Worship in spirit and truth–John 4:24 (Addendum).

I had mentioned here in part II I would give my own opinion regarding the real world referent of πνεύματι?  I mentioned I would be short.  O!, well.

My reason for going down this pathway is simple:  the phrase “in [s/S]pirit” is not English and so there is no real referent for it.  And, by real I do not intend to refer to only those things of this world.  For example, demons and demonic activity are very real and we have English ways of referring to them.

The problem for translation, of course, is there are several views, not just mine.  Some of which have been expressed in the comments to this short series (and I thank each of you for how well you did in not taking us off track).  Because of these highly divergent views, we tend to acquiesce to a morpho-syntactic result (popularly known as a “literal translation”), somehow thinking that we’ve at least partially succeeded in translating.  What we’ve actually succeeded in doing is to introduce a huge degree of ambiguity into the text so that people can make the text say just about anything.  In other words, the real referent (as the modern reader understands it) must be constructed in the reader’s mind.  Unfortunately, in many cases, I question whether such a referent can be found in the original, interpretive context.  Questions I think of are:  Is it something the modern reader places in the text from their own interpretive context?  Is it a theological concept developed later in history?  That is, basically, is it simply anachronistic and eisegetic.  And, frankly, it’s incredibly easy to do, especially in cases like the text before us.

I’d like to quickly present a few different views and hopefully do it in such a way that I show respect for the different views.

Quaker worship is characterized by a waiting on the Spirit.  There are no presiding ministers within their meetings.  One or more people are moved to speak out of the silence which characterizes their meetings.  This movement is the result of a very careful discernment, a deep sense, of the Spirit’s leading.  The best English I can think of for this viewpoint is worship must be in a Spirit led manner.

A more Pentecostal view acknowledges the ongoing vitality of spiritual gifts such as tongue speaking and prophetic utterance.  The best English I can think of for this viewpoint is worship must be in a Spirit energized manner.

My view is that spirit refers to that aspect of a human being which is inherently non-self-centered.  When it is active it produces results such as love, joy, peace, self-control, etc.  So, it’s not referring so much to a “worship service” as it is to a “worshipful life.”[1]   Spirit is a psychological construct, though not one utilized by modern psychological frameworks.  It is supernatural, and so can not be directly observable through any kind of clinical study–we only see it’s effects. For the believer, because of regeneration, the distinction between Spirit and spirit becomes quite difficult.

So, I see Jesus reaching forward to much of Paul’s writings where Paul lays out what it means to live a life reflecting who God is. I see John building up the incarnational concept he’s been presenting since the beginning of the book.  That is, that true worship of God is seen not only in a Spirit filled Jesus that shows who God is, but in those who follow Jesus by stepping into the light, also being filled by the Spirit, and so their life reflects God and therefore reveals their worship.  Romans 12:1-2 comes immediately to my mind as well as a significantly sized portion of Ephesians. As mentioned previously, I think the best English for this is worship must be spiritual.

I also think this view ties in quite nicely with the other term used in the phrase, authentic. One can fake what the Spirit produces and thereby fake worship. So, Jesus adds, as this spiritual activity of worship is realized in one’s life in the real world, it must be authentic.

The question then is would the original audience, the Samaritan woman and secondarily, John’s intended audience, have understood ἐν πνεύματι in any one these ways (as well as potentially others I haven’t mentioned)?

For my view, I’m not asking that the Samaritan woman fully understood Paul!  I’m simply asking whether the woman (and secondly, John’s audience) would have understood πνεύματι to refer to a human aspect of her being that is to be fundamentally reoriented Godward in her life.

I might add that during my writing of the first two postings I chose must be spiritual since I thought that English could handle any of the above cases as well as others.  So, by using spiritual I’m not trying to fully explain my view in the translation by carefully choosing a single word, part of speech, or preposition.

Lastly, the process of discovering the English that conveys the original forces the analysis of where the referent is coming from.  It’s a very important question.  We’re forced to ask the question, Is the referent in my context, in the original context, or both?  And please note that the referent can certainly be theological.  But, can I reasonably expect the original audience to have or grasp the theological referent we’re assuming the original author intended?

For convenience here are back links to the short series:

Worship in spirit and truth–John 4:24 (Part I)

Worship in spirit and truth–John 4:24 (part II)

[1] This ties in with Jesus saying that people would not be worshipping in Jerusalem or this mountain.  As I mentioned before, the answer Jesus gives is not about geographic location.  If the answer has anything to do with location, the location is one’s life.

