Answers to Major Questions About the Holy Spirit (Part 2)
To properly understand the basis and perspective of this article, readers are requested to read first the primary article published earlier in this website titled, 12 Reasons Why the Holy Spirit Is Not A Person (Part 1).
As an addendum to that article, this new article (Part 2 of 3) addresses three (3) major questions on the subject of the Trinity:
Major Question Number 1
If the Holy Spirit is not a person, why is it referred to as a “he” or “him”?
This is a common question, which is causing a lot of confusion; not only among Bible readers but surprisingly, even among Bible translators. This concerns the use of the masculine pronoun when referring to the Holy Spirit. Notice that some translators doubt whether to consider the Holy Spirit as a deity, thus designating it simply by the pronoun “he” [not capitalized], while others consider it a deity and thus designated it formally with the pronoun “He” [with a capital letter “H”]. On the other hand, some are unsure and thus often mix “he” or “He” inconsistently, showing uncertainty and confusion as we will see in greater detail later.
Initially, in the early stages of their translation work, when the subject of the Holy Spirit was first addressed in John 14:17 the pronoun “him” [not capitalized], was unanimously used in most of the popular versions: ESV, KJV, NIV, NKJ, NLT, RSV, and YTL.
As they moved forward in their translation work, we begin to see a drift toward inconsistencies. Notice how various translators actually began to be confused about which is the proper pronoun to use for the Holy Spirit. While in John 14:26 and in John 15:26; the ESV, KJV, NIV, RSV, and YLT still used “he” [not capitalized]; the NAS, NAU, and NKJ translators began to use the capitalized word “He” and “Him” to indicate a sense of addressing a deity in this case.
Much later, when they began to translate John 16:13, the confusion and inconsistencies even got worse when both the uncapitalized and the capitalized pronouns (“he” and “He”) are now both used in the same verse. Notice the renderings in the NAB, NIV, and NLT where “he” and “He” plus “his” were all used to refer to the same Holy Spirit in the very same verse. Meanwhile, the “he” and “his” [uncapitalized] are still maintained in the ESV and RSV. On the other hand, we have three versions (NAS, NAU, and NKJ) which used the capitalized “He” and “His” in this verse. This confusion and contradiction continued on when we see the use of “he” and “himself” (both uncapitalized) used in the KJV; while in contrast, “He” and “Himself” (both capitalized) are used in the YLT. (Remember that both of these two versions [KJV and YLT] claim to be literal word-for-word translations, yet they are in conflict with each other.)
What do all these inconsistencies and confusion tell us? Let us get back to basics.
The Greek word translated as “he” in John 15:26 is “ekeinos” [G1565] which can also be translated as “she” or even “it.” (A more detailed discussion of “ekeinos” is also found in Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, on page 294.)
Significantly, notice the three translation disparities with regards to the pronoun used for the Holy Spirit when the translators got to the Epistles. In Romans 8:16, 26, the pronoun used for the Holy Spirit is properly rendered as “itself” in the KJV and NAB. However, it is rendered as “himself” in the ESV, NIV, RSV, and YLT; but “Himself” in the NAS, NAU, and NJK.
In contrast, in their very early translation work in Matthew 10:20, all popular Bible versions correctly and unanimously used the word “it” as the pronoun when referring to the Holy Spirit.
But in the very late stages of their translation work, like in 1 Peter 1:11, there is this time four disparities in rendering the pronoun for the Holy Spirit. Both the KJV and the NAB correctly used the pronoun “it” when referring to the Holy Spirit. However, “he” is the pronoun used in the ESV, NIV, and NLT; while “He” is used in the NAS, NAU, and NKJ. But the RSV and the YLT simply reworded the verse so they did not have to use any pronoun for the Holy Spirit.
With all these progressing confusion, we are led to ask the important question. What could be the reason for all these confusion and inconsistencies even among Bible translators?
Three Possible Big Reasons For This Pronoun-Based Confusion:
Reason #1: Grammatical Construction Rules
Greek, like Spanish and other similar languages, assigns a gender pronoun when referring to nouns, but that pronoun does NOT make or convert the object into male, female, or neuter.
Example, in Spanish, the pronoun “el” is masculine, while the pronoun “la” is feminine.
When they say, “el baso” (the [drinking] glass), it does not make the glass a man. Or when they say “la mesa” (the table), it does not make the table a woman. These are just grammatical rules.
Surprisingly, in the Old Testament Hebrew grammar, the pronoun for the Holy Spirit (“ruach” = breath or wind) is a feminine pronoun. (Perhaps, that is where meteorologists derived the custom of naming hurricanes and typhoons with feminine names?)
While in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit (hagiou pneuma = holy wind/air) is neuter in gender, thus, it is correctly translated as “it” as in the verses I referred to earlier. And following consistent and correct grammatical rules, the pronoun should always be in the neuter form “it.” But because some translators believe it is a “person” they translated it as “he”; while others, believing it is the third person in the trinity addressed it as “He” thinking it is also a god-being.
Reason #2: Religious Bias and Ignorance
Please remember that when the popular King James Version translation (which became somewhat the mother of most modern translations) was made in the early 1600s, belief in the Trinity doctrine as developed by the Roman Catholic Church has already reached England. And all (except for one, Sir Henry Savile) of the originally designated 54 translators appointed by King James were members of the clergy of the Church of England; which shared similar doctrines and rituals plus belief in the Trinity as the Catholic Church of Rome. [Surprisingly, the reputedly best Hebrew scholar at that time, Hugh Broughton, was for some reason not included among the original 54 translators.] He later was among the most vocal in criticizing the KJV when it was finished. Not only the human factor, but a big part of the translation source material was from the then popular Latin Vulgate produced by Jerome (but whose work was originally criticized by most eminent scholars of his day).
