Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Holy Spirit Contradicts the Accidence of Personality

In the Bible the Hebrew word for spirit (ruach) is feminine and the Greek word for spirit (pneuma) is neuter. Yet some New Testament writers sometimes wrote contrary to the requirements of Greek grammar when referring to the Holy Spirit. This fact adds to the evidence that the Holy Spirit is not merely an impersonal force or influence but a genuine person as Trinitarianism teaches.

The following is a quote from Charles Ryrie's book The Holy Spirit (revised and expanded edition) page 17.

The Holy Spirit Contradicts the Accidence of Personality
     Here accidence refers to the rudiments of grammar. The Greek word for "spirit" is pneuma (from which we derive English words that have to do with air, such as pneumatic and pneumonia) and is a neuter gender word. According to every normal rule of grammar, any pronoun that would be substituted for this neuter noun would itself have to be neuter. However, in several places the biblical writers did not follow this normal rule of grammar, and instead of using a neuter pronoun when referring to the neuter noun pneuma, they deliberately contradicted the grammatical rule and used masculine pronouns. Indeed, they used two different kinds of pronouns, all in the masculine gender. This shows that they considered the Spirit to be a person and not merely a thing.

     John 16:13-14. In this passage the masculine demonstrative pronoun is used for pneuma. (Demonstrative pronouns are the words this and that.) The same demonstrative pronoun is found twice in these verses: once in verse 13 ("But when He") and once in verse 14 ("He will glorify Me"). In these last two instances, instead of the translation "He," the better translation would be "that one."

     John 15:26. Here the masculine demonstrative pronoun occurs referring to the Spirit. Some explain the gender of the pronoun as referring back to the masculine word Helper. However, this is less likely, since Spirit is the nearer antecedent.

     Ephesians 1:14. In this passage the masculine relative pronoun is used for the neuter noun pneuma, "Spirit." (Relative pronouns are translated "who" if masculine or feminine, and "which" if neuter.) The masculine pronoun (in the Greek) is the first word in the verse: "Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory." It refers back to the Holy Spirit in verse 13.

     These departures from the normal rules of grammar in connection with the use of several kinds of pronouns are evidences that for John and Paul the Holy Spirit was more than a mere influence—He was a person.

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