28 thoughts on “Worship in spirit and truth–John 4:24 (Addendum).

  1. Jon says:

    I’ve always understood “in Spirit, and in truth” to mean. That to worship, one must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which enables that person to be led in all truth. This is the only way in which our worship must be, in order to please to God. God is not pleased by mere human ideas and effort.

    With regards to the context. They were talking about a PLACE of worship. Back then, for Israel, they had a physical temple, while the Samaritans had their own place. The Samaritans place of worship was not legitimate because it was not revealed by God. On the other hand, the temple and levitical system setup in Jersualem was (albiet, all that was going on in that city had become much like modern cafetaria Christianity today).

    So while one was better than the other, both were nothing comparison to what Jesus was referring to – the true temple – the BODY of Christ, not limited to one place. Something eternal.

  2. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…Spirit is a psychological construct, though not one utilized by modern psychological frameworks. It is supernatural, and so can not be directly observable through any kind of clinical study–we only see it’s effects. For the believer, because of regeneration, the distinction between Spirit and spirit becomes quite difficult…

    Mike, I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating…

    “spirit” is a post-scriptural (and bogus) concept.

    Moses describes the making of man and clearly describes his components as:

    breath RUACH/PNEUMA

    When did he become three parts???

    Answer: Never.

    “spirit” (as well as “Spirit”) is corrupt translation.

  3. WoundedEgo says:

    When used reflexively, as in “my soul” it means “my self.”

    The other “key” to understanding the usage of PHEUMA in the scripttures is to know that they considered it as the animating principle and an intelligent “organ.” It is the means of self awareness. And it has moral character and influence. For example, Paul says that the unholy community is under the influence of Satanic breath:

    Eph 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [of] the spirit [breath] that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

    That Paul speaks of the “air of the breath” as “operating” within the unholy clearly demonstrates that his understanding of PNEUMA is that it is air. It must have been very mysterious to those in the first century, since it was invisible, self directed (“it blows where it will”) and was vital. Since Moses said that it made the dirtt statue to live and become self aware, it has the power of life:

    Jas 2:26 For as the body without the spirit [breath] is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

  4. Marshall Massey says:

    “I’m simply asking whether the woman (and secondly, John’s audience) would have understood πνεύματι to refer to a human aspect of her being that is to be fundamentally reoriented Godward in her life.”

    I doubt it, Mike. In Mediterranean languages, pneuma/ruakh was something distinguishable from psykhe/nephesh; the former was the universal entity (wind, or breath in the generalized sense, or spirit in the transpersonal sense) as distinct from the local or individual thing (one’s own breath or narrowly personal spirit). I am inclined to credit the Evangelist with care in his word choices, and I think if he had meant that Jesus was talking about “a human aspect of her [the Samaritan woman’s] being that is to be fundamentally reordered”, he would have spoken of worship in psykhe rather than in pneuma.

    Thus, I don’t think Jesus was saying that in the future worship will be done in one’s own soul (though I am sure there is nothing wrong with doing worship there!); I think he was saying that it will be done in the presence of the universal, unlocalized entity.

    Looking then at the context of Jesus’s statement as a whole, he appears to have been telling the Samaritan woman that worship would be done not at the local place that is the Jerusalem temple or the local place that is the Samaritan mountaintop, but in the unlocalized entity that is wind, the movement of the sky God, universal breath, universal Spirit. Localization, not just of religion but of consciousness-of-God, would be left behind.

    As to your Quaker reference: I appreciate it, and am grateful for the care with which you phrased it. But I think that we need to distinguish between the Quaker idea of “waiting on the Spirit” (in which “wait” carries much the same sense that it does in talk of a waiter “waiting on a customer” or a courtier “waiting on the king”) and Jesus/John’s phrase “worship in the Spirit”. “Worship” and “waiting” are relatable ideas, but they are certainly not the same; a waiter is not necessarily worshiping his customer.

  5. WoundedEgo says:

    This is a Quaker speaking about their “waiting”:

    Edward Burrough (1632 or 1633-1663) wrote:

    “While waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being stayed in the light of Christ within us from all thoughts, fleshly motions and desires, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and our hearts were made glad and our tongues loosened, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and his spirit led us, which was poured upon sons and daughters.”

