Re: Gender of TO PNEUMA

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Mon Nov 22 1999 - 13:28:20 EST

<x-flowed>To: Blahoslav é’Źel,

<< Only when the author wanted to stress the very personal (in the modern
sense of the word) side of TO PNEUMA, he uses masculine pronouns, all the
other cases it has nothing to do with sex or personality, I guess. >>

To my knowledge there is no clear unambiguous use of a masculine pronoun
referring to TO PNEUMA in the NT. If you think otherwise, I would greatly
appreciate learning at what passage you find this.

Erik Sjoberg, in TDNT (6:387-388), writes:

<< In Rabbinic writings the Spirit is often spoken of in personal
categories. There are many instances of the Spirit speaking, crying,
admonishing, sorrowing, weeping, rejoicing, comforting etc. Indeed, the
Spirit can even be said to speak to God. For this reason it has often been
thought that the Spirit is regarded in Judaism as a hypostasis, as a
personal angelic being. But this is to introduce ideas which are not in
keeping with the Jewish view. The Spirit is no angelic or heavenly being.
In Jewish writings He is never present in the heavenly assembly before the
throne of God. ... His presence can also be described in non-personal
categories -- He rests on man, fills him, shines in him, appears at a place
-- with no different concept of the Spirit from that which lies behind the
personal expressions. The decisive thing is that man stands here before a
reality which comes from God, which in some sense represents the presence
of God, and yet which is not identical with God. >>

To my knowledge, there is no evidence to assume that in early Rabbinic
theology that there was a clear acknowledgment that the "Holy Sprit" (or
Ruah Ha-Qodesh) was an independent personal being. The same holds true for
the NT. For example, Raymond E. Brown, in his "The Birth of the Messiah"
(1977, 1993:125), commenting on the practice of supplying the definite
article before "Holy Spirit," writes:

<< ... this should not lead the Christian reader to assume that either
Matthew or Luke has developed a theology of the Spirit as a person, much
less the Third Person of the Trinity. Perhaps the broader category of
divine agent best covers the evaluation of the Sprit throughout most of the
NT Christian thought (with the Johannine Paraclete passages moving toward
personality). Behind such a conception would be the images of the spirit as
the God-given life breath (Ps 104:30; Matt 27:50), as the force by which
God moved the prophets to speak (Matt 22:43), and as the animating
principle of Jesus' ministry which descended upon him at the baptism (Matt
3:16) and was communicated by him to his followers after the resurrection
(John 20:22; Acts 1:8). >>

In fact, even by the 4th century, not all "orthodox" Christians (i.e.
Athanasians) thought of the "Holy Spirit" as an independent personal being.
For example, in 380 CE, Gregory Nazianzen wrote:

<< Of the wise among us, some consider the Holy Spirit an influence, others
a creature, others God himself, and again others know not which way to
decide, from reverence, as they say, for the Holy Scripture, which declares
nothing exact in the case. For this reason they waver between worshiping
and not worshiping the Holy Spirit, and strike a middle course, which is in
fact, however a bad one >> (Orat. 31. De Spiritu sancto, 5).

IMO if one traces the evolution of the theological notions concerning the
"Holy Spirit," one finds that even as late as the 4th century many
"orthodox" Christians did not think of the "Holy Spirit" as an independent
personal being. In fact, it should be noted that even the Nicene Creed does
not state that the "Holy Spirit" is consubstantial with the Father and Son.
In fact, the original Nicene Creed (of 325 CE) only stated:

<< And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit. >>

Later, this creedal statement was expanded to read:

<< And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who
proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is
worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. >>

Even this revision (i.e., the traditional Nicene Creed) does not explicitly
state that the Holy Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and Son, but
it does say that the Holy Spirit is "with the Father and the Son together
is worshiped," thus implicitly [!] declaring the consubstantiality of the
Holy Spirit. The revised (or traditional) Nicene Creed, sometimes regarded
as the creed of the Council of Constantinople of 381 CE, only receives
official recognition at the Council of Chalcedon of 451 CE.

The point of all this is that it is often unclear exactly how the biblical
authors viewed the "Holy Spirit," it is very possible that many of them
viewed it/him as an impersonal force, and thus one might be justified in
translating a pronoun referring to TO PNEUMA as "it."

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)

"... when Christ requires us ... to hate our own life in this world, is
there then a single one among us whose life in the remote degree could be
called even the weakest effort in this direction?" (Soren Kierkegaard,
"Attack Upon 'Christendom,'" 38).

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