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Bible verses about Personification
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 19:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Imagine David out in the fields one night, tending his flock, looking up at the starry mass in the sky, seeing the shadowy outlines of the hills in the distance and the moon reflecting the light of the sun, and considering what an awesome Mind it took to create all these things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 1)


 

John 14:26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Holy Spirit is here clearly referred to in the masculine gender, using the masculine pronoun "he." This makes the Holy Spirit appear like a living personality.

The translators were forced to do this to be grammatically correct, since "Comforter" or "Helper" (parakletos) is a masculine noun. However, we teach that the Holy Spirit is an inanimate, impersonal power—a force—that is directed and used by a personal God. In other words, "he" is shown doing activities that should really be ascribed to people or persons.

Even though English does not have masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns in the way that languages like Greek do, we still refer to a ship as "she," and ascribe actions and personalities to "her," even though a ship does not technically have a gender. What using the masculine pronoun does is cause the Holy Spirit to appear as if it is doing things as people or as God would do.

The argument put forth by Trinitarians is that the Holy Spirit could hardly do these things unless it were a personality with the powers to do them. Such an argument seems pretty strong until one begins to look at other parts of the Bible concerned with similar concepts. For instance,

If the foot shall say, "Because I am not of the hand, I am not of the body;" is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, "Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;" is it therefore not of the body? (I Corinthians 12:15-16)

When was the last time your foot talked? When did your ear last speak? Never! Paul personified the foot and the ear. He used his license as a writer to give personal traits to the foot and ear, so they could "speak." Why? He used it as a teaching vehicle to give us insight and understanding, in this case, of how all the parts of the body work together. They cooperate with one another so that the whole body can accomplish its work. But, in reality, the foot does not talk, and neither does the ear.

Would anyone in his right mind say that the heavens actually rejoice (Psalm 96:11-12) or "give ear" (Deuteronomy 32:1)? Or that the mountains and forests sing (Isaiah 44:23)? Or that the trees clap hands (Isaiah 55:12)—hands they do not even have? Psalm 98:8 says, "Let the rivers clap their hands"! Writers often do this to give us a grasp of what they are trying to get across.

Therefore, it is risky business to claim that the Holy Spirit is a person on the basis of verses that say that the Spirit speaks, or because it is referred to in the masculine gender. Things that are clearly inanimate or impersonal are described in much the same way throughout the entirety of the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Acts 5:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Trinitarians presumptuously use Peter's question as "proof" that the Holy Spirit is a divine being. They say, "One cannot sin against an attribute. One cannot lie to something that is not sentient. Thus, the Holy Spirit must be a personality within the Godhead." But in their attempt to find "proof" for their theory, they ignore the plain meaning of Peter's words and the overwhelming evidence of other scriptures.

When writing about the Holy Spirit, the apostles had no reservations about interchangeably using verbs associated with things rather than people. For example, Paul tells Timothy "to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear . . ." (II Timothy 1:6-7). We usually stir liquids and mixtures, not people. Several writers use the verb "pour" to describe God's use of the Spirit (see Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 2:17-18, 33). A person cannot be poured.

On the other hand, many verses show that the Holy Spirit "speaks," "tells," "declares," "convicts," "guides," "hears," and others. By themselves, these verbs can give us no conclusive proof that the Holy Spirit is or is not a divine being.

To understand what Peter meant by "to lie to the Holy Spirit," we must see if the context explains what he meant. At the end of Acts 5:4, Peter makes a parallel accusation: "You have not lied to men but to God." "God" is translated from theos, the general Greek word for deity. In the broadest sense, Peter accuses Ananias of sinning against God (see Genesis 20:6; 39:9; Leviticus 6:2; Psalm 51:4).

When he speaks to Sapphira later on in the scene, Peter repeats the accusation in a slightly different way: "How is it that you have agreed together to test [tempt, KJV] the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9). Here, Peter uses "Lord" from the Greek kurios, meaning "master" or "lord." In this verse the Holy Spirit is shown to be the possession of God.

Thus in these three parallel verses, Peter clarifies what he meant: Ananias and Sapphira had tried to deceive God, who was present in them and in the apostles by the power of His Spirit. Did they not realize, Peter asks, that through His Spirit God knew not only what they were doing, but also their hearts?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 5:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

But why did Peter make it seem as if the Spirit had personality? Because as the means, the power, the vehicle, the agency, by which the Father and the Son accomplish their will (for example, creating—Genesis 1:2), the Spirit takes on properties that they have. We do this in our own speech and writing: Money talks. Power corrupts. Words bite. To describe actions of things, we often use verbs that more accurately describe human actions. Wind moans or shrieks. Fire licks wood. Rain dances. Water runs. These words do not make the things human.

In Romans 5-7, Paul personifies death, law, and sin. "Death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Romans 5:14). "The law has dominion" (7:1). "Sin . . . deceived me, and by it killed me" (7:11). We know that none of these things has personality, and we think nothing more of it. The same applies to the Spirit of God. Just because we use verbs that normally describe the actions of a person does not mean that the subject is a person. It is a non-argument; it means nothing.

More important is how the entirety of the Bible treats the concept of God's Spirit. Using one verse like Acts 5:3 to "prove" a doctrine is called "proof texting." This method violates two of the paramount points of biblical understanding: 1) Always use clear verses to explain unclear verses, and 2) gather all of the pertinent verses from the whole Bible and study them completely before reaching a conclusion on a doctrine.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


 

Find more Bible verses about Personification:
Personification {Nave's}
 




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