“God Has No Body” Part 2.2

Find Part 1 here.

In Part 2.1, I challenged three assumptions that are implicit in the argument: first, the fallacy of begging the question; second, the logical weight that John 4:24 is made to bear; and third, the trust in Biblical accuracy. In this response I pointed out the fallacy; argued that the logical weight on John 4:24 is indeed too much for a single scripture; and argued that it is possible that portions of the Bible, including John 4:24, are inaccurate.

There were no challenges made to the formal argument, so it remains stated as follows:

  1. The Biblical verse John 4:24 says “God is a spirit” (KJV)
  2. The Biblical verse Luke 24:39 defines spirit as incorporeal
  3. Thus, those who are spirits are incorporeal (2)
  4. The scripture should be understood as “God is a spirit,” as it contains no language such as “God has a spirit”
  5. Thus, God is incorporeal (3) (4)

The First Premise

While the four word phrase of John 4:24 may seem fairly straightforward, it is not quite that simple. This challenge will argue, not that the phrase was mistranslated, but that there are alternate translations which significantly alter the meaning of the phrase. The phrase in the original Greek leaves the English meaning open to interpretation, namely in relation to both the words “is” and “a” and the word “spirit.”

First, there is uncertainty over how the words “is” and “a” should be used. All italicized words in the King James Version of the Bible, including the “is” in the phrase in question, were included by translators (an interesting point to note if you’re vehemently against “adding to” the Bible). What’s more, indefinite articles like “a” and “an” do not even exist in Greek. The translation might more accurately be rendered “God is Spirit” to match the statements “God is love” or “God is light,” also made by John (the relationship between these three statements will be covered in more detail in Part 2.4).

Second, the word translated “spirit” could be reasonably translated in other ways. With the adjustment for the words “is” and “a,” we can see the original Greek contained only two words, “God” and “spirit” (or theos pneuma [θεος πνεμα]). The word pneuma, which is translated in most texts as “spirit,” also means “life” or “breath” (it is translated as “life” in Revelation 13:15). Thus, “God is life” or “God is the breath of life” are both acceptable translations of the verse.

Because of these alternate translation issues, the argument can be clarified as follows:

  1. The Biblical verse John 4:24 has traditionally been translated “God is a spirit” in the KJV, but could also be translated in a number of other ways including “God is spirit” or “God is life.”
  2. The Biblical verse Luke 24:39 defines spirit as incorporeal
  3. Thus, those who are spirits are incorporeal (2)
  4. Still, there is ambiguity concerning how the scripture should be understood (1), and we cannot assume that the scripture should be understood as “God is a spirit” even though it contains no language such as “God has a spirit”
  5. Thus, God may be incorporeal (3) (4)

Continued at Part 2.3.

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