WHICH BELONGS IN ROMANS 8:16 AND ROMANS 8:26 IN THE KING JAMES BIBLE—“THE SPIRIT ITSELF” OR “THE SPIRIT HIMSELF?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Notice the following verses as they appear in the Authorized Version King James Bible. Romans 8:16 reads: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:….” And, verse 26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Textual critics and their followers fault the King James Bible because it uses the pronoun “itself” when referring to God the Holy Spirit. As you can see, it was surely not a mistake because the word appears twice. Why did our 1611 translators use this pronoun instead of employing the term “Himself?” Did they not regard the Holy Spirit as a Person? Were they denying the Deity of the Holy Spirit? Let us investigate!
Usually, when people criticize the King James Bible and offer some “better translation” or “better reading,” they are not qualified to make such a determination. I know because I used to be one of those people. Ignorant of Bible history, ignorant of Bible languages, and ignorant of sound Bible doctrine, I too was a detractor of the King James Bible. What caused me to change my position?
Firstly, instead of questioning my Bible, I decided to quit playing the hypocrite. If I claimed to be a “Bible believer” then I had better believe the Bible. I stopped being a Bible doubter and turned into a Bible believer. Do not misunderstand me; I had trusted Jesus Christ alone as my personal Saviour many years earlier. However, during that time, I had been taught that the King James Bible had mistakes and that I could not trust it 100 percent. Nevertheless, one day, I determined that if the King James Bible was trustworthy enough for me to depend on its Gospel of Grace as means of my getting into Heaven, then surely the rest of it was also true and worthy of my faith. If I could rely on its testimony for the major issue (justification unto eternal life), then why not believe the rest of its words?
Secondly, I quit repeating what others said about the Bible versions issue and started doing firsthand research for many years. I read up on world history, church history, and Bible history. I compared various Bible versions (in English and Greek). The more I studied, the more I realized the less I had been told all those years prior. While many had downplayed it as petty, I came to understand the Bible versions issue to be one of the most important matters in life. After justification and salvation unto eternal life in Christ, the Bible versions debate is the second most critical issue. The third is dispensational Bible study (which time and space, unfortunately, do not allow us to discuss here).
Now, we reread Romans 8:16: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:….” And, verse 26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The King James Bible is criticized for having “the Spirit itself… the Spirit itself” since nearly all modern English versions say “the Spirit Himself…. the Spirit Himself” (including the New King James Version). To avoid controversy altogether, some versions will say “that very Spirit,” “the same Spirit,” or “God’s Spirit.” (Cleverly, they use neither “itself” nor “himself.”)
Notice the following classic anti-KJV rant as it pertains to this issue: “The King James translators did not believe in the personality of the Holy Spirit. They called Him an ‘it.’ The word should be ‘Himself’ rather than ‘itself!’ The Holy Spirit is a ‘Him’ and not an ‘it!’” Some have even gone so far as to change the King James text when reading it aloud. One Bible commentator, for example, when writing about Romans 8:16, actually removed “itself” entirely and replaced it with a bracketed “Himself.” This is not an isolated incident. Many do it, which only further plays into the confusion.
The above careless handling of the Scriptures is the result of nothing more than laziness on the faultfinder’s part. He likely does not view this as an opportunity to make the truth clearer; he, in his sinful mind, sees it as a chance to sit in judgment of God’s Holy Word and take its place as the final authority. After all, the man has been taught to have an anti-King-James-Bible position at his seminary, Bible College, university, local church, Bible class, and so on. He has learned from so many that the King James Bible and its underlying Greek text is “marred with mistakes.” This brainwashing has caused him to imagine an error everywhere he looks in the Authorized Version. God needs his education to “fix” or “improve” the Bible. He cannot turn one page of the Authorized Version without making that damnable critical remark, “This is a poor translation… the ‘oldest and best’ manuscripts read, blah, blah, blah….” It is sad, but it is true. Long ago, I was there, my friends. Never do I want to return to such pathetic spiritual ignorance!
When a preacher or theologian complains “itself” should be “Himself,” the average Bible reader automatically shouts, “Amen!” After all, the speaker went to seminary for many years. They should be able to tell us “just what God meant in His Word,” right? Well, just remember, not everyone who stands in the pulpit with a Bible is a servant of the God of the Bible. Not everyone who names the name of Jesus Christ is a servant of Jesus Christ. Not everyone who reads Greek and Hebrew believes the Bible text in Greek and Hebrew! (The same could be said of English-speaking people and the English Bible!) No one will bother to research why “itself” appears where it does in the Bible text… but we will. We want answers, and we are determined to find them!
So, why did our 1611 translators write “itself” twice? Here is how the Textus Receptus, the Greek text underlying the King James Bible New Testament, reads at the problematic points of Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26:
Greek — Aὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα … αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα
Transliteration — auto to pneuma … auto to pneuma
Translation — itself the Spirit … itself the Spirit
“Auto” must be rendered “itself” and not “himself” because “spirit” is a neuter noun (neither masculine nor feminine). You cannot have a male emphatic pronoun (“himself”) modify the neuter noun “pneuma,” and neither can you have a female emphatic pronoun (“herself”) modify the neuter pronoun “pneuma.” To be faithful to the Greek language of the New Testament, you must translate it as, “the Spirit itself.” (Since English and Greek are structured differently, we have to rearrange the words for the English to make sense—“itself the Spirit” in the Greek order is correctly read in English as, “the Spirit itself.”) The King James Bible is true to Greek here; you cannot say this about modern English versions. Contemporary translators altered the Bible text just to make it easy reading; of course, they did violence to Scripture in not adequately carrying the Greek thought.
The Holy Spirit is certainly a Person, but we do not need to violate the Greek Bible in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 to prove it. For example, the Holy Spirit is said to be God in Acts 5:3-4. The Holy Spirit has the ability to know information and teach with words, so He must be a Person rather than some inanimate force (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The Holy Spirit is said to “dwell,” or live, within the Christian that is His “temple” (2 Timothy 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit can speak and warn, as 1 Timothy 4:1 and Acts 28:25 say. The Holy Spirit can be “grieved,” or saddened, which certainly means He is a Person because only a rational Being has emotions (Ephesians 4:30). We could go on and on with dozens of other verses, but these are enough to prove that the King James Bible translators believed in the Deity and Person of the Holy Spirit. They were also superb Greek, Hebrew, and English scholars. Above all, they let that Holy Spirit use them in a mighty way. Now, we can benefit because we have their Holy Bible. Beloved, may we never get that critical, ungrateful, conceited, pessimistic attitude that so many anti-KJV people suffer from today.
Dear friends, we see that our King James Bible translators had a valid linguistic reason for handling Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 the way they did. They are unfairly criticized here (as in numerous other places).
“Spirit” in Greek (pneuma) is neuter, without gender; “itself” (auto) also being genderless, is the proper pronoun to modify “Spirit.” “Spirit itself”—not “Spirit Himself”—is the correct reading in both verses. There is no mistranslation… except in the modern versions! The next time you hear someone complaining about “the Spirit itself” in the King James Bible as being wrong, just remember to write that individual off as ill-informed. Maybe they just do not know any better; or, perhaps they are willfully ignorant. Whatever the case, they are wrong. They do not have a clue about how the Greek language works and how our 1611 translators knew the Greek language more than they and all their “theological heroes” will ever know.
Here is indisputable proof of how English-speaking people have been trained to attack our King James Bible, the English Bible, in extremely unfair ways. May we guard against the Adversary’s subtle attacks of always trying to question God’s Word (Genesis 3:1)!
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