Author Topic: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English  (Read 9972 times)

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Offline orthonorm

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Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« on: May 26, 2011, 03:54:32 PM »
Just noticed that in English that when I refer to the Holy Spirit as pronoun I use "it".

Since English doesn't have gender, what do you all use when referring to the Holy Spirit, since it is neither male nor female, nor has any traditional relationship within the Godhead which would suggest a convenient way to determine to its gender?

In other languages where nouns have genders, the pronoun is determined by the gender so you can have feminine, masculine, and neuter pronouns for the Holy Spirit depending on the language.

Offline JamesRottnek

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2011, 04:34:18 PM »
I had always referred to the Holy Spirit as 'it', as well, since 'spirit' in English does not have any sort of connotation towards male or female.  It has no characteristic inherent in the definition that would lead one to say he or she.  However, over the last couple of weeks, I am noticing a lot of Orthodox writing that refers to the Holy Spirit as He, and have started to do the same.  I suppose this is just in keeping with the fact that the other two parts of the Godhead are referred to as He, as well.
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Offline deusveritasest

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2011, 05:29:42 PM »
Isn't the Holy Spirit referred to as He in the Creed?

Offline genesisone

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2011, 07:02:11 PM »
Just noticed that in English that when I refer to the Holy Spirit as pronoun I use "it".

Since English doesn't have gender, what do you all use when referring to the Holy Spirit, since it is neither male nor female, nor has any traditional relationship within the Godhead which would suggest a convenient way to determine to its gender?

In other languages where nouns have genders, the pronoun is determined by the gender so you can have feminine, masculine, and neuter pronouns for the Holy Spirit depending on the language.
In English "it" strikes me as being non-personal. Other situations where persons are referred to as "it" are rare and also seem unusual, as in "the baby wants its mother". God has revealed Himself as "Father", giving us a masculine perspective; Jesus Christ became incarnate as a male, and is "Son". However, God is beyond male and female. Neither one is really appropriate. I think English speaking Christians (yes, I know, most of them non-Orthodox) refer to the Holy Spirit as "He".

I believe that in Latin, the word for "spirit" is masculine; in Greek, neuter; and in Hebrew, feminine. Rather interesting. That is why some translations may refer to the Holy Spirit as "it" if they are translated overly literally from Greek. But "it" can lead to a great misunderstanding of who not what the Holy Spirit is.

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2011, 07:12:57 PM »
I've always said "He."
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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2011, 07:14:43 PM »
I generally say "He" as that's what most translations of St. John 14:17 say ("the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him..." [NKJV]), although I'm not sure how pronouns work in Greek.
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Offline bogdan

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2011, 07:55:38 PM »
I always said "It" until I converted and realized how impersonal that was. He is a Person of the Trinity and in English you don't call people "its".

Offline ialmisry

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 08:18:20 PM »
Christ is risen!
I had always referred to the Holy Spirit as 'it', as well, since 'spirit' in English does not have any sort of connotation towards male or female.  It has no characteristic inherent in the definition that would lead one to say he or she.  However, over the last couple of weeks, I am noticing a lot of Orthodox writing that refers to the Holy Spirit as He, and have started to do the same.  I suppose this is just in keeping with the fact that the other two parts of the Godhead are referred to as He, as well.
He is correct: "spirit" is neuter in Greek and feminine in Hebrew/Aramaic/Syriac, yet both languages use "he" as well as the correct genders of Greek (it) or the Semitic (she).
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Offline IsmiLiora

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2011, 10:49:22 PM »
Thanks to studying Arabic and Spanish, I just say "He" when the gender is not determined.
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Offline akimori makoto

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2011, 10:55:43 PM »
Perhaps Japanese is the true divine language where gender (which is inappropriate to the Godhead) is left unmentioned except where specifically required for clarity? ;)

(I'm sure other languages do this).
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2011, 12:10:54 PM »
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


Offline ialmisry

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2011, 12:50:15 PM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."
Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2011, 01:01:42 PM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."

