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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Identity of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: Why Is the Holy Spirit Spoken of in the Neuter Gender?

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Why Is the Holy Spirit Spoken of in the Neuter Gender?

The Identity of the Holy Spirit – Question 8

The Greek word translated “spirit” is pneuma which means, “wind,” “breath” or “spirit.” Like many languages, Greek attaches gender-masculine, feminine, or neuter–to each noun. The word pneuma is neuter. Does this mean the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force because it is found in the neuter gender?

1. Grammatical Gender Is Not the Same as Personal Gender

It must be stressed that grammatical gender is not the same as personal gender. The fact that a word is in the neuter gender has nothing to do with its personal gender. The grammatical gender does not tell us anything about the personality, or non-personality, of any word. Nothing whatsoever.

2. The Hebrew Term for Spirit Is in the Female Gender and Masculine in Aramaic!

Furthermore, ruach, the word for spirit in Hebrew, is in the feminine gender! This certainly does not mean the Holy Spirit is a female! The fact that it is in the feminine gender highlights the problem. It is feminine in one language and neuter in another.

But there is more. In Aramaic, the language in which a small portion of Scripture is composed, the word for “spirit” is in the masculine gender!

These three languages are the languages of Holy Scripture. Obviously they are not trying to teach us about the personal gender of Holy Spirit.

3. It Does Not Signify That the Holy Spirit Is an Impersonal Force

Consequently, the neuter gender of the Greek word pneuma does not at all signify that the Holy Spirit is some impersonal neutral force. Based solely upon grammatical gender, one cannot determine, one way or another, whether the Holy Spirit is, or is not, the personal Spirit of God. This has to be decided on other factors.

4. The Holy Spirit Is Not Masculine

It should also be emphasized that calling the Holy Spirit “He” rather than “it” does not mean He is masculine as opposed to feminine. This is symbolic language. God is neither male nor female in our understanding of the terms. What is emphasized is that He is a personal being rather than some impersonal “it” or “thing.”

In sum, the fact that the Greek word for spirit, pneuma, is in the neutral gender is not relevant to our discussion on the personality of the Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 8
Why Is the Holy Spirit Spoken of in the Neuter Gender?

The Greek word translated “spirit” in the New Testament is pneuma. Interestingly, this noun is in the neuter gender. However, this does not indicate that the Holy Spirit is something impersonal. Indeed, grammatical gender is not the same as personal gender.

Indeed, the Hebrew word for spirit, ruach, is in the feminine gender. Yet this does not indicate that the Holy Spirit is female. Furthermore, the Aramaic word for spirit is in the masculine gender!

The Holy Spirit is described in Scripture as “He” rather than “it.” But this does not indicate that the Holy Spirit is a male as opposed to a female. We use the personal pronoun “He” to describe the Spirit of God because this is how the Bible describes Him; He is a personal being.

Thus, the fact that the Greek word for spirit is in the neuter gender is a non-issue.

Could the Holy Spirit Merely Be the Personification of God's Power? ← Prior Section
Why Do Some Argue That the Holy Spirit Is an Impersonal Force? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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