Re: Holy Spirit and "it"

From: Wes C. Williams (
Date: Mon May 27 1996 - 03:23:36 EDT

Carlton Winbery wrote:
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."

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