Is it a gift from the Spirit or is it a gift of the Spirit Himself?

“The gift of the Holy Spirit” according to Franklin T. Puckett, evangelist, college professor, and my mentor said that Acts 2:38 in the Greek can either be “the Holy Spirit's gift” or the “gift from the Holy Spirit.” It is in the genitive case and either solution is possible in the original Greek.

There apparently is no special equivalent preposition in Greek for our word “of.” When a Greek noun's ending indicates the genitive case, it is generally translated as a prepositional phrase with our English preposition “of.”i

The genitive case has more uses than most other cases, but in general a noun in the genitive case helps to limit the scope of another noun by indicating its "kind" or "class".ii Generally, prepositions with a genitive case object functions adjectivally; e.g., “a big, fat, red hen of domestic variety.” There are several lists for genitive uses available online but the following list should suffice:

Inalienable possession ("Janet’s height", "Janet’s existence", "Janet’s long fingers"); Alienable possession ("Janet’s jacket", "Janet’s drink” ).     Relationship indicated by the noun being modified ("Janet’s husband").      Substance ("a wheel of cheese").     Elements ("a group of men").     Source ("a portion of the food").     Origin ("men of Rome").     Participation as an agent ("She benefited from her father's love") – this is called the subjective genitive (Compare "Her father loved her", where Her father is the subject.).     Participation as a patient ("the love of music") – this is called the objective genitive (Compare "She loves music", where music is the object).     Reference ("the capital of the Republic" or "the Republic's capital")         Description ("man of honour", "day of reckoning).     Compounds ("doomsday" ("doom's day"), Scottish Gaelic "ball coise" = "football", where "coise" = gen. of "cas", "foot").       Apposition, also called "identification": ("Mount Fuji"; "Garden of Eden"; "city of Rome")

We can readily see that identifying "of the Holy Spirit" as genitive case as some proudly would do, still leaves the relationship of the gift open for further scrutiny.

Let's look at some genitive uses that may be applicable to Acts 2:38.

1. Genitive of “Source or Origin.” Some genitive prepositional phrases imply a "source" or "origin." Our attention or focus moves from the genitive object of the preposition, "from" or "of" the "source." In Greek, the preposition ἐκ ("out of") always takes a genitive object. That is, ἐκ implies movement out of and away from its object.iii A Biblical passage is Ephesians 2:8, “(και τουτο ουκ εξ υμων) this is not of yourselves.” Literally, “this is not from [ἐκ ] yourselves.”iv This phrase indicates the source from which the modified noun is derived or depends. The word ‘of’ in this case could instead be translated ‘εξ -out of’, ‘derived from’, or ‘dependent on’. The same with the passage, “With child of (ἐκ, ἐξG1537-from) the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:18, and 1:20). “God is able of these stones (εξ των λιθων τουτων) to raise up children to Abraham(Matthew 3:9). However, in such cases as Romans 15:4, the εξ, although claimed to be understood in the context, is absent: "the comfort of (derived from) the Scriptures." This would be true with Ephesians 2:8's “this is not from (εξ) yourselves, this is the gift of God” where the contrast of the εξ phrase “this is not from yourselves” does not repeat the “εξ -from” preposition.

2. Genitive of Relationship. In more technical terms a noun in the genitive case helps to qualify another noun by showing its "class" or "kind". It is generally translated into English with a prepositional phrase starting with the word "of"; e.g., "the servant of the high priest" (Mark 14:47). The words "of the high priest" are in the genitive case in Greek and modify the word "servant". In Greek, the word "of" is not present, but it is supplied in the English translation.

3. Genitive of “Possession.” The genitive case is sometimes viewed as the genitive of possession although it does not necessarily indicate ownership. Hebrews 11:25 is an example of possession: the people of (belonging to) God”; John 1:29 is alos an example: the Lamb of God...sin of the world.Another example is "But you have received a spirit of sonship" (Romans 8:15). The word "sonship" is in the genitive case, telling what kind of spirit we have received.

