Today's commentary from Brian Pitts was immediately triggered by the lead commentary from Dr Anthony Lowes that we published last Friday critiquing the structure of Church in Trinitarian and Kingdom terms. Brian Pitts is challenging much more than the critique of Church structure that is the focus of Anthony's series of essays. [We'll be publishing Part 2 on Friday.] He's challenging or questioning the entire accepted and received wisdom about where the Holy Spirit sits in this whole schema of Trinity, the beliefs of the Apostles and the Ancient Jews and ourselves. This is a commentary to blow away the cobwebs in your brain. It is not simply "off the top of the head" rebuttal but is part of the fruit of a lengthy personal research project Brian Pitts has set himself and which he mentioned briefly in the earler commentary he gave us in March this year. [LINK] This is a commentary that will challenge the assumptions and beliefs of many Catholica readers and no doubt send the temple police again firing off emails to the Vatican in complaint and fear that the sky is about to fall in on them. Be brave, hold on to your seats and set yourself for an exciting theological ride. It is a commentary that fits in beautifully with the concluding paragraph of Tom McMahon's commentary yesterday – which he had asked me to include at the last minute without any knowledge of this contribution from Brian Pitts waiting in my inbox.
A critique of a critique...
I skimmed Dr Anthony Lowes' recent commentary "The church critiqued in the light of Trinity and Kingdom" and my brain switched off. I hereby explain why. I am physically unable to appreciate a speculative theological paper, because I'm too dumb. It might take you for a ride through the Cosmos, but is as useful as the magic carpet ride my dad used to thrill us with as little kids. They all ended with a bump as we landed back on earth but were as imaginary as can be. This kind of theology is intellectual and has no real scriptural roots. Yeshua would not understand a word of it.
Challenging all our assumptions about
Typically, Catholic theology starts at Nicaea and that's precisely where its problems begin. It refuses both the critique of scripture as well as that of history. I make no apology for rejecting the findings of a dedicated intelligent theologian, but from the outset the Doctrine of the Trinity on which this article of Dr Lowes' depends contradicts that of Scripture.
This tram of Dr Anthony Lowes does not go where I come from and I'm hopping off.
One of the members of the Trinity is a person called the Holy Spirit, and he is male. I wish to briefly present what Scripture has to say about this Holy Spirit. If he drops out of the troika then Dr Lowes' speculation loses a leg as far as I'm concerned.
The word for Spirit in each of these languages is
Each word in these languages means: Air, wind, breath, spirit, ghost, and personal feelings.
Air is invisible. It is something we breathe, essential for life. It is an unseen power that can rip out big trees, blow houses and trucks and people away. We can feel it but can't see it. It can be gentle, fierce, hot or cold. All this is unscientific, but not long ago there was no science.
Spirits and air both share things in common. They are unseen, unpredictable, powerful forces, and one word covered them all.
I have almost just completed a search that examines every reference to the Holy Spirit in the Bible. The Holy Spirit features both in the Jewish Tanakh (Old Testament) but is more highly concentrated in the New Testament. All of this scripture was completed 325 years before the Trinitarian formula of Nicaea was invented.
The focus of my search was to see if the Holy Spirit was ever referred to as a "PERSON" in Scripture or was it something else. I am not going to bore you with details of 45 pages of notes on 480 specimens so far collected and examined in this study.
But categorically I can say this: In both the OT and NT, the Holy Spirit is identical. It is the same Power of "Yahweh"; and it is not a person but a POWER.
In the Tanakh all the way from "Adam" through to the end of BCE, there is absolutely no trace of it being a "person", and it is surprising how refined the Holy Spirit became in that period. In fact it was Isaiah who spelt out the so called 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit about 700BC! This was no Christian invention. The Holy Spirit was a power that Yahweh bestowed on particular people like prophets, leaders and kings, and a few individuals that endowed them with the powers required for the work Yahweh called them to do. e.g. to lead, to teach, to write, to endure, to fight. During this era, receiving this "Ruach ha Kodesh" as it was called in Hebrew was restricted and rare. This Power of Yahweh was the king maker. This power could be temporary, and in the case of Saul was finally withdrawn by Yahweh. If you don't believe the stories, consider the teaching that's in them.
What this Holy Spirit actually is and does...
This Holy Spirit is exactly this same "Ruach ha Kodesh" that Yeshua, the Evangelists, Paul, etc. picked up and carried forward into the New Testament era. This exercise has helped me to begin to understand exactly what this Holy Spirit actually is and does.
Just about every reference in the Bible to the Holy Spirit has a "the" before it. This is impersonal. There are only about four verses of the NT speak of the Holy Spirit as "He" and these could well be explained away grammatically, or certainly by way of analogy. It is otherwise always referred to as "the Spirit" or "the Power" of God or Yahweh.
The Holy Spirit is a POWER that God sends to individuals that directs, moves, teaches, brings joy, security, love, consolation, etcetera. In Acts it is the Power that got the early church started, spread the Good News and invited Paul or blocked him from certain places. The apostles and Paul reject any accolades for the success of this Good News, they attribute it all to the work of the Holy Spirit. In Luke it is the Power of God that filled Mary, Elizabeth, Simeon and John the Baptist.
But most important of all it was this Spirit from God that came upon Yeshua at his baptism in the Jordan. This was his messianic anointing. This made Him the Messianic King. He was zapped by the same Ruach ha Kodesh that both Saul and David received when they were anointed by the prophet Samuel. It's this POWER of God that made them kings — not the oil.
Both Paul and Peter in their letters backed up at least one Holy Spirit reference each by quoting a "Ruach ha Kodesh" instance from the Tanakh, in Paul's case a long reference straight from Isaiah, which also happens to be Messianic. This shows the continuity of the same Holy Spirit from Old to New Testament. Paul's quote is:
Isa 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD (yahweh) will rest on him—
Count them they are seven.
Brian Pitts. Submitted to Catholica 24 Jun 2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?