John Calvin, Holy Spirit in Genesis 1

John Calvin, Holy Spirit in Genesis 1, Genesis 1:1 John Calvin and the Holy Spirit: John Calvin rejects the idea that Genesis 1:1 speaks of the trinity of three persons in creation. Even as he speaks of a triune Being it is in terms of God's nature and not three persons. The Holy Spirit is contained within the One God

This writer's comments aren in red. Commenting on Genesis 1:1 John Calvin notes in black.  The Bible and other comments will be in BLUE 

"God." Moses has it Elohim, a noun of the plural number. Whence the inference is drawn, that the three Persons of the Godhead are here noted; but since, as a proof of so great a matter, it appears to me to have little solidity, will not insist upon the word; but rather caution readers to beware of violent glosses of this, kind.

A "gloss" in many ancient manuscripts are notes added by the owner of the document. For instance, I make notes in my bibles as study aids. However, If I hand copied my own text from that of the temple or synagogue then it would be in my hand writing. If later I add notes in the empty spaces with the same hand writting then later readers could not know what was original. By "adding" three persons in Genesis 1:1 Calvin accuses us of "violent glosses." That is, we have changed the inspired original and others cannot know what is true. This happens when we translate Elohim to include the Holy Spirit as a person separated from God

And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods (elohim) ascending out of the earth. 1 Samuel 28:13

"They think that they have testimony against the Asians, to prove the Deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

The motive for adding the violent glosses was not based upon scholarship but upon the unholy urge to destroy the argument of others.

"but in the meantime they involve themselves in the error of Sabellius, because Moses afterwards subjoins that the Elohim had spoken, and that the holy Spirit of the Elohim rested upon the waters.

If we suppose three persons to be here denoted, there will be no distinction between them. For it will follow,

both that the Son is begotten by himself,
and that the
Spirit is not of the Father, but of himself. 

For me it is sufficient that the plural number expresses those powers which God exercised in creating the world.

Moreover I acknowledge that the Scripture, although it recites many powers of the Godhead, yet always recalls us to the Father, and his Word, and spirit, as we shall shortly see.

- Father Thought
God or Deity Son Word
- Spirit Breath

But those
absurdities, to which I have alluded, forbid us with subtlety to distort what Moses simply declares concerning God himself, by applying it to the separate Persons of the Godhead.

This, however, I regard as beyond controversy, that from the peculiar circumstance of the passage itself, a title is here ascribed to God, expressive of that powers which was previously in some way included in his eternal essence.

He hath made the earth by his power,
he hath established the world by his wisdom,
and hath
stretched out the heaven by his understanding. Jer 51:15

When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens;
and he
causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth:
maketh lightnings with rain,
bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Jer 51:16

Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. Jer 51:17

Genesis 1:2. "And the earth was without form and void." John Calvin continues:

"I shall not be very solicitous about the exposition of these two epithets, "tohu", and "bohu". The Hebrews use them when they designate anything empty and confused, or vain, and nothing worth. Undoubtedly Moses placed them both in opposition to all those created objects which pertain to the form, the ornament and the perfection of the world. Were we now to take away, I say, from the earth all that God added after the time here alluded to, then we should have this rude and unpolished, or rather shapeless chaos. Therefore I regard what he immediately subjoins that "darkness was upon the face of the abyss," as a part of that confused emptiness: because the light began to give some external appearance to the world. For the same reason he calls it the abyss and waters, since in that mass of matter nothing was solid or stable, nothing distinct.

"And the Spirit of God." Interpreters have wrested this passage in various ways. The opinion of some that it means the wind, is too frigid to require refutation.

For our commentary on the wind Click Here. The literal wind is used in several passages of God operating upon the void and empty condition of the world. The wind stands for God's literal methods of exercising His Spiritual power. The word is never translated the Holy Spirit.

"They who understand by it the Eternal Spirit of God, do rightly; yet all do not attain the meaning of Moses in the connection of his discourse; hence arise the various interpretations of the participle "merachepeth". I will, in the first place, state what (in my judgment)

Moses intended. We have already heard that before God had perfected the world it was an undigested mass;

he now teaches that the power of the Spirit was necessary in order to sustain it. For this doubt might occur to the mind, how such a disorderly heap could stand; seeing that we now behold the world preserved by government, or order.

He therefore asserts that this mass, however confused it might be, was rendered stable, for the time, by the secret efficacy of the Spirit.

