Did John Use Bad Grammar to Teach the Holy Spirit’s Personality?

Prooftexting the Personality of the Holy Spirit: An Analysis of the Masculine Demonstrative Pronouns in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13–14Does the Bible present the Holy Spirit as a person, distinct from the Father and the Son? Yes.

Did John use the masculine demonstrative pronoun ἐκεῖνος (instead of the neuter ἐκεῖνο) in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13–14 to make that point?

An impressive list of people answers yes. But Andy Naselli and I argue they’re wrong in “Prooftexting the Personality of the Holy Spirit: An Analysis of the Masculine Demonstrative Pronouns in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13–14,Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 16 (2011): 65–89.

Here’s the outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Argument
  3. Adherents of the Argument
  4. A Counterargument
  5. Adherents of the Counterargument
  6. Objections to the Counterargument
  7. Conclusion

Here’s our introduction:

Sometimes well-intentioned people argue for the right thing the wrong way. Their position may be right even though at least one of their arguments is not. This seems to be the case with a popular exegetical and theological argument for the personality of the Holy Spirit. The right position is that the Holy Spirit is a person, and the fallacious argument is that the masculine demonstrative pronoun ἐκεῖνος in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13–14 proves it. Trinitarian theologians through church history have rightly defended the personality of the Spirit, and an astonishing number of defenders appeal to this argument for support.

Here’s our conclusion:

The consistent testimony of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is a person, but John’s use of ἐκεῖνος in John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13–14 has absolutely no bearing on the subject. A careful analysis of the texts in their contexts with sound principles of grammatical gender firmly in place demonstrates unequivocally that the antecedent of ἐκεῖνος is the masculine παράκλητος. The gender of the nouns and pronouns in these chapters neither supports nor challenges the doctrine of the Spirit’s personality. It is time to put this erroneous argument to rest once and for all.

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