Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New tangent

We grow up and learn concepts, which we are told are true. Truth is beauty, said Keats. Beauty, truth. 

I am looking for the soul of the urn amongst a few fragments in Greek. 

The early Christians referred to it as Sacred Breath, Holy Spirit, Breath of Life. Wind. πνεῦμα. Any way you look at it, the Holy Ghost is gender neutral. The idea that is it male is derived from various translations of John 14:26 which refer to the Holy Spirit as the "advocate"—Παράκλητος.

All Greek words are gendered; masculine, and/or feminine, and/or neuter. The word for "slave," for example, is δοῦλος. The ος ending indicates in this case that the subject noun slave is masculine. We might think that the same for Παράκλητος, except that for this particular word masculine and feminine endings are the same. In other words, a female advocate and a male advocate are both possibilities for the translation. While πνεῦμα appears after Παράκλητος, clarifying that the advocate and the spirit are synonymous, only the article, ὁ, that precedes Παράκλητος gives any indication that Jesus spoke of a male advocate or helper. The problem with the article is that it must match the noun it denotes in gender, case, and number. I realize this is flimsy evidence of my skepticism of a male Holy Spirit, but there is not a dually masculine and feminine article. The options for the nominative second declension noun articles are ὁ, ἡ, and τὁ. The author chose the masculine article, but in some translations Παράκλητος is recognized as an adjective of the neuter πνεῦμα, indicating that the Spirit is “called to one’s aid” rather than instancing gender of the advocate.

In a phallocentric world, with phallocentric language it is easy to see why reference to the Holy Ghost would favor masculinity. But I find it compelling that the many instances where the Holy Spirit is directly linked with wisdom, or σοφία, a feminine noun, that gender was cast off as inconsequential. 

In short, I don't think I agree with the modern concept of a gendered Holy Ghost. At least, I don't think there is good textual evidence, although lds.org claims ὁ is enough for them.

I chose to keep searching. What is this breath of life? Empedocles may have been on to something with his αιθέρ, or his fine matter unorganized—quintessence. And so I will pursue that in art, in poetry, in concept.

Further light. And little more σοφία to all of us.

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