Most other Bibles translate Ephesians 4:30 like this:
‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’ –NIV
However, we chose to say ‘impede’ instead of ‘grieve.’ Why?
Because ‘impede’ better fits the context, agrees better with other verses, and is a valid translation from what we believe to be the Aramaic original.
This is controversial, however. You see, this verse is often used as a Trinity proof-text, to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit (or as we translate it, the Holy Breath) is a Person of the Trinity, because only a person is capable of being grieved, or saddened.
For example, the Ellicott’s Commentary says:
‘there is implied a personal relation to a Divine Person, capable of being “grieved” by our transgressions’ [italics added]
However, even many Trinitarians admit that the New Testament does not explicitly teach that the Spirit, or Breath, is a person (which is why it says ‘implied’ above). We also know from recorded history that the Holy Spirit was not considered to be a ‘Person of the Trinity’ until several centuries after Ephesians was written.
So the question is: did the Apostle Paul really mean grieve, or do we have a mistranslation?
There may indeed be a mistranslation, or at least a misunderstanding.
The word in Aramaic is mahiyqiyn, which can mean to grieve, but also to oppress, trouble, or constrict.
However, the word in Greek is lupeó, which just means to distress or grieve. However, according to the Greek lexicon, it was also used to describe annoying an enemy force with constant light attacks.
Now consider the context. Paul was warning against committing various sins. But why? Was he just pleading that you shouldn’t sin and make the Holy Spirit sad? Perhaps. Or was he warning that if you commit sins, you won’t receive as much Holy Spirit?
Admittedly, a case could be made both ways, but the latter seems more likely to us.
You see, when you understand that nobody (at this time) regarded the Spirit as a ‘Person of the Trinity,’ and that the Aramaic word can also mean to oppress, trouble, or constrict, and the Greeks also used their word to mean annoying enemy armies in attacks... then it makes perfect sense that the word – in this context – means something like: ‘Don’t commit these sins or your actions will impede or constrain or attack the Spirit and prevent it from acting in your lives.’
This would agree with other verses:
‘Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.’ –1 Thessalonians 5:19, NLT
‘You always resist the Holy Spirit.’ –Acts 7:51, NIV
So putting it all together, we believe that the ancient peoples who first read Ephesians 4:30 probably understood ‘grieve the Spirit’ as meaning to impede or constrain the Spirit’s action in their lives, as if their sins were attacks upon it, so that’s why we translate it as ‘impede.’
We may be wrong, of course, but that’s why we have these translator notes – so you can see what we’re doing.
Our Bible uses older manuscripts than most Bibles do. Check us out!