One problem that presents itself, in translating the New Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic into English, is that of the gender of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). English is very different from Hebrew and Aramaic. To begin with, English has three genders:
masculine, feminine, and neuter (i.e. he, she, and it). Hebrew and Aramaic have no neuter gender. In Hebrew and Aramaic everything is either a “he” or a “she”, and nothing is an “it”. Also gender plays a much more important role in Hebrew and Aramaic, than in English. In English, gender is usually only an issue when dealing with pronouns. But in Hebrew and in Aramaic, nouns and verbs are also masculine or feminine. And while there are no true adjectives in Hebrew (nouns are used as adjectives), noun modifiers must agree in gender with the noun. Now the Hebrew word RUACH (Aramaic RUCHA) is grammatically feminine, as is the phrase Ruach HaKodesh. This is matched by the role of the Ruach HaKodesh as “comforter” (John 14-16), and the identification of the “comforter”,with YHWH acting as a “mother” (Is. 66:13).
Now in English, the Ruach is often referred to as “he” or “it” as also in the Greek New Testament. However this seems very odd indeed, to the Semitic mind. Now it is very clear that the gender of the RUACH has been revised in many passages of the Aramaic, to agree with the Hellenistic concept of the Holy Spirit as being either a “he” or an “it”. Thus the pronouns used for the Ruach HaKodesh in John 14-16 in the Peshitta, are all masculine. However the hand of revision is very clear. For example, while both the Peshitta and Old Syriac have “he” in John 16:8, the Old Syriac has “she” just a few verses further down in 16:13, while the Peshitta has “he”. Moreover there are many passages in which the Peshitta itself, pairs the Ruach HaKodesh with feminine verbs and/or feminine modifiers: Mk. 1:10; John 1:32, 33; 6:63; 7:39; Acts 8:29, 39; 16:17; Proverbs 1:20, Rom. 8:9, 10, 11, 16, 26a, 26b, 1Cor. 3:16; 1Tim. 4:1; 1Pt. 1:11; 4:14 and 1Jn. 5:6. In fact the Peshitta Aramaic of Rom. 8:16, opens with:
And she the Ruach gives testimony….
While it is clear that the Ruach HaKodesh has no literal gender, it is also clear that the Ruach HaKodesh is grammatically and figuratively a “she”.
These teachings are by Christopher Fredrickson and air on several Christian radio stations as well as Lapid Judaism Radio. In Brutal Planet, Christopher discusses the ties of the New Testament with Rabbinic Judaism.
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