The spirit case: an overview

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The spirit case: an overview

Postby bibleprotector » 27 May 2014, 18:02

Those of us who believe the King James Bible is exact and accurate, have looked into the fact that sometimes in the King James Bible we find the word “spirit” lowercase, when it is connected to God.

There are places where this definitely should be capital, like in Matthew 4:1 when Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Not only do we see this coming through authoritative historical editions, we can also see this by parallel passages. It is a doctrinal truth as well.

In Acts, Peter preached, “I will pour out in those days of my Spirit”, but in Joel we read, “in those days will I pour out my spirit.” There must a particular and doctrinal reason why the word “spirit” is sometimes lowercase. For example, in Joel, the spirit is poured out, meaning the work of God into the hearts of men. But in Peter, it says shows that the Spirit, specifically, the person of the Holy Ghost, is given. Therefore, taking these two passages together, the outpouring of the spirit is of the Spirit.

Now, it is a fact that turning to the edition of 1611 or even 1638 alone is not going to be the final solution in every example. This is because there was still proper and legitimate editorial work after 1638. Also, we would have to have to come to a time in history where these issues were all finalised, so that we would have the right presentation, because, after all, such a difference could potentially be a doctrinal issue.

Does this mean that when there was a misprinting or lack of editorial standardisation in early years, that the King James Bible was actually giving a different doctrine then? No, because while there has been some flux in spelling, and printer’s mistakes, there has to have been a refining process to make sure that we have come to some point in history where knowing exactly what the right jots and tittles are is resolved. This NEVER involves changing the actual text and translation of 1611. What is means is that the message is now given in editorially standardised English, with accurate printing. This is a finite process which has come to a specific end: there cannot be ongoing so-called “modernisation” of the King James Bible words. We have the King James Bible today communicating clearly as what was intended by the translators.

If we take the Cambridge Edition which stood in the majority of the twentieth century, in millions of copies, we find some places where the word “spirit” appears lowercase. Some reasons supporting these renderings are given:

ACTS 11:12. “And the spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house”. The parallel passage, the Spirit spoke to Peter (Acts 10:19), but Acts 11:12 is describing not specifically words of the Holy Ghost, but moving in Peter’s spirit. The two parallel passages bring this together. This lowercase usage appears in 1611 and in 1769.

ACTS 11:28. “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Notice that Agabus was operating as a prophet. This accords with 1 Cor. 14:32, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” This lowercase usage appears in 1611, 1638 and in 1769.

1 JOHN 5:8. “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” Some have thought that because the Holy Ghost is giving His record in Heaven in verse 7, it should be capital in verse 8. However, verse 8 is talking about operations in the earth and their application to the heart of the believer. When a person becomes convinced of the truth of God in their heart, they are therefore connect to this spirit, as verse 9 states, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.” Now, this must be from the Holy Ghost, but we can observe many cases where the work of God is called “spirit”, e.g., Exodus 35:31, Psalm 51:10–12, Isaiah 11:2, etc.

Edward Hills quotes Augustine of Hippo saying, “If we wish to inquire about these things, what they signify, not absurdly does the Trinity suggest Itself, who is the one, only, true, and highest God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, concerning whom it could most truly be said, Three are Witnesses, and the Three are One. By the word spirit we consider God the Father to be signified, concerning the worship of whom the Lord spoke,” John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

The 1611 had “Spirit” capital, but it also had “Water” and “Blood” capital, whereas “spirit” is lowercase in 1638 and 1769.

1. The word "spirit/Spirit" has a number of meanings, including, the inner man, the realm, a spirit being, the Holy Ghost and a godly manner of being.

2. The word "spirit" is used lower case to describe God's work in many references, e.g. Exodus 31:3, Job 27:3, 1 Cor. 2:12, etc.

3. The word "spirit" is used to describe the operation of the Holy Ghost, when you compare "pour out my spirit" in Joel 2:28 to "pour out of my Spirit" in Acts 2:17.

