Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Biblical Languages and Grammatical Gender (Holy Spirit)

Just because a Hebrew or Greek noun/pronoun is grammatically neuter does not mean that the referent of the noun/pronoun is neuter. In other words, grammatical gender does not always correspond to the sex or gender of a person or thing being thus described. So, for instance, the holy spirit is delineated by a feminine term in the Hebrew-Aramaic scriptures (ruah). However, in the Christian-Greek Scriptures (the New Testament), the writers use masculine and neuter morphological forms when referring to the spirit of God. But this language is a result of linguistic accidents (morphology). It technically does not speak to the being or ontological constitution of an entity which, in this case, is the holy spirit. After all, Qoheleth of Ecclesiastes is a feminine term. Yet it evidently describes the son of David. So I would tend to believe that not much can be gained by arguing from grammatical gender to ontological gender, although Romans 8:16 (KJV) represents an interesting verse of comparison:

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"

Notice how the KJV uses "itself" (a neuter pronoun) rather than "himself" (masculine).

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