    It appears that they allude to Pentecost.

    I’d like to point out a couple of features of Pentecost:

    * they heard a sound of moving air… “like a mighty rushing wind.”

    * they were “filled” with the breath

    * the breath gave them **utterance** (which is exactly what breath does…)

    This was the life giving breath that animated the New Man, and caused it to be “renewed in knowledge”:

    Col 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

  6. Mike Sangrey says:


    You’re presenting something akin to what D.A. Carson calls “illegitimate totality transfer.” It’s at least an illegitimate transfer in that you are conflating two different concepts into one word and placing that conflated idea into various texts. John Hobbins has an excellent presentation of what this transfer of meaning entails.

    Breath is not a characteristic of spirit, nor is spirit a characteristic of breath. The usage is similar to uses of καρδία (“heart” and either ‘thoughts’, ‘affections’, ‘inner self’, or ‘intentions’–the later is what I prefer).

    Along with John’s examples, consider the following: Does Paul mean to say that the Corinthian church is constipated (2 Cor. 6:12)?

    NLT: There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us.
    GNT: οὐ στενοχωρεῖσθε ἐν ἡμῖν στενοχωρεῖσθε δὲ ἐν τοῖς σπλάγχνοις ὑμῶν
    Lit: you’re[pl] not restricted in us, but you’re[pl] restricted in your[pl] intestines

    The point Paul makes is not that they were constipated. σπλάγχνον is all about their affection for Paul and his team.

    I think Paul constructs the sentence in the way he does because he’s using a pun. However, the pun only works, or even exists, because the words have two different meanings. Conflate the meanings and you have something like a really weird intestinally affection for someone (gut feeling, perhaps!??!).

    Also, for what it’s worth, 2 Cor. 6:12 uses another two examples where the locative ἐν doesn’t work.

    Lastly, Eph. 2:2 is an interesting case. Paul is using metaphorical language which makes the text difficult to translate. I’m shooting from the hip, but, I’d probably translate Eph 2:2 something like:

    In times past you followed this world’s system, being powerfully blown along by the supernatural ruler who now functions among those characterized by disobedience.

  7. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…in that you are conflating two different concepts into one word…

    The word “conflate” comes from the Latin “conflatus” which literally means “to blow together.” It is an ironic choice of words, to say the least!

    Now, I think the conflation has already been done:

    Joh 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

    The word “Ghost,” in 1611, meant “breath.”

    Joh 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

    Act 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

    In Hebrew and in Greek, we are dealing with a single word, and a single concept. The English word, “spirit” was coined because of the popularity of philosophic dualism – concept absent from Moses and the rest of the scriptures. The word was coined from “spiritus” – the Latin word for breath and was gradually infused with dualistic meaning. We are seeing the same phenomenon in our very lifetime, as people deliberately “infuse” the meaning of “sinful nature” into the Greek word SARX. The word is now corrupted, contaminated by the philosophy of pop theologians.

    Yet Paul *clearly* was referring to his corpus:

    Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

    Rom 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

    What we have to deal with is the fact that Paul believed that his flesh had its own mind. His breath was at odds with his flesh! This is a kind of dualism as well, with an “upper story” and a “lower story” to man, each with a distinct mind. Crazy stuff.

    Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

    The “flesh’s mind” is not a person’s nature, but is an evil alien being, for Paul says “it is not I, but sin that dwells in me.”

  8. Marshall Massey says:

    Mike, I agree with the point you begin with — that we must not read too much into a metonymy or synecdoche. We may use the name of the physical heart (kardia) when what we mean are the passions we feel in that part of the body, or the intentions that arise from those passions, or the thoughts that articulate them. That is synecdoche. We should not therefore confuse the physical heart with those passions or their fruits.

    On the other hand, that does not mean the heart and the passions are not connected. A neurologist might perhaps speak of the vagus nerve, that wanders around the chest cavities and reports on what it senses to the brain, which the brain then interprets as a feeling of the heart, a passion.

    A naturalist, like Aldo Leopold, might speak of how the lead goose in a migrating flock changes the sound of its honking when it sights hunters below — the altered tensions in its “heart” or chest cavity, as its emotions rise in response to the sight, conveying themselves through the sound of its honks, and the brains of the other geese, knowing from the altered sound what the lead goose is feeling, understanding thereby that it is time to change altitude and/or direction for safety’s sake.

