One of the ways the New World Translation (NWT) Jehovah’s Witnesses seek to undermine the Trinity is by consistently rendering the name “Holy Spirit” as inanimate “holy spirit.”
Anonymous translators from the Northwest Territories often omit the article “the”, resulting in stilted verses such as:
“That one [Jesus] baptize you with holy spirit…” (Matthew 3:11).
John the Baptist “will be filled with holy spirit even before he is born” (Luke 1:15).
Mary, the mother of Jesus, “was found pregnant with holy spirit…” (Matthew 1:18).
As James White notes in The Forgotten Trinity“Their intent is clear: The Watchtower Society denies that the Holy Spirit is a person, therefore they desire their ‘translation’ of the Bible to communicate the idea that the Holy Spirit is an ‘it’, a force or a power.”
The Watch Tower holds that the phrase “Holy Spirit” in Greek is gender neutral, and it is. But Greek genders don’t necessarily indicate personality, according to White. Inanimate things can have both masculine and feminine genders, and personal things can have neuter gender.
A better way to determine whether the “Holy Spirit” is personal or inanimate is the same way we seek to understand whether the Father and the Son are personal. In other words, does the Holy Spirit offer proof of personality? Does he speak, use personal pronouns, have a will, etc. ?
The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.
How the Spirit refers to itself
One of the clearest demonstrations of the personality of the Holy Spirit is his use of the personal pronoun in reference to himself. Two examples:
Acts 10:19-20 – “While Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Here are three men looking for you. Get up, get down and go with them without a doubt, because I sent them.
Acts 13:2 – “As they [Barnabas and Saul] worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set me apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
Notice that the Holy Spirit speaks personally to Peter as well as to the believers in the church at Antioch. He sends people to get Peter, and He calls Barnabas and Saul to missionary work. And He uses personal pronouns. They are actions of a sentient being, not of an impersonal force.
Jesus also uses personal pronouns to speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit, telling his disciples: “When the Counselor comes, he whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father – he will make testimony of me” (John 15:26).
Later, Jesus again informs his disciples: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also tell you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14).
According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit arrives, guides, discerns truth, hears and speaks, reveals future events, testifies of Jesus and glorifies him – all manifestations of personality.
The personal activities of the Spirit
In other New Testament passages we see the Holy Spirit instructing Philip (Acts 8:29); reveal future events to Agabus (Acts 21:11); and confirm our adoption into God’s family as he cries, “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:6).
We see the Spirit helping us in our weaknesses and interceding for us because He knows the thoughts of God (Rom. 8:26-27; 1 Cor. 2:10-11).
We see the Spirit ruling as He appoints overseers to shepherd God’s church (Acts 20:28).
We see the Spirit pouring out the love of God into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
We see the Spirit sharing a name (symbolic of the divine presence) with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19).
And we see the Spirit dispensing spiritual gifts to believers (1 Cor. 12:4-11).
The Spirit further demonstrates his personality because he can be blasphemed (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Eph. 4:30) and insulted (Heb. 10:29).
These and other scriptures clearly illustrate the personality of the Holy Spirit. Our Jehovah’s Witness friends should be encouraged to read the whole Bible, not just selectively sanitized NWT verses that strip the personality of the Holy Spirit from the pages He inspired.