Re: Holy Spirit and "it"
Larry Kruper (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thu, 30 May 1996 09:44:48 -0700
Wes C. Williams wrote:
> Carlton Winbery wrote:
> >> OUDEIS BALLEI OINON NEON EIS ASKOUS PALAIOUS . . . hRHXEI hO OINOS hONEOS
> TOUS ASKOUS, KAI AUTOS EKCUQHSETAI. . . Would you translate this from
> Luke 5:37, "No one puts new wine into old wineskins . . . the new wine will
> burst the skins and HE will be spilled out." AUTOS is masculine! You
> cannot use gender in Greek to determine the gender of the pronoun used in
> English. <<
> I would translate "autos" as "it" in the specific example you cited of course,
> since wine is neuter in English. We agree that gender is not an absolute
> indicator of male/ female reference in English. However, neither must we go to
> the other extreme and say that it makes no difference at all. I'm sure you
> would agree with me in saying that context should guide the translator while
> trying his/her sincere best to put personal belief systems aside.
> Of the 106 instances to "auto" in the GNT, I might translate only one as "him."
> Three or so other references I would not dispute if a translator chose "him."
> This is because the immediate context gives indication as to a male/ female
> reference. I believe N.T. usage maintains that "auto" (when used as a personal
> pronoun) should mostly be translated as "it" when the English translation
> antecedent is neuter and the context does not dictate a male/ female reference.
> I see no reason from Greek or English grammar or context to justify "auto" as
> "him" or "her" in John 15:16. A translator might objectively choose "it" since
> "breath/ spirit" are neuter in English.
> This agrees with An American Translation at John 15:16,17; "It is the Spirit of
> Truth. The world cannot obtain that Spirit, because it does not see it or
> recognize it; you recognize it because it stays with you and is within you."
> And the KJV at Romans 8:26: "... but the spirit itself ... (alla auto to
> For further details, please reference my response to Edward Hobbs in
> "Grammatical gender, real-world sex, and Pneuma" regarding the pronoun "her" and
> "autE" referencing "paidion" in Mark 5.
> Very respectfully,
> Wes Williams
> P.S. Thanks for the question. I like your "spirit."
Please forgive me if everyone has this issue settled in their minds by now, but
I am a new Greek student and am struggling to teach myself without the aid of
a formal course.
I understand that the gender in Greek nouns does not refer to the sex of the object
it refers to. For example having a fleshly outlook on life (SARX) is not a feminine
trait. Therefore one cannot use Greek to prove that TO PNEMUA ( neuter ) IS NOT a
person any more than one can say that the paraclete (helper) is of the male gender in
Greek and therefore the Holy Spirit IS a person.
However I am a bit confused about pronouns. In the English singular there are three
genders (he,she,it). In the Greek there are three genders ( he, she, it). I understand
that the gender of the pronoun can follow the antecedent (hope thats the correct term),
but clearly it was not a requirement as in the case of the neuter child and the female
pronoun that Jesus used.
Therefore it would appear to me that native Greek speaking people would intuitively
understand that when a male or female pronoun was intentionaly used by a speaker
to refer to a neuter noun, the speaker was emphasizing, or acknowledgeing the fact
that they were talking about a person and not a thing.
Likewise if one translates a neuter pronoun from Greek to a male pronoun in English the
translator is making the statement that this is necessary for the original text to be
understood in the context that the original writer intended.
However, as we have seen, it IS appropriate in Greek for the original writer or speaker to
make that conversion on his own, without the exegis of the translator, therefore it is
not necessary for the translator to do so.
Do I understand this now ?