Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

You are here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is the Holy Spirit a She?

Heard a fascinating piece of bad exegesis the other day. The Holy Spirit is a she.

The basis of this claim was that the Hebrew word for “spirit” (ruach) is feminine. The short answer is that if this is true, then the Spirit is also an “it” since the Greek word for “spirit” (πνευμα) is neuter.

The longer answer is that Hebrew and Greek words follow what is called “grammatical gender.” This means that the gender of the word is not determined by its meaning but by other things. For example, all nouns ending in ματ are neuter. Since πνευμα is from the root πνευματ, it is therefore neuter. But that says nothing about how the Greek understood of the concept of God’s Spirit.

The best illustration of this is the Greek words for “sin” and “sinner.” “Sin” is a feminine noun, αμαρτια, but sin is not a feminine trait (as opposed to men). “Sinner” is a masculine noun, αμαρτωλος, but that does not mean that men (not using the word generically) are sinners (as opposed to women).

Now yes, sometimes there is a correlation between meaning and gender. Men’s names are masculine. Pronouns referring back to women are feminine. But apart from these obvious types of situations, the gender and meaning of a word are unrelated.

This makes John 16:13 interesting. “When the Spirit of truth (το πνευμα της αληθειας) comes, he (εκεινος) will guide you into all the truth.” The masculine εκεινος ges back to the masculine “Helper” of v 7 (παρακλητος). But is it not interesting that John can put the neuter πνευμα in apposition to the masculine εκεινος? Why?

Because the Bible teaches that all three members of the godhead are “persons” and that while God is more than the human categories of “masculine” and “feminine,” he is personal. The Holy Spirit is not a “she” or an “it.” He is a “person.” Hebrew and Greek follow grammatical gender.


Great comparision as I have herd that taught too, and the argument was that women are partially more sensative to the Spirit.

I never heard of that. I made my own view of this article, but it’s in the comment section.

I've tried finding a suitable discourse on this but it mostly hinges on gender of the original text and linguistics. That's not at all why i'm convinced it is perfectly fine, and even healthy, to interact with the HS as Mom. Here's some of my rationale...curious of any other thoughts: 1. Good is simple enough for a child to understand so are we really shown the example of perfect love and family through a triune expression of YHWH as Father, Son, and another dude? 2. We are born of the flesh by mom...but born of the spirit by a dude? 3. Yeshua said anything can be forgiven except what? Blaspheming the HS. Sounds a lot like "just don't insult my Mother." 4. Genesis were Adam and Eve to "leave father and mother" when no Earthly parents existed yet? 5. "Let US make THEM in our likeness" humans have male and female distinction, and YHWH reveals to us a male "side" (2 actually) so why wouldn't there also be female? 6. Proverbs 8. How can you read that and NOT see the words of Wisdom as divinely inspired speech from the HS? Especially the part about watching and delighting as He designed the world! There is definitely more going on there than simple anthropomorphic style... Why do i think it matters? Because my body isn't a temple for Father or Son. As a new creation it is my walk with the Spirit that maintains intimacy with YHWH my Maker. While might "be cool" around my dad ir other dudes...i'm on my best behavior around Mom! Or should i say Mom brings out my best. This has developed over the last few years and I've tested it in prayer, in the Word, and it has only deepened in conviction and drawn me closer to God overall. Curious other thoughts! Shalom. JLM PS. I agree with those who point out this isn't anything worth dividing over! Also, Father must want us to let go of strict gender identity if we (dudes included) are being prepared to become a bride!

While this is indeed interesting I don’t see any scripture to back up this kind of thinking, the scripture proofs given seem to be more conjectural in nature(“ it would seem to me”) than anything else. Also we are taught to pray to the personhood of the Father, eventhough it may be through the Holy Spirit that we pray to Him(«For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”» ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:15‬ ‭) I would also warn against this kind of thing, the glory and majesty of the Trinity is so beyond us it’s not for us to determine or call Him something that is unfounded both in scripture and in the church’s careful contemplation of it throughout over 2000 years of history. God is very specific in the way in which we are to show Him the reverence He deserves, we ought not to be frivolous (suggesting to call any of the persons mother for example”)in how we refer to Him or any of the other persons, but stick to what has been revealed in scripture and go no further.

Read my comment.

I don’t think he or she has an actual gender. Read my comment for more.

interesting too, that the spirit filled (came upon) Mary...(Jesus' mother) this way Mary would just be a physical vessel for the Father's seed and the Holy Spirit, who filled Mary and were the real (spiritual) father and mother. Mary was just the innocent one who carried the child.

I don’t want to repeat so read my comment

I have thought exactly the same things and agree I have not found a satisfying answer.

Eh sorry, but you might be wrong. And ask how the HS got Mary pregnant. Well maybe the same way a female sea horse does. Close to it. The Holy Spirit is refer to as she in the English version and Greek, but in Hebrew and Aramaic she. The English version is not correct translation Also who cares what we refer the HS as? If he or she did care then they can tell us. But they have no bio gender. Since that the spirit has no bio gender, since that spirit is feminine in Hebrew then so is the HS. Also the New Testament is in Greek and they use spirit as masculine or neutral. The English version mistranslation as shown in the links above.