more remote one. Masculine pronouns cannot agree with neuter nouns, nor neuter pronouns with masculine nouns. So uniform is the observance of this rule in the New Testament, that a learned writer,
(* Poli Synopsis) finding in our present Greek Testaments, in Ephes. i. 14, the masculine pronoun ὃς, who, following the neuter noun Spirit, in the end of the 13th verse, says, (l cite from memory, not having access to the work.) that if the pronoun refers to the Spirit, the original reading must have been ὃ, which, and not ὃς, who, but he says, if ὃς be the true reading, then the antecedent must be Χριστῷ, Christ, in the 12th verse. That pronouns have not only remote antecedents, but that they are sometimes implied only, and not expressed, will appear from the following instance, 1 John iii. 5: “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin;" as also the pronouns he and him, in verse the second. To these pronouns there is no antecedent in the connexion with which they can agree, except the noun Father, who we know cannot be intended in those words. The antecedent to those pronouns, therefore, which is implied, although not expressed in the context, must be Christ.

But in the case under consideration we are not under the necessity of appealing to an implied antecedent to the pronouns I and me; we have the antecedent noun agreeing with the pronouns, (which the noun Spirit does not,) in the word Lord: “And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, separate to me," that is to me the Lord. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Lord, his inspiration, his influence, by which be, the Lord, to whom they ministered, made known his will respecting Barnabas and Saul to one of them, who declared it to the rest.

Respecting the expression, “whereunto I have called them,” it may be observed, that the calling of persons to any office, or to the enjoyment of the blessings of the gospel, is always, in the New Testament, ascribed to God or to Jesus Christ, but never in any instance is it ascribed to the Holy Spirit. “It pleased God,” says Paul, “who called me by his grace.”
*(Galatians i.15) ". And writing to the Romans, he addresses them as the called of Jesus Christ, and he exhorts the Thessalonians to walk worthy of God, “who,” saith he, “hath called you to his kingdom and glory.” “The God of all grace,” says Peter, “ hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” +(1 Peter v:10) These observations, I apprehend, are sufficient to shew, that the several personal pronouns, in these verses, cannot refer to the Spirit, who is not represented here as a personal agent, but as the spirit of a person, the spirit of the Lord by which he spake, and to whom those pronouns (which are in agreement with the noun Lord, but not with the noun Spirit) must be applied. And this interpretation is confirmed by an observation of Mr. Wardlaw, on the next passage, which he cites to prove the personality of the Spirit.

Acts xv:28

And I do wonder if this came up in the papers by Naselli and Gons and by Daniel Wallace which discuss the grammatical elements around the Holy Spirit and whether they supply a type of personhood. The Naselli and Gons paper is the stronger one.

Note of course that the gentlemen in those days were more strict and formal with the New Testament grammar, not constantly allowing exceptions. One major reason was that they did not have to work with the ultra-corrupt solecisms in the Critical Text as if they were authentic writings.

Another point is that, even if the gentleman's position can be given a good counterpoint, there really is a type of mastery of the material and the grammar and the examples that is rare today. By the 1800s, you had a decline in classical language fluency from the 1600s, but compared to today, the learned men were, I believe, far more solid in the languages.