Now there are two significations of the Hebrew word which suit the present place; either that the spirit moved and agitated itself over the waters, for the sake of putting forth vigour; or that He brooded over them to cherish them. Inasmuch as it makes little difference in the result, whichever of these explanations is preferred, let the reader's judgment be left free.

But if that chaos required the secret inspiration of God to prevent its speedy dissolution; how could this order, so fair and distinct, subsist by itself, unless it derived strength elsewhere? Therefore, that Scripture must be fulfilled,

'Send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth,' (Ps. 104: 30;) so, on the other hand, as soon as the Lord takes away his Spirit, all things return to their dust and vanish away, (ver. 29.)

26. "Let us make man." Although the tense here used is the future, all must acknowledge that this is the language of one apparently deliberating. Hitherto God has been introduced simply as commanding; now, when he approaches the most excellent of all his works, he enters into consultation. For more notes on the Holy Spirit - Mind connection Click Here.

God certainly might here command by his bare word what he wished to be done:

but he chose to give this tribute to the excellency of man,
that he would, in a
manner, enter into consultation concerning his creation.

There are MANY elohim but only ONE Jehovah. The Babylonians had Marduk and a host of triad gods but to God's people the TRUE elohim is namd Jehovah and Jehovah is never seen as a pagan triad:

But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord (Jehovah) their God (elohiym), and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. Hos 1:7

This is the highest honour with which he has dignified us; to a due regard for which, Moses, by this mode of speaking would excite our minds. For God is not now first beginning to consider what form he will give to man, and with what endowments it would be fitting to adorn him, nor is he pausing as over a work of difficulty: but, just as we have before observed, that the creation of the world was distributed over six days,

for our sake, to the end that our minds might the more easily be retained in the meditation of God's works: so now, for the purpose of commending to our attention the dignity of our nature,

he, in taking counsel concerning the creation of man, testifies that he is about to undertake something great and wonderful.

Truly there are many things in this corrupted nature which may induce contempt; but if you rightly weigh all circumstances, man is, among other creatures a certain preeminent specimen of Divine wisdom, justice, and goodness, so that he is deservedly called by the ancients "mikrokosmos", "a world in miniature."

But since the Lord needs no other counsellor, there can be no doubt that he consulted with himself. [For our notes on the Holy Spirit as Counsellor Click Here.]

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; John 14:16

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. John 14:17

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. John 14:18

Jesus Said I will come to you AS the another (fuller) Comforter. The same John verified this:

MY little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 1Jn.2:1

Sent from the FATHER the Comforter's NAME will be Jesus Christ:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Jn.14:26

Sent by Jesus Christ proceeding FROM the Father:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: Jn.15:26

I and my Father are one. Jn.10:30

Jesus in the flesh--a body prepared for Christ--and he must go away before He could return as the ONE and only Holy Spirit Comforter.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. Jn.16:7

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Mt 28:18 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Ac.2:36
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Mt.28:19 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 28:20 and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Ac 2:38

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

The Jews make themselves altogether ridiculous, in pretending that God held communication with the earth or with angels. The earth, forsooth, was a most excellent adviser! And to ascribe the least portion of a work so exquisite to angels, is a sacrilege to be held in abhorrence. Where, indeed, will they find that we were created after the image of the earth, or of angels?

Does not Moses directly exclude all creatures in express terms, when he declares that Adam was created after the image of God?

Others who deem themselves more acute, but are doubly infatuated, say that God spoke of himself in the plural number, according to the custom of princes.

As if, in truth, that barbarous style of speaking, which has grown into use within a few past centuries, had, even then, prevailed in the world. But it is well that their canine wickedness has been joined with a stupidity so great, that they betray their folly to children.

Christians, therefore, properly contend, from this testimony, that there exists a plurality of Persons (personae in the church Fathers) in the Godhead.

God summons no foreign counsellor; hence we infer that he

finds within himself something distinct; as, in truth,
his eternal
wisdom and power reside within him.

[To speak of God as Mind, Spirit and Word reveals that God is not an oblong blurr. Rather, God, like the man He created, is a complex being capable of doing all of His God jobs as man is capable of doing his own work because he is a complex being--not that he is three persons in one body.]

Calvin Continues to prove there were NOT three GODS in Creation.

"In our image, &c."
Interpreters do not agree concerning the meaning of these words. The greater part, and nearly all, conceive that the word image is to be distinguished from likeness. And the common distinction is, that image exists in the substance, likeness in the accidents of anything. They who would define the subject briefly,

say that in the image are contained those endowments which God has conferred on human nature at large, while they expound likeness to mean gratuitous gifts.