I was wondering between the choices of "He" and "It". My use of "they" I fear is from my head not feeling quite up to par yet (my par becoming increasingly lower and lower).

So you would actually respond to a general question about the Trinity with something like:

Well He is . . .

I have to say I would certainly use "It". A correction perhaps I should make.

Offline CBGardner

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2011, 01:29:59 PM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."

I was wondering between the choices of "He" and "It". My use of "they" I fear is from my head not feeling quite up to par yet (my par becoming increasingly lower and lower).

So you would actually respond to a general question about the Trinity with something like:

Well He is . . .

I have to say I would certainly use "It". A correction perhaps I should make.

Yes for the Holy Spirit I'd use 'He' but I think I'm in the 'It' camp for the Godhead. The Godhead seems impersonal, unknowable, unapproachable, so 'It' seems to fit for me.
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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2011, 01:56:34 PM »
Does Agia Sophia, although feminine, refer to Christ as the Wisdom of God, then?
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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2011, 02:00:14 PM »
Perhaps Japanese is the true divine language where gender (which is inappropriate to the Godhead) is left unmentioned except where specifically required for clarity? ;)

(I'm sure other languages do this).

As a speaker of Japanese, I would be interested in reading your explanation of this. While 彼 (he) and 彼女 (she) are not used in Japanese with the frequency they are in English, I don't understand what you mean by saying that gender goes unmentioned. Japanese (like English*) lacks grammatical gender, but I don't know if that is what you wished to say.

For those who might wonder, I took a quick look at my Japanese bible, and それ (it) is used to refer to the Holy Spirit.

*for the most part

Offline genesisone

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2011, 02:39:30 PM »
Does Agia Sophia, although feminine, refer to Christ as the Wisdom of God, then?
Don't confuse grammatical gender with biological gender. There is no necessary connection.

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2011, 02:43:40 PM »
Does Agia Sophia, although feminine, refer to Christ as the Wisdom of God, then?
Don't confuse grammatical gender with biological gender. There is no necessary connection.

This is really why "gender" shouldn't be used outside a grammatical sense. The appropriate word is "sex", when speaking of biological, well sexual difference. But in English in the aftermath of the so-called culture wars, we are now gendered beings rather than sexed.


Offline bogdan

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2011, 02:50:09 PM »
If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

We have seen the true Light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity: for He hath saved us.

Offline bogdan

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2011, 02:52:19 PM »
Thanks to studying Arabic and Spanish, I just say "He" when the gender is not determined.

That's how English has always been, until people decided to become offended by such nonsensical "issues".

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2011, 03:06:13 PM »
If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

We have seen the true Light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity: for He hath saved us.

Nice. But I have to admit, during liturgy I often wonder, if the liturgy is following closely the English stylistic "rule" that the pronoun should refer to the closest preceding noun.

In the quote you offer for example, I could imagine the He referring to the True Light and thus Christ. Or it just assumes it is Christ.

If everyone stopped at that moment in the liturgy and asked me who the He was off the top of my head, I would answer Christ. I would not have answered then Trinity.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2011, 03:07:26 PM by orthonorm »

Offline genesisone

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2011, 03:54:23 PM »
Don't confuse grammatical gender with biological gender. There is no necessary connection.
This is really why "gender" shouldn't be used outside a grammatical sense. The appropriate word is "sex", when speaking of biological, well sexual difference. But in English in the aftermath of the so-called culture wars, we are now gendered beings rather than sexed.
I really do agree with you. Unfortunately, "sex" has come to mean an activity, rather than a biological difference. You can't win.

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2011, 04:20:28 PM »
Don't confuse grammatical gender with biological gender. There is no necessary connection.
This is really why "gender" shouldn't be used outside a grammatical sense. The appropriate word is "sex", when speaking of biological, well sexual difference. But in English in the aftermath of the so-called culture wars, we are now gendered beings rather than sexed.
I really do agree with you. Unfortunately, "sex" has come to mean an activity, rather than a biological difference. You can't win.

I must say that many standardized forms I encounter still use sex, when asking whether someone is male or female. I guess the wheels of bureaucracy truly do move slowly.

