Does the New Testament teach us to refer to the Holy Spirit exclusively as “He”?

Grammatical gender and Natural gender

Grammatical gender pertains to the form of a word, but not necessarily to its natural gender, since some words, e.g. “rock” do not have natural gender. All Greek nouns have grammatical gender; that is, they are either masculine, feminine or neuter (he/she/it) in form. When a word does have an obvious natural gender like “husband” or “daughter” then the grammatical gender will normally correspond to the natural gender. But for words which do not have a clear natural gender, there is still grammatical gender, e.g. the word for “fruit” is masculine, the word for “truth” is feminine, and the word for “tree” is neuter in form.

Pronouns and their antecedents

When a word may have natural gender but it is not certain, we can sometimes discover it if there are pronouns which refer to it. The word to which a pronoun refers is called its antecedent. For example in John 1 we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Is “Word” masculine? The pronoun “He” (οὗτος) may be either masculine, feminine or neuter in form. But here it is masculine, which shows that its antecedent “Word,” the word to which it refers, is masculine.

The gender of the Holy Spirit

“Holy Spirit” in Greek (τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον) has a grammatical neuter gender. If it does have a natural gender, we will be able to tell what it is if there are pronouns which refer to it. There is one instance. In John 14.26, our Lord teaches “… the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” “The pronoun “He” (ἐκεῖνος) may have masculine, feminine or neuter grammatical form. Normally a pronoun will have the same gender as its antecedent, but here, even though “Holy Spirit” is grammatically neuter, the pronoun “He” is masculine. This demonstrates beyond debate that our Lord speaks of the Holy Spirit as “He” and so therefore should we.

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