Christian Churches of God

No. 155





The Gender of the Holy Spirit

(Edition  3.0 19960310-19991008-20140103)

One of the most controversial topics of Christianity is the Holy Spirit. All agree he/it exists but there are many ideas of what he/it is. Some use Greek Scriptures which they claim refer to the Holy Spirit as “he” and conclude that the Holy Spirit must be a person. In this paper, these Scriptures are analysed and conclusions on the gender of the Holy Spirit are drawn.


Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright © 1996, 1999, 2014 Wade Cox)


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The Gender of the Holy Spirit


A letter was received by the Church which addressed the question of the gender of the Holy Spirit. That letter was important because it was based on a false premise which seems to have currency in the English speaking world, and is actively encouraged by Trinitarians because it supports their error. The letter is reproduced in part to assist others in identifying the problem.


I have been told that your church teaches that the Holy Spirit is not a person in the Godhead, but is merely the power of God working in true Christians. I believed this for many years, but a few weeks ago I discovered that the Holy Spirit mentioned as the Spirit of Truth in John 16:13 is referred to as he.


I realise that there are many places in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is referred to as he, but in all instances except three the Greek word for he is not actually in the Greek. Commonly Greek leaves out the subject pronoun and, in these references to the Holy Spirit, implies by the verbal ending that the subject is he, she, or it. All of the translations that I have seen use he. She or it could have been used instead.


In Greek, as in Latin, Slavic, and most Germanic languages, every noun is given a gender by virtue of its ending. This is called grammatical gender and cannot be changed. This may not correspond to its natural gender. The word for man is grammatically masculine which is good because a man is masculine, but the word for sun is also masculine and this is in contrast with its neuter meaning. Greek grammar demands that when a word is referred back to by a pronoun, the pronoun must have the same grammatical gender as the noun it refers to. An exception is made by a writer only when he is emphasising natural gender. Spirit is grammatically neuter, so he refers to the Spirit because the Spirit is a living being.


In three verses, i.e. John 14:26, 15:26 & 16:13, the Greek word for he (ie [ekeinos]) is actually used. In these first two instances, if the grammar is greatly and absurdly stretched, one perhaps could say that [ekeinos] refers to the comforter (ho parakletos) or father (patros) both of which are masculine and therefore demand he and not it. However, in John 16:13 there is not any other word in the sentence that he (ekeinos) could refer to except the word Spirit (pneuma) in the phrase the Spirit of Truth.


The Greek word for Spirit [pneuma] is grammatically neuter and demands the pronoun it [ekeino], but John has purposely chosen to use he [ekeinos], therefore the Holy Spirit must be a person in the Godhead. Furthermore, The Greek word for comforter [parakletos] is a verbal adjective used as a noun. This word is essentially an adjective which can be used in common (ie. masculine or feminine) gender (parakletos) or in neuter gender [parakleton]. Comforter is used in the New Testament in the common gender, ie, [parakletos].


If the Holy Spirit is only the power of God how can you account for these two points?


The answer to the problem lies in the most basic of false assumptions, in this case, that ekeinos means he. It does not mean, nor has it been translated as, he. This seems to have been stated by someone as if to demonstrate a point and then remained unchallenged. The word he in John 16:13 is deduced from the grammar and inserted in the English, as it has been elsewhere.


In English the problem of sex and gender is complicated because, in this language, gender implies sex. In many languages, gender is inherent in the grammar. It is not directly linked to sex as it is in English. The mistake is trying to make deductions from foreign languages by using an English thought process. It might be pointed out that it is dangerous, indeed, to construct a theology from the presence or absence of the Greek letter sigma in John 16:13 (translated That one; see also 16:14), given the acknowledged forgeries in 1Timothy 3:16, in Codex Aleph, involving also the letter sigma and theta constructing Theos where none existed. This resulted in the false text in the KJV. Also 1John 5:7 was a forgery inserted in the Receptus, again affecting the KJV. Be that as it may, we will accept ekeinos as accurate because it is not critical to the point.