But Augustine, beyond all others, speculates with excessive refinement,

for the purpose of fabricating a Trinity in man. For in laying hold of the three faculties of the soul enumerated by Aristotle, the intellect, the memory, and the will, he afterwards out of one Trinity derives many.

For our notes on man in the triune image of God Click Here. God's Holy Spirit speaks to our human spirit.

"If any reader, having leisure, wishes to enjoy such speculations, let him read the tenth and fourteenth books on the Trinity, also the eleventh book of the "City of God." I acknowledge, indeed, that there is something in man which refers to the Fathers and the Son, and the Spirit: and I have no difficulty in admitting the above distinction of the faculties of the soul: although the simpler division into two parts, which is more used in Scripture, is better adapted to the sound doctrine of piety; but a definition of the image of God ought to rest on a firmer basis than such subtleties.

"As for myself, before I define the image of God, I would deny that it differs from his likeness. For when Moses afterwards repeats the same things he passes over the likeness, and contents himself with mentioning the image. Should any one take the exception, that he was merely studying brevity; I answer, that where he twice uses the word image, he makes no mention of the likeness.

We also know that it was customary with the Hebrews to repeat the same thing in different words. besides, the phrase itself shows that the second term was added for the sake of explanation,

'Let us make,' he says, 'man in our image, according to our likeness,' that is, that he may be like God, or may represent the image of God.

Lastly, in the fifth chapter, without making any mention of image, he puts likeness in its place, (verse 1.) Although we have set aside all difference between the two words we have not yet ascertained what this image or likeness is.

The Anthropomorphites were too gross in seeking this resemblance in the human body; let that reverie therefore remain entombed. Others proceed with a little more subtlety, who, though they do not imagine God to be corporeal, yet maintain that the image of God is in the body of man, because his admirable workmanship there shines brightly; but this opinion, as we shall see, is by no means consonant with Scripture.

The exposition of Chrysostom is not more correct, who refers to the dominion which was given to man in order that he might, in a certain sense, act as God's vicegerent in the government of the world. This truly is some portion, though very small, of the image of God. Since the image of God had been destroyed in us by the fall, we may judge from its restoration what it originally had been. Paul says that we are transformed into the image of God by the gospel. And, according to him, spiritual regeneration is nothing else than the restoration of the same image. (Col. 3: 10, and Eph. 4: 23.)

That he made this image to consist in "righteousness and true holiness," is by the figure synecdoche; for though this is the chief part, it is not the whole of God's image. Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good.

Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth.

For there was an attempering in the several parts of the soul, which corresponded with their various offices. In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and moulded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order. But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the infection of sin.

"In our image, after our likeness". I do not scrupulously insist upon the particles "beth" and "caph". I know not whether there is anything solid in the opinion of some who hold that this is said, because the image of God was only shadowed forth in man till he should arrive at his perfection. The thing indeed is true; but I do not think that anything of the kind entered the mind of Moses. It is also truly said that Christ is the only image of the Fathers but yet the words of Moses do not bear the

interpretation that "in the image" means "in Christ." It may also be added, that even man, though in a different respects is called the image of God. In which thing some of the Fathers are deceived who thought that they could defeat the Asians with this weapon that Christ alone is God's, image. This further difficulty is also to be encountered, namely, why Paul should deny the woman to be the image of God, when Moses honours both, indiscriminately, with this title. The solution is short; Paul there alludes only to the domestic relation. He therefore restricts the image of God to government, in which the man has superiority over the wife and certainly he meant nothing more than that man is superior in the degree of honour. But here the question is respecting that glory of God which peculiarly shines forth in human nature, where the mind, the will, and all the senses, represent the Divine order.

"And let them have dominion." Here he commemorates that part of dignity with which he decreed to honour man, namely, that he should have authority over all living creatures. He appointed man, it is true, lord of the world; but he expressly subjects the animals to him, because they having an inclination or instinct of their own, seem to be less under authority from without. The use of the plural number intimates that this authority was not given to Adam only, but to all his posterity as well as to him. And hence we infer what was the end for which all things were created; namely, that none of the conveniences and necessaries of life might be wanting to men. In the very order of the creation the paternal solicitude of God for man is conspicuous, because he furnished the world

with all things needful, and even with an immense profusion of wealth, before he formed man. Thus man was rich before he was born. But if God had such care for us before we existed, he will by no means leave us destitute of food and of other necessaries of life, now that we are placed in the world. Yet, that he often keeps his hand as if closed is to be imputed to our sins.

