Friday, April 07, 2006

Ephesians 6:17 - sword of the Spirit

As I was finishing the book of Ephesians this morning, I came across a marginal note I made while learning Biblical Greek. The note clarifies a single relative pronoun in Ephesians 6:17. We read Paul's counsel to take ... the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. The question: what is the sword? Or in other words, what is the referent of which. The traditional Protestant view is that The word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Matthew Henry). Namely, the referent for which is sword. However, in Greek, the grammatical gender of a relative pronoun agrees with its referent. In Ephesians 6:17, the relative pronoun is ὅς (singular neuter). The referent therefore must be neuter. sword is μάχαιρα (singular feminine) and Spirit is πνεύματος (singular neuter). So the referent of which is Spirit. The Spirit is the sword and the Spirit is the word of God. Translating Ephesians 6:17 by dereferencing the relative pronoun gives something like And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God:

So what? The point is that the sword Paul counsels us to take is the Spirit not the written word of God. A solid knowledge of the scriptures is commendable, useful and wise, but it does not provide the active, dividing power which the Spirit of the Lord provides. For it is the Holy Ghost which will show unto you all things what ye should do.

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