This simple equation, the spirit of God = the finger of God, marvelously supports what we have already found, that the spirit is the means by which God acts, much like a body. I interact with the world through my body. God interacts with the world through His spirit—like a finger. All of what Christ was able to do was a result of the anointing of God’s spirit given to him without measure:

“For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the spirit without measure.” (John 3.34).

“You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the holy spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10.38).

We conclude, that in the synoptic Gospels, there has been no change in how the holy spirit is spoken about from what we have already seen in the Hebrew Scriptures.[11] Jesus saw himself as a man who was inspired by the spirit of God to speak and perform miracles and healings just like the prophets of old.

The Spirit in John 14-16

In the first portion of the Gospel of John, the holy spirit is spoken of as something descending from heaven to remain upon Jesus (John 1.32-33), as a medium into (or through) which one must be born (John 3.5), as an enablement for Christ to speak the words of God (John 3.34), as a medium through which one may worship the Father (John 4.23), as the essential nature of God (John 4.24), as a life giver (John 6.63), and as something to be received by the disciples (John 7.39).

It is clear from these examples that the essential character and functionality of God’s spirit had not changed. However, the claim that John 7.39 makes seems to contradict everything we have discovered by saying “that the spirit was not yet given.”

“But this he spoke of the spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for the spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7.39)

Obviously, the spirit had been given in OT times, to Jesus, and to the disciples who were able to go out performing miracles and healing people. Nonetheless, there must be some essential difference between the spirit that we have described up to this point in our inquiry and that, which is described in detail in chapters 14, 15, and 16 of John in order to warrant the phrase “the spirit was not yet given.”

Our Lord explained the coming presence of the parakletos[12] (paraklete, comforter, helper, advocate). The chain of events would be {1} the disciple demonstrates love for Jesus by keeping his commandments (John 14.15) {2} Jesus will ask the Father to send the paraklete (John 14.16; 15.26; 16.7) {3} the paraklete will be sent in Jesus’ name to abide in the believer forever (John 14.16, 26). The paraklete is “the spirit of truth” (John 14.17), which will teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Jesus has said (John 14.26), testify about Jesus (John 15.26), be more advantageous to the saint than the presence of Christ on earth (John 16.7), convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16.8-11), guide them into all truth by speaking only what “he” hears (John 16.13), and disclose Christ to the disciple (John 16.14-15).

  • – Excursus: What about those Personal Pronouns? – 

Nearly all modern translations have adopted the standard of using personal pronouns in reference to the holy spirit. However, the word “spirit” is neuter in Greek and when pronouns are used in reference to spirit, they should have been translated without gender as the KJV does. Although it is often the case that masculine and feminine Greek pronouns are translated in English as “it” or “which,” neuter words in Greek are virtually never translated into English using personal pronouns except when referring to the spirit. Immediately this should grab our attention as a potential area of bias in translation.

“Now it turns out that both “masculine” and “feminine” Greek nouns can be used for impersonal things as well as persons. But “neuter” nouns are used only for impersonal things, such as objects, animals, forces, abstract principles, and so on. The same holds true for “masculine,” “feminine,” and “neuter” pronouns…But even though the “personal” category is larger in Greek than in English, the “Holy Spirit” is referred to by a “neuter” noun in Greek. Consequently, it is never spoken of with personal pronouns in Greek. It is a “which,” not a “who.” It is an “it,” not a “he.” This is the case, then, where the importance of the principle of following primary, ordinary, generally recognized meaning of the Greek when translating becomes clear. To take a word that everywhere else would be translated “which” or “that,” and arbitrarily change it to “who” or “whom” when it happens to be used of “the holy spirit,” is a kind of special pleading. In other words, it is a biased way to translate. And because this arbitrary change cannot be justified linguistically, it is also inaccurate.”[13]

However, there is also another issue that requires examination—the word translated “comforter” or “helper” is masculine in Greek. However, grammatical gender is entirely different from sexual gender. For example, in Greek, the word “city” is feminine and the word “treasure” is masculine. As a result, when the NT refers to a city, feminine pronouns are used and when treasure is represented by pronouns, masculine ones are used. How does this translate into English?

