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Matthew 3:16 is usually translated as "… he saw the Spirit of God …".
The Greek is "εἶδεν τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ", which is literally "he-saw the spirit the of-god".

Matthew 12:28 is "… by the Spirit of God …".
The Greek is "ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ", which is literally "by spirit of-god".

It is normal in Greek to include the definite article before "God" (and other names, see Greek Article with Name "Jesus"), as in the first example.

Is there any significance to the omission of both definite articles in the second case?

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  • There is a very little, negligible difference for which you will have to read Greek grammar books, it can't be explained in short. See my ans on the article here which maybe the most detailed description here hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/27196/…
    – Michael16
    May 13, 2022 at 14:14
  • @Michael16, based on your other answer, would it be wrong for me to compare the two uses I quoted above as similar to "He is standing by the car." versus "He got here by car." (the first being a very specific instance of "car" and the second being a more generic reference).? May 13, 2022 at 16:35
  • I should have said there is no difference in the above 2 examples. With the article noun article noun or noun-noun construct, both mean the same. This is a good link, the article only acts as simple identifier. Holy Spirit is a monadic noun like God, or the-Law, they don't need the article everytime. It's just a grammatical construct. bcbsr.com/greek/gsubs.html#Article
    – Michael16
    May 13, 2022 at 17:00
  • In English we would be used to use The spirit of God, in both sentences because English requires a specific distinction between definite and indefinite. In Greek there is no such thing; the noun can be definite despite being without article, and there is no indefinite-article. Car is a common noun but God's spirit is only one/unique. Even if you translate it God's spirit, it is a definite specific noun.
    – Michael16
    May 13, 2022 at 17:03

2 Answers 2

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Greek normally drops the article in a prepositional phrase. The absence of the article is normal and doesn't really mean anything. It is the INCLUSION of the article that is unusual and typically means that the author is being specific.

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  • +1, would you expect the Spirit of God to be more likely accompanied by the definite article if the word for spirit is in the accusative or nominative and less likely in the dative or genitive?
    – Austin
    May 14, 2022 at 2:26
  • I would think so. I am no Greek scholar. This is probably a question better directed to Dottard, but the use of the article with a noun in the nominative case typically identifies it at the subject, but not always. For example, if there are two nouns in the nominative case both having the article where one is the subject and the other is the predicate, then the first noun is the subject, and the other is the predicate. The same rule applies if neither have the article. If one has the article and the other does not, then the noun with the article is the subject and the other is the predicate.
    – oldhermit
    May 14, 2022 at 10:30
  • Can you give a link in support of your answer ? Particularly the matter of lack of article in a prepositional phrase. (Or give examples of this, preferably from Matthew himself. ) Daniel B Wallace Beyond the Basics might be suitable - p245 - ten items including 'anarthrous/prepositional'.
    – Nigel J
    May 14, 2022 at 12:20
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    I cannot see that pattern the use of the Greek article. Can you quote some examples and provide some evidence?
    – Dottard
    May 14, 2022 at 12:38
  • Dottard, was this question directed to me?
    – oldhermit
    May 14, 2022 at 12:41
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First, we regularly find in the NT Θεός (God) without the article in Greek. Here is a sample: Matt 4:4, 5:9, 6:24, 12:28, 14:33, 15:4, 19:26, 27:43, 46, 54, Mark 1:1, 10:27, 11:22, 12:27, 15:39, etc. There are hundreds more.

The need or otherwise of the Greek article must be taken on a case-by-case basis. Further, there is not a one-to-one correspondence between the Greek article function and the English definite article. The lack of the Greek article does NOT imply the required use of the indefinite article in English. The grammar rules in each language are different.

For example, proper names like, Philip, Nathaniel, Jesus, David do not have articles in English but quite often do have articles in Greek.

In Daniel B Wallace's "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics" (a large tome) he devotes several chapters to the discussion of the Greek article to which I refer the interested reader. Suffice to say here that the use of the article in Greek is different from English.

When it comes specifically to the use of Θεός, the article indicates that the noun Θεός is "monadic", ie, unique in its class; however, this is by no means essential as Matt 12:28 clearly shows.

For example in the Gospel of John we have several examples within a few verses of each other:

  • John 1:1b has the article
  • John 1:1c has no article
  • John 1:2 has the article
  • John 1:6, 12, 18 (twice) all have no articles

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