    Heart (in the physical sense of chest cavity), and feelings and intentions, and breath/spirit too, are knit together in such matters. The structure of Mediterranean languages may not have been designed by neurologists or naturalists, but the meaning and usage and relationship of key terms for heart and breath and mind and spirit seem to me to reflect an observational understanding of the ways they interact.

    And thus I am inclined to agree with “WoundedEgo” at least insofar as she/he is affirming a relationship between Spirit and wind at the Pentecost, and between Spirit and breath and giving utterance. If I read Acts 2 (or any of the many other stories in the Bible in which these matters are woven together), the key to understanding it seems to me to lie in a sense that our individual breaths, to say nothing of our lives, are all impelled by and originate from the underlying universal uncontrovertible Will (or Spirit or Breath) that is God. We do not breathe voluntarily, or else we could commit suicide by choosing to stop breathing; we breathe because this underlying Will of Spirit compels us to. (I think this is also the idea behind Genesis 2:7.) When God moves among us, as He did at the Pentecost, it is that Will which drives our individual breaths that moves. To link this to a physical sense of the room being filled with a Wind, a Wind that pushes against the hearts of everyone present, is not unreasonable given the structure of Semitic language.

    And it thus follows that when God, in the sense of Spirit, chooses to move us, what He does is to push at our selves, our chest cavities and psyches, in a way that alters our breathing no less imperatively than the sight of hunters below will alter a goose’s, and that this alteration translates into feelings, thoughts, intentions, and intuitions that we cannot bear to deny. This is what happens to the prophets, when God “inspires” them in such a way that they cannot bear be silent, but most “speak forth” (propheteuo) what is given them. It seems as much a part of the Semitic reality as the idea of dreams sent from God is.

    Of course, I do not insist that you agree with my understanding of the text. But I dare to hope that you may find it a reasonable understanding.

  9. EgoWounder says:

    In Hebrew and in Greek, we are dealing with a single word, and a single concept.

    And I would say… WRONG. That’s what “semantic range” means – i.e., words can have more than one meaning or denote more than one concept depending on the context and the author’s intended meaning.

    You quote Paul, but his use of “sarx” wasn’t restricted to “a single concept” of the physical substance that clothes the body and contains the veins, arteries, muscles, etc.

  10. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…words can have more than one meaning or denote more than one concept depending on the context and the author’s intended meaning…

    That is why I said specifically that we have a single concept, and not just that we have a single word. It all drives from the two elements of the original Adam. The dichotomy of the composition of man is the seminal idea behind most of the Paul’s writing!

    >>>You quote Paul, but his use of “sarx” wasn’t restricted to “a single concept” of the physical substance that clothes the body and contains the veins, arteries, muscles, etc.

    Do you hold that “sinful nature” was, in Koine, part of the semantic range of SARX? As you read Paul, do you understand him to not have a problem with his body/members/flesh but rather with his nature?

    That isn’t what he says. That is not the way he thinks. He, like all of the ancients, is a strict materialist. The problem is with his flesh – the home of sin. He has no concept of a “brain!” None.

    Paul loathed his body. Do you agree? Many people have a problem with that:

    Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

    He did not hope for resurrection, but rather reincarnation. That is, he said that his original body must die, and he hoped that God would give him a new body:

    1Co 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
    1Co 15:36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
    1Co 15:37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
    1Co 15:38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

    In other words, the old body/plant dies away and receives a new, non-flesh body. (Paul doesn’t have any grasp of genetics or botany). So for him, man must receive a new body from the sky:

    1Co 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
    1Co 15:48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
    1Co 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

    The body will not convert. It is incorrigible and must die:

    Col 3:5 **Mortify therefore your members** which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

    Even Jesus taught that sin is in the members of the body:

    Mat 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell [Gehenna] fire.

    Mat 6:23 But if thine **eye be evil**, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

    Do you have a philosophic objection to Paul’s anatomy? Perhaps you believe that the body is neutral, the air of the breath is neutral, and that the problem is in the brain. You would have a difficult time showing that that was Paul’s view, even with the specious mistranslation of “sinful nature.”

    The flesh/breath dichotomy is the engine of Pauline thought.

  11. Dan Sindlinger says:


    I agree with your view that spirit in this context is “not referring so much to a ‘worship service’ as it is to a ‘worshipful life'”, and I also made the connection to Romans 12:1-2. Here’s my translation in The Better Life Bible:

    “The Jews insist we should worship God in Jerusalem, but our ancestors have always worshipped God on this mountain.”

