The "Person" of the Holy Spirit
Are you familiar with a language (like Spanish) which puts different endings on the same word to show number and gender? In Spanish, for example, words and names that are literally applied to persons have endings that show those persons' sex. For example, el muchacho is "the boy," but la muchacha is "the girl"! But impersonal things are also given genders. For example, "the table" is la mesa (feminine) whereas "the hat" is el sombrero (masculine).
The languages used by the inspired Bible writers do the same thing. In OT Hebrew they had only feminine and masculine endings for their words (La Sor, Vol. 2, p.75 and Gesenius, p. 222), whereas in NT Greek they had masculine, feminine, and neuter endings (p. 23, Machen).
In Hebrew, if the writers were referring to a person and using a noun that literally (not figuratively) describes that person, they always used the word ending that corresponded to the actual sex of that person: "Father" (masc. ending); "son" (masc.); "wife" (fem.); "God" (masc.); "Messiah" (masc.), etc. This is especially true of all personal names: "Moses," "Sarah," "Abraham," etc.
If, however, they were speaking literally about a non-personal thing, they would use either masculine or feminine endings on those literal names and words (like in the Spanish examples above). Thus, "wisdom" is feminine in Hebrew and "day" is masculine. And if the Hebrew writers used one of these words (non-personal thing) to figuratively describe a person, they would usually not change the gender of that word. In other words, when a person is literally called a "king" it is always a word with a masculine ending because it applies literally to him as a person. But if a person is figuratively called a "Rock" or a "wall," etc., the original gender of the word that is used for that thing will still be applied to that man or woman.
So if a woman were figuratively called "a rock" (masculine ending), it could read like this in the Hebrew: "Hannah (fem. ending) was a rock (masc. ending), and he (masc. pronoun referring to "rock") was immovable." Or, we could see: "The Messiah (masc.) is Wisdom (fem. ending), and she (fem. pronoun) was created by God in the beginning." When we see such things in the original language we know that an impersonal thing is being used to figuratively describe a person in some respect.
It is very similar in NT Greek. When a word is literally applied to an adult person ("man," "woman," "husband," "bride," etc.) telling what he or she literally is, then the gender must match with that person's actual sex. And, again, this is especially true of personal names: "John," "Mary," "Jesus," etc.
But if it is a word or name literally applied to a thing, then it may be masculine, feminine, or neuter. (Of course if it is neuter, there is no doubt that it is an impersonal thing.)
Thus, as in Hebrew, "wisdom" is always feminine even though it is literally a thing. We know it's a thing, but since both the OT Hebrew and NT Greek happen to call it "wisdom" with a feminine ending and use feminine pronouns ("she," "her," "herself") with it, we can't prove grammatically that it is a thing and not a person.
However, "day" is masculine in the Hebrew (and uses masculine pronouns and articles) and feminine in the Greek (where it, of course, uses feminine pronouns and articles)! This makes it grammatically certain (when we examine both the Old and the New Testaments) that "day" cannot be a person, but is a thing.
And, of course, whenever we find a word in NT Greek that is neuter (Hebrew doesn't use a neuter form - LaSor, p. 75), it is already grammatically defined as a non-personal thing (infants and the immature young are sometimes excepted).
Let's take as an example those who are already known to be heavenly spirit persons. God and the pre-existent person who became Jesus on earth are both clearly and often shown in the form of men in both the Old and New Testaments. They both have literal personal names ("Jesus" and "Jehovah") and descriptive titles ("Father" and "Son") which are masculine in both the Old and New Testaments. They both always have masculine pronouns applied to them in both the Old and New Testaments. Thus they are grammatically (and obviously) shown to be persons.
The other heavenly spirit persons are the angels. Some theologians (Christian and Jewish) say that these are not really persons, but simply the personified influences, energies, etc. from God used to accomplish his purpose. This may seem a possibility, but grammatically we should know better.
The angels, like God and the heavenly Christ, are always represented as masculine persons. Even if in reality they are genderless, they are nevertheless always given a gender by the inspired writers to show us that they really are persons. When they come to earth and take on a physical form, it is always in the form of a man in both the Hebrew and Greek inspired writings. Their personal names (e.g., "Michael" and "Gabriel") are masculine in both the Hebrew and Greek writings. (And, of course, just having a literal personal name shows they are persons.) A personal name was extremely important to the Hebrews during Bible times.) And all their literal titles/descriptions (e.g., "angel," "cherub," "seraph," etc.) have masculine endings in both biblical Greek and Hebrew. All pronouns used for the angels in both Hebrew and Greek are always masculine: "he," "him," "his," "himself. There can be no doubt grammatically that the inspired Bible writers intended for us to know that angels are truly persons!
But let's suppose, as an example, that someone who didn't know the ancient Hebrew understanding of the often personified term "name of God" began to believe that it had been "revealed" to him that it is actually another person of the "Godhead"! A few of the many scriptures he might use as evidence are:
"I had pity for my holy Name." - Ezek. 36:21.
"God has caused his name to dwell there." - Ezra 6:12.
"the place where your name dwells on earth" - Ps. 74:7 - KJIIV.
"incense shall be offered to my name." - Malachi 1:11
"and sing to thy name" - Ro. 15:9, RSV.
But if this individual to whom the "mystery" of "The Name of God" has been `revealed' had actually analyzed the grammar of both the Old and New Testaments, he should have known that the "Holy Name of God" was a holy thing not a person!
