Is it an error to refer to the Holy Spirit as “itself”? Were the translators of the King James Bible committing a blasphemy by doing so?
This is what Doug Kutilek charges.
He is a man who has tried to make a name for himself by “taking on” the defenders of the King James Bible, and toward this end he thinks he has found all sorts of glaring “errors” in the old English Bible.
Kutilek is an expert, but not in anything of consequence. He is an expert in straining at gnats and swallowing camels. He is incredibly adept at setting up strawmen and finding red herrings. He excels at refuting Ruckmanism, all the while implying that all defenders of the KJV are Ruckmanites.
In all of this he shines, but when it comes to spiritual discernment in regard to the Bible Version issue, he has none.
“Any honest evaluation of the King James Version leads to the conclusion that it has numerous defects as a translation, some major, most minor. But of these defects, among the most serious, quite probably the worst of the lot, is its occasional use of the English pronoun ‘it’ to refer to the Holy Spirit. ... I will plainly state my opinion on the matter: I think that here the KJV comes dangerously close to blasphemy, if it does not in fact actually wander into it.”
KUTILEK VS. THE KJV: WHO SHOULD BE FOLLOW?
I will answer this, first, by observing that Doug Kutilek is not a Bible translator of renown nor a recognized Greek or Hebrew scholar, whereas the men on the august committee that gave us the King James Bible were all of that and more. For Kutilek to condemn their work in such a glib manner is like a person who paints by numbers authoritatively criticizing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. (In The Glorious History of the King James Bible we give the credentials of the KJV translators.)
It amazes me how that a man with literally no serious credentials in anything rushes in with no compunction to criticize a translation that went through such an extensive purifying process.
The KJV is not just another English version. It was a thorough revision of the Tyndale translation, which was already excellent. William Tyndale had a rare gift of translating Greek and Hebrew into simple, lovely, and forceful English, and the KJV committee left most of his work intact (e.g., nine-tenths of the First Epistle of John and five-sixths of the Epistle of Ephesians is Tyndale’s).
The KJV committee consisted of roughly 50 scholars, many of whom were incredibly gifted and knowledgeable. They were divided into six companies, and the revision went through the hands of each company. The finished product was submitted to a 12-man final-review committee composed of the two chief men from each company. By this process each part of the translation was examined at least 14 times. Further, the committee received assistance and feedback from other scholars throughout England. I am not aware of any Bible translation in history that has gone through such an extensive sifting process.
The King James Bible is an absolute masterpiece. It is a solid translation of the Hebrew and Greek and its English is peerless. It has been called “The Miracle of English Prose,” whereas the modern versions have never been called a miracle of anything.
I have about 100 books in my library that extol the excellence of the King James Bible, and that is not counting those that were written by its current defenders over the past 30 years.
In 1824 William Orme said that as a whole it has “no superior” and “has seized the spirit and copied the manner of the divine originals.” In 1850 John Dowling, famous Baptist leader and author of The History of Romanism, called the KJV “wonderful” and said that “to introduce any material alterations would be like gilding refined gold.” (Doug Kutilek is capable of doing exactly this!) In 1857 Arthur Cleveland Coxe called it “the noblest heritage of the Anglo-Saxon race” and said that “to complain of its trifling blemishes, is to complain of the sun for its spots.” In 1861 influential Presbyterian leader Joseph Philpot said the KJV translators “gave us a translation unequalled for faithfulness to the original, and yet at the same time clothed in the purest and simplest English.” In 1911 William Muir called it “a rare jewel fitly set” and said, “It has the divine touch, even in its diction.” In 1987 Gerald Hammond said that the KJV translators “have taken care to reproduce the syntactic details of the originals.”
Those are only a few examples of the testimonies and information that we have carefully documented in our book The Glorious History of the King James Bible.
I say all of that to say this: For Doug Kutilek and his buddies to boast that they can find errors so easily in the KJV is actually humorous to behold.
As to the issue of the translation of “it” in Romans 8:16 referring to the Holy Spirit, this is actually a non-issue.
IT IS A NON-ISSUE, FIRST, BECAUSE THE KJV IS AN ACCURATE TRANSLATION OF THE GREEK.