    Jesus replied,

    “Don’t let that bother you. Before long, people will be worshipping God everywhere, not just here and in Jerusalem. God is helping the Jewish people understand that the only way to really worship God is to follow God’s advice, no matter where you are.”

  12. WoundedEgo says:

    I get the impression, Dan, that you think that the mountain thing was actually a non-issue, but the Jews simply didn’t get it, fixated as they were on national pride, or something. Did I read you wrong? You seem to imply that the Jews were ignorant, and that they “insisted” because they were not aware that God was a “spirit.” Am I understanding you correctly?

    But Jesus takes a very clear stance that the Judeans were correct and acting according to knowledge:

    Joh 4:22 Ye [Samaritans] worship ye know not what: we [Judeans] know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews [Judeans (ie: Southern Kingdomers)].

    This all goes back to the split over the altar that Jeroboam built in the Northern Kingdom (“Israel” as opposed to “Judea” – the southern kingdom).

    What he *does* say is that this is about to change.

    Joh 4:23 **But the hour cometh, and now is, when** the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

  13. Mike Sangrey says:

    Any connection between the physical heart (or any body part) and its metaphorical meaning is not determined by a physical connection. It’s arbitrary.

    How do I know that?
    1. The alleged connection is not linguistic.
    2. Different languages arbitrarily associate different metaphorical meanings with the same organ.
    3. Other body parts can also easily be associated by some physical connection and yet aren’t.

    So, I don’t think it’s reasonable that an exegetical explanation should even consider the existence of such a physical connection.

    Regarding the “connection” between moving air and spirit–it’s a conceptual metaphor inherent in the cultural world-view. Authors will use such conceptual metaphors as sort of the carriers of the messages, but they aren’t the messages themselves.

    Lakoff used the “argument is war” conceptual metaphor to introduce his thesis about conceptual metaphors, Metaphors We Live By. I might say, “your claims are indefensible” and that I’ve “shot down your arguments.” However, that doesn’t mean I entwine with the metaphor and that somehow we’re at war here on this blog.

    I much prefer the conceptual metaphor (one that is not used ) of “argument is orchestra” where claims (ie comments) should resonate with each other. If not, they are tuned so as to add to the opus of a blog posting, or they are rejected as cacophonous. It’s a metaphor where the different people participating in the argument form an ensemble. Where criticisms form quality counter-points that add to and not detract from the composition. There are bridge segments that tie different part together. And so on.

    So, while I might say “your claims are indefensible” I don’t want to convey a war concept. I don’t even like that type of debate.

    The distinction between the conceptual metaphor and the message is very difficult to keep in mind. Lakoff himself points out that conceptual metaphor is not only a factor in language, but that thought processes are largely metaphorical. So an author naturally thinks in these metaphors and can utilize them to “grease the skids” of his/her message. They can be played much like a beautiful instrument in the hands of a master musician since they resonate with the audience. But, the music itself, the message itself, can be very different than one might naturally expect from those instruments.. (I once heard an a cappella group do Baroque, Jazz, and Heavy Metal–entertaining!, fascinating!, and I don’t even like Heavy Metal.)

    That’s one of the things that makes language so very interesting. One can use language to say something which the conceptual metaphors of the language actually seek to deny.

  14. Gary Simmons says:

    καὶ εὐθὺς ἦν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ αὐτῶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ καὶ ἀνέκραξεν λέγων· Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· Φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτοῦ. καὶ σπαράξαν αὐτὸν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον καὶ φωνῆσαν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐξῆλθεν ἐξ αὐτοῦ. Mark 1.23-26

    WoundedEgo: So, what’s Jesus doing here? Getting rid of bad breath? Who is the first speaker in this passage? One of those cavity creeps?


  15. Mike Sangrey says:

    So, what’s Jesus doing here? Getting rid of bad breath? Who is the first speaker in this passage? One of those cavity creeps?

    O!…O!….I know this one!!!!

    The demon’s name was ‘Tooth Fairy’, the god of halitosis[1].


    Which, very interestingly, brings us back to the topic. Halitosis is a made up word that is now part of our language. Which illustrates the arbitrary nature of the association between word and meaning. Johnson and Johnson effectively marketed their mouthwash, Listerine(R), with a word that meant nothing…ummmmm…until they connected the word to a referent that people already believed was part of the real world.

