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Disclaimer: I don't know any foreign languages except Pig Latin. This is probably a dumb question, but...

In Koine, I believe "logos" is a masculine noun. Pronouns for "logos" such as Οὗτος are likewise masculine and rendered "he", etc. in English translations. Linguistically though, if the context suggested that "logos" were a thing instead of a person wouldn't it be correct to translate as "it"?

I notice for example that "pneuma", which is neuter in form is made to agree with "he" here:

Joh_16:13 Howbeit when he [ἐκεῖνος, "that one", masculine], the Spirit [neuter] of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

So I'm wondering if the pronouns referring to the "logos" in John 1:1-3 ought to be rendered "it"? Does the fact that "logos" is masculine in form mean that pronouns referring to it must also be rendered by masculine pronouns in the target language regardless of context?

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Grammatical Analysis of John 16:7, 16:8, 16:13

Using John 16:13 to demonstrate your point would not be prudent. While it may seem as though "he" in John 16:13 is referring forward to "the Spirit of truth," also in John 16:13, the Greek distal demonstrative pronoun is actually referring backward to the antecedent ὁ παράκλητος in John 16:7. John 16:8 has the same distal demonstrative pronoun, ἐκεῖνος, evidently referring back to the antecedent ὁ παράκλητος in John 16:7. The following illustration demonstrates the antecedent of the pronoun ἐκεῖνος.

John 16:7, 16:8, and 16:3, ἐκεῖνος referring to antecedent ὁ παράκλητος

Grammatical Analysis of John 1:1-3

A few pronouns occur throughout these 3 verses:

Pronouns in John 1:1-3

  1. οὗτος (John 1:2)
    • proximal demonstrative pronoun, masculine gender, singular number, nominative case
  2. αὐτοῦ (John 1:3), twice
    • 3rd person, personal pronoun, masculine or neuter gender, singular number, genitive case

Grammatical Gender v. Natural Gender

Adjectives and nouns in Greek are declined according to gender, as well as case, number, and person. All nouns in Greek are of one of three grammatical genders: masculine, neuter, or feminine.

Herbert Weir Smyth wrote,1

  1. Gender. – There are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. a. Gender strictly marks sex-distinction. But in Greek, as in German and French, many inanimate objects are regarded as masculine or feminine. Such words are said to have ‘grammatical’ gender, which is determined only by their form.

The antecedent of the proximal demonstrative pronoun οὗτος is obviously ὁ λόγος which occurs in John 1:1. The antecedent of the 3rd person personal pronoun αὐτοῦ (which occurs twice in John 1:3) is also ὁ λόγος.

Pronoun Antecedents in John 1:1–3

Although οὗτος is declined in the masculine gender, some might assume that "the word" (ὁ λόγος) is a person, but οὗτος is simply agreeing with the grammatical gender of its antecedent, ὁ λόγος, a grammatically masculine gender noun. As such, unless it is absolutely certain that ὁ λόγος is referring to an animate object with gender (e.g., a male person), then the pronouns that refer to it would be translated by the neuter gender English pronoun "it."

The Personality of ὁ λόγος

The personality of ὁ λόγος is evident when we read that ὁ λόγος was θεός. Since only Yahveh, the creator, is θεός by nature, and ὁ λόγος must be θεός by nature because everything was created by means of ὁ λόγος (which must exclude ὁ λόγος from being created since something that does not exist cannot be used as the means by which it is created), then ὁ λόγος must be Yahveh, and thus a person. Therefore, it would be permissible to translate the pronouns οὗτος and αὐτοῦ by the English masculine gender pronouns "he/him" to accord with the personality (i.e., natural gender) of ὁ λόγος.


References

Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book, 1920.

Footnotes

1 p. 45, §196

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I agree with everything about Simply a Christian's answer except for the personality of ὁ λόγος. My answer is that οὗτος should be translated "it" and that ὁ λόγος does not correspond to a person, but rather "God's divine reason".

There are a few verses that seem to indicate ὁ λόγος is a person. Rather than look at each verse in detail, I will provide links from other SE questions that sufficiently explain why this is not so.

The first is John 1:1...

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." KJV

Based on this answer, a more appropriate translation would be...

"In the beginning was the logos and the logos was with the God, and divine was the logos"

The logos was not itself God, but it is God's logos, and therefore divine.

The next is John 1:14, which says...

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." NASB

According to this answer, "became" and "dwelt" are in the past tense because the "incarnation" was a one-time event. However, if the logos is not a person, but rather a concept, then the logos becoming flesh and dwelling within us would definitely be a universal action. This verse should read...

And the logos becomes flesh and dwells within us, and we behold the glory of it, a glory as of an only begotten of a father; full of grace and truth

(Notice "only-begotten" and "father" do not have a definite article. This is a simile rather than a direct statement.)

So if the logos is a concept rather than a preexisting divine person, what does this have to do with the human Yeshua? The answer is in John 1:30...