It should therefore not be surprising, that the translators reflected their own collective religious bias (or lack of correct understanding) in their work, especially that King James repeatedly commanded them to adhere to their church’s teachings and repudiate the beliefs of the Puritans. Noticeably, there were indeed errors and inconsistencies, thus giving justification for many other Bible translations centuries later; when more research, scholarship, and discoveries came to light. One particular case in point concerns the proper understanding about the Holy Spirit, when sometimes the pronoun used was “he” or “He” and at other times it was rendered as “it” (as detailed in earlier paragraphs in this article). But the same problem (lack of proper understanding) which afflicted and plagued the KJV translators then, has also affected many of our modern-day Bible translators—being also just as humans as they were.
It is hoped that this grammatical and historical background has helped our readers understand the reasons for some of these great confusions regarding the use of the pronouns. But always remember that a certain pronoun does not necessarily make an object or a thing a personal being.
Reason #3: Incorrect Understanding Concerning the Holy Spirit
True to what the Bible predicted in Revelation 12:9, that deception from Satan the Devil has engulfed the whole world (which obviously includes the religions and Christian communities of this world). Thus, the religious disputes and confusion concerning the nature of God and the Holy Spirit (among many other doctrines) continue to be a full-scale battle to this day. However, when Christ returns to rule, this invisible blanket of total deception and spiritual blindness cast upon this whole world will finally and happily be completely removed (Isaiah 25:7).
A subsequent article following up on this subject matter hopes to detail more information.
Major Question Number 2
If the Holy Spirit is not a person, why does it manifest some human-like emotions and actions?
Many people are also confused and are at a loss to explain why if the Holy Spirit is not a third person in the trinity – why does it have personified emotions and actions? For example, one of this emotional manifestation is grief (Ephesians 4:30). And there are also several actions which include: being a helper and a teacher (John 14:26); being a power that leads us (Romans 8:14); helps us in our weaknesses and intercedes for us (Romans 8:26, 27); searches and knows the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10,11); and wills to give us spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11). How do we explain these seeming conflicts?
Since Scriptures cannot be broken [meaning cannot contradict each other] (John 10:35); and since the Bible clearly defines that the Holy Spirit is “the Power of the Highest” [or Power of God the Father] (Luke 1:35); and since surprisingly there is not even just one verse (considering the great volume of thousands of verses in the Bible) which explicitly says that the Holy Spirit is also God; how are we to correctly understand these matters?
The only logical and biblical answer to this is that the Father’s Power and influence (His feelings, will, wisdom, and gracious acts) are all done; are expressed by; and are manifested through the versatile power of the Holy Spirit of God which actually comes from; or proceeds from; or emanates from the Father Himself (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 13; Romans 8:11). Please remember that the Father is never idle–or doing nothing. Since He is Spirit, the Power of His Spirit does all His will.
And the Son, (having voluntarily and personally tasted humanity, including the weaknesses and infirmities of being mortal Hebrews 4:15), is much more than willing to send to us the Spirit Power of the Father (the Holy Spirit) to help and intercede for us all (Romans 8:26). We can, therefore, witness a cooperative and collaborative effort between the Father and the Son to send and give us the Holy Spirit (as the most powerful tool from the Father with unlimited capabilities) to help us all.
Major Question Number 3
If the Holy Spirit is not a person, why is it that he who offends the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come?
There are two references in the New Testament concerning the “Unpardonable Sin.”
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.
The reason needed to understand why this strange fact is uniquely true is (as already stated earlier) because the Holy Spirit is simply the very extension of the Father’s Power, personality, and influence Himself—since the Holy Spirit proceeds directly from the Father (John 15:26). Therefore, an offense against the Holy Spirit (which came directly from the Father and represents Him) is considered a direct assault and offense upon the Father Himself. Since the Father is the ultimate authority in all of heaven and earth, with ultimate power to give eternal life (Romans 6:23), and the ultimate Possessor encompassing all time in all ages without end, there is, therefore, no forgiveness for anyone who knowingly and blatantly offends the Ultimate Power of all. We need to be thankful that as a human then, Christ revealed to us this truth as a warning to all of us.
For more details on this subject concerning “Unpardonable Sin” please read the article under this subject heading in this website.
We have now known that the use of a masculine or a neuter pronoun is just a grammatical rule, but which can never otherwise convert or designate the “thing” referred to into a personality. And that the lack of understanding concerning the true nature of the Holy Spirit among some Bible translators sadly reflected these many inconsistencies in their translation work.
We have also learned that since the Holy Spirit proceeds directly from the Father, it naturally and inherently reflects the mind, the will, and the desired actions of the Father from which this Power came from. And thus, likewise, by extension, any affront or offense against this agent or Spirit Power coming from the Father will, of course, be considered by the Father as a direct affront and offense against His very own authority, benevolence, graciousness, and His Being.
May God the Father, through the Mediation of His Son, give the spirit to grant us correct understanding on these complex spiritual matters; especially on Their respective functions, roles, and true relationships.
The Scriptures explicitly reveal that The Father and The Son are both Divine and the ultimate Powerful Beings that ever exists, while the Holy Spirit is the “Power of the Highest” to execute the Father’s will upon all the children of men and upon the whole creation and beyond.