    In other words, if a word or phrase does not “synch” with the world as the language users perceive it, the word or phrase won’t communicate. In fact, the word or phrase is not part of that language–just like “in spirit.”

    What about “in mind”? Can I worship “in mind”. What about “talk”? Can I “talk in spirit”? These things are not locations in the English speaking world, so I can’t perform actions “in” them.

  16. EricW says:

    Gary Simmons:

    A man with an unclean wind, that Jesus commands to be quiet and come out, sounds like someone with a flatulence problem, rather than a man with bad breath.

  17. Gary Simmons says:

    Eric: pneuma can refer to gas, but I was really trying to avoid that. The fact that Jesus interacts with the speaking end makes it clear it’s the mouth that has the bad pneuma. :X

    Mike: Well, a Lysterine is a citizen of the city of Lystra (Acts 14), but I’m pretty sure that’s unrelated. Lysterine is an oudepotelegomenon in the NT.

    Oudepotelegomenon should be understandable even though I’m just now coining it.

  18. WoundedEgo says:

    It is evident that the ancients pondered what might become of the breath when someone dies. One view is that the breath of an animal descended into the ground, and a human breath returns to the God who gave it:

    Ecc 3:21 Who knoweth the spirit [breath] of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

    It was thought, then, that one might see the disembodied breath in the form of the person (ie: a “ghost”). And hey, wouldn’t it be great to consult the breath about where he buried the family treasure? This practice is referred to as consulting “family breaths” (mistranslated “familiar spirits”):

    Deu 18:11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

    This is what they thought Jesus was: his disembodied breath, en route to God.

    But what of the breaths of the unholy? Did they return to God? Or were they seeking a host body? The sought a host body. They gave him utterance. Remember, they thought the air to be holy or unholy, animating and giving self awareness. It was an intelligence.

    At least that is how Mark seems to read.

    Matthew seems to have in mind the dreaded sand fly, that carried “The Baghdad Boil” – Leish Maniasis.

    As to the suggestion that this is metaphor, I suggest that they took Moses’ description of the formation of Adam as an accurate description of his origin and anatomy. Is it just a metaphor to you, Mike?

    But it was not a metaphor to Paul. It was how he understood anatomy. He read this:

    Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils ***the breath of life***; and man became a living soul.

    He refers to “the breath of life” in several places:

    Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit “[breath] of life” in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

    2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit [breath]: for the letter killeth, but **the spirit [breath] giveth life”.

    As does John:

    Rev 11:11 And after three days and an half the Spirit **[breath] of life** from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

    Joh 6:63 It is the spirit **[breath] that quickeneth [makes stuff go faster – just kidding!]**; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit [breath], and they are life.

    Notice that Jesus became a “life giving breath”:

    1Co 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit [a “life-giving breath”].

    That is, as the breath of life animated the flesh, Jesus will “raise the dead” (so to speak, with the new bodies from the sky).

    The breath is intelligent:

    1Co 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit [breath]: for the Spirit [breath] searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
    1Co 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit [breath] of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit [breath] of God.
    1Co 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit [breath] of the world [as we saw in Eph 2:2], but the spirit [breath] which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    This is not metaphor, but the conviction that the breath was a kind of intelligent ether.

  19. Gary Simmons says:

    Breath, simply put, is not intelligent. A spirit is. Note the etymology of spirit: isn’t it inspiring? Yes; it relates to breath. Today we have two distinct terms where the ancients did not. If the concept you are describing is intelligent, then it is something that cannot be translated accurately into English as “breath.” But “spirit” would work fine.

  20. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>Breath, simply put, is not intelligent. A spirit is.

    Nor is flesh. But they were to Paul. So the issues is whether we allow Paul’s ignorance or correct him via phoney translation.

    Gary, did Paul or did he not attribute to the body intelligent and moral characteristics? Or was he speaking of a “sin nature”?

    I mean, is Moses’ account credible? Can you shape dirt into the form of YHVH, then breath a Nitrogen/Oxygen mixure into it and have it get up and talk to you? Of course not.

    But the scriptures are a magical world. In this magical world, flesh and air are moral and intelligent. Or rather, they were materialists. They connected all mental processes to various organs.

