Re: Holy Spirit and indications of grammar

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Sun Sep 20 1998 - 14:57:37 EDT

What are the risks of using grammatical arguments in dogmatics?

Just for a diversion I pulled L. Berkhof off the shelf and read through his
section on the personality of the Holy Spirit and noted the proof texts. Then
I read through the relevant sections of John 14-16, several times both in the
NA27 and Hodges and Farstad taking note of all the relevant textual variants.

Berkhof's argument about the use of the masculine pronoun for PNEUMA in John
14-16 is very weak because he has no satisfactory way of explaining the
several occurrences where the a neuter pronoun is used. The use of this kind
of evidence is what gives systematic theology a bad name.

Please note that aside from the issue of the masculine pronoun, Berkhof builds
a very strong argument for the personality of the Holy Spirit. He would have
been better off to just drop this discussion of the masculine pronoun with

As a general rule, one should not grab at grammatical straws to try and shore
up what is already a strong argument. The weakness of the grammatical straws
detracts from and does not add to the strength of the overall argument.

At this point I suspect that Carl or Jonathan will shut down this thread for
wandering into dangerous territory.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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