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Romans 8:26. KJB:

"Likewise the Spir'it also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spir'it itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." [itself/auto/neuter].

Is "auto" neuter because the Spirit does not have a body and only a body can be male or female?

Romans 8:26. ESV:

"..For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

On Bible Hub 21 out of 28 versions translate "auto" as "himself", as in the ESV.

Is the KJB bringing out the meaning of the Greek when it alone out of 28 versions puts "itself" and not ""himself/Himself"? Is it correct or possible to think of the Spirit as "it"?

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  • If The Spirit is within our own spirit, influencing, then is the Person not in view but the influence ?
    – Nigel J
    Jan 4 at 17:24

2 Answers 2

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It is simpler in Greek. πνεῦμα is grammatically a neuter substantive and αὐτό is the neuter form agreeing in case, number and gender with the word it is constructed with.

In English pronouns such as "himself", "herself" or "itself" have semantic gender, that is, they are masculine, feminine or neuter.

In Greek the genders are just grammatical. they have rarely anything to do with whether or not something actually is masculine, feminine or neuter.

So when translating from Greek, where the gender is grammatical, to English, where gender is semantic, we have to make a choice. "Itself" refers to the spirit as an inanimate "it." "Himself" refers to the spirit as animate.

So the αὐτό is neuter because the noun it is constructed with, πνεῦμα, is neuter. Just mechanical grammar. No deep underlying reason.

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  • +1. If a living being e.g. angel, is not male or female, might it not be animate and "it"?
    – C. Stroud
    Jan 4 at 16:43
  • 1
    It is more a question of English than Greek. In Swedish (my present language) children are grammatically "it", but if I were to say the same thing about a child in English, I would say "he" or "she" or "him" or "her." I do notice that in Cranfield in his commentary to Romans (Vol. 1 page 423) translates "The Spirit Himself helps our weakness by interceding for us." I can't see that "The Spirit Itself ..." would add or detract. It's just English. Jan 4 at 17:01
  • Very good answer. Grammar gender is somewhat disconnected from sexual gender in Greek.
    – Dottard
    Jan 4 at 20:40
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Is "auto" neuter because the Spirit does not have a body and only a body can be male or female?

No; the pronoun auto is neuter, because the noun it substitutes, pneuma, meaning spirit, is also grammatically neuter. If you are asking whether, in Greek, physically non-gendered beings or objects are always grammatically neuter, then the answer is no.

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