But you are correct it is a language battle that is lost. Interestingly to me at least is how quickly the change in usage caught on. I've always wondered why America with all its conservatism basically changed its use of word, driven by primarily liberal motives, within maybe 15 or 20 years years.

I wonder if it was due to the the Puritanical bent of America that even the conservatives were happy get the word sex out discourse as much as possible.

Offline akimori makoto

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2011, 09:28:41 PM »
While 彼 (he) and 彼女 (she) are not used in Japanese with the frequency they are in English [...]

This is what I meant, but I think it is an understatement to say 彼 and 彼女 are used with "less frequency than in English".

Also, although 彼 and 彼女 can perform the function of "he" and "she" in English, it is not correct to say that they are truly equivalent.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2011, 09:31:15 PM by akimori makoto »
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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #24 on: May 28, 2011, 04:35:20 PM »
Does the Holy Spirit have chromosomes, Hormones or genitals?

I'm not sure how we assign gender.

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #25 on: May 28, 2011, 08:28:13 PM »
Does the Father?

Did the Son before He became man?
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Offline bogdan

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #26 on: May 28, 2011, 09:11:37 PM »
Does the Holy Spirit have chromosomes, Hormones or genitals?

I'm not sure how we assign gender.

When I was a catechumen my priest gave an explanation. I don't recall all the details or which Fathers wrote about these things, but the idea is based on the basic gender roles of masculine/active, feminine/passive. (This way of thinking is everywhere among the ancients, but if this offends anyone, skip over my post now.)

The male gods of religions (including Christianity) are ultimately Pattern. They create, pattern, organize. "Pattern" is related to the word "Father", and is conceptually masculine.

The female gods of religions are ultimately Matter. They are receptive and receive formation. "Matter" is related to the word "Mother", and is conceptually feminine.

In its simplest essence, a religion can be one of two things:

1. Matter-worshipping, feminine
2. Pattern-worshipping, masculine

Christianity is an example of the latter, because God created order from chaos. Earth-worshipping religions would be feminine. (And a hallmark of paganism is confusing the genders and their roles, and my priest argues on those grounds that the sexual revolution is a type of neo-paganism, so that's interesting.)

A mother is masculine relative to her baby, but feminine relative to her husband.
A father is masculine relative to his family, but feminine relative to the community.

A priest is masculine relative to his parish, but feminine relative to his bishop.
A bishop is masculine relative to his diocese, but feminine relative to the Church.

To an infant in the womb, her father is transcendent, while her mother is her whole world.
To us in the world, God is transcendent, while the Church is our whole world.
(All of this is also an argument against female clergy—it messes with Christian anthropological symbolism.)

Since God is the Transcendent Pattern-maker, we refer to Him in the masculine. He does have traditional motherly attributes and imagery, but in His essence He is anthropologically masculine; though in truth God is genderless. This is just a condescension for speaking about God relative to us.

My priest gave examples from the Bible where God speaks of Israel mostly in a feminine way. Interestingly, except when Israel was in rebellion, then Israel is spoken of in a masculine way. I wish I had written them down but these are all the notes I took.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 09:17:12 PM by bogdan »

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #27 on: May 28, 2011, 09:28:34 PM »
Does the Holy Spirit have chromosomes, Hormones or genitals?

I'm not sure how we assign gender.

When I was a catechumen my priest gave an explanation. I don't recall all the details or which Fathers wrote about these things, but the idea is based on the basic gender roles of masculine/active, feminine/passive. (This way of thinking is everywhere among the ancients, but if this offends anyone, skip over my post now.)

The male gods of religions (including Christianity) are ultimately Pattern. They create, pattern, organize. "Pattern" is related to the word "Father", and is conceptually masculine.

The female gods of religions are ultimately Matter. They are receptive and receive formation. "Matter" is related to the word "Mother", and is conceptually feminine.