4. Therefore, the use of "spirit" lower case in many historical editions of the King James Bible at Acts 11:12, Acts 11:28 and 1 John 5:8 are correct, because they describe the nature, operation and interaction of God's Spirit with the born again spirit. Thus, Peter being led of the Spirit, is said to be bidden (or compelled) of the spirit in Acts 11:12. Again, Agabus having a gift from the Holy Ghost, is able to operate in his gift in the spirit in Acts 11:28, which links to 1 Cor. 14:22 and 1 John 4:1.

So when we are told that there are three things in earth, blood, water and the spirit, we understand that these are things which are effective in the earth, and in the life of born again believers: the spirit there is actually witness of God that acknowledges that we are of God, in God and having life (see 1 John 5:9, etc).

Many people assume that if it is talking about the Holy Ghost, it has to be capital "Spirit", not understanding that while the person of the Holy Ghost is called the "Spirit", what He does and how He operates is spiritual, which is the "spirit". (Besides the general "spirit" there are particular component spiritual operations, like "the spirit of holiness", etc.)

Some people have been asking me about why is "spirit" proper instead "Spirit" at 1 John 5:8.

I have discussed this elsewhere, but I want to give a quick summary of important ideas:

1. The Holy Ghost is bearing record in verse 7, so the Holy Ghost is not directly meant (i.e. capital "Spirit") in verse 8.

2. Verse 9 talks about having an inner witness. This is spiritual, and indicates that the witness is acknowledging in the human spirit, thus fitting with "spirit" in verse 8.

3. Three things are mentioned in verse 8, blood, water and spirit. It would not fit the pattern to say "Spirit", since the Spirit is a person.

I realise that many superficially look at the verse and would assume that "Spirit" would be correct, however, that would be because of a lack of understanding of how the word "spirit" is used in the King James Bible.

Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Notice that being born of the Spirit is spirit, that is, a new heart in the believer. That is why 1 John 5:8 correctly should be "spirit" according to the traditional editions of the King James Bible, because it is the born again human spirit in earth which has the witness and knowledge of God.

Also the structural pattern and context of 1 John 5 shows that "spirit" is meant.

1 John 5:8
It is the proper teaching that the three things listed in this verse reflect the persons in 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” However, it is said by some that the things in verse eight are the same as the persons in 1 John 5:7: the Father is the blood, “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28b); that the Word (or Son) is the water, “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.” (Mark 1:9b); and the Spirit (the Holy Ghost), they say, is the “Spirit”, which they quote according to the Oxford way. Only the Oxford Edition uses its marginal notes to have the reader refer to verse 6 for interpretation on their word “Spirit” capital, which they are making mean the Spirit of Truth, that is, the Holy Ghost. This line of interpretation is deviant because it does not take into account the role, nature or working of the Spirit of God in men.

Augustine of Hippo said, “If we wish to inquire about these things, what they signify, not absurdly does the Trinity suggest Itself, who is the one, only, true, and highest God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, concerning whom it could most truly be said, Three are Witnesses, and the Three are One. By the word spirit we consider God the Father to be signified, concerning the worship of whom the Lord spoke, when He said, God is a spirit. By the word blood the Son is signified, because the Word was made flesh. And by the water we understand the Holy Spirit. For when Jesus spoke concerning the water which He was about to give the thirsty, the evangelist says, This He spake concerning the Spirit whom those that believed in Him would receive.” Thus he recognised that the spirit did not refer identically to the Holy Ghost of the preceding verse, but to the Father.

The Holy Ghost operates in subjection to the Father in this particular regard, though the Holy Ghost be co-equal and co-eternal, there is a voluntary submission here, namely, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13). The “spirit” is by the “Spirit” but is not the Holy Ghost alone. Adam Clarke wrote concerning the spirit, that it is “in the word confirmed by miracles ... By the written word, which proceeded from the Holy Spirit, that Spirit is continually witnessing upon earth, that God hath given unto us eternal life.”

