Should the Spirit be called Itself or himself?

In the book of Romans chapter 8 verse 26 we are told that the Spirit makes intercession for us. 

Romans 8-26 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. KJV 

In the verse the Spirit is referred to as itself in versions of the Bible such as the KJV as just shown

However in versions such as the ESV we see the spirit referred to as himself. 

Romans 8-26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

It must also be noted that there are some versions of the Bible that read Holy Spirit in this verse

Such as the NLT



Romans 8-26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

The word Holy is not found in the Greek. This is actually interjected into the verse. The Greek simply reads αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα. The inclusion of the word Holy is not justified by the Greek text.

This is not the only verse where we see the KJV render auto itself, while other versions use himself. 

We see this in Romans 8-16 just 10 verses earlier which is actually important to answering the question of this writing.

Romans 8-26 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God KJV

Again the ESV translates this as himself. 


Romans 8-16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, ESV

Interestingly the NLT does not interject the word Holy here

Romans 8-26 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 

Despite this being the exact same Greek αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα.

The NLT does render ato as HIS spirit not himself. So we should ask whose spirit?

Which spirit is in reference here? Well we only need go back 2 verse and we will see that the “HIS spirit” is a reference to God’s spirit, the spirit of God

Romans 8- 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

So it is God’s spirit bears witness with our spirit which is in reference in verse 16. Not a separate spirit, not God the Spirit but God’s Spirit, HIS spirit, the spirit ITSELF.

Why is the rendering ITSELF correct?

Spirit is the Greek Πνεῦμα Pneuma and is in a nominative neuter form. The Spirit is non gendered. 

If we look at the word translated as itself we will see it is the Greek  αὐτὸ auto which is a personal possessive pronoun and can mean he, she, it, they, them. In verse 16 the word is in the nominative neuter form (3rd person singular) The spirit here belongs to someone which we already know via verse 14 is God’s spirit, the spirit OF God. The spirit (IT) belongs to God not is God.

So when we get to verse 26, the verse we started with, we already know which spirit is in reference, the spirit of God. It is the spirit of God not God the Spirit that makes intercession for us.

When we look at the word translated as itself in vese 26  again it is αὐτὸ auto which we know is a personal possessive pronoun and again here it is also in the nominative neuter form (3rd person singular). Again this spirit belongs to God not is God.  It is not God the Spirit. It is a spirit that is possessed by God. 

Again we see this in 1 Peter 1-11 where the spirit of Christ is referred to as IT in the KJV 

1 Peter 1-11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 

But the ESV uses HE

1 Peter 1-11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

The spirit of Christ is actually God’s spirit, which God gave him. 

John 3-34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

So God’s spirit, the same spirit which is in reference in Romans 8-16 and 8-26, testified beforehand. Not God the Spirit. So again IT is the correct translation as IT, the spirit, belongs to God, it is the possession of God not is God.

Itself not himself is the correct translation in verse 26 just as it is in verse 16  based on the Greek and what is being referenced.