A spirit of what? And why the TNIV gets it

I plan to post various scriptures where I find that the TNIV excels in it’s translations, specifically in references to the the Holy Spirit.  I will reference Gordon Fee as an expert on the matter and see what he has to say on these verses.

2 Timothy 1:7 (bold added by me)

TNIV: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
ESV: for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
NLT: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
HCSB: For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

What is this spirit/Spirit?  The other translations leave you wondering if there are possibly other spirits that God can give us besides His Spirit (Holy Spirit), maybe there is also a spirit of mind control that will enable us to be Jedi’s.

But the TNIV was bold enough to clarify that Paul was referring to the Holy Spirit.  By the way there are no alternate footnote renderings for this passage in the TNIV, proving further their confidence in this translation or a major oversight (which I highly doubt).

Lets see what Gordon Fee has to say on this particular verse.

Although the NIV’s translation of “spirit” in this verse with a lower case s is possible (since the definite article is absent in Greek) and follows the traditional English versions (KJV, RSV), it is most highly improbable and quite misses both the relationship of this sentence to verse 6 as well as Paul’s own usage and theology elsewhere.  That Paul is referring not to some “spirit” (or attitude) that God has given us (him and Timothy, but ultimately all other believers who must equally persevere in the face of hardship), but to the Holy Spirit of God is made certain by several items: (a) the explanatory for that begins this sentence gives it the closest possible tie to verse 6; (b) the close relationship between charisma (“gift” v.6) and the Spirit (v. 7) is thoroughly Pauline (see 1 Tim. 4:14); (c) the words power and love are especially attributed to the Spirit in Paul; and (d) thee are close ties between this verse and 1 Timothy 4:14, where the “gifting” of Timothy is specifically singled out as the work of the Spirit.  New International Biblical Commentary by Gordon Fee

To put it another way, here is a case where so-called literal translations must give way to a dynamic equivalent in order to say in English what Paul’s Greek intends.  What God has given is the Spirit; what that meas for Timothy is that “cowardice” is out, and “power, love and a sound head” are in.  The GNB has captured Paul’s intent: “For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control” Precisely.  God’s Empowering Presence by Gordon Fee

I think that Gordon Fee presents good reason why it should be translated as such.  In his book God’s Empowering Presence he does go into further details for those of you that wish to read further.

If any Greek experts that read my blog care to offer reasons why it should not be translated this way I would be most interested.  Or if you are an expert and agree let us know.  It will make this post well rounded since I only presented one view.

Scripture where Paul uses nearly identical usage:
1 Cor. 2:12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. – TNIV
Rom. 8:15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – TNIV


4 thoughts on “A spirit of what? And why the TNIV gets it

  1. Jeff, taking the time off was good for me. I am really having a good time blogging again, it was starting to feel like an obligation, and something that I felt I had to do.

    Glad that you didn’t abandon me altogether, and kept me on your radar.

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