Verses Where “He” & “Him” Should Be Referred To As “It”
Several translated passages, constructed under King James (better known as the KJV), can be very misleading if the reader is not versed in the rules used to translate one language to another, Greek (or Hebrew) to English, especially languages that assign a gender to its nouns. This section addresses several misleading translations as they pertain to the following passages: (John 1:1-3) & (John 14:16-17, 26).
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(2) The same was in the beginning with God. *(Ref: The Word Was God; The Word Was Made Flesh)
(3) All things were made by him (it)[the Word]; and without him (it) was not anything made that was made.
1. The verse in (John 1:1) says, “In the beginning was The Word”; it does not say, “In the beginning was Jesus.” “The Word” is not synonymous with Jesus and “Jesus” G2424 is not a lexical definition of logos G3056 [Word]. The logos [word] is one of several expressions used to describe God (Ref: The Expressions Of God ), just as a “word” is an outward expression of a persons thoughts. This expression of God occurred “outwardly” through His Son, and thus it is perfectly understandable why Jesus is called the “Word.” Jesus was the outward expression of God’s reason, wisdom, purpose and plan. For the same reason, we call a revelation “a word from God” and the Bible “the Word of God.”
2. The pronoun “him”, as used in (John 1:3), could also give the “unlearned” person the impression another person (“the Word”) was also “with” God during the creation.
One reason people get the idea that “the Word” is a person is the pronoun “him”. The Greek text does, of course, have the masculine pronoun, because like many languages, including Spanish, French, German, Latin, Hebrew, etc., the Greek language assigns a gender to all nouns, and the gender of the pronoun must agree with the gender of the noun. In French, for example, a table is feminine, la table, while a desk is masculine, le bureau, and feminine and masculine pronouns are required to agree with the gender of the noun. In translating from French to English, however, we would never translate “the table, she,” or “the desk, he.” And we would never insist that a table or desk was somehow a person just because it had a masculine or feminine pronoun. We would use the English designation “it” for the table and the desk, in spite of the fact that in the original language the table and desk have a masculine or feminine gender.
This is true in the translation of any language that assigns a gender to nouns. In Spanish, a car is masculine, el carro, while a bicycle is feminine, la bicicleta. Again, no English translator would translate “the car, he,” or “the bicycle, she.” People translating Spanish into English use the word “it” when referring to a car or bicycle. For another example, a Greek feminine noun is “anchor” (agkura), and literally it would demand a feminine pronoun. Yet no English translator would write “I accidentally dropped the anchor, and she fell through the bottom of the boat.” We would write, “it” fell through the bottom of the boat. In Greek, “wind” (anemos) is masculine, but we would not translate it into English that way. We would say, “The wind was blowing so hard it blew the trash cans over,” not “the wind, he blew the trash cans over.” When translating from another language into English, we have to use the English language properly. Students who are studying Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, French, German, etc., quickly discover that one of the difficult things about learning the language is memorizing the gender of each noun—something we do not have in the English language.
Holy Ghost, Spirit, Comforter
John 14:16-17, 26
(16) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
(17) Even the Spirit of truth G4151; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
(26) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost G4151, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
3. The pronouns “he” and “him” in (John 14:16-17, 26) can also give the “unlearned” the wrong impression that “the Spirit” is a person. In doctrinal discussions about the holy spirit some people assert that it is a person because the Bible has “he” and “him” in verses that refer to it. In the Greek language, “spirit” is a neuter noun (Part of Speech: n n – Ref. G4151 ) and thus it is associated with the neuter pronoun, “it.” So, for example, verse 17 above should be literally translated as:
“Even the Spirit of truth (the spirit); whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it (the spirit) nor knows it. But you know it, for it (the spirit) lives with you and will be in you.”
Any Analytical Lexicon will confirm that the pronouns in this verse that refer to spirit are neuter, not masculine.
If the pronouns in the Greek text are neuter, why do the translators translate them as “he” and “him?” The answer to that question is that translators realize that when you are dealing with a language that assigns genders to nouns, it is the context and general understanding of the subject at hand that determines how the pronouns are to be translated into English as we have seen in the above examples (desk, bicycle, car, wind, etc.). It is amazing that Trinitarian translators know that the same neuter pronoun can be converted to an English masculine pronoun (e.g., “it” becomes “he”) but are evidently not as willing to see that a Greek masculine pronoun could be translated as an English neuter pronoun (e.g., “he becomes “it”), if the subject matter and context warrant it. Linguistically, both conversions could be completely legitimate. But any change depends, not on the gender assigned by the Greek language, but rather on the subject matter being discussed. For example, the logos is God’s plan and should be an it,” and “holy spirit,” when used as God’s gift, should also be translated into English as an “it.” To the un-indoctrinated mind, plans and gifts are obviously not “persons.”
Note: Trinitarian Christians believe “the Holy Spirit” is a masculine being and translate the pronouns that refer to it as “he” in spite of the fact that the noun is neuter and call for an “it”, not a “he” in Greek. Similarly, even though the masculine noun calls for the masculine pronoun in the Greek language, it would still not be translated into English as the masculine pronoun, “he,” unless it could be shown from the context that the subject was actually a male; i.e., a man, a male animal, or God (who represents Himself as masculine in the Bible). So the question to answer when dealing with “the Word,” “the Comforter” and “the holy spirit” is not, “What gender are the noun and associated pronoun in the Greek language?” Rather, we need to ask, “Do those words refer to a masculine person that would require a “he” in English, or do they refer to a “thing” that would require the pronoun “it”?” When “holy spirit” is referring to the power of God in action or God’s gift, it is properly an “it.” (Ref. What Is The Holy Ghost?) The same is true for the “comforter.”
In Hebrew however, “spirit” is feminine and must have feminine pronouns, while in Greek, “spirit” is neuter and takes neuter pronouns. Thus, a person trying to build a theology on the basis of the gender of the noun and pronoun would find himself in an interesting situation trying to explain how it could be that “the spirit” of God somehow changed genders as the New Testament was written.
Because the translators of the Bible have almost always been Trinitarians, and since “the Word” has almost always been erroneously identified with the person of Christ, the pronouns referring to the logos in verse 3 have almost always been translated as “him.” However, if in fact the logos is the plan, purpose, wisdom and reason of God, then the Greek pronoun should be translated into the English as “it.” To demand that “the Word” is a masculine person and therefore a third part of a three-part Godhead because the pronouns used when referring to it are masculine, is poor scholarship.
Viewed in light of the above translation, the Gospel of John reveals several wonderful truths. That in the beginning there was only one God, not many gods. It also shows that this God had reason, purpose and a plan, which was, by its very nature and origin, divine. It was through and on account of this reason, plan and purpose that everything was made. Nothing was made outside its scope. Then, this plan became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and tabernacled among us. Understanding the opening of John this way fits with the whole of Scripture and is entirely acceptable from a translation standpoint.
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