What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the Holy Spirit? How can one respond to their claims?

By June 3, 2015 10 Comments

Response: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is a force of God, not a Person. This belief corresponds with their denial of God as a Trinity—three Persons, but one God. One can respond to their claims by pointing to Scripture passages that suggest the Personhood of the Holy Spirit. One can also look to the writings of early Church Fathers who refer to the Holy Spirit as a Person. After doing so, three questions arise: Is one conclusion more reasonable than the other, or are they equally reasonable? Is either conclusion necessary? Given the answers to those two questions, how do we know with certainty which conclusion is correct?
Discussion: Because Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity, they also deny the Personhood of the Holy Spirit. Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that the Scriptures characterize the Holy Spirit as an impersonal object: people are filled by it, baptized with it, and anointed with it (see Lk. 1:41; Acts 2:4; Mt. 3:11; and Acts 10:38). Any personal references to the Holy Spirit or His action—such as “helper,” “bear witness,” “speak,” and “hear” (see Jn. 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:13)—are dismissed as personification (a literary device, e.g., “the sun smiles from above”) (cf. Reasoning from the Scriptures, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1989).
This explanation of the Holy Spirit does not take a holistic view of scriptural interpretation. Using the same verses, one can also conclude the opposite—that the Scriptures properly refer to Him as a Person, but by way of analogy use impersonal attributes. Analogy helps us better understand the mysteries of the Spirit. The Scriptures sometimes speak of persons in impersonal ways: David wrote in Psalm 22:14 that he was “poured out like water.” Also, God the Father is referred to as a flame, yet we don’t conclude that he is not personal (Heb. 12:29). Perhaps the question should be asked, “If the Holy Spirit is presented in Scripture in both personal and objective ways, why must one conclude that He is not a Person?”
The following are passages from Scripture that indicate that the Holy Spirit is a Person:
For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (Jn. 16:13).
…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you (Jn. 14:17).
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (Jn. 14:26).
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 18:19).
From these passages, it seems that one can reasonably conclude that the Holy Spirit is a Person.
Discussion note: when talking about Scripture, a Jehovah’s Witness might question first the interpretation and then the translation of the Scripture passage before conceding a point. You might respond to this by admitting that neither of you are qualified to judge the accuracy of a translation. In fact, there is no one translation without error.
Not only does the evidence from Scripture favor the interpretation of the Holy Spirit as a Person, but the early Church Fathers testify to this teaching as well. In Against Praxeas, Tertullian (c. AD 155-240) refers to “the Person of the Paraclete” (“Paraclete” being another name for the Holy Spirit).[1] St. Athanasius (c. AD 295-373), in On the Incarnation of the Word of God and Against the Arians, writes: “For it is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is Lord of hosts. For the Godhead is one, and there is one God in three Persons.”[2] St. Ambrose (AD 340-97) wrote an entire work entitled On the Holy Spirit in which he refers to the Holy Spirit as a Person and maintains that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Three Persons but one God.[3] In the Scriptures, persons are sometimes described by analogy in impersonal ways just as objects are sometimes personified. The tradition of the Church, along with the testimony of Church Fathers, consistently maintains the concept of God as Trinity and the Holy Spirit as a Person of that Trinity. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity, simply convincing a Jehovah’s Witness that the Holy Spirit is a Person is unlikely. At the same time, raising questions about the Personhood of the Holy Spirit may lead a Jehovah’s Witness to ask him or herself the questions, “Why do I believe the Holy Spirit must not be a person? Is my belief truly based in the Scriptures? How did I come by my belief?”


  • Greg says:

    Good article! Another good scripture is Acts 5:3-4 “…you have lied to the Holy Spirit; “…you have not lied to men, but to God.” Both Deity & personage of the Holy Spirit brought out.

