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I.     The Hebrew's beliefs about the nature of God's Ruah

          What Catholic scripture scholars explain about the Old Testament understanding of Ruah

The Jerome Biblical Commentary, a commentary uniquely prefered for scripture study by the Roman Catholic Church, has for many years been one of the fundamental references for scripture scholarship in the English language. The quoted commentary texts and article numbers cited on these web pages are from the Jerome Biblical Commentary, © 1968 by Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Though subsequent editions exist, the references and article numbers cited here are from the 1968 edition.

Humanity's first recorded encounter with God's Ruah is found in the first of the Five Books of Moses at Genesis 2:7,  "the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life (Ruah), and so man became a living being." [1]

We turn to the contributing authors of the JBC for insight into the Hebrew understanding of Ruah. John L. Mc Kenzie in the Jerome Biblical Commentary concerning "Aspects of Old Testament Thought"; (JBC 77:33-34; The Spirit of God) writes, "In the Old Testament the spirit is not a personal being. It is a principle of action, not a subject.  It belongs to Yahweh alone; it is communicated to living beings, but it never becomes part of the structure of the living being in such a way that the living being possess the spirit as its own. The breath of Yahweh is the principle of breath and of life for all living beings; they survive by the communication of his spirit." [2]   This thought appears in a number of passages (Gn 2:7; 6:17; 7:15; Jb 33:4; Eccl 3:19,21).  The breath of life is communicated by inspiration (Gn 2:7), and the living being dies when Yahweh takes away his spirit (Ps 104:20), which then returns to Yahweh (Eccl 12:7). [5] (39) "The tremendous development of the idea of spirit in the New Testament flows easily from the conception of the spirit as the vivifying and energizing power of God in the messianic fullness.  In the New Testament all the lines of development of the idea that we see in the Old Testament are brought together in the revelation of the personal reality of the Spirit."

Philip J. King, in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, (JBC 17:17 Indictment of False Prophets) writes, "The ancient Israelite looked upon breath and wind as powerful forces. Ruah came to be regarded as the life principle.  The spirit of God is not distinct from God;  it is the power by which he intervenes in the life of man."  [3]

Further, from the Jerome Biblical Commentary, Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm. (Psalms JBC 35:120 Ps.104) writes, "..God keeps creatures alive by his creative breath (ruah)...  God breathes and creatures live; when he stops breathing, they die. [4] ...underlines the Hebrew concept of the world as a continuing event, a continuous creation ...".  Note: "5.)" follows "2.)" above.

Thus from these five items what can be said about the nature
of Ruah as the Breath of God?

[1] God directing His breath into Adam's body is the ainima that brings Adam to life. [2]&[3] Ruah in the Old Testament as spirit is not a personal being, but a principle of action. It is uniquely remains a part of God alone, but is communicated to living beings. The breath of God is the principle of breath and life for all living beings - they survive through God communicating His spirit. [4]&[5] God keeps creatures alive by His creative breath (ruah). God breathes and creatures live - when He stops breathing, they die. When they die God takes away His Spirit, which returns to God.

Thus if taken literally, Ruah is God's "anima vita", anima of life,
that is inspired into each of His living creatures as breath;
and while present, enables each creature to live.
When exspired as breath, ruah does not dissipate,
but ultimately returns back to God.


Notice
the words "inspire" and "exspire" in reference to "respiration". Whereas the words "inhale" and "exhale" are familiarly used to refer to the in and out flow uniquely of O2, CO2, and H2O vapor; the use of "inspire" and "exspire" have an added inclusiveness, and a pleasing ambiguity, of something more happening in respiration than what can be only seen or physically measured.

          Pause a moment to ponder these implications, then please continue to:

          II.    Does this nature of God's Ruah appear to remain valid today?  
                      The Hebrew's understanding of God's Breath is embraced in the writings of Pope John Paul II


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