How can an accurate translation of the Greek be labeled an error? Isn’t the accuracy of a translation dependent upon how exactly and properly it translates the original language?
The phrase “the Spirit itself” is translated from the Greek “auto to pneuma.” The pronoun “auto” is correctly translated “it.” It is a neuter or genderless pronoun referring to a neuter noun. If Kutilek has a problem with that, he needs to take it up with the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who gave Paul these exact words by divine inspiration. And I would say that the Holy Spirit knows how to refer to himself in a proper manner.
In an e-mail to me dated July 21, 2008, Dr. Thomas Strouse of Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary observed: “Actually, the KJV translators had the choice to translate the Greek idiom (neuter noun and neuter pronoun) or put the Greek idiom into an English idiom ‘Spirit Himself.’ In some places, they, as well as other translations, have chosen the English idiom over the Hebrew/Greek idiom.”
The early Wycliffe translated Romans 8:16 “that Spirit.” The later Wycliffe translated it “the like Spirit.” The Tyndale, Geneva, and Bishops translated it “the same Spirit.”
All of these translations -- that, like, same, itself -- are proper.
THIS IS A NON-ISSUE, SECOND, BECAUSE THE WORD “ITSELF” IN ENGLISH DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFER TO A “THING.” IT ALSO PROPERLY REFERS TO A PERSON.
When we understand the English language properly we see that in using “itself” the KJV translators were not referring to the Holy Spirit as a non-person and there was nothing blasphemous about it. Such a charge is as ridiculous as it is ignorant.
The following is from Will Kinney:
“The Random House Webster’s College Dictionary of 1999 lists under the second definition of ‘itself’ -- ‘used to represent a PERSON or animal understood, previously mentioned, about to be mentioned, or present in the immediate context.’ Examples given are: ‘Who is it? It is John.’ Did you see the baby? Yes, isn’t it cute.’ The Webster’s 1967 Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘it’ as ‘a PERSON or animal whose gender is unknown or disregarded.’
“The Father and the Son are clearly masculine, but the Spirit is sometimes referred to as masculine and sometimes as neuter, not because He is neuter, but rather because the gender is disregarded or not taken into account in that particular context. ...
“The NASB and NIV have two interesting and parallel verses in the NEW TESTAMENT. Both Matthew 12:45 and Luke 11:26 speak of a ‘spirit that takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than ITSELF.’ Here is a case of a spiritual entity that can see, hear, speak and has a personality, yet the gender is disregarded in the NASB and NIV and is referred to as ‘itself.’ This spirit was not an inanimate object, but rather a spiritual being with a distinct personality” (Kinney, “The Spirit Itself”).
THIS IS A NON-ISSUE, THIRD, BECAUSE THE BIBLE REFERS TO THE LORD JESUS IN THE SAME WAY THAT ROMANS 8:17 REFERS TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Again we quote from Kinney:
“All Bible versions at times speak of Jesus Christ as being a thing or something neuter. In Matthew 1:20 the angel of the Lord says to Joseph, ‘fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for THAT WHICH is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.’ Notice the angel does not say ‘he,’ but ‘that which’: it is neuter both in Greek and in English. In Luke 1:35 the angel says to Mary, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also THAT HOLY THING which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’ That holy thing is neuter, yet we all know that Jesus Christ is a person, in fact, God manifest in the flesh.
“The book of 1 John opens with a reference to Jesus Christ, yet it refers to Him as a thing. ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.’ Yet Christ is not a thing, but a person. In 1 John 5:4 we are told: ‘WHATSOEVER is born of God overcometh the world.’ This is a neuter. Are we to assume that everyone who is born of God is a thing?” (Kinney, “The Spirit Itself”).
THIS IS A NON-ISSUE, FOURTH, BECAUSE THE KJV IS NOT ALONE IN TRANSLATING “AUTO” IN ROMANS 8:16 AS “ITSELF” OR “IT.”
This translation is also found in Alford, Darby, the NRSV, and Green’s Interlinear.
The fact that this translation is repeated in these versions does not prove the KJV is accurate, but it does prove that the KJV is not alone here.
Friends in Christ, beware of pompous men who have been bitten by the debilitating bug that David Otis Fuller identified as “scholarolatry.”
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