HOUSMAIL HM#031 - THE HOLY SPIRIT - HE? SHE? OR IT?                24 July 1999

In an article I read recently, a so called "expert" commentator claimed that in the Greek text, masculine gender nouns and pronouns are used to speak about the Holy Spirit. This led to the further claim that this "proved" that the Holy Spirit is a MALE PERSON.

For those of us who don't read Greek, and are not qualified in Greek grammar, it can be a daunting task to test this claim. However, with a little effort, it is not impossible to get at the REAL facts, by stumbling (one Greek letter at a time) through one of the readily available Greek Grammars, a couple of Lexicons, and an interlinear Greek/English New Testament. It also helps if you know my good friend Anthony Buzzard, who has supplied me with the information which reveals the gender of the respective Greek and Hebrew words! [1]

So then ..... what are the REAL Bible facts about this claim?

In Greek, many nouns which are neuter in English, have either masculine or feminine gender. That does not mean they have suddenly become male or female persons, simply because we have switched languages! It is merely one more evidence of the Tower of Babel still at work in our time! And when we translate those words back into English, it is simple common sense to translate the gender as well as the word!

Nowhere in the Greek Text are masculine pronouns used with the word "Pneuma". (translated into English as "spirit") It is grammatically impossible! In Greek "pneuma" is neuter gender ..... and the rules of Greek grammar require that pronouns which refer to it MUST also be neuter gender.

In four places in the NT, the Greek word "parakletos" is translated "comforter". ("helper" in the KJV margin, or "counsellor" in the RSV) It is used as another name for the Holy Spirit. (John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7)

This word IS masculine gender, so the rules of Greek grammar require that pronouns which refer to it must also be masculine gender. But that does not mean at all, that it MUST therefore refer to a MALE PERSONALITY with separate existence in its own right. The context in which the word is used, must be taken into account when determining the correct translation of masculine gender nouns from Greek to English.

In the only other place where the word appears (1 John 2:1) it refers to Jesus. Of course, it is quite unnecessary to "prove" that Jesus is a person! And John does not use it for that purpose. Instead, it is used to describe His OFFICE or ROLE in Heaven.

Careful reading of those four places in John's Gospel, will show that the use of "parakletos" has the same purpose in view as in his epistle. That use is clearly NOT to assign personality to the Spirit, but to describe the FUNCTION for which the Spirit is given. And since it is simply another name for the Holy Spirit, common sense ought to dictate that it be translated with the same gender as "spirit". We can easily determine from other Bible references to the Spirit of God (especially in the OT) that the Holy Spirit should be viewed as SOMETHING which belongs to God, rather than SOMEONE who is a DEITY. It should therefore be translated into English as a neuter gender noun.

A further illustration of the futility of attempting to use Greek gender to assign personality to the Spirit, is seen in the reference in John 15:26. Here we have ALL THREE genders applied to the "spirit" in the same sentence!

"When the COMFORTER (Gk "parakletos" -masculine) is come ..... even the SPIRIT (Gk "pneuma" - neuter) of TRUTH (Gk "aletheias" - feminine) he (?) shall testify of me".

No one in their right mind would seriously suggest that the Greek gender of "truth" indicates that "truth" is a feminine PERSONALITY! Why should it be any different with "comforter"?

Anthony Buzzard [1] tells me that Hebrew nouns have only masculine or feminine gender. There is NO NEUTER gender.

The Hebrew word for "spirit" is "RUACH". This word also has several other meanings such as "wind", or "breath". When used in conjunction with "QODESH" (3 times) it is translated "Holy Spirit". In other places it appears with the word "god" (without "holy") and is translated "Spirit of God". In other places God speaks of it as "My Spirit", or "the Spirit". (e.g Gen 6:3; Num 11:17 - use a Concordance to check it out)

In Hebrew, "RUACH" is always FEMININE gender! However, no one in their right mind, would ever suggest that means God's Holy Spirit is a separately existing FEMALE DEITY!

To correctly assign English Gender when translating this word, we must make a careful study of the way it is used in the Old Testament. This will show that the Spirit of God is NOT spoken of as a person at all. Rather it is clearly seen to be something which belongs to God in exactly the same way that the spirit of a man belongs to the man. A man's spirit is NOT another person existing apart from the man. It is an essential part of the WHOLE man. Without it the man simply would not exist.

God's Spirit bears the same relationship to God, as the spirit of a man does to the man. (1 Cor 2:2-16)

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deut 6:4-5)

This ONE TRUE GOD (John 17:3) has a spirit which is an integral part of Himself, in exactly the same way that the men He created also each have a spirit! (Which is not surprising, since we are created in His image!)


[1]  Sir Anthony F. Buzzard , Bt., M.A., (Oxon.), M.A. Th., A.R.C.M., teaches at the Atlanta Bible College
       of the Church of God General Conference.