Ekeinos is rendered That one and not He on each occasion it is used in relation to the Holy Spirit in these texts. The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon (p. 194) shows that ekeinos does not mean he. It is derived from the proposition the one there. It is a pronoun meaning That man, women or thing. It is used for stress. Hence, it is given the suffix os to reflect the grammatical structure in which it occurs. The endings can also denote case, os denoting the nominative case, n or on denoting the accusative (hence theos (our theos or elohim) and ton theon (the God) in Jn. 1:1). The word he in John 16:13 is rendered from words which do not convey that meaning except abstractly from their construction. Marshall’s Interlinear shows that The Spirit receives literally the of me and announces or conveys it to the brethren. This Spirit is of the Father, because Christ says in the next verse that All things which has the Father, mine is (are) (see Marshall’s Jn. 16:13-15). The Interlinear text supports the concept that the Spirit is the power of God. The grammatical structure is used because it speaks of the Father and His attributes or powers.


Marshall’s Interlinear shows how the problem is asserted from the translation. The Greek is Romanised for ease of reading.

otan de      elthe     ekeinos,  to  pneuma  tes aletheias

but when   comes   that one  the Spirit      of truth,


odegesei         umas   eis    ten  aletheian  pasan

he will guide   you     into  the   truth        all;


ou gar      lalesei              aph     eautou,   all     osa

for not     will he speak    from    himself    but    what things


akouei     lalesei,             kai    ta     erchomena 

he hears   he will speak    and   the   coming things


anaggelei               umin

he will announce    to you.


Note that the word he is attributed from the word structure. The word he can also be attributed in the following circumstance as Marshall notes in the Introduction.

The definite article must sometimes be rendered by a pronoun or a possessive adjective. This is particularly so where parts of the body are indicated; e.g., Matthew ch. 8, v. 3. Sometimes it is used ‘pronominally’ - that is, it must be rendered ‘he’ (or otherwise according to the gender) or ‘they’; see Mark ch. 10, v. 4.


Marshall goes on to deal with the question of gender on page xi.

In Greek, gender belongs to the word and not necessarily to what is indicated by the word; whereas of course in English we keep the ideas of masculine, feminine, and neuter to men, women, and inanimate things respectively. (English, by the way, is the only great modern language to do so.) Allowance must be made for this in translating: sometimes it is possible to transfer the idea from one language to another, but not always. The note to Revelation ch. 13, v. 1, may be consulted.


The note to Revelation 13:1 is useful because it also deals with the notion of gender from grammar and bears on John 16:13 and the translation of the word rendered himself.

[autou], of course may be neuter or masculine - “of it” or “of him”. [drakon] being masculine (= Satan), we have kept to the masculine. But [therion] is neuter. Yet if it stands for a person, as [arnion] certainly does, it too should be treated, as to the pronoun, as a masculine.

Thus himself is a rendering of a word which can either be neuter or masculine. The rendering of himself is in accord with the association with the attributes of God. The translations are compounded by the fact that it is convenient to render the texts in such manner.


Marshall also makes note of the use of a participle with the definite article (Intro., p. xiv).

A participle may be used, with the definite article, with, say, “one” understood, where we should use a noun or a relative phrase; e.g., frequently, [ho pisteuon] = the [one] believing = the believer or he who believes. Here the participle is continuous; in Luke ch. 1, v. 45, it is momentary (and, naturally, feminine in gender as referring to Mary’s one act of faith at the Annunciation). If two participles are used but with one definite article, as in John ch. 5, v. 24, the meaning is that one person is doubly described, not two persons doing two things. This feature has been preserved in our translation.


John was a Hebrew using Aramaic as his native language relating Aramaic and Hebrew concepts and Hebrew theology. There is even some doubt as to whether the gospels were written originally in Greek. To examine the aspects of the Holy Spirit we should go back to the context in which the Holy Spirit is revealed and prophesied. That is the Old Testament.


There should be harmony between the Old and New Testaments. The Bible does not contradict itself on spiritual matters. The Holy Spirit is referred to in the Old Testament on many occasions. The Spirit is linked with God as the Spirit of the Lord. The word is Ruach (see SHD 7307). It is a spirit but only of a rational being (see Strong’s). The term does not possess the same problems because the grammatical structure of Hebrew is not value laden in the same way as it is in Greek. English merely compounds this linguistic problem.


The Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon on pages 924-925 shows the spirit in man to be the gift and creation of God (referring to Zech. 12:1; Job. 27:3 cf. Isa. 42:6). God preserves it (Job 10:12; cf. 12:10; Num. 16:22; 27:16; Prov. 16:2). The Lexicon concludes that it is therefore God’s Spirit (Gen. 6:3) departing at death (Isa. 38:16; Job 17:1; 34:14; Isa. 57:16; Eccl. 8:8).


The Lexicon then deals with the Spirit of God in the various references in the neuter. It is referred to as the inspiration of prophecy and the force that impels the prophets to utter instruction or warning. This was so of ancient prophets (Zech. 7:12; Neh. 9:30).

Zechariah 7:12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. (KJV)


Nehemiah 9:30 Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. (KJV)

These verses make it quite clear that the Holy Spirit is the possession of the God of Hosts who sends His Spirit to the prophets. Isaiah 11:2 shows that this Spirit rests on Messiah.


The Spirit of God was held to impart warlike energy and executive and administrative power to ancient Israel (Jdg. 3:10; 11:29; cf. 6:34; 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14; 1Sam. 11:6; 16:13,14 and also Isa. 32:15). It was seen as resting upon the Messianic king (Isa. 11:2). It was seen as endowing men with various gifts, e.g. technical skill (Ex. 31:3; 35:31), understanding (Job 32:8), as poured out by divine wisdom (Prov. 1:23). It was seen as the energy of life (Gen. 1:2), and as a vital power (Isa. 31:3) (and in a cherubic chariot from Ezek. 1:12 cf. vv. 20-21).


The Lexicon groups the Spirit in the last category as being the ancient Angel of the Presence and later Shekina (Isa. 63:10-11; cf. also the concepts in Neh. 9:20). Thus the Spirit was made manifest to Israel first in the Angel of the Presence, who later became Messiah (1Cor. 10:4). Messiah thus is embodied with the Spirit as the power of God. Later it became evident as the Shekina. The Lexicon holds that the prophecies of restoration conceive of the divine Spirit as standing in the midst of Israel and about to fulfil all divine promises (Hag. 2:5; Zech. 4:6). This concept culminates in the divine presence and as such [God is] omnipresent (see p. 926). 


The Spirit is thus the Power of God. It is not merely or only the Power of God. No concept of the Holy Spirit as the third person of a closed Trinity could grasp the omnipresent all embracing extension of the nature and personality of God that will ensue from this process of God becoming all in all (1Cor. 12:6; 15:28 KJV; Eph. 4:6). The power of the elect will thus be as the power of God in the Holy Spirit and they will be as Elohim (Zech. 12:8) as the Angel of Yahovah at their head, who is Messiah. They will be Israel and they shall rule as God.


Historically, it is useful to understand the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. It was not suggested that the Holy Spirit was a person nor was it considered as such until the Council of Constantinople in 381 CE.


The Holy Spirit was not fixed in the doctrine at all in the Council of Nicea (325). It failed to gain formulation at Constantinople (381). Only at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the doctrine formulated. There is no evidence that the apostles or the early apologists saw Christ as other than created and the Spirit as other than the power of God until the end of the third century, except with the Modalists and the Gnostics. It was these groups that finally emerged as the Trinitarian faction under Theodosius in 381 and by force of arms introduced their heresy.


The Trinity must reduce the activities of the Holy Spirit in order to deny the destiny of Israel and the elect. Greek ethics and philosophy are totally reliant on this epistemology in order to remove the logical requirements of biblical law as given at Sinai. The assertion of He and masculine gender is but part of the process in the assertion of personality to an attribute of God by which the elect are empowered.


Further Error Regarding the Holy Spirit

The Churches of God in the Twentieth Century were almost completely absorbed in heresy either of Ditheism or Binitarianism.  It is because of the one great lie that there were two coeternal and coexistent beings or elements of that being from the Beginning that actually came from the worship of the god Attis in Rome that saw Binitarianism enter the Christian Church at the last half of the Second Century CE.