Example of feminine pronoun being translated as neuter: “When he approached, he saw the city [feminine] and wept over it [feminine]” (Luke 19.41). The word translated into English “it” is literally the Greek word for “her.” Yet, the translators still used an impersonal pronoun because that is how English works.

Example of masculine pronoun being translated as neuter: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure [masculine] hidden in the field, which [masculine] a man found…” (Matthew 13.44). Why isn’t the word “which” translated “who” if it is masculine? Because in English we never designate non-persons with masculine and feminine pronouns.[14]

Thus, a word’s grammatical gender does not (in most cases) imply sexual gender.[15] If it did, then one would be quite confused about the gender of the holy spirit. In Hebrew ruach is feminine, in Greek pneuma is neuter and parakletos is masculine. Thus if grammatical gender implied sexual gender, what pronouns should we use: “she,” “it,” or “he?” The only way to determine how to translate the pronouns is based on the belief of the translator concerning whether or not the word in question is a person. This process works fine in most cases except when the theological bias of translators dictates personhood. In these cases (“word” in John 1.1-3 and “holy spirit” throughout the NT), the translators over literalize the grammatical gender by breaking their own consistency and then do not even leave a footnote. Then, students of the Scriptures see that masculine pronouns are used in reference to the spirit (along with capitalization—an equally biased invention) and then claim because of this that the spirit is a person. This is circular reasoning.

The word “spirit” is neuter, therefore the pronouns referring to “spirit” should be translated accordingly as “it,” “which,” etc. If modern translators followed this standard there would be little question about the holy spirit. At least until the reader gets to John 14.16 in which the word “helper” is masculine and may thus be referred to in that verse by a masculine pronoun (although we have already stated that this is not necessary). The determining question (as to whether we use masculine or neuter pronouns) “is the paraklete a person?” needs to be answered based on the context.

“…He will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever; that is the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive…” (John 14.16-17).

“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the helper, the holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name…” (John 14.25-26).

“When the helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father , that is the spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me,” (John 15.26).

“I have more things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” (John 16.13).

The helper is the holy spirit (or spirit of truth). We have already noted that the word translated “spirit” pneuma is neuter, therefore, it is not a person. Furthermore, if in the other 65 books of the Bible the spirit is not a person (and the helper is equated to the spirit) then we must conclude that the helper (although represented by a masculine noun and masculine pronouns) should also be translated without gender. The only reasonable exception would be if personification is in use.[16]

– End of Excursus – Back to John 7:39 –

So, the comforter is no more a person than the spirit of truth, but what is being taught here that warrants the claim made by John 7.39? Some interesting language switches that occur in the last supper teaching deserve our attention. In some places Jesus tells them that he will send the paraklete in others he says, “I will come to you,” note below: (You will also note this translations inappropriate use of masculine pronouns for the spirit in the first group of examples.)

Texts in which the paraklete will come

“He will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever – John 14:16
“the helper, the holy spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you” – John 14:26
“when the helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father…” – John 15:26
“if I do not go away the helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” – John 16:7
“when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” – John 16:13

Texts in which Jesus will come

“I will come again and receive you to myself” – John 14:3
“I will come to you” – John 14:18
“you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” – John 14:17
“he who loves me…I will love him and will disclose myself to him” – John 14:21
“if anyone loves me, he will keep my word…and we will come to him and make our abode with him” – John 14:23
“I go away, and I will come to you” – John 14:28
“‘a little while, and you will see me;’ and, ‘because I go to the Father’” – John 16:17


[11] A possible exception could be the foreshadowing demonstrated by interchanging the spirit (Mark 13.11) for Jesus himself (Luke 21.14-15).

[12] parakletos is found some 5 times in the NT (John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7; 1 John 2.1).

[13] Jason David BeDuhn, Truth in Translation ©2003, University Press of America, page 140.

[14] That is, unless a figure of speech called personification is taking place. For example, ships & cars are sometimes represented in English with female pronouns but all understand that they are impersonal objects.

[15] We have already noted that if a Greek word is neuter then it does reflect that in English the word should use impersonal pronouns.

[16] Personification would not be unusual because this technique is often used to express truth in Scripture (for example, wisdom is personified as a lady in Proverbs 8). Also, note that Jesus himself said “these things I have spoken to you in figurative language…” (John 16.25).