4. Genitive of “Identification,” also called Epexigetical Genitive. It is similar to the “noun in apposition.” Two examples: 1. "And he received the sign of circumcision" (i.e., the sign which is circumcision, Romans 4:11); 2. “Temple of His body” (i.e., the temple which is His body, John 2:21); 3. “Sign of circumcision” (i.e., the sign which is circumcision, Romans 4:11). -- "can be translated with ‘namely’, ‘that is’, ‘which is’, ‘who is’ (if a personal noun)." v

The generally accepted type of case in Acts 2:38's “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is either “identification” (by those that want God's literal Spirit to “flow” into them) or relationship/possession (by those that would assert that such is consistent for phrases with persons as objects).


Probably, all would agree that the following verses are not “identification” but “relationship” or simply “possession.”   Just perusing some epistles produces the following examples.

          Romans 5:5 “love of God”;     Romans 15:13 “power of Holy Ghost”;     2 Corinthians 13:14 “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit;     Romans 8:5, 6, 27 “mind of the Spirit;

Romans 15:19 the power of the Spirit of God ;     Romans 8:2 “law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus;     Romans 8:23 “firstfruits of the Spirit;
            1 Corinthians 2:14 "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God";   1 Corinthians 6:19 “body is temple of Holy Spirit;     1 Corinthians 12:7 "the manifestation of the Spirit";

2 Corinthains 1:22 “the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts; 2 Corinthians 3:8the ministry of the Spirit;         2 Corinthians 13:14 “fellowship of the Holy Spirit;

           Galatians 5:22 "the fruit of the Spiritthe sword of the Spirit";

          Philippians 2:1 "if any fellowship of the Spirit";     1 Thessalonians 1:6 "with joy of the Holy Spirit";

          2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2 "sanctification of the Spirit"; Titus 3:5 "renewing of the Holy Spirit";

          Hebrews 2:4 "by gifts of the Holy Spirit"

The Test:

Substitute the phrase "of the Holy Spirit" with the English possessive form "the Holy Spirit's" and place it at the beginning of each object quoted and see if it makes sense; e.g., "by the Holy Spirit's gifts."

The rule is to translate "possession" for persons such as humans or God or Jesus when in genitive case; e.g., "gift of God" = "God's gift"; "gift of Christ" = "Christ's gift"; hence, "gift of the Holy Spirit" is "the Holy Spirit's gift."

I see no reason to change the way that the other verses use this type of genitive. The “possession/ownership” interpretation is consistent with all uses in the Bible of things given from above. “All good and perfect gifts come from the Father above” (James 1:17a). Therefore, we should accept that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is a thing/s from the Holy Spirit; i.e., "the gift" is "the Holy Spirit's gift" to the receiver.


The gift of the Holy Spirit of Acts 2:38 is either the Holy Spirit's gift or the gift is the Holy Spirit.   If one insists that the gift is the Holy Spirit Himself then logically one must admit that the name is used metaphorically because the Spirit is one person of the Godhead and cannot be parsed about like a jug of liquid.   It is a fact that the name Holy Spirit is used figuratively at least one time by Jesus. In Luke 11:13, Jesus is quoted, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”   In the parallel record in Matthew 7:11, instead of giving “the Holy Spirit” Jesus says giving “good things” “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Jesus designates the gifts by using the name of God's Giver, the Holy Spirit.

        Conclusion. We use such figurative language in English.   We drink the cup in the Lord's Supper.   But we actually drink the contents.   The cup stands for the contents.   It is used as a metaphor.   We also eat of the Lord's Table.   We actually partake of the things “on the table.”   Additionally, the common practice of the genitive case of a person does appear to be in the possessive genre, in English and in Greek; e.g., the person's gift.   Jesus told the woman at the well, “If thou knewest the gift of God [την δωρεαν του θεου ]” (John 4:10), no one that I know would say that Jesus is equating the gift with God. However, the wording “την δωρεαν” is the same used in Acts 2:38. Therefore, with either rule we would have to interpret “the gift of the Holy Spirit” as “the good things of Heaven.”

The question now becomes, "What did the Pentecost audience actively receive that belonged to the Holy Spirit?"     Did they not receive the word of the apostle Peter (given of the Holy Spirit)? His words were coming from the Holy Spirit through the promised prophesying.

Gaylon West
Throw Out the Lifeline

Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit:




iv Other examples that specifically use ἐκ are Matthew 1:18, 20; 15:18; John 3:5-8.