This as we know led to the formulation of Trinitarianism by 381 CE and ultimately led to the corruption of what became known as mainstream Sunday worshipping Christianity. In order to establish the Binitarianism of Attis it became necessary to elevate Christ above the other elohim or sons of God and establish him as a co-functionary in the creation. How this was done is explained in the sections on the Binitarian and Trinitarian Misuse of the Early Theology of the Godhead (No.  127B).


Part of this fraud was the misuse of Scripture regarding the function of the Holy Spirit.  The major aspect of the explanation of the understanding of the way in which we become sons of God was through the function of the Holy Spirit.  The basic significance of the Holy Spirit was as the power of God that enables all of the Heavenly Host and the Human Host to function as the image of God. In other words, to become elohim as sons of God; and as an extended being functioning as God. For this reason the Holy Spirit as the Wisdom of God referred to in Proverbs 8 had to be misrepresented as the action of Christ, which it was not. 


Christ was made in the image of God as were all the elohim as sons of God. For this reason the text in Philippians 2:5-8 had to be mistranslated in the Receptus to disguise the obedience of Christ in not seizing equality with God and attempt at his elevation. Their capacity to exist as elohim was through the Holy Spirit which conferred the wisdom of God on all the elohim Host. Thus the first element of the creation had to be the Holy Spirit as an extension of the Wisdom of God in order for the sons of God to exist as one with God as Ha Elohim or The Elohim as an extended being of Elohim in which God was to become all in all. It follows as a matter of logic that if wisdom was not instantiated in the Divine Essence then it is not obvious how God could have created that capacity. The capacity of Wisdom to exist with God was with the act of the creation of the Holy Spirit as an extended power so that such wisdom could be extended to the elohim Host. It is not the counsellor of God but rather the power by which they become one with God in relative wisdom and power. We now know that the Wisdom of God was relative in the angelic or elohim, the Host of the sons of God.  God has chosen to limit their knowledge and reveal His Plan through humans as prophets so that by that fact the Host exercise loyalty and faith.  Christ in that way also had to exercise loyalty and faith. Up until his resurrection and acceptance as the Wave Sheaf offering the Holy Spirit was confined to the willing self revelation of God.  Even after his resurrection and ascent into heaven God withheld some understanding from Christ also as we see from the Revelation of God to Jesus Christ that was then conveyed to John as the final work of the NT. The Heavenly Host long to look into the things God reveals through us (1Pet. 1:12). 


It was not until after 381 that the Trinitarians saw the need to misrepresent the texts more generally and to elevate Christ as a Binitarian and then Trinitarian entity. They had to misrepresent the texts that could be rendered as being contrary to the elevation of Christ.  A major thing they did was disguise the other sons of God as being products of the activity of Christ under direction of God. To do that, they had to misapply Proverbs 8 to Christ in their teachings.  Then they had to misapply the text in Romans 8:9 where Paul is held to say the Spirit is proper to the son, which it does not say at all.


The full text in Roman 8:9-17 shows the proper understanding of the text. The first element of the text in verse 9 is used to claim that the Spirit is proper to the Son as it proceeds from the Son using the text in John 20:22. The two texts were used to develop the “filioque” clause developed by the Trinitarian Catholics in the Seventh Century and then attributed to the so-called Arians in Spain, which is not true.    


[9] But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.


The full text shows the intent. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as the One True God who sent Christ (Jn. 17:3) and exists in the elect through Christ and the elect are required to develop the character of Christ as prospective sons of God. It is plain that the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is to dwell in us. At no stage does it imply that the Spirit is one of three entities and nor does this text elevate Christ as is claimed. It is clear that all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. This refers to the One True God and not to Christ as a third member of a Triune God.

[10] But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.
[12] So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh --  [13] for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" [16] it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.


How can we be sons of God through the Spirit of God and be coheirs with Christ who is also a son of God sent by God to save us? Coheirs means we inherit exactly the same thing as Christ. The elohim are thus a multiplicity.


John 20:22 does not imply that the Spirit emanates from Christ.  It shows simply that he had been accepted as the Wave Sheaf and was then given permission to extend the Holy Spirit to the church which was done at Pentecost in the same Third year of the Sabbath Cycle, which is when all major activities of change in the structure of the people of God and as the church occurs.


