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

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 17 10:03:46 EDT 2011

There is no simple way to determine whether this would refer to the "Holy 
Spirit" or simply an ecstatic state.  Usage in the NT seems to alternate between 
the articular and the anarticular use.   My personal preference is to understand 
it, both here and in 4.1, as being an ecstatic state.  It may be that such a 
state is considered to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit since I would 
not preclude that, but I think it refers simply to the state itself.  I thus 
understand it as indicating that "John" was meditating and fell into a kind of 
trance (Notice, no Greek other than a reference to the article for any of this 
-- bad poster, bad you will be banned from the b-greek list, but so will 
everyone).  I think it simply results from King Context which seems to promote a 
sense that it is a state.  


… search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.

- Jan Hus

From: A. J. Birch <AJB1212 at ono.com>
To: B-Greek <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Fri, June 17, 2011 4:45:38 AM
Subject: [B-Greek] Revelation 1:10; 4:2

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 

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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