    • dan says:

      Greg have you seen a spirit yourself? spirit cannot be seen can be filled but not seen get that come to you senses before you talk something those Jehovah’s Witnesses have right whether you accept it or not, a Spirit cannot be a Person just like a Wind he blows but you don’t see it

  • Rigo says:

    Written by a Catholic of course! Jehovah’s witnesses do believe in the holy spirit. First, Is the holy spirit a person? No. Was there a person in the burning bush? The holy spirit is sent in Jehovah’s place because man cannot handle Jehovah’s presence! Second, the Jehovah’s witnesses believe in Jesus Christ and they know he died for our sins. And that the only way to Jehovah god is through his son, Jesus! Third, I’ve never heard a Jehovah’s witness put down or act like their above any other religion! Jesus is not Jehovah god, if this were so why did Jesus look to the skies and call out to his father?

    • Brian says:

      Jesus looked to the sky because He (Jesus) was going to send the Holy spirit. I thought the article was fair and your snide comment about this being written by a Catholic was rude and un-Christ like. It’s not a matter of salvation so, as my Pastor says, it’s not worth arguing over. I am glad I will meet you in Heaven a Child of God. See you there and we will both know the complete story. God Bless.

  • Cmarks says:

    First and foremost the Catholic church knows more and more people are becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses because they use the bible, which is respected by many of different beliefs when the catolic church will invent doctrines that never were recorded by the bible itself. Most holidays that are celebrated today Catholics have been the ones to make such a big fuss over were not Christian holidays, they came from pagan origin just like the trinity doctrine. So they talk trash on the witnesses as the last resort trying to keep those who attend their churches confused so they do not look into what witnesses believe for themselves. How is that working out for you? I believe the Catholic religion is like meeting a car salesman. He finds a customer that knows nothing about a car, uses ideas or perceptions that may be confusing to the regular Joe but only sells it because he makes it sound good or tickles the ears of the buyer, when really the car is worthless and made cheap. They don’t feel bad about selling a lemon though because the salesman made his commison and has his pocket filled. If you can’t speak the truth and use lingo that confuses people and makes no sense what so ever does not make you sound intelligent. It makes you blood guilty. I would investigate what the bible really says. It might also be wise to make sure your statements about another religious belief is well founded. Otherwise it sounds like you are scared for your flock to investigate for themselves and see what the truth behind their teachings is. It’s not wise to teach people to make judgements based on your opinion because you are afraid they will leave when they expose you.

    • Surge says:

      I’m not saying this to bash your beliefs, but how is it that after so many years of the bible being interpreted in a certain way, all of a sudden 1900 years later come the Jehova Witnesses and change its interpretation giving it a whole other meaning?
      This below is the correct interpretation of a passage from the bible, varying in difference from the NWT bible. It’s interpretation has been the correct and same one for nearly 2000 years. It is from the New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE), but nevertheless still the correct interpretation.
      God bless you 🙂
      John 1:1-18
      1 In the beginning was the Word,
      and the Word was with God,
      and the Word was God.
      2 He was in the beginning with God.
      3 All things came to be through him,
      and without him nothing came to be.
      What came to be 4 through him was life,
      and this life was the light of the human race;
      5 the light shines in the darkness,
      and the darkness has not overcome it.
      6 A man named John was sent from God. 7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
      10 He was in the world,
      and the world came to be through him,
      but the world did not know him.
      11 He came to what was his own,
      but his own people did not accept him.
      12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
      14 And the Word became flesh
      and made his dwelling among us,
      and we saw his glory,
      the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
      full of grace and truth.
      15 John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
      If I’m not mistaken, this is not the only passage from the bible which has been modified. Sorry to tell you, but the New World Translation is fallible.

  • Keynes says:

    First I will say everybody is entitled to their own belief or doctrines……..
    My question to the writer of this epistle is that
    1. What was that active force of God that was said to be moving about over the surface of the water (Genesis 1:2) ?
    2. What enable the apostles to speak in different languages?
    3. Jesus said his deciples will receive holy spirit not holly spirit will come in form of a person.
    4. After Jesus death, his apostles performed miracles through the power of what?
    How you now seat their and confusing yourself and others saying holy spirit can be inperson

  • David says:

    In 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 says : 5 For even though there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many “gods” and many “lords,” 6 there is actually to us one God, the Father, from whom all things are and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and we through him.
    In these scripture says that there is only one God the father, and there is only one Jesus the Lord . Where is the Spirit . The spirit is not a God or a person . It is the active force of God

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