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II.    Does this nature of God's Ruah remain valid today?

          The Hebrew's understanding of God's Breath is embraced in the writings of Pope John Paul II

"...we can say