In its simplest essence, a religion can be one of two things:

1. Matter-worshipping, feminine
2. Pattern-worshipping, masculine

Christianity is an example of the latter, because God created order from chaos. Earth-worshipping religions would be feminine. (And a hallmark of paganism is confusing the genders and their roles, and my priest argues on those grounds that the sexual revolution is a type of neo-paganism, so that's interesting.)

A mother is masculine relative to her baby, but feminine relative to her husband.
A father is masculine relative to his family, but feminine relative to the community.

A priest is masculine relative to his parish, but feminine relative to his bishop.
A bishop is masculine relative to his diocese, but feminine relative to the Church.

To an infant in the womb, her father is transcendent, while her mother is her whole world.
To us in the world, God is transcendent, while the Church is our whole world.
(All of this is also an argument against female clergy—it messes with Christian anthropological symbolism.)

Since God is the Transcendent Pattern-maker, we refer to Him in the masculine. He does have traditional motherly attributes and imagery, but in His essence He is anthropologically masculine; though in truth God is genderless. This is just a condescension for speaking about God relative to us.

My priest gave examples from the Bible where God speaks of Israel mostly in a feminine way. Interestingly, except when Israel was in rebellion, then Israel is spoken of in a masculine way. I wish I had written them down but these are all the notes I took.

Certainly a sophisticated view, but one that I some reservations about. When I get my head together about the (neo)Platonism / gnosticism hangers-on in the Church, this will be of interest, help, and example.

Thanks for sharing it. Certainly interesting. You musta had a thorough catechism, if such detail on matters of language gender assignment were discussed in such depth!
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 09:29:17 PM by orthonorm »

Offline JamesRottnek

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #28 on: May 29, 2011, 12:12:36 AM »
Very interesting and well thought out view.  Certainly something for consideration
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Offline Saint Iaint

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #29 on: May 29, 2011, 01:45:46 AM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."

Well, it's not "They"...

But how then does the following fit into all of this?

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;"
- Genesis 1:26


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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #30 on: May 29, 2011, 08:46:20 AM »
I remember that years ago on a Christian blog there was a poster who claimed, during a discussion of liberal Protestant revisions of texts, that the linking of the generic term "person" to males primarily (as in English "man" or Greek "anthropos") was absolutely vital for the Christian message. He ended up going to the reductio ad absurdum that Hungarians cannot properly preserve and pass onward the Gospel because their word for "person" is not really linked to maleness (and they have no gender distinctions in pronouns). 

Offline deusveritasest

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #31 on: June 01, 2011, 06:33:35 AM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."

I was wondering between the choices of "He" and "It". My use of "they" I fear is from my head not feeling quite up to par yet (my par becoming increasingly lower and lower).

So you would actually respond to a general question about the Trinity with something like:

Well He is . . .

I have to say I would certainly use "It". A correction perhaps I should make.

Yes for the Holy Spirit I'd use 'He' but I think I'm in the 'It' camp for the Godhead. The Godhead seems impersonal, unknowable, unapproachable, so 'It' seems to fit for me.

Ummmmm, "the Godhead" is a slightly different matter from "the Trinity".

Offline deusveritasest

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #32 on: June 01, 2011, 06:37:07 AM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."

Well, it's not "They"...

But how then does the following fit into all of this?

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;"
- Genesis 1:26


†IC XC†
†NI KA†



Good question!

Offline genesisone

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #33 on: June 01, 2011, 08:28:44 AM »
Christ is risen!
OK everyone, the gender of the Trinity in English?

If each Person of Trinity takes the masculine in English, then does the Trinity as well?

Again how you actually find yourself using the language and what you think is correct, if they are different.


He, never "they."

Well, it's not "They"...

But how then does the following fit into all of this?

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;"
- Genesis 1:26


†IC XC†
†NI KA†


In the Katabasias for the Ascension (Nassar p. 984), I noticed (emphasis added): "But the light-bearing grace of the Comforter doth move the faithful to cry out, O eternal Trinity, equal in power, thou alone art ever blessed."

It would seem to me that the Trinity must be described as neither male nor female, as neither singular nor plural, but is beyond these categories.