    * the heart – thinking, believing
    * the kidneys – the hid motives
    * the flesh – the home of sin
    * the breath – the organ of speech, self awareness, intuition

    Ephesians 2:2 demands, grammatically, to be understood as referring to breath as air, and air that is morally charged, because it is a genitives. Note the NET Bible’s footnotes:

    5 tn Grk “of” (but see the note on the word “spirit” later in this verse).

    6 sn The ruler of the kingdom of the air is also the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience. Although several translations regard the ruler to be the same as the spirit, this is unlikely since the cases in Greek are different (ruler is accusative and spirit is genitive). To get around this, some have suggested that the genitive for spirit is a genitive of apposition. However, the semantics of the genitive of apposition are against such an interpretation (cf. ExSyn 100).

    7 tn Grk “working in.”

    Nope, the grammar demands that it read “the air of the breat that is now operating in the disobedient.” Air…operating.

    So also in John:

    Joh 3:8 The wind [PNEUMA] bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit [PNEUMA].

    How disingenuous is it that they tranlsated this as wind and spirit! Note the intelligence… it blows where it wants to, and if you are born of it, you too have that characteristic.

    Breath is the organ of utterance. Hence:

    1Jn 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit [breath], but try the spirits [breaths] whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
    1Jn 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit [breath] of God: Every spirit [breath] that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

    Words are breath:

    Joh 6:63 It is the spirit [breath] that quickeneth [makes alive]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit [breath], and they are life.

    Paul said the same here:

    2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit [breath]: for the letter killeth, but the spirit [breath] giveth life.

    Note that “the breath gives life” is the “law of the breath of life” that was established by Moses:

    Gen 6:17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, ***wherein is the breath of life***, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

    Psa 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: **thou takest away their breath, they die**, and return to their dust.
    Psa 104:30 Thou **sendest forth thy spirit [breath]**, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

    Every page of scripture presumes the validity of Moses’ anatomy, and ascribes to God’s breath life giving, creative power. Paul attributes the bad behavior of the sons of disobedience to bad air/breath, and righteousness to the gift of the holy breath of God, which renews man in knowledge.

    It is the only honest reading of what is written, and it makes the scriptures cohere from end to end.

  21. Bob MacDonald says:

    What fun – and to think I missed out on this creative conversation – thank you all. Now I will go on living and worshiping in this breath and in this truth. Lovely. My flesh rejoices.

  22. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…My flesh rejoices.

    The flesh’s mind, according to Paul, is the enemy of God, so it would rather be resistent to Paul’s teaching – about the flesh’s mind – rather than rejoicing!:

    Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
    Rom 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
    Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
    Rom 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

    Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually [“breathly”] minded is life and peace.
    Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

  23. Dan Sindlinger says:

    Wounded Ego,

    I suspect that “the mountain thing” was still a major issue for the Jews at that time. But after the destruction of the temple in 70CE, they had to accept the concept that worship could occur every/anywhere. I think Jesus was preparing them for this coming event and reminding/clarifying what genuine worship consists of, which is what I tried to convey in The Better Life Bible:

    “Before long, people will be worshipping God everywhere, not just here and in Jerusalem. God is helping the Jewish people understand that the only way to really worship God is to follow God’s advice, no matter where you are.”

  24. WoundedEgo says:

    Yes, “the mountain thing” is a longstanding issue. Most people do not realize that Samaritans still live in the Northern Kingdom:


    In their scriptures, the passage about the mountain reads differently (and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Massoretic disagree with each other as well)!

    Both North and South consider each other Jews, but only the Southern Kingdom are Judeans.

    There is a prophecy to the effect that the Northern Kingdom would find its salvation through the Southern Kingdom (Judea), though I don’t know where it is, off hand.

    Jeroboam’s altar split the kingdom into two, and they warred. It was still a strong issue in the first century:

    Mat 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, ***and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not***:
    Mat 10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    Mat 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

    There are many allusions to this in the gospels.

    Hence, John 4:22 is inaccurately as referring to “Jews” because the real referent is “Judeans”. Do you agree?:

    Joh 4:22 Ye [Samaritans] worship ye [Samaritans] know not what: we [Judeans] know what we [Judeans] worship: for salvation [of the Samaritans] is of the Jews [Judeans].

    We have this about “no dealings” which likewise should be translated “Judeans”:

    Joh 4:9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew [Judean], askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews [Judeans] have no dealings with the Samaritans.

    I hope you agree.

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