I am fascinated sometimes by the coexistence of two very different translation options, both of which can be considered quite literal. I noticed, for example, that the two English options for ruach hakodesh, “holy spirit” and “holiness of spirit” also appear in translations of the Greek scriptures. In 2 Cor. 6:6, we read,
- in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; TNIV
There was only one translation which did not have “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost” in this verse – the NRSV,
- by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love
When I looked at the Greek for 2 Cor. 6:6,
- ἐν ἁγνότητι ἐν γνώσει ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ
I could not help but be very surprised – surely this verse echoes the expression of hope for holiness of spirit found in Psalm 51:11. I do think that it is quite a stretch to get the “Holy Spirit” from the expression ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ
Although I appreciate the sentiment, I do have to wonder if it is accurate to insert the definite article into this verse and make it “the Holy Spirit” instead of “a holy spirit.” I note that the Louis Ségond Bible has un ésprit saint, “a holy spirit”.
I can’t help but suppose that this would be one of the shibboleths of many churches, expecting respect for the third person of the trinity to be marked with upper case letters even when the intent of the author does not seem to be a reference to the Holy Spirit.
The real loss to readers is, of course, that they will experience less teaching on “holiness of spirit” while gaining a reference to the Holy Spirit. In addition, a case like this increases my respect for the NRSV as an academic and literal translation. I am beginning to think that the NRSV is an essential Bible translation, not just a nice to have.