Pronouns & the Holy Spirit: A Reply to a Jehovah's Witness

If the Trinitarian “Holy Spirit” is also a person, such as is the Father and Son, of which singular personal pronouns are used e.g. “I, you, who, he, him, his…”, many, many times, just why is there not a single use (in the original Greek, not biased translation English) of any personal pronoun used of such so-called “Holy Spirit”!–A.G., Jehovah’s Witness.

You must not be familiar with the fact that there are several such usages for the Spirit in Scripture, in particular John chapter 16. But you are also confusing Greek grammatical gender form with English pronoun usage.

Tables Aren’t Women, But “She” is Pretty

People who do not speak other languages are often unaware that translation from one tongue to another is not a word-for-word process. Other languages often use grammatical tools in ways that do not exist in English, one of which applies here to this question: grammatical gender inflection and concord.

What is that?

Of all other languages, speakers of American English may be more familiar with Spanish than anything else. So I will use this to present an example.

In Spanish the word “table” has a feminine gender, even though it is an inanimate object.

Because of this all the words associated with “table” in Spanish are either modified (inflection) or related words such as the article “the” or pronouns must be chosen from the same gender pool (concord).

While in English we speak of a table in the neuter form:

This is a table. It sits in the other room.

In Spanish we literally say:

She is a table. She sits in the other room.

The grammatical gender can sometimes even be the opposite of the gender of the subjects involved too. A group of children is always spoken of in the masculine even if it consists of boys and girls (and sometimes even only girls). The term “niños” literally means “boys” even though the group has more than just boys in it.

Generally speaking, grammatical gender does not get translated from other languages into English because it deals with form and function or syntax rules unique to the specific language we are translating from. Grammatical gender is often nothing more than a tool used to preserve the logic employed in the language and can have nothing to do with the subject at all. Literal gender has to be translated from the context and not the grammatical gender syntax, otherwise we would be talking about tables like women and missing the point that some groups of children could contain girls each time we translate Spanish into English.

Make sense?

Grammatical Gender in Greek

Grammatical gender in Greek is similar to the way it is used in Spanish.

In English only third person singular pronouns (words like “he, she, it”) and particular nouns about persons have gender. Most other nouns are regarded as neuter, without gender attributes.

Koine Greek shares the Spanish approach in that all nouns have gender, even if they are abstract or refer to inanimate objects like “table.” This again is just a tool for grammar form and function.

Where a noun is used to describe an entity that can also be used for an inanimate object, one must use the context in order to properly translate any pronouns that will always be in the neuter.

To illustrate, the word for “spirit” for can refer to God and the wind. God is a person, but wind is an inanimate object.

At 2 Corinthians 3:17 we read “the Lord is the Spirit.” So when “Spirit” is used in this context in English you have to supply it with pronouns that refer to a person because the Lord is not an “it.”

The same word in the Greek for “spirit” also means “wind.” At John 3:8 it occurs in the sentence: “The wind blows where it wills.” In this case since the context is clear that the word means the wind, the pronoun in English needs to remain neuter because in English “wind” has no gender.

So at John 16, when Jesus speaks of the arrival of the Spirit upon his disciples that will occur after his Passion, he declares that the coming “Advocate” or “Helper” is the same as “the Spirit of truth.” The word for “Spirit” is neuter, but the actions of the “Spirit” tell us that it is the same as the “Spirit” mentions in 2 Corinthians 3:17, a Person.

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.—John 16:3.

John 16 is merely using personification for Jehovah’s spirit. There is no evidence anywhere that the holy spirit is anything more than an inanimate force. It cannot think or speak or do any of the things a person or Jehovah can.—Ralf M., Jehovah’s Witness, Houston, TX.

This isn’t a mere personification of the use of the word “wind” because Biblical texts written prior to John’s gospel (like 2 Corinthians 3:17) had already set a foundation for what the Church believed about the Spirit.

[LIST]
*]Lying to the Spirit was lying to God.
[/LIST]
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land?..You have lied not to human beings, but to God.”–Acts 5:3-4.

[LIST]
*]The Spirit would speak in complete sentences to Christians giving them directions.
[/LIST]
As Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “There are three men here looking for you. So get up, go downstairs, and accompany them without hesitation, because I have sent them.”–Acts 10:19-20.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”–*Acts 13:2. *

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”–Revelation 22:17.

