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Volume 19 - Page 137 of 154 Index | Zoom | |
Are "spirit" and "breath" synonymous?
pp. 101 - 104
Two words, the one Hebrew, ruach, and the other Greek, pneuma, are translated both
"spirit" and "breath". It will be seen therefore that the answer to the above question
receives at least a partial answer. Ruach most certainly does mean "breath", but the
question to which we seek an answer is not whether ruach ever means "breath", but
whether it is true that it never means anything else. In other words, where the A.V.
(in 232 cases) translates the word ruach by "spirit", we should understand simply the
meaning "breath"? There is only one way to discover the true answer, and that is
patiently to search the Scriptures in a spirit of prayerful submission to the Holy Word.
The first occurrence of the word is that of Gen. 1: 2: "And the Spirit of God moved
upon the face of the waters." Can we limit the word here to "breath" or "wind"? A
superficially parallel passage may be found in Gen. 8: 1, where we read: "And God
made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged." But we must search more
carefully before we come to a conclusion.
Consider the bearing of the following passages upon this question:--
"The Spirit (ruach) of God hath made me, and the breath (n'sjamah) of the Almighty
hath given me life" (Job 33: 4).
Here is an evident reference to Gen. 2: 7, and a recognition of its two parts:--
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground."
"The Spirit of God hath made me."
"And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life."
"And the breath of the Almighty hath given me life."
Here it is most evident that "breath" and "spirit" are not synonymous.
Again, Job says in 26: 13: "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His
hand hath formed the crooked serpent" (i.e., the constellation so called). And in
Job 27: 3, 4 he says: "All the while my breath (n'shamah) is in me, and the Spirit
(ruach) of God is in my nostrils; my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter
deceit." With this we should read Psa. 33: 6: "By the word of the Lord were the
heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath (ruach) of His mouth." By reading
these three passages together we arrive at the conclusion that the Spirit of God and the
spirit of man here are very essentially associated with speech. It is so in Job 27: 3, 4
and it may be seen by comparing Job 26: 13 with Psa. 33: 6. Turning back to
Gen. 1: and 2: we find this close association suggested in the opening verses: "The Spirit
of God moved . . . . . and God said" (Gen. 1: 2, 3).