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In John 14:26, English translations read, "He will teach you all things" or something similar, referring to the Holy Spirit with a masculine singular pronoun. Apparently the Greek word is "ekeinos", which can be neuter. What is the evidence that "he" is or is not the correct translation? Is it ambiguous, determined only by context? Are there manuscript variations that might affect the answer?

Edit:

My goal with this question is to find evidence, limited to grammar considerations, for or against the personhood of the helper or advocate Jesus promised to send.

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  • related question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/2833/36 – Bit Chaser Jun 18 '14 at 6:32
  • Since I started with a very naive understanding of how to use Greek grammar information and learned a lot, I want to add an answer that will be a good example. I will try to incorporate the information that is now only in the comments, and make it community wiki so the Greek experts are free to correct any mistakes. If it is too unwieldly, maybe we can divide it and/or link to a good "Greek grammar for Dummies" page. – Bit Chaser Jul 1 '14 at 3:28
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This is a question about elementary Greek grammar. The verse has five parts:

subject: ὁ δὲ παράκλητος, (masculine)

in apposition to the subject: τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον (neuter)

relative clause: ὃ (neuter) πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου,

reiteration of the subject by a masculine pronoun: ἐκεῖνος

predicate: ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν

The pronoun ἐκεῖνος is masculine, not neuter; it refers back to the masculine subject (ὁ δὲ παράκλητος ). As I said: elementary grammar.

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    In languages with grammatical gender, gender is not necessarily linked to sex. Inanimate nouns can be any one of the three genders. Thus it is true that you will sometimes translate ἐκεῖνος as "that thing" if it refers to an inanimate noun of masculine gender. But in this passage it refers to the Paraclete, who is a male person. – fdb Jun 18 '14 at 15:17
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    Susan, yes the neuter is ἐκεῖνο. – fdb Jun 18 '14 at 15:43
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    @disciple: Although the demonstrative is clearly masc as fdb showed, note that there is also a neuter relative pronoun here referring to the spirit (because it's a neuter word). Also note that the demonstrative, although masc, does not require a personal translation. There may be other issues at play that have prompted the translators to choose "he" vs "it". Perhaps another answer will address this. – Susan Jun 18 '14 at 15:47
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    @disciple From a grammatical basis, correct, it does not argue personhood. However, from a content basis, the verse does. It states the Spirit is sent by the Father on behalf of the Son (so is distinct from each), that the activity is to be a "comforter/helper" (παράκλητος; a very personal interaction), and is to "teach" (διδάξει), a word I believe (have not studied fully) is used exclusively with verbal communication, usually by a person (one exception is in the Martyrdom of Polycarp 4 where the "Gospel" is said to teach, but that is still a verbal message relayed by people). – ScottS Jun 18 '14 at 18:23
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    In fact, παράκλητος is originally an adjective meaning “called to one’s aid”, and as such could be used in any of the genders depending on the grammatical gender of the person or thing that has been called upon. So the author of John could very well have used the neuter form παράκλητον had he wanted to make the point that the Paraclete is an inanimate being. In this context παράκλητος is a substantivised adjective, i.e. “the male person who has been called to one’s aid; advocate; intercessor”. – fdb Jun 20 '14 at 15:33
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John 14:26: Is the grammatical evidence ambiguous, does it support "he", or does it support "it"?

A useful tool is http://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/14-26.htm, which show most of the grammatical data on a single page.

The helper (Paraklētos, N-NMS is grammatically masculine) is the subject

The [Holy] Spirit (Pneuma, N-NNS neuter) is (appositional?) clause

He [will teach] (ekeinos, DPro-NMS masculine) pronoun following long explanatory clause

"ekeinos" follows grammatical gender of "parakletos"

(not evidence of actual gender; grammatical requirement)

"parakletos" is a noun. Normally nouns have fixed gender, leaving no choice. In this case, it was originally an adjective. Grammatically, it could have been changed to "paraklete" which would make it neuter and require the pronoun "ekeine" which is neuter also.

"parakletos" is appropriate for an advocate or an attorney. It may be (?) rare in either neuter or feminine form, since attorneys are assumed to be male. It only exists in masculine form in the Bible.

At this point, we might want to ask what kind of a writer John was. He might have created the neuter word if he wanted imply that the Holy Spirit was not a person, similar to coining a new word in English. Or he might have used the word he knew, since the rules of grammar would not require personhood even when the masculine was used.

On balance, it seems there is a slight hint from the grammar that the Holy Spirit is a person, but it is far from definitive.

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What pronoun refers to the Holy Spirit in John 14:26?

John 14:26 (NASB)

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

John 14:26 (KJV)

26 "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, 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."

John 14:26 (NWT)

"But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you."

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 14:26 1881 (WHNU)

26 ο δε παρακλητος το πνευμα το αγιον ο πεμψει ο πατηρ εν τω ονοματι μου εκεινος υμας διδαξει παντα και υπομνησει υμας παντα α ειπον υμιν εγω

The comments below on grammar are taken from the book "Truth in Translation" By Jason David BeDuhn, professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University. In the book the professor examines nine major translations: KJV, NASB, NW, NIV,NRSV,NAB,TEV,AB. AND LB.

Excerpts from the book.

" In John 14:26 , Jesus says, "But the defender (parakletos)--the holy spirit, which the father will send in my name--- that one will teach you everything." Here the relative pronoun and demonstrative pronoun are involved in the sentence.

The demonstrative pronoun "that one" (ekeinos) refers back to the word "defender" (parakletos), a masculine noun meaning a defense attorney or supporter. Since Greek grammar requires gender agreement between a pronoun and the noun it refers back to, "that one" is in the masculine form, like "defender." The relative pronoun "which" refers back to the phrase "holy spirit." which as always appears in the neuter form. So, the neuter pronoun "which" (ho) is used rather than the masculine form (hos).

In accordance with these details of the verse, the KJV and the NW accurately have "which", the NASB, NIV, NRSV,AB, and TEV employ the the personal form "whom" which is deliberately goes against the neuter gender of the original Greek. Their only reason for doing so is a theological bias in favor of their own belief in a personalized "Holy Spirit."

A similarly biased choice is made with respect to the demonstrative pronoun "that one." Demonstrative have the sole function of pointing to something. In themselves they carry no information other than identifying what previously mentioned thing is being talked about again. We see an accurate literal handling of this part of Greek speech in the NW's "that one". The KJV, NASB, NAB,AB, TEV,and LB change "that one" to "he" (the NASB and AB capitalize "He"), adding a personalizing (and masculinizing) sense of the "holy spirit."

In chapter six, I already discussed case like this where the demonstrative pronoun should only be translated with "he" when the immediate context points to a specific male person as being the subject under discussion. In John 14:26 the subject under discussion is the --"neuter"--"the holy spirit." Therefore the use of the pronoun "he" is inappropriate here.----- I object to the habit of translators imposing their theology on biblical text.

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