The argument is then advanced by a false premise claiming that the son will instruct the Holy Spirit in guiding the elect into all truth which is not what is said. The Holy Spirit of God is sent and draws all people to the faith and God gives them to Christ and through the power of God in the Holy Spirit reveals all truth to them. In no text in the Bible is it ever suggested that Christ as a son of God, or any other son of God, is ontologically prior to the Spirit.


Ephesians 4:4-6 is likewise used to claim the Trinitarian unity of the three completely contrary to what it actually says.


[4] There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, [5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.


It is obvious that what is being asserted is that there is one Body and one Spirit, which, as we have seen, emanated from the Father who is the One True God who sent Jesus Christ. The Body is of Christ who is the head of the church which is led by the Spirit of God.  The key point of the text is that there is ONE God and Father of us all who is above all and through all and in all. There are not three Gods. That body of Christ consists of one Lord, one faith and one baptism, all to the service of the One True God who sent Christ, and on that understanding rests eternal life (Jn 17:3). Some Trinitarians then claim that by dividing them we assert three spirits, which is absurd.


Texts used in support of the absurdity are often:

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  

This text means what it says and that God is the object of worship. It says nothing about worshipping a three headed God and nowhere in the text does Christ imply that he is part of that God as the object of worship.


Romans 8:9 refers to the fact that we are not in the flesh but in the spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in us. It says nothing about the Spirit of a Triune God as advanced by the Trinitarians.


2 Corinthians 13:14 is also used in support of a Triune God which is not what it says.


It has even been asserted by a Trinitarian grasping at straws that the reference in Deuteronomy 10:17 to the fact that the Lord our God is God (‘elohe) of Gods (‘elohim) and Lord of Lords (adonai, adonim), a great God (El) actually refers to the Triune God as three elements of a great God. Such writers never draw attention to the object of worship being Eloah, which is singular and admits of no plurality whatsoever and is the object of worship and the source of the law (Ezra 4:23-7:26) and is the Father by His direct statement through Proverbs 30:4-5.


Romans 1:1-6 is used to assert that the text saying we are the called of Jesus Christ has some Trinitarian meaning when that is completely contrary to the text in Romans and of Paul elsewhere.  Paul states in 1:16-17 that salvation is by faith through God’s power in providing righteousness. It is not a Triune system and Paul can never be imputed to refer to a triune system. Romans 1:7 addressed to all the church in Rome beloved of God and called to be saints, makes clear distinction between God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 


We have dealt with the misuse of John 1:1 elsewhere. John 1:18 often ignores the monogenese theos in the translation of the text. John 20:28 is often used as a Trinitarian text referring to the Deity of Christ but completely ignores the references to Psalm 45:6-7 which is repeated as referring to Christ in Hebrews 1:8-9 and the fact that Thomas was also probably referring to Psalm 86:15, which in the LXX reads Kurie ho Theos, claiming forgiveness for his unbelief referring to Exodus 34:6 to which the psalm refers.  However, nowhere does that text imply that there were three elements to God and the references to which he probably refers are clearly subordinationist, which Trinitarians choose to ignore.


Acts 5:3-4 is sometimes used to claim that the Holy Spirit is referred to as being lied to and hence God is being lied to and hence the Trinity might be inferred. Such an assertion which completely ignores the fact that God communicates with us through the Holy Spirit overlooks the myriad texts that make the Spirit the power of God through which we all become sons of God and coheirs with Christ.  It cannot logically imply a distinct being.


The fact that the Spirit searches the deep things of God (1Cor. 2:10) can in no way be used to assert that it is a separate being other than the power of God. The text in John 14:16-23 far from supporting the Triune God shows absolutely that Christ had to ask the Father as God to send the Holy Spirit and that he had no power over the despatch of the Spirit except by request of the Father who controlled it.


The Trinity is an invention of the Cappadocians to reconcile the Spirit to the Binitarian god Attis and the worship of the Sun Cults, and thus confines God to a Triune being as understood from Rome.