Questions From Readers
● Why are the pronouns “he” and “him” used in the New World Translation in reference to the holy spirit in such places as John 16:7, 8, whereas in other places the pronoun “it” is used?—B. H., U.S.A.
As a rule the New World Translation uses the masculine pronouns “he” or “him” when the Greek pronoun referring to the spirit’s office is in the masculine gender and singular in number. It uses the neuter pronoun “it” when the personal pronoun in the Greek text is in the neuter gender. Whenever variations have been made these are noted in the foot notes.
The Greek word for spirit is in itself neuter in gender and is properly referred to, therefore, by the neuter pronoun in English because it does not have personality. The footnotes in the New World Translation also call attention to this matter. However, when the holy spirit is personalized, as is the case at John 16:7, 8, where it is referred to as “the helper,” the pronouns used in Greek are in the masculine gender because in Greek “helper” is a masculine noun, but arbitrarily so in gender.
In this matter it will greatly help when we understand that in Greek and many other languages—different from English—nouns often are regarded as masculine or feminine from the standpoint of grammar although neuter as regards sex. Thus in Spanish mesa, meaning “table,” takes a feminine article, la, and libro, meaning “book,” takes the masculine article el, although obviously neither has sex or personality. In an accommodated sense this is also done in English, for it is common to refer to a certain ship by the feminine pronoun “she.” English is a very convenient language in that its nouns do not have gender arbitrarily and all its articles, “a,” “an,” and “the,” are neuter, but there is much to be said in favor of the arbitrary use of gender as regards exactness, variety and beauty.
That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.—Ps. 83:18.