What is the "manner of spirit" that Jesus might be referring to in Luke 9:55, and does (or might) it refer to all men?

Luke 9:

[54] And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? [55] But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. [56] For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

1 Answer 1


First, the text of Luke 9:55b & 56a is disputed. The part that says:

“You do not know what kind of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy the lives of men, but to save them.”

... is absent from all the early manuscripts, including Jerome's Vulgate of 400 AD; the spurious text only appears (in part) in the manuscripts in the late fifth century. Indeed, the form of the text in the Textus Receptus (as per the KJV) only appeared in the 10th century. For more details of which MSS support which reading, see UBS5.

Further, the phrase οἵου πνεύματός = "of what spirit" is unique here lending further weight to the idea that this idea was copied from some other source and thus is a gloss.

However, for the sake of this question, let us assume that this spurious text is valid. As noted above, because the phrase is unique, it is difficult to interpret. However, Ellicott offers some suggestions:

(55) Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.—The words admit of two constructions: (1) that the disciples did not know that the Spirit that had been given “not by measure” to their Master, and promised by Him to them (Matthew 10:20; John 3:34), was one of gentleness and love; (2) that they did not know that in yielding to what they thought a righteous anger, they were really yielding themselves to the evil mind, or the personal Evil Spirit which was at enmity with God. Looking to the general use of the word “spirit” in our Lord’s teaching, the former way of taking the words seems, on the whole, preferable, and agrees better with what follows. The Spirit which had claimed them for its own was one that led Him to save and not to destroy. The whole clause, however, is wanting in the best MSS.

Barnes is similar:

Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of - You suppose that you are actuated by a proper love for me; but you know not yourselves. It is rather a love of revenge; rather revengeful feelings toward the "Samaritans" than proper feelings toward "me." We learn here:

  1. That "apparent" zeal for God may be only improper opposition toward our fellow-men.

  2. That people, when they wish to honor God, should examine their spirit, and see if there is not lying at the bottom of their professed zeal for God some bad feeling toward their fellow-men.

  3. That the highest opposition which Jesus met with was not inconsistent with "his" loving those who opposed him, and with his seeking to do them good.

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