[LIST]
*]The Spirit can offer prayer and has intentions.
[/LIST]
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.–Romans 8:26-27.

[LIST]
*]The Spirit offered specific messages to the churches in Asia.
[/LIST]
Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.–Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22.

If the “Spirit” were an inanimate force that “cannot think or speak or do any of the things a person or Jehovah can” then none of this would have been written in Scripture because:

[LIST]
*]One cannot lie to an inanimate force nor actions against it be said to be tantamount to actions against God.
*]Spoken direction cannot come from an inanimate and unthinking force.
*]Inanimate things do not pray.
*]Inanimate objects cannot offer prophetic messages.
[/LIST]

In light of these and other things the Church learned from its own experience and the Scriptures, it became clear that the “Spirit” was not an “it.” Therefore in languages, like English, that require the use a gender specific pronouns to convey that a person is being spoken of, the Spirit is spoken in that manner. Where the target language does not use gender in such a manner, the pronouns remain neuter because the context is clear that a person is meant.

It is not a matter of matching Greek language form and function, it is a matter of language rendition into a target language and employing the target language’s rules in doing so.

With this ends my time here on CAF.

While I will still be engaged in a ministry designed to help Catholics who are questioning leaving the Church for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is necessary to leave the paradigm that a forum offers.

This is an excellent site and it will continue to help Catholics grow in learning how to dialogue with others through the effective witness of a prayerful and sacrament-centered Catholic life.

One of the things I wish to do is to avoid proselytizing. As Pope Francis recently stated in an interview: “Live and let live… We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are locked into a mindset that centers around the belief that God is calling us to persuade others away from their beliefs: “You are the product of false beliefs and will die at any moment when Armageddon breaks out if you don’t become one of us!”

This encourages a “me-against-you” spirit and causes people to attribute a value of others depending on their religious convictions. Conversations I’ve had here with Jehovah’s Witnesses have always placed me face-to-face with this ugly side of humanity that doesn’t wish to respect another person and what they freely choose to believe.

So the ministry I will be engaging in will be to create materials that can help Catholics who are specifically dealing with the question of leaving the Church to join the Jehovah’s Witness movement. The ministry will not be aimed at the Jehovah’s Witnesses or attempt to engage them in debate.

This decision was actually made a couple months ago after analyzing the comments and questions from others here on CAF and direction from the Church itself. While there is a time and place for defending our faith and answering questions, my battles have to be selected carefully.

And this is not to say that some debate is ineffective or that forums like this don’t help. On the contrary, CAF is filled with so many good and faithful Catholics who are very well-educated in the faith that my presence is somewhat superfluous. Many of you are just as equipped to answer the questions of Jehovah’s Witnesses who pass through here from time to time because you know what you believe and are very good at explaining it.

Answering challenges from invidual Jehovah’s Witnesses does little with them because they do not respond to what is written. Their replies often consist of material lifted word-for-word from Watchtower publications, so much so that the poster’s presence is unnecessary and one would be better off reading the source material which with today’s search tools can be located without their direct assistance.

The real need where some good can actually be done is with Catholic families who have members and Catholic friends who are studying or are in dialogue with Jehovah’s Witnesses. How should families react? Is the person speaking with the Witnesses open to reviewing the Catholic faith before they make a decision? And if the Catholic decides to leave, do they know we will not shun them but that they will be shunned by the Witnesses if they later choose to leave the Watchtower? What help does a Catholic family need when one member leaves to become a Witness, and how can these family members remain strong in the faith while being respectful of the other’s new choices?

Thus a ministry is being designed to help Catholics who want and need this particular help. I don’t have all the details now, but I will return to share them once all is in place and with full cooperation from and in compliance with the Church.

Thank you all for your comments and kindness and courage. Stay strong in the faith. Read your Bibles regularly. Pray, pray, pray! And above all participate in the Mass and practice frequent reception of the sacraments, especially Holy Communion.

Again as soon as contact and further information is available I will post it. Till then God be with each and every one of you, especially the fine people who have created and manage this site.

Delson Jacobs

Thank You Delson

And may God bless you in your new ministry

You will be missed.

