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Bible verses about Grammatical Gender
(From Forerunner Commentary)

John 14:26

The Holy Spirit is here clearly referred to in the masculine gender, using the masculine pronoun "he." This makes the Holy Spirit appear like a living personality.

The translators were forced to do this to be grammatically correct, since "Comforter" or "Helper" (parakletos) is a masculine noun. However, we teach that the Holy Spirit is an inanimate, impersonal power—a force—that is directed and used by a personal God. In other words, "he" is shown doing activities that should really be ascribed to people or persons.

Even though English does not have masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns in the way that languages like Greek do, we still refer to a ship as "she," and ascribe actions and personalities to "her," even though a ship does not technically have a gender. What using the masculine pronoun does is cause the Holy Spirit to appear as if it is doing things as people or as God would do.

The argument put forth by Trinitarians is that the Holy Spirit could hardly do these things unless it were a personality with the powers to do them. Such an argument seems pretty strong until one begins to look at other parts of the Bible concerned with similar concepts. For instance,

If the foot shall say, "Because I am not of the hand, I am not of the body;" is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, "Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;" is it therefore not of the body? (I Corinthians 12:15-16)

When was the last time your foot talked? When did your ear last speak? Never! Paul personified the foot and the ear. He used his license as a writer to give personal traits to the foot and ear, so they could "speak." Why? He used it as a teaching vehicle to give us insight and understanding, in this case, of how all the parts of the body work together. They cooperate with one another so that the whole body can accomplish its work. But, in reality, the foot does not talk, and neither does the ear.

Would anyone in his right mind say that the heavens actually rejoice (Psalm 96:11-12) or "give ear" (Deuteronomy 32:1)? Or that the mountains and forests sing (Isaiah 44:23)? Or that the trees clap hands (Isaiah 55:12)—hands they do not even have? Psalm 98:8 says, "Let the rivers clap their hands"! Writers often do this to give us a grasp of what they are trying to get across.

Therefore, it is risky business to claim that the Holy Spirit is a person on the basis of verses that say that the Spirit speaks, or because it is referred to in the masculine gender. Things that are clearly inanimate or impersonal are described in much the same way throughout the entirety of the Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

John 16:7

If Protestant tract writers such as the late M.R. DeHaan (the founder of "Radio Bible Class" and co-editor of a devotional guide, Our Daily Bread) and Roger Campbell (best known for his weekly newspaper column, "Reflections on Faith," and daily radio program, "Higher Ground") had seriously studied a foreign language—or even into the historical background of our own English language!—they would not have dared to assert so foolishly that Jesus uses the personal pronoun "Him" when referring to the Comforter (or "Helper," NKJV) in John 16:7.

The Greek word for "Comforter," parakletos, is in the masculine gender, while pneumais ("spirit") in the neuter gender. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for "spirit," ruach, is in the feminine gender.

Consequently, it cannot be deduced that this parakletos is a personality any more than we could say a German pen is a girl and a German pencil is a boy—even though the article die in die Feder (the pen) denotes a feminine word and der in der Bleistift (the pencil) denotes a masculine word. It may be surprising to learn that "girl" in German, das Madchen, is neuter in gender.

Before the Norman Invasion in 1066, English was as much an inflected language as German or Scandinavian. Modern English has only one article, "the," to use for its nouns, while Old English differentiated between masculine articles, se mann (the man); feminine articles, seo hlaefdige (the lady); and neuter articles, daet Maedgen (the girl, showing its relationship to modern German).

M.R. DeHaan, oblivious to this grammatical differentiation, gullibly asserts in his tract on the Holy Spirit that there has been a faulty translation of the original text into the English Bible. With cocksure, sophomoric naiveté, DeHaan complains that, in many cases, the Spirit is spoken of as "it" or "that" instead of "he," "him," or "whom." To give an example, he quotes Romans 8:16 (KJV), "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit." However, since in this particular verse the pronoun is auto and denotes the neuter gender, the pronoun itself is correctly rendered.

David F. Maas
Misconceptions and Malarkey About the Holy Spirit (Part One)


 

Ephesians 2:8

Adam Clarke comments that the word "it" in "it is the gift of God" can be more accurately translated "this." But "it" and "faith" are of different genders. In the Greek language, as in many others, the gender of the pronoun has to match the gender of its antecedent. The antecedent, then, cannot possibly be "faith" because "it" is neuter and "faith" is feminine. "It" must refer to another neuter word, the word "saved." Faith indeed is a gift of God, but it cannot be proved so by this verse.

Faith is produced by the grace of God given to us. God's grace empowers us to believe. The power to believe and the act of believing are two very different things. Without the power to believe, no one has ever believed with the kind of belief that is necessary for salvation, but once a person has that power, once he is enabled, once the grace, the gift, has been given to him, then the act of faith is the person's own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

 




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