The correct structure of 1 John 5:6–8 here is presented (as isolated from the rest of 1 John). The numbered order and connection between the persons and things.

a. He (Jesus Christ) — person 1
b. that came by (that, not who, means Word made flesh) — separable things
c. water — thing 1
d. blood — thing 2

a. Jesus Christ — person 1
b. (came) not by water only — things inseparable
c. but by water — thing 1
d. and blood — thing 2

a. it is the Spirit that bares witness (that, not who, means Spirit is title and attribute) — person 2

a. the Spirit is truth (Spirit is the essence of all the nature of God) — person 2

a. the three that bare record in heaven — separable
b. Father — person 3
c. Word — person 1
d. Holy Ghost — person 2
e. three are one — inseparable

a. the three that bare witness in earth — separable
b. the spirit — thing 3
c. the water — thing 1
d. the blood — thing 2
e. three agree in one — inseparable

God the Father, denoted as person 3, is only mentioned once, and the spirit, denoted as thing 3, is only mentioned once. Thus, the proper interpretation is that the Father and the spirit are related: “shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9b). “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.” (John 4:23). “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God [i.e. the Father]” (Romans 8:16).

The Word connects to the water: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5). “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

The Holy Ghost connects to the blood: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).


The following is written to answer questions and queries might someone might raise concerning the "spirit" case issue.

The principles of my view are:
1. The infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture as articulated by traditional Protestants;
2. The absolute correctness of the text as presented in the King James Bible, and the fully accuracy of its translation; and
3. The perfection of the presentation as given in the Pure Cambridge Edition.

We are to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15). It follows that while Scripture passage is to be compared with Scripture, and the context noted, there is also the important division found throughout Scripture, both in its conceptual structure, and in its dealing with the same narrative or similar subject matter.

When we are told about the “spirit” in Joel, it is notable that we are told about the “Spirit” in Acts. One passage may be a quote of another, but the differences between them are important for the discerning of the very sense, for in this entire study, we are going to the minutest details, and giving credence to the slightest nuance. That is what it means to accept the principles above outlined concerning the reliability of every word, jot and tittle.

It must first be established that throughout the Bible, not only in the three passages questioned, but in numerous verses, there is examples of use of the word “spirit” lower case, where the modernist view dictates it ought to be capital. This is because there is absent now a doctrine of any particular meaning of the lower case “spirit” in relation to God, and because there is only a facile dictum which states that all references related to God must have a capital letter, or else, that they only understand that there is an Holy Ghost without there being any distinct understanding of what the Bible is describing as some part of his nature or operations, especially related to the heart of man.

The real issue then is that people have now an assumption that “Spirit” ought to be capital, and that the witness coming out from the earlier editions, even from 1769 and beyond, is that they were somehow inferior. The modern position is one of pride, inferring that now people have a proper sense in these matters. But the reality is, on close examination, it is possible to discern what the difference is between “spirit” and “Spirit”, why they are used, and why they should be retained in their traditional usage.

Not only is the assumption that “Spirit” should always be capital the thought of various Christians generally at large, but also is the opinion of the eminent editors at Cambridge, who only relatively recently with the formation of the Concord Edition followed the modern usage of the Oxford Edition in altering “spirit” to “Spirit” in three places. But once again, the word “spirit” lingers in various passages throughout the King James Bible, and there is little realisation of the distinction of this usage — which is not a cultish usage, but is sincerely as Protestant, whether Anglican, Methodist or Pentecostal, as may be found.

Scrivener, for all his imperfections, did rightly discern that there was some distinction between “Spirit” and “spirit”, and though several of his editorial decisions were incorrect (probably because he was giving credence to the second 1611 edition), yet his own edition is found to retain usage of “spirit” in some places.

ACTS 11:12
Acts 11:12 is not identical with Acts 10:19, 20. While they deal with the same situation, they show different things. (This, after all, the manner of parallel passages in the Bible, in that each recounting of an event may differ slightly to another, giving complementary information.)

If it is possible to argue that Acts 11:12 must be capital because Acts 10:19 is, then it would be valid to argue that Acts 10:19 should be lower case because Acts 11:12 is.

