Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Personality Of The Holy Spirit And Neuter Gender

"...the argument that is often heard is that the phrase "Holy Spirit" in Greek is in the neuter gender, and it is. But Greek genders do not necessarily indicate personality. Inanimate things can have masculine genders, and personal things can have the neuter gender. We cannot automatically insert the pronoun "it" when referring to every neuter noun any more than we should always insert the pronoun "she" for "love," since love in Greek is feminine. Instead, we determine whether the Holy Spirit is personal the same way we would demonstrate that the Father or the Son is a person."

James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, p. 141


  1. Wow, this is a very interesting post!

    1. The Spirit is sometimes personified in the Bible, as in John 16:7-8, and this has led many to believe that it is a person. They do so because they do not take into account an idiom of the original Greek
      inanimate object which in English would be couched in the neuter gender, are given a masculine or feminine gender, if those objects are identified with any particular individual. For example, a chair is
      described as "it" in English, because it is neuter, being neither masculine nor feminine. But in Greek that chair can be identified with its owner. For example, if it belongs to me, the chair is described as he; if it belongs to my wife, as she.

      For this reason, the Holy Sprit has frequently been personified in Scripture, identifying it with God, and so it is personified as he. However, if the Holy Spirit were actually a person it should be rendered as he in every place where the word is referred to; but it is not. It is sometimes rendered in the neuter. In Romans 8:16, Paul writes: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit." The neuter, itself is used, and this is in accord with the Greek text, as any Greek scholar will acknowledge.

      To personify inanimate objects is normal in Scripture. Wisdom is represented as a woman (Prov.9:1), mammon is described as a friend (Luke 16:9), sin is personified as a slave-owner (Rom.6: 16), the Holy Spirit as a comforter (John 14:26) expressing the spirit of Truth. So Micah declared: "I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord" (Ch.3:8), the prophets were moved by the Spirit to record the Soiptures (Neh.9, 20:2, Pet.1:21), and God used the same means to speak to Israel through His Son (Heb. l:1).

      When the Spirit of God was used to do the special works indicated in the foregoing, and others also of the same nature, it was often given a personal sense and spoken of as though it were a person, a usage which the Bible extends to many other things. For instance, trees talk, dead men speak, Isa. 14:8-12. Mountains sing. Isa. 44:23. Literally that is not done but for the purpose of imagery and parable living pictures were made by using inanimate and even dead things as though they were living intelligent 'beings', speaking and acting as such. The Bible is rich in illustrations of that kind, where a story is made more vivid, when a personal sense is given to its parts, as can be seen from a reading of Judges 9:7-15.

      From From Trinity - Examined: Is Jesus, the Son of God? Or, God, the Son?
      By CDR

    2. It seems to me as though you are saying a whole lot about nothing. Gender is really irrelevant. After all, languages such as German assign gender to inanimate objects as well as living things.

      James White is a competent scholar who is familiar with the Greek of the New Testament and its nuances. Your comment ignores the obvious problem that the Holy Spirit does things that only a personal being would and could do.

      An inanimate object cannot bear witness as does the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-17). An inanimate object cannot be lied to as can the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-5). An inanimate object cannot reveal the things of God as does the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10).

      Any claims that such language is "personification" abuses the term and makes excuses to make the theory fit the facts. Nothing you say makes the use of pneuma or the related pronouns, it or he idioms.