For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matt.12:37).
Pronouns. They don’t look like much. Small words, one or two syllables. In general, they’re not very noticeable. Most of us don’t think twice about the pronouns we use. And yet despite their generally unimpressive appearance, the pronouns we use are freighted with meaning.
Take one example from the New Testament. In the Greek text, the masculine pronoun “he” is consistently used to refer to the Holy Spirit. This is surprising, for in Greek, the word for spirit, “pneuma, ” is grammatically neuter. This would lead us to expect the Greek to use a neuter pronoun when referring to spirit. But the fact that the New Testament writers never refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it” but always as a “he” is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force.
A more modern example is the current battle over the third person English pronoun. Historically, English has used “he” to refer to a generic individual in the third person. But in recent times this has changed.
Take for instance the following sentence found in a training manual I’m reading for work,
In a 401(k) arrangement, an employees election to defer compensation into the plan has a direct effect on his or her current compensation: the employee is giving up a right to receive a portion of his or her current cash compensation in exchange for a plan contribution to be made for his or her benefit in the form of an elective deferral (emphasis added).
The manual from which this quote is taken is has about 800 pages, and nearly every single one of them contains a clunker of a sentence like the one above. Every single time the text requires a singular generic pronoun, the author and editor have elected to use him or her. It is painful to read.