Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV) notes:

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory.

Here the scripture uses the word 'who' which is used to refer to individuals (from my understanding). How does the Greek render the Holy Spirit here in this passage?


The participle translated by the NIV here as 'who' is the Greek word ὅ, which is extraordinarily common and possesses a wide variety of meanings in English. The word is most commonly rendered as 'which' or 'who/whom', and does not by itself indicate whether it's referring to a personal or impersonal subject - we must rely on context for that. So no, this specific word or indeed the passage it sits in does not render the Holy Spirit explicitly as a person.

To stay within the scope of BH.SE we need to focus on the source passage and cannot begin a discussion of other references in the way which your question attempts to.


Disclaimer: My Koine Greek skills are very basic so I welcome any knowledgeable critique of my observations below.

It appears to me that the NIV translation supplied (along with most if not all English translations) misses the meaning of the passage and instead conforms it to Trinitarian dogma. "PNEUMA" ("spirit/breath" (which are synonyms)) is a neuter noun which allows it to be translated along these lines:

"...in which ye were sealed with the holy breath of the promise..."

So what is the "breath of the promise"? The "breath" is inextricably part and parcel of the promise. That is, proclamation of the message of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is made by breath:

Weymouth New Testament John 6:63 It is the spirit (breath) which gives Life. The flesh confers no benefit whatever. The words I have spoken to you are spirit (breath) and are Life.

New International Version 2 Cor 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit (breath); for the letter kills, but the Spirit (breath) gives life.

The notion that breath gives life is not original to either John or Paul (or Jesus) but is an "elementary principle" of the scriptures:

New International Version Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Paul refers to this as "the principle of the breath of life":

BSB Romans 8: 1Therefore there is now no condemnation [death sentence] for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit [breath] of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

So not only do Koine grammar and deeply entrenched scriptural principles argue for the message being in view, so does the immediate context:

NIV Eph 1: 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him [by it] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit [holy breath of the promise], 14who [which] is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

So no, Eph 1:13 is, as I see it, certainly not identifying "the Holy Spirit" as a person. That it appears so in English translations is the result of eisegesis, not an exposition of the Koine, the immediate context or the "pneumatology" of the scriptures.


Please see my answer to this related post for what is meant by "sealed" which is actually referring to an "inscription": In Eph. 1:13, what does the word "sealed" (ἐσφραγίσθητε) mean?

  • I am sorry, but you are completely wrong. "Pneuma" is always neuter in Greek.
    – fdb
    Sep 5 '17 at 22:11

In some authoritative manuscript witnesses - (Codex Sinaiticus + Byzantine/Majority Text (2000) + Textus Receptus (1551) + Textus Receptus (1894)) - there stands a masculine pronoun ὃς, which would rather suggest the indication of personhood of the πνεύμα, because if you consider πνεύμα as something impersonal, then you will stick strictly to grammar and never use the masculine ὅς but only neuter ὅ.

However, when you regard the πνεύμα as person, then you do not stick strictly to grammar and say "he" (to give an analogy: usually I would write "Luisa came" with a pronoun "she came", for it is a female name, but if I know that "Luisa" is a nickname of a man, then I will write "he came", or if it is a name of my friend's car - "it came"). Thus the very old and authoritative witnesses of the NT codices which put the masculine ὄς must have regarded the πνεύμα as person, for otherwise it is illogical to ruin Greek grammar so stupidly and put the masculine pronoun ὄς for the plainly neuter noun.

Thus, if it is eisegesis, it is not eisegesis of only English translators to put there "who" instead of "which", but already in the beginning of Christianity the Christian scribes regarded the πνεύμα as having the personal characteristics, even if the notion of person (ὑπόστασις) did not exist at that time, but only a latent insight and intuition of this notion, which later, through the Trinitarian and Christological debates of 4th-5th centuries became central to the Western intellectual culture.

And there were multiple very good reasons for attaching the notion of personhood to the Holy Spirit. For example: Matthew ends with "baptize in the name of Father and Son and the Holy Spirit" (28:19), now, if the Father and the Son are persons, it is only reasonable to think the same about the Holy Spirit who stands in the same semantic field in this sentence as the Father and the Son. Or, when Acts 15:28 say that "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us": in this clause "us" surely stands for persons and the same verb ἔδοξεν applies to the Holy Spirit, indicating the personhood of the latter and many such passages. And how could the "Holy Spirit" be "another Comforter"? (John 14:16) "Another" stands here with reference to Jesus, so the principal Comforter was Jesus himself, and another Comforter, equal to Him, would be Spirit of Truth, and how would Spirit equal in comforting quality with the person Jesus unless he were person Himself? For by lacking the personhood, no such comforting effect would be conveyed on the disciples saddened by the imminent departure of Jesus from them in the context of this promise. And, again, many other arguments for which I spare my ink and your time for now.

  • The first time the Textus Receptus existed is in 1514 so it isn't ancient, and it contains some 30 Trinitarian modifications so blatantly corrupt and specious that no translations are made from it unless in homage to the KJV. The Majority texts are similar.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 8 '17 at 4:22
  • Codex Sinaiticus (4th cent) also has ὅς. Thus, even if it a theological eisegesis (yet, it is quite possible that it is just taken intact from an earlier unknown codex), then it is as early as that date. Sep 8 '17 at 9:34
  • 1
    Trinitarianism/Catholicism is old but not original. The best scholarship shows that these were modifications by Trinitarians desperate to put their non-Biblical creeds into sacred text. Trinity is not taught in scripture. It was forced into history by a sun-worshiping Imperator.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 8 '17 at 12:32
  • The "best scholarship" is another name for "the scholarship that I consider to be the best". But to return to the gist: yes, it is true that Trinity is not mentioned in the NT, but the equality of the Son and the Father is stated quite unequivocally (John 5:18; John 5:23; John 10:33; Matthew 11:27 the epistemic equality here indicating the ontological equality and many other passages, thus the Christians had a clear feel and intuition that there is a fundamental identity and also a fundamental difference between the Father, the Son and The Spirit, even before the word "Trinity" was coined. Sep 8 '17 at 12:52
  • 1
    I have yet to hear one single intelligent correspondence come from your keyboard. You are the quintessential Trinitarian.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 2 '20 at 19:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.