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #34 on: June 01, 2011, 10:25:26 AM »
Ummmmm, "the Godhead" is a slightly different matter from "the Trinity".

Could you expand on this, as I am not sure this is very clear, nor have I read or heard this discussed within an EO context?

Offline deusveritasest

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #35 on: June 01, 2011, 05:43:17 PM »
Ummmmm, "the Godhead" is a slightly different matter from "the Trinity".

Could you expand on this, as I am not sure this is very clear, nor have I read or heard this discussed within an EO context?

Ummmmm.... I hope I'm not being too brief, but "the Godhead" usually just implies the Essence of God, whereas "the Trinity" is mostly referring to the threeness of the hypostases.

Offline yeshuaisiam

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #36 on: June 02, 2011, 10:51:32 AM »
I am not entirely sure about this, but saying "it" may not exactly be correct.
A biblical reference in John "They Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove".   Of course, simile used.

A dove would be a "it".

The Holy Spirit was used in a simile form (at least here).
Perhaps addressing the Holy Spirit as anything but the "Holy Spirit" may be incorrect.   
I agree with others "it" is impersonal, but also "he" may be incorrect.

The reason why this could matter is issues such as the filioque "and the son"... such a small phrase can mean so much.  "It or he" could really matter.

I've seen both references to "he" and "it" but nothing authoritative. 

Side note:

Now that we are talking about it, I can't remember the name of that Bishop (help me if you know) that wrote a small (booklet) reader about the Holy Spirit.  He basically said that the Holy Spirit was neither male nor female, but represented the feminine characteristics of the Holy Trinity.  It was actually a beautiful short book.  He was comparing the dove's decent as a mother to her child (son).  He also was talking about the simile used with a dove being one of the only animals in the natural kingdom as a life partner (it's true they only stay with 1 other bird in purity) and how this pure spirit descends upon us in Baptism (and something to do with the "rebirth" of womb water to real water of purity and how Christ offers "the living water").  He basically was talking about the perfect unionized Trinity of a Father, Son, and Holy spirit.  He talked about the place of the Theotokos as the true Mother of God and intercessor of our prayers, but the Holy Spirit as holding Godly feminine characteristics. 

Sorry I wish I could describe the booklet better.   Arg, if anybody knows the name of what I am talking about please let me know.  It's been 27 years or so since I read it.  I probably could use it right now with all my funky issues.
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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #37 on: June 02, 2011, 11:18:44 AM »
Certainly a sophisticated view, but one that I some reservations about. When I get my head together about the (neo)Platonism / gnosticism hangers-on in the Church, this will be of interest, help, and example.

Thanks for sharing it. Certainly interesting. You musta had a thorough catechism, if such detail on matters of language gender assignment were discussed in such depth!

It was very interesting, and very thorough. There were about 30 weekly classes like that. I was a rather theologically-educated Protestant when I converted, but those classes consistently blew my mind. He was thinking of publishing the curriculum, since Orthodoxy varies so widely in its catechesis. If he ever does, it'll be a fascinating reference.

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #38 on: June 02, 2011, 01:59:39 PM »
Certainly a sophisticated view, but one that I some reservations about. When I get my head together about the (neo)Platonism / gnosticism hangers-on in the Church, this will be of interest, help, and example.

Thanks for sharing it. Certainly interesting. You musta had a thorough catechism, if such detail on matters of language gender assignment were discussed in such depth!

It was very interesting, and very thorough. There were about 30 weekly classes like that. I was a rather theologically-educated Protestant when I converted, but those classes consistently blew my mind. He was thinking of publishing the curriculum, since Orthodoxy varies so widely in its catechesis. If he ever does, it'll be a fascinating reference.

That would be great. Sounds like a wonderful experience. Encourage him to do so.

Offline JamesRottnek

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #39 on: June 02, 2011, 04:23:08 PM »
Certainly a sophisticated view, but one that I some reservations about. When I get my head together about the (neo)Platonism / gnosticism hangers-on in the Church, this will be of interest, help, and example.