Amen. Pax tecum, Delson.

I will miss you, Delson. You have been one of my favorite posters.

Paul

That would be correct. In many languages (Latin, Polish, etc.) the nominative pronoun isn’t even required. English tends to get over analytic in being forced to use one. And though it’s an educated guess when translated into, many times it is often debated ad nauseam.

Ditto! Thank you for the time you spent with us, here on CAF. Your perspective has always been thought provoking to me, and your posts were very informative. You will definitely be missed by me, too.

God Bless you!

Thank you for all you have given us and may the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always! :signofcross:

I do hope you can still stop in sometimes to clarify some of the language questions that are raised. I have a pretty strong background in the JW theology (or lack of theology really) but I do not care to fight the language wars since I only know one language. I’m pretty sure the JWs that do bring up the language questions don’t know a thing about Greek or Hebrew either, but pretend they do because they can use google, but that is out of my control. You have been a very good example of how to be kind and courteous in the face of opposition from JWs. I have responded to JWs out of frustration and come off looking just as intolerant as the Watchtower. You really work hard at writing in a way that shows peace and only wants to communicate knowledge. God bless you brother.

Thanks for all the kind comments folks. I will keep you in my prayers.

And yes, Pacloc, I will keep tabs from time to time and help when needed.

Your well-reasoned, measured and thoughtful responses have certainly been appreciated. And somewhere, there is a JW lurker who has taken those thoughts to heart.

Reply,

Here is a full reply on the above, I have provided a link to my papers:

letusreason.thoughts.com/posts/john-16-13-and-ekeinos

Reply,

I do not need to Google Greek, as I have studied the language for several decades now and produced several mini thesis papers on several topics and do not have to “pretend”!

All this spin and rhetoric, I have had from Trinitarians, so yours comes as no surprise and I’m sure it will not be the last from Trinitarians!

Incidentally, the antecedent noun for John 16:13 is not “spirit” [pneuma] but “helper” [paracletos] in v7 [see my other reply to you on this]

LOL! So we are to accept you as the authority on the matter? Case settled because you copy the back and forth on CAF and call it your “papers”?

I can actually help you in this and validate for others that you do indeed understand Koine Greek without the use of online tools. Since I read and speak the language we can settle this so no one will challenge you from here on out (people on this site know that I do since I’ve demonstrated this often).

Translate the following sentence in Koine Greek:

People who lived far away no longer respect the king’s artisan because of his tyranny and being given to bouts of debauched living.

And while you are at it, render this into modern American English:

καὶ γὰρ ἐν ὄψει ἀνθρώπων ἐὰν κολασθῶσιν ἡ ἐλπὶς αὐτῶν ἀθανασίας πλήρης
This should be easy. I for one give you the benefit of the doubt that you do understand koine Greek, so this should be settled in no time.

Rather than the usual and well-worn JW practice of copying and pasting hackneyed and distorted pseudo-arguments, why don’t you think for yourself and provide a thoughtful and well reasoned reply?

Note: Andrew was online as I wrote the above post. So I can only guess he saw it before signing off.

If he does not return with an answer within an hour of the post then I will provide a new koine Greek phrase.

The reason I will provide a new phrase is that in order to prove to some that he does indeed know Koine Greek he would have to read and render the verse within a reasonable amount of time. If he doesn’t then people might accuse him of “looking each word up in a lexicon in order to translate it,” and that would not be demonstrating that he has an understanding of the language.

The phrases I’ve placed here are simple for someone who has, to quote Andrew, “studied the language for several decades now and produced several mini thesis papers on several topics.” As mentioned in the above post, I for one believe Andrew so am giving him this opportunity.

If he doesn’t respond within the hour, I ask Andrew to please get with me regarding a time for us to do this (hopefully live on the thread) so this can be settled. I would hate for a fellow linguist to be challenged about something so trivial. Because we live in a world where people can “Google” their way through things on line, the need for some immediate standard should be apparent.

Oh, and I’ve actually placed an “Easter egg” or “insider joke” of sorts in what I chose to present here. If Andrew really knows Koine Greek he will be able to say what this is as well.

I won’t be holding my breath. :wink:

Shameless advertising of your own website? Is this your website?

Instead of responding on the thread… I’m one inch away from reporting you.

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