"'This is He on behalf of (G5228 ὑπὲρ) whom (which) I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me (Greek: because before me he was).'" NASV

Yeshua came "on behalf of" the logos. He represents the divine reason because he was a perfect human being, upholding the Law and will of God in all he did.

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  • @SimplyaChristian Wallace, and those he quotes, disagrees with that. He even argues that, if θεός is to be taken as the definite "God" (under the assumption that the logos is a preexisting person), this would be modalism.
    – Cannabijoy
    May 10 '17 at 0:57
  • @SimplyaChristian "Such an option does not at all impugn the deity of Christ. Rather, it stresses that, although the person of Christ is not the person of the Father, their essence is identical. Possible translations are as follows: “What God was, the Word was” (NEB), or “the Word was divine” (a modified Moffatt). In this second translation, “divine” is acceptable only if it is a term that can be applied only to true deity. However, in modern English, we use it with reference to angels, theologians, even a meal! Thus “divine” could be misleading in an English translation....
    – Cannabijoy
    May 10 '17 at 3:34
  • ...The idea of a qualitative θεός here is that the Word had all the attributes and qualities that “the God” (of 1:1b) had. In other words, he shared the essence of the Father, though they differed in person. The construction the evangelist chose to express this idea was the most concise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father."
    – Cannabijoy
    May 10 '17 at 3:34
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Linguistically though, if the context suggested that "logos" were a thing instead of a person wouldn't it be correct to translate as "it"?

It is a misconception that a living thing or a person has to have either "he" or "she" in English, and not "it". For example, the demon or the evil spirit in Matthew 12:45 and Luke 11:26 is translated "it", in the modern English translations. All the English versions until KJV and most others until the end of 20th century, translated the Holy Spirit as neuter (which/it). See Romans 8:16, 26; 1Peter 1:11. See this article by Will Kinney, in defense of KJV using "it" for the Holy Ghost.

Rom 8:16 KJV The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God

and only a couple of modern translations follow the conventional English Grammar, such as NABRE and NTE of N. T. Wright. These are rebellious ones which go against the new English versions.

NTE: When that happens, it is the spirit itself giving supporting witness to what our own spirit is saying, that we are God’s children.

The reason why almost all English translators, both old and new ones, use "he" for the Spirit in John 14 and 16, is to maintain consistency of pronoun: masculine Helper, and neuter Spirit. The direct object is the masculine Helper, so they avoided translating Spirit as "it", because the Spirit is another name for the Helper. Except maybe a few which translated the spirit as "it", like SLT John 14:17 The Spirit of truth; which the world cannot receive, for it sees it not, neither knows: and ye know it; for it shall remain with you, and shall be in you.

NTE clarifies that the "he" in John 14:17 is for the helper, not for the spirit:

NTE: This other helper is the spirit of truth. The world can’t receive him, because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you know him, because he lives with you, and will be in you.

Grammatical gender as agreement or concord
Agreement, or concord, is a grammatical process in which certain words change their form so that values of certain grammatical categories match those of related words. Gender is one of the categories which frequently require agreement. In this case, nouns may be considered the "triggers" of the process, because they have an inherent gender, whereas related words that change their form to match the gender of the noun can be considered the "target" of these changes

In John 1:32, the dove is translated "it" in most of the versions, but only a few like the AMP, NKJV, NASB use "he" for the Spirit. The evil spirit in Matthew 12:45, Luke 11:26 and 1 Kings 22:22 is translated "he", in the old versions, because the person in the context is indicated as a demon Beelzebul (masculine) [Luke 11]. So we assume that all evil spirits are assumed as demon (masculine) by the old versions. Similarly, the context shows the Word in John 1:1-3 as a living person, namely Jesus. The translators avoided the inconsistency of neuter becoming masculine, for clarity or consistency. I am not aware of the specific explanations given for this from the translators, maybe the old Bible versions contained footnotes explaining this.

The reason why in English, the pronoun can be changed to conform to the related noun (the neuter word is masculine) is because English has very simple or weak declension. It does not require the strict declension of determiners, like article, pronouns and adjectives, to conform to the gender and case of the noun.

Declensions may apply to nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and articles to indicate number (e.g., singular, dual, plural), case (e.g., nominative case, accusative case, genitive case, dative case), gender (e.g., masculine, neuter, feminine), and a number of other grammatical categories. In Modern English, the system of declensions is so simple compared to some other languages that the term declension is rarely used.

This does not change the fact that the new English Bible versions go against the conventional grammar rules of English, in rendering the gender of personal nouns, for reasons we can only speculate. The gender of the words in Greek, in this case, is irrelevant because in translation we do not follow the grammatical gender of the original language and render it the same way in the target language. It would destroy the grammar of the target language. However, many languages wrongfully follow the new English version's grammar to make the Holy Spirit masculine, when in fact their language requires that it should be feminine. Example Urdu, Hindi, and likely all the hundreds of languages of India, and possibly many other languages of the world, which is truly a global linguistic disaster created by the Bible Societies or translation committees.

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    Interesting last paragraph. Theology always trumps accuracy...
    – David
    Oct 26 at 17:18

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