The Holy Spirit: Male, Female, or It?

Acts 8:16, For as yet He had. In most of our modern English Bibles, this verse supports the notion that the Holy Spirit is masculine by using the third person singular of the verb in reference to the antecedent Holy Spirit, which is found in the preceding verse. Is this a correct translation? First, the Greek word spirit pneuma/pneuma is a neuter noun. To be grammatically correct, therefore, our verse should read, “For as yet, It….”

However, the Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit is a Person, so it has to be either masculine or feminine. In our text, the English words “he had” are the one Greek word ehn which is the active, indicative, imperative, third person singular of the verb eimi meaning, in its infinitive state, “to be,” or in its imperfect tense, “was.” In this verse, the verb eimi in this form can mean either, “he was, she was, or it was” (Basics of Biblical Greek, p. 59, by William Mounce).

So how do we determine what the gender should be of the Holy Spirit?

In the Tanakh, the Hebrew word for spirit (as in Holy Spirit) is ruach, which is in the feminine gender. Since the concept of the Holy Spirit originates in the Hebrew language of the Tanakh, and since Elohim (the plural Hebrew noun indicating the plurality of the Godhead) reveals himself as both male and female (Gen 1:26–27), it is, therefore, illogical to refer to the Holy Spirit in the masculine gender in Acts 8:16.

Therefore, in Acts 8:16, referring to the Holy Spirit as he is a blatant example of scribal gloss, and is an example of the translators bowing to the Catholic doctrine of the third person in the Godhead being male in gender even though the linguistics of this verse don’t support it, and something the Bible as a whole doesn’t support.

This now begs the following question: If the Holy Spirit isn’t male, but is part of the Godhead, then what other gender is there for the Holy Spirit to be?


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