27. "So God created man." The reiterated mention of the image of God is not a vain repetition. For it is a remarkable instance of the Divine goodness which can never be sufficiently proclaimed. And, at the same time, he admonishes us from what excellence we have fallen, that he may excite in us the desire of its recovery. When he soon afterwards adds, that God created them "male and female," he commends to us that conjugal bond by which the society of mankind is cherished. For this form of speaking, "God created man, male and female created he them," is of the same force as if he had said, that the man himself was incomplete. Under these circumstances, the woman was added to him as a companion that they both might be one, as he more clearly expresses it in the second chapter. Malachi also means the same thing when he relates, (2: 15,) that one man was created by God, whilst, nevertheless, he possessed the fulness of the Spirit. For he there treats of conjugal fidelity, which the Jews were violating by their polygamy. For the purpose of correcting this fault, he calls that pair, consisting of man and woman, which God in the beginning had joined together, one man, in order that every one might learn to be content with his own wife.

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:7. "And the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim kls) formed man." He now explains what he had before omitted in the creation of man, that his body was taken out of the earth. He had said that he was formed after the image of God. This is incomparably the highest nobility; and, lest men should use it as an occasion of pride, their first origin is placed immediately before them; whence they may learn that this advantage was adventitious; for Moses relates that man had been, in the beginning, dust of the earth. Let foolish men now go and boast of the excellency of their nature! Concerning other animals, it had before been said, Let the earth produce every living creature; but, on the other hand, the body of Adam is formed of clay, and destitute of sense; to the end that no one should exult beyond measure in his flesh. He must be excessively stupid who does not hence learn humility. That which is afterwards added from another quarter, lays us under just so much obligation to God. Nevertheless, he, at the same time, designed to distinguish man by some mark of excellence from brute animals: for these arose out of the earth in a moment; but the peculiar dignity of man is shown in this, that he was gradually formed. For why did not God command him immediately to spring alive out of the earth, unless that, by a special privilege, he might outshine all the creatures which the earth produced?

"And breathed into his nostrils." Whatever the greater part of the ancients might think, I do not hesitate to subscribe to the opinion of those who explain this passage of the animal life of man; and thus I expound what they call the vital spirits by the word breath. Should any one object, that if so, no distinction would be made between man and other living creatures, since here Moses relates only what is common alike to all: I answer, though here mention is made only of the lower faculty of the soul, which imparts breath to the body, and gives it vigour and motion: this does not prevent the human soul from having its proper rank, and therefore it ought to be distinguished from others.

Moses first speaks of the breath; he then adds, that a soul was given to man by which he might live, and be endued with sense and motion. Now we know that the powers of the human mind are many and various. Wherefore, there is nothing absurd in supposing that Moses here alludes only to one of them; but omits the intellectual part, of which mention has been made in the first chapter. Three gradations, indeed, are to be noted in the creation of man; that his dead body was formed out of the dust of the earth; that it was endued with a soul, whence it should receive vital motion; and that on this soul God engraved his own image, to which immortality is annexed.

"Man became a living soul." I take "nefesh", for the very essence of the soul: but the epithet living suits only the present place, and does not embrace generally the powers of the soul. For Moses intended nothing more than to explain the animating of the clayey figure, whereby it came to pass that man began to live. Paul makes an antithesis between this living soul and the quickening spirit which Christ confers upon the faithful, (1 Cor. 15: 45,) for no other purpose than to teach us that the

state of man was not perfected in the person of Adam; but it is a peculiar benefit conferred by Christ, that we may be renewed to a life which is celestial, whereas before the fall of Adams man's life was only earthly, seeing it had no firm and settled constancy.

Genesis 1:1 is rejected by John Calvin as proof of a trinity of three, separate persons of the Godhead.

Kenneth Sublett

Reformation Movement Index

Holy Spirit Index

Restoration Movement Index

Home Page



Home... Apocalyptic... OT Pseud... Aporcryphal.. Awakening... Baptism.....Caneridge... Church.... Colonial... Godhead.... MaxLucado Index... Max Lucado Creed....Max Lucado Shepherding....Lynn.Aderson... Musical Worship... Preaching... Restoration... RubelShelly... Search Our Site.. Tongues... Topical...

Counter added 1.18.05 9:53p 1579 12.09.07 899 3.07.08 964  10.01.08