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In the ESV, Philippians 3:3 reads:

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.

According to this paper by Christiaan Kappes, the proper reading of Philippians 3:3 should be “For we are circumcision, who worship the Spirit of God.”

Now, I am no Greek scholar, so I am not qualified to judge these claims. If anyone is familiar with this and could elaborate, please do. This verse, if the proper translation is as above, would be an almost immediate proof of the personhood and divinity of the Spirit.

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    οι πνευματι θεω λατρευοντες who in spirit God serve (EGNT) ; who by the spirit are serving God (YLT). The object of worship (or service) is God. The mode of worship is 'in spirit'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 4, 2023 at 14:18
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    The question in the title is about the worship of the Holy Spirit, but the conclusion of the question is about the personhood and divinity of the Spirit, suggesting that this is the same issue. However, these are distinct questions.
    – LarsH
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 12:44
  • A similar discussion is found in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas ("Of God and His Creatures", ch XVII). See Note 900 in particular. Aquinas uses this verse as evidence of the divinity of the Spirit, although for a slightly different reason than that of the Kappes paper, cited above.
    – kmote
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 19:56

2 Answers 2

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The text of Phil 3:3 is disputed by some. The difference is:

  • οἱ Πνεύματι Θεοῦ λατρεύοντες (= those in spirit of God worshiping) as per NA28/UBS5, majority text, Byzantine text, SBL, Orthodox text, etc. Note the genitive Θεοῦ = "of God".
  • οἱ πνεύματι Θεῷ λατρεύοντες (= those in spirit for God worshiping) as per the Textus Receptus alone. Note the dative Θεῷ = "for/to God".

Regardless of which reading is adopted, the intent is clear - worship of God "in/by spirit" is the MODE of worship not the person. That is, the text is talking about HOW we worship, not who we worship.

That is, this text says nothing about worship of the Holy Spirit, no does it say anything about the who or what the Spirit is.

Phil 3:3 appears to be alluding to Jesus' words in John 4:24 -

God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

Again, this is refering to how we worship - we worship God "in spirit and in truth". (Further, we do not worship the truth, but worship "in truth".)

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  • You are asserting that this is a modal use of the dative, but you have offered no evidence to support that conclusion. It seems a bit of a stretch to suggest that Phil 3:3 is an allusion to John 4:24, given that (1) it is an entirely different word for worship and (2) (more to the point for this discussion) Paul omits the preposition εν in his phrasing.
    – kmote
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 19:40
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οι πνευματι θεω λατρευοντες [TR]

who in spirit God worshipping [literal]

Pneumati is dative, thus locative, and 'in' is added for English idiom. (1)

Latreuontes is the nominative, plural, masculine, present participle. (1)

This is rendered 'who in spirit God serve' (EGNT - The Englishman's Greek New Testament) and 'who by the spirit are serving God' (YLT - Young's Literal Translation) and 'which worship God in the spirit' (KJV).

The object of worship (or service) is God. The mode of worship is 'in spirit'.

There is no reason to suppose more than is stated in the text. If one wishes 'proof of personhood and divinity', one must look elsewhere.

This particular text, as it stands, comments only on the mode of worship. The object of worship is stated to be Deity (as to nature) but the person worshipped is not defined.


I am only commenting on the Greek of the Received Text.

The Critical Text 'oi pneumati Theou (genitive) latreountes' ('who worshipping spirit of God' - sic) mimics 'en saki pepeoithotes' (in flesh having confidence, Phil 3:3b) and, to me, becomes incomprehensible without an article, thus casting doubt on the source.


(1) Bagster's Analytical Greek Concordance.

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