But there is a distinction giving rise to a doctrine, one which even Scrivener did somewhat recognise, that there is a difference between meaning of “Spirit” and “spirit”, “The familiar rule that ‘Spirit’ should have a capital when the Holy Ghost or Spirit Himself is indicated, while ‘spirit’ ought to be used in other cases, even when His power or influence is referred to, may be as safe as any, yet in application it gives rise to occasional perplexity, which the inconsistencies of the standard and other editions do little to remove.” Scrivener was, of course, way off in his motives to try to improve upon the received tradition, and the same can be said for Norton.

In Acts 10:19, 20, the Holy Ghost (i.e. the Spirit) speaks articulate words to Peter, which we should understand, were words he perceived within himself, not from an audible external source next to him.

In Acts 11:12 the Holy Ghost’s influence and working is described, called “spirit”, which was the outworking in Peter’s heart.

ACTS 11:28
Again, we have the absence of articulate words from the Holy Ghost, but a summary of the whole matter, whereby the prophet signified a coming event.

To utilise 1 Corinthians 14:32 is not a matter of “proof texting” (to wrench something out of context) in that the very context of 1 Cor. 14 is directly describing what it was that Agabus was doing in Acts 11:28. In fact, this example is entirely opposite of “proof texting” (which cults practice to justify beliefs by wresting Scripture).

As for 2 Peter 1:21, which does not expressly say “Spirit”, but “Holy Ghost”, there is no doubt that all true prophecy comes from the Holy Ghost. Remember that the word “spirit” in this issue is being argued to be the “power or influence” (by F. H. A. Scrivener) of the Spirit.

However, it must be said that 2 Peter 1:21 is referring to what was recorded as Old Testament Scripture, and that the example of Agabus in the New Testament is different, in that the New Testament office of prophet is different to the Old. Agabus was not involved in the inspiration of Scripture (in this case, it was Luke).

Again, it must be emphasised that while Agabus signified by the spirit, it certainly was from the Holy Ghost, and that is because the “spirit” is the “power or influence” of the Holy Ghost, so that quite rightly we could say that the “spirit” is of the “Spirit”. Probably the best way I can say it is that the “spirit” is not the full person of the Holy Ghost, but the manifestation of His presence and outworking in or through the human spirit.

1 JOHN 5:8
The context of the passage must be related to the very next verse, which is in closest proximity, which states, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.” (verse 9).

Some have attempted to argue that verse 8 should be capital “Spirit” because verse 7 speaks of the Holy Ghost. But of course, the Holy Ghost’s work in that verse is in Heaven. The work in Earth of verse 8 is something different. Certainly the Holy Ghost is present on Earth, and is the source of the “spirit” in verse 8, which is explained in verse 9 as the witness of knowing God in the human heart. (That is, one cannot have true knowledge of God in Earth without the Holy Ghost, which is perceived in the inner man, and is the working of God called the “spirit”.)

1 John 5:6 is talking about two earthly elements, water and blood. The “Spirit” is clearly the Holy Ghost. Thus, the Holy Ghost’s witness in verse 6 about Christ, His record in Heaven in verse 7, must be understood to also link to His outworking in the heart of man (called “spirit”) in verses 8 and 9.

There is avowedly a distinction between “Spirit” and “spirit”, though this is not to introduce any strange elements (for the Holy Ghost is always understood in both usages), and this being mentioned by Scrivener.

The way the Pure Cambridge Edition reads comes directly from the accepted 1769 Edition, and the ensuing Cambridge tradition, which David Norton called the received text. The changes in these particulars made in modern editions have been done without regard for the finer details and proper understanding of this issue.

In fact, if Cambridge University Press reverted just these three passages in their ordinary editions (that are elsewhere conformable to the Pure Cambridge Edition), they would be then again maintaining the tradition which they had for so long faithfully done. (After all, so much of their editing for so long was accepted, and it was only from the making of the Concord Edition that there were any signs of disparity.)

Finally, these matters should be weighed and understood, because it is my view that persisting on an insistence of a wrong presentation may invite the declension of Providence.
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