Hebrews 12:9 (DRB):

Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live?

2 Corinthians 3:17 "the LORD is the spirit".

John 4:24 "God is spirit".

In Hebrews 12:9 who is the Father of spirits? the Son or God the Father?

  • 1
    Hi salah and thank you for your post. Please note that the term "God the Son" is not a scriptural title of Jesus but rather a 4th century theological one and so does not really belong in a hermeneutical discussion. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    May 15, 2020 at 17:01
  • 1
    @Ruminator thank you, I edited it.
    – salah
    May 15, 2020 at 17:20
  • Given the preceding verses, it would seem so.
    – Lucian
    May 15, 2020 at 17:47
  • 2
    @NigelJ The first instance I checked has the article (and from memory, they all): [1Co 8:6 YLT] (6) yet to us is one God, the Father, (θεὸς ὁ πατήρ) of whom are the all things, and we to Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are the all things, and we through Him;
    – Ruminator
    May 15, 2020 at 19:49

4 Answers 4


It is likely that the author has in mind Numbers 16:22 and 27:16 wherein Yahveh is referred to by the title אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל־בָּשָׂר (elohei ha-ruchot lekol-basar)—“the God of the spirits of all flesh.” Hence, “the father of spirits” would be Yahveh.

As both Father and Son are Yahveh,1 the “father of spirits” would be the Father and Son [and Holy Spirit], as the Trinity. However, it is likely that the author only has in mind the person of God the Father in this particular context.


1 cf. Zech. 2:8–11, where Yahveh of hosts sends Yahveh of hosts.


The reference seems to refer to God the Father. There is no justification for the capitalization of "spirits" in this verse. The writer is making a contrast between the fathers of our flesh and the one who is the Father of our spirits. I would reccomend doing a parallel reading of this verse from other translations. The biblehub web site is a good tool to help in this.

  • Yes, in this case I agree with your 'referent'.
    – Nigel J
    May 15, 2020 at 18:06
  • LOL. Thanks Nigel.
    – oldhermit
    May 15, 2020 at 18:08
  • . . . . you're welcome.
    – Nigel J
    May 15, 2020 at 18:09

The passage is comparing and contrasting the fatherhood of God with the fatherhood of human fathers.

[Heb 12:5-11 NLT] (5) And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, "My child, don't make light of the LORD's discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you. (6) For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child." (7) As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? (8) If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. (9) Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? (10) For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. (11) No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

There is no reason to reach out to a 4th century theological construct to interpret a straightforward text about the fatherhood of God. The fatherhood of God is unique and explicit throughout the scriptures:

[1Co 8:6 NLT] (6) But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

[2Co 1:3 NLT] (3) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.

[2Co 11:31 NLT] (31) God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. And a little broader we see:

[Eph 4:6 NLT] (6) and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

[1Th 1:3 NLT] (3) As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[Mat 5:45, 48 NLT] (45) In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. ... (48) But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

[Mat 6:1, 9 NLT] (1) "Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. ... (9) Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.

[Mat 7:21 NLT] (21) "Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.

[Mat 10:32-33 NLT] (32) "Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. (33) But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

[Mat 12:50 NLT] (50) Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!"

[Mat 16:17 NLT] (17) Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.

[Mat 18:19 NLT] (19) "I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.

[Mar 11:25 NLT] (25) But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too."

[Mat 18:10 NLT] (10) "Beware that you don't look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.

[Mat 23:9 NLT] (9) And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father,' for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.

[Mat 24:36 NLT] (36) "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

[Mar 13:32 NLT] (32) "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

[Luk 24:49 NLT] (49) "And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven."

[Act 2:33 NLT] (33) Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God's right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.


  • Is not "unique" a little too much in view of the Messianic prophecy of Isa 9:6?
    – Dottard
    May 15, 2020 at 21:56
  • That phrase is an interpolation as I understand it as it doesn't appear in the Greek: Is. 9:6For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him. 7His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: it shall be upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to support it with judgment and with righteousness, from henceforth and forever. The seal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
    – Ruminator
    May 15, 2020 at 22:00
  • biblehub.com/sep/isaiah/9.htm
    – Ruminator
    May 15, 2020 at 22:00
  • That is the Greek translation. I was referring to the original Hebrew which has "everlasting Father" and is undisputed.
    – Dottard
    May 15, 2020 at 22:10
  • @Dottard NOTHING is undisputed!: youtu.be/lXPnrhvxrZg However, the "Bible" of the authors of the NT was, in my view, the Greek scriptures.
    – Ruminator
    May 15, 2020 at 22:18

Quick answer: God the Father – Father “the Spirits.” Are there questions to whether the "spirit relationship" to man's flesh is a settled fact?
Der Übermensch says, "It is likely that the author has in mind Numbers 16:22 and 27:16” (a quote similar to that by Henry Alford) Alford says, “the text which probably was before the Writer’s mind, Numb. 16:22, and again 27:16…”

The above two observations of “the Father of Spirits” may be examples that attempt to identify these “s/Spirits” as the spark of life resident within the "flesh of mankind."

Supporting text: Num. 27:16. “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh…”

Is it possible that verse 9 may be referring to "types" of God's Spirit rather than man's spirit? That by replacing the word "of" with "the" offers a satisfactory answer and fits the context while standing alone without the aid of Num. 16 or 26.

Isa 11:2 seems a better fit and before the writers mind: The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding etc... There are 7 Spirits in all - resting upon Jesus, given by His Father (Jn. 1:32-33) "Father of spirits" would be read "Father the Spirits”
Greek - “the:” 3588 (ESL). ὁ ho
3588 (WSNTDic.)… (1) As a def. art., the, that, this."

With the word “the” inserted, Hebrews 12:9 reads, “Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father, the (seven) Spirits and live?

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