Closely Related To: - Does Luke show Agabus as errant in his prophecy in Acts 21? - In Scripture - Was Prophecy That was Spoken in Good Faith, ever Corrected?

1. Question - A Word Study Request, Historical Interpretation:

In Scripture - does "Through the Spirit" necessarily imply "Divine Inspiration" - or could it perhaps be idiomatic with, "Fervently", or "with emotion"?

  • How does Luke or Paul use this phrase?
  • Are there any examples in Greek Literature?
  • How would the phrase have been understood at that time?

2. The Text:

NASB, Acts 21:4 - After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul *through the Spirit | διὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος * not to set foot in Jerusalem.

  • Hiya Elika, are you satisfied with Frank's answer or are you still looking for more on this Q?
    – Steve can help
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 17:08
  • @SteveTaylor - I am hoping for a textual/literary analysis. Like in Greek Literature. Where does this phrase come from? Or even, is there a clear explanation of this in Scripture? Is there a place where this can be inferred from context? That answer seems to be a great commentary and is theological, in a lot of ways. But, I feel it leans on modern views. I don't feel it was a linguistic/literary analysis, (secular). How would people have interpreted this when it was written? Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 1:20
  • Excellent, thanks for the clarification!
    – Steve can help
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 8:25

1 Answer 1


The passage here appears to be in contradiction with Acts 20:22, where the Spirit compels Paul to go to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:22 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.

How then do we reconcile them? Are the disciples here acting in the Spirit when they tell Paul not to go? I have heard some argue that the people were using the gift of prophecy incorrectly (as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10). However, the word used here is dia which does not always mean primary, direct agency. (Though it can mean that, cf Acts 28:25.)

According to the lexicons (Friberg, UBS, Louw-Nida, LEH), we can understand dia to be "by reason of" what the Spirit had revealed. In other words, it is because of what the Spirit first said that the believers reacted this way. They had great love for Paul and upon hearing something from the Spirit (likely a warning of what was to come), they did not want him to go.

The use of upo as in Acts 13:4 would indicate they were doing this "under the power of the Spirit."

Like other gifts of the Holy Spirit, prophecy must be judged. In Acts 17:11, the Bereans were praised because they confirmed with the Scriptures what was told to them. Another reason that prophecy must be judged is because the speaker's (and hearers') emotions can get in the way. Like Agabus in just a few verses, the Spirit showed them what would happen (then, Paul bound and imprisoned; here, likely something similar though it is not detailed). They drew their own incorrect conclusions from there.


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