[B-Greek] Revelation 1:10; 4:2

A. J. Birch AJB1212 at ono.com
Fri Jun 17 07:45:38 EDT 2011

Dear Alan,

As this list is in the process of being closed down, I don't know whether there is time to deal with your enquiry.

"EGENOMHN EN PNEUMATI..." (Revelation 1:10; 4:2),

Here are a few thoughts on the subject from a definite non-expert:

1. Technically, i. e. gramatically, I guess it could be either.

2. "Context is king." Unlike you, it seems, I see the context favouring the Holy Spirit view.

3. I don't think the anarthrous construction is at all decisive - there are examples with and without the article. (And the author of Revelation is notoriously "different" in his use of grammar!)

4. To me, the verb (in both cases), "EGENOMHN" - aorist - suggests the idea of the author entering an ecstatic state and seeing visions. Does that suggest the Holy Spirit or the human spirit? Our answers to that question are probably very subjective, but I certainly don't see it being a strong case for the human spirit.

Now let's see what the experts have to say!


Andrew J. Birch
Palma de Mallorca, Spain

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Alan King 
  To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org 
  Sent: Friday, June 10, 2011 10:55 AM
  Subject: [B-Greek] EN PNEUMATI in Revelations 1:20, 4:2

  This is my first post to this list. I am translating the NT directly from the Greek source to an indigenous language of Latin America (more at http://nebibliaj.org). My concern is to produce a literary translation that is as objectively accurate as possible from all viewpoints. My interest is philological; I am not working with any theological agenda.

  I am wondering what is meant by EN PNEUMATI in Revelations: does it refer to (a) the PNEUMA hAGION or is it (b) simply describing the writer's state of mind?

  These are not the same thing and I remain unimpressed by the argument that it can be both at the same time since the Holy Ghost can induce a given state of mind in a person if it wants to. That is besides the point, what is the point is what the text is saying (not what it might possibly entail): (a), (b), (a+b) or (a OR b indifferently)? Gratuitously claiming either (a+b) or (a OR b) without supporting evidence (of which I see none) looks like a cop-out that doesn't objectively answer the question.

  The English translations I have looked at unanymously give "in the Spirit" (definite article, capital S) which means they lean unambiguously to (a). Both the context and the anarthrous Greek construction seem to me rather to suggest (b). Hence the translators seem to have gone against the grain of the prima facie textual evidence, for reasons that they know best. Comparison with the rest of the NT corpus is perhaps not entirely conclusive but one rather suspects that if the writer had meant (a) he would have been far more likely to have written EN TWi PNEUMATI or else, of course, EN TWi PNEUMATI hAGIWi, which he plainly didn't - on both of the occasions in question!

  The context in both instances definitely strongly suggests that in the situations referred to we are meant to understand that an abnormal state of the narrator's mind did indeed occur - whether or not that is the sense conveyed by the expression EN PNEUMATI there. So pragmatically the question boils down to whether or not the text is explicitly stating that the PNEUMA hAGION was involved. I cannot see that it is doing that, but I would welcome hearing any viewpoints that suggest the opposite (preferably arguments not tied to theological a prioris, obviously).

  I am puzzled by the English translators' dogged adherence to "in the Spirit". After all, "in spirit" is a perfectly good English expression and, as it happens, even a literal match as well as a decently close semantic one to what seems to be in the Greek. I can see that the Latin is ambiguous and would leave the door wide open to either option, and perhaps a tradition grew up involving the "other" possible meaning of IN SPIRITU which subsequently nobody has dared to defy? That's just a guess.
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