Sword? Or Spirit?


I’m sure we are all familiar with Paul’s instruction as recorded in Ephesians 6 to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” I am thinking in particular of verse 17:

…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 ESV)]

You have probably observed children’s leaders giving a Bible reference, and then saying, “Draw your trusty sword!” Then each of the children tries to be first in finding the verse in his Bible. This is all based on the concept that the Bible is “the word of God” and that it is “the sword of the Spirit.”

One day, I noticed this verse was written differently in the “Recovery Version” of the New Testament:

…and receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 Recovery Version)

The translators inserted “Spirit” after “which” for clarification. When I read this I wondered whether it was possible that Paul had indeed identified the Spirit with “the word of God” rather than “sword.” So I looked up the passage in Greek. Here is what I found:

και την μαχαιραν του πνευματος ὁ ----ἐστιν ῥημα θεου
and the —sword of the spirit --which is-----word of God

Notice the Greek for “word” is not “logos” but “hrāma”. It might be translated as “speech” or “discourse.”

Now “μαχαιραν” (sword) is feminine, where as “πνευματος” (spirit) is neuter. The relative pronoun “ὁ” (which, who) is also neuter. Relative pronouns agree with their antecedent in gender. Therefore the antecedent of “ὁ” must be “πνευματος” rather than “μαχαιραν.” so the translators of the Recovery Version are justified in inserting “Spirit” after “which.” But it might also have been translated in such a way that this addition would not be required:

…and receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit who is the word of God.

But I know of no translator who does so.