You see, although often personified, "The Name (of God)" is never literally seen in the Bible as a person (masc. or fem.). And the literal name of "the Holy Name" is masculine in the Hebrew all right, but it is neuter in the New Testament Greek! (And being neuter in the inspired New Testament language is enough, by itself, to prove that it is not a person, but a thing.) So, although masculine pronouns ("he," "him," "his," etc.) are used for "The Holy Name" in Hebrew, neuter pronouns ("it," "itself," "which") are used for this same word in the original New Testament Greek! We know grammatically, therefore, that, unlike real spirit persons, (God, Christ, and the holy angels), "the Holy Name" is merely a personified thing! * * * *
So what about the often personified "Holy Spirit"? Is it truly a person? Do the inspired Bible writers actually use masculine pronouns to describe it? As with "Holy Name" it is never shown in the form of a person! Often it is described as a thing (e.g., being poured out or given out in portions). Only once is it (perhaps) manifested as a living creature: a "dove" not a person! If it is a person (especially such an extremely important person as God), it must be known by a personal name like the other persons of the "Godhead": "Jesus" (the Son) and "Jehovah" (the Father). The ancient Hebrews (and God Himself) laid great stress on the extreme importance of their personal names. For example, to die and have one's name forgotten (or despised) was the worst fate of all for the ancient Hebrews. So what is the Holy Spirit's personal name? Either its name is not revealed (which tells us it is not a person - and certainly not God - but a thing), or its 'personal' name is "Holy Spirit"!
And what frequently used literal title or description is applied to the Holy Spirit? Well, all I can find is "Holy Spirit" (never "Patriarch," "Uncle," "Mother," etc. which would fit with the "relational" titles of the other two members of the 'trinity')! So, strangely, perhaps that is its "personal" name and its literal descriptive title as well.
But notice: Even though many trinitarian Bibles use the pronoun "he" to describe the Holy Spirit, the actual Old Testament Hebrew language of the inspired writers uses a feminine ending for "Holy Spirit" (whether it's `her' "personal" name or 'her' literal title or both)! And they actually used feminine pronouns ("she," "her," "herself") to describe "her"! So grammatically we know that to these inspired writers the Holy Spirit was either a thing or a female person! See Judges 3:10; 6:34; 1 Sam. 10:6; 11:6; and Is. 11:2 in the trinitarian The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament by Zondervan. It shows the literal use of feminine pronouns for the literally feminine "Holy Spirit" in the original Hebrew!'
We find that this gender usage in Hebrew is explained by OT Hebrew grammar authority, Gesenius:
"a 1. The Hebrew, like all Semitic languages, recognizes only two genders in the noun, a masculine and a feminine. Inanimate objects and abstract ideas, which other languages sometimes indicate by the neuter, are regarded in Hebrew as masculine or feminine, more often the latter [feminine]"! – emphasis added.
Furthermore, the inspired NT Greek writers used a different gender! This is enough to prove it is not a person. But even more importantly this different gender for "Holy Spirit" (and its pronouns) is the neuter gender. This proves grammatically, all by itself, that Holy Spirit simply is not a person! Any good NT Greek lexicon that shows the gender of words will show that "Spirit" is neuter. Also see John 14:17 in the trinitarian interlinear New Testament, The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1980: "the Spirit of truth which [ o - neut. - p. 173, Machen] the world cannot receive, because it beholds not it [the Spirit] nor knows [it]; ye know it [the Spirit]"!
The New American Bible, St. Joseph ed., 1970, (Roman Catholic), like so many other trinitarian Bibles, used "him" at John 14:17, but it at least provided this footnote for it: "The Greek word for `Spirit' is neuter, and while we [trinitarian NAB writers] use personal pronouns in English (`he,' `his,' `him'), most Greek MSS [ancient NT Greek Manuscripts] employ `IT'." Then, when this trinitarian Bible was later revised, John 14:17 was changed to: "the Spirit of truth, which [neuter o] the world cannot accept, because it [the world] neither sees nor knows it [the Spirit]. But you know it [the Spirit], because it remains with you" - NAB, 1991 ed. (also AT).
The only place that "he" (masc.) can be properly used in connection with the Holy Spirit is when the masculine noun paraclete ("helper"/"advocate") was used, and then the masculine pronouns must be used in the Greek to agree grammatically with the "masculine" paraclete regardless of what person (male or female) or thing that masculine noun is representing.
We also find that the neuter pronoun auto ("it/itself") and the neuter article to ("the" - neuter) are applied to the Holy Spirit at Ro. 8:16 and 1 Cor. 12:4, 8, 11. - see the actual Greek in the interlinear since some trinitarian interlinears even mistranslate this in the word-for-word sections. Machen explains this on pp. 34 and 47 of his New Testament Greek for Beginners. Strangely, the very trinitarian King James Version (also AT & the revised NAB) translates this honestly at Ro. 8:16 ("the Spirit itself beareth witness")!
The Holy Spirit clearly is not a person (its "personal name" is even neuter), but a holy thing which God uses to fulfill his purposes.
________________________ Some references: (1) A Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, B. M. Newman, Jr., United Bible Societies, 1971. Note pp. 126 (onoma, "name") and 145 (pneuma "Spirit"). (2) Handbook of Biblical Hebrew, Vol. 2, p. 75, LaSor, Eerdmans, 1980. (3) Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, p. 222, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1910.(4) The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Zondervan, 1980. (5) Learn New Testament Greek, Dobson, Baker Book House, 1992 (pp. 120, 123.) (6) The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, Marshall, 1980.
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