Gender of the Holy Spirit
Off the Wall, August 17
, 2012

When Pittsburgh resident Sandy Ozanich emailed me sharing a poem she had written about the Holy Spirit, I had never seen the third person of the Trinity referred to as She. I guess I just assumed that She was a He, if you get my drift. On the other hand, maybe there was no gender and the Spirit is neutral. It definitely set my wheels turning, and I jumped into action right away and did what was common, sent out a survey among those in my address book. I have never gotten such a response as I did here.

Following are some of the responses I received:

“God is both male and female, made humans male and female (physically and emotionally) for a purpose. The Holy Spirit seems to demonstrate the female characteristics.”

“Male, but scripture does refer to the Spirit of God in female terms in Proverbs (Chapter 8, verse 22).”

“Although I know the Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Trinity, I too, never thought of gender.”

I have written and read many poems throughout my journey through life. When Sandy shared me her poem concerning the Holy Spirit, I could sense immediately what she felt. In it, titled “My Companion,” she writes, “The Spirit of the Living God is a dear sweet friend of mine. She helps me with my human-ness and shows me the Divine.” I fell in love with the poem, but stopped dead in my tracks when the Holy Spirit was referred to as “She.” As long as I have been a Christian, I had never heard of the third person of the Trinity as being a “She.” Then when someone emailed the fact that the Holy Spirit was mentioned in Proverbs as “She,” I had to wonder why I hadn’t been taught this earlier.

Second verse – “We’ve traveled oh so many roads along my journey home, And if I wander off the path, she’s with me as I roam.” Third – “A gentle nudge is what She gives if I should stray too far. Some people call her conscience, but, I know who you are!”

I could go on and on, for every line is right on, yet I have to leave out so much of the verses I wish I could share with you. By the way, her poem is copyrighted 2012.

The greater majority of those who returned emails chose neither male or female as to gender, but neutral. Next came male, and the least amount chose female. There was no question as to the Roman Catholic Church’s conclusion on the subject as sent to me by one knowledgeable emailer who found the answer in the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, numbers 253-254. It reads: “Though the three Divine Persons are distinct from one another, God is nonetheless one. Although God ‘transcends the distinctions between the sexes,’ He has revealed Himself as Father. Since the Holy Spirit reveals the Father, as well as the Son (masculine) and the three persons are one God, the Church also refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘He.’ At no time has the Church referred to the Holy Spirit as ‘She’ when speaking of the person of the Holy Spirit.”

The writers of the Catechism continued by stating, “Sometimes people will make arguments from scripture that the Holy Spirit should be addressed as ‘She’ based on the fact that some of the descriptions of the Holy Spirit are grammatically feminine in the original Biblical languages. This argument however carries very little weight. Any expert in languages will tell you that grammatical gender has no direct correlation to masculinity or femininity of the thing that the word represents.”

It continues, “For instance, the Hebrew word for army is tsavah which is feminine – though the ancient armies were comprised entirely of men. Moreover, the Hebrew word for spirit, ruach is feminine but the New Testament Greek equivalent pneuma is neuter. Jesus’ description of the spirit as ‘paraclete’ uses the Greek work parakletos which means advocate or lawyer; this word is masculine. Even if one insists on connecting grammatical gender to personal gender, the evidence simply does not support any conclusion about the gender of the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, the Catechism states, “There is however scriptural support for identifying the Holy Spirit as ‘He’ based not on the gender of nouns which are fixed by the norms of the language, but rather based on the pronouns which vary according to the gender of the noun represented. Christians ought not to refer to the Holy Spirit as ‘She’ since this is neither the way the Bible reveals the Spirit nor is it the way the Church speaks of Him.”

Keep writing those poems, Sue. Your closeness to God has been revealed through your wonderful writings. May He continue to bless you in the many years to come.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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