Thanks for sharing it. Certainly interesting. You musta had a thorough catechism, if such detail on matters of language gender assignment were discussed in such depth!

It was very interesting, and very thorough. There were about 30 weekly classes like that. I was a rather theologically-educated Protestant when I converted, but those classes consistently blew my mind. He was thinking of publishing the curriculum, since Orthodoxy varies so widely in its catechesis. If he ever does, it'll be a fascinating reference.

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Offline Saint Iaint

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #40 on: June 02, 2011, 05:32:59 PM »
I am not entirely sure about this, but saying "it" may not exactly be correct.
A biblical reference in John "They Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove".   Of course, simile used.

A dove would be a "it".

The Holy Spirit was used in a simile form (at least here).
Perhaps addressing the Holy Spirit as anything but the "Holy Spirit" may be incorrect.   
I agree with others "it" is impersonal, but also "he" may be incorrect.

The reason why this could matter is issues such as the filioque "and the son"... such a small phrase can mean so much.  "It or he" could really matter.

I've seen both references to "he" and "it" but nothing authoritative. 

Side note:

Now that we are talking about it, I can't remember the name of that Bishop (help me if you know) that wrote a small (booklet) reader about the Holy Spirit.  He basically said that the Holy Spirit was neither male nor female, but represented the feminine characteristics of the Holy Trinity.  It was actually a beautiful short book.  He was comparing the dove's decent as a mother to her child (son).  He also was talking about the simile used with a dove being one of the only animals in the natural kingdom as a life partner (it's true they only stay with 1 other bird in purity) and how this pure spirit descends upon us in Baptism (and something to do with the "rebirth" of womb water to real water of purity and how Christ offers "the living water").  He basically was talking about the perfect unionized Trinity of a Father, Son, and Holy spirit.  He talked about the place of the Theotokos as the true Mother of God and intercessor of our prayers, but the Holy Spirit as holding Godly feminine characteristics. 

Sorry I wish I could describe the booklet better.   Arg, if anybody knows the name of what I am talking about please let me know.  It's been 27 years or so since I read it.  I probably could use it right now with all my funky issues.


A dove could be called 'it'. But a dove could equally be ascribed gender... there are male and female doves.

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- John 14:17

"But when the Helper comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me."
- John 15:26

"However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."
- John 16:13


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« Last Edit: June 02, 2011, 05:34:51 PM by Saint Iaint »
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Offline leap of faith

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #41 on: June 04, 2011, 01:16:21 PM »
I am not only a newcomer to Holy Orthodoxy, but also a personality which has a tendency to take complex matters and simplify them in my mind.  (Perhaps sometimes to an incorrectly extreme degree.)  That being stated, I was recently discussing the feminine designation of wisdom in the book of Proverbs.  For that reason, the statement made of the Holy Spirit containing the "feminine qualities" of the Holy Trinity intrigues me. Does the Proverbial feminine tense of wosdom relate to this topic?  If so, can someone clarify this for me or suggest patristic reading material?  Thank you, in advance.

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #42 on: June 04, 2011, 01:34:14 PM »
The word for wisdom in Hebrew is feminine as is the Greek that is used.

Conflating the Holy Spirit with the "feminine" qualities of the the Trinity has caused some serious problems in Orthodoxy from my *limited* understanding. See Fr. Sergei Bulgakov for probably the most notorious extension of this line of thinking.

The Holy Wisdom of God is Christ.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Holy_Wisdom
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Sophianism

Not sure if this is helpful. Hope you find what you are looking for.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 01:34:32 PM by orthonorm »

Offline leap of faith

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Re: Gender of the Holy Spirit in English
« Reply #43 on: June 04, 2011, 03:43:15 PM »
orthonorm, thank you.  That is actually quite helpful!!  Succinct and to the point.  The links provide a clear contrast!

I also found this earlier thread: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,7676.0.html  (as always, I apologize that this laptop will sometimes not provide a live link.  It is temperamental...or, more likely, the fault is my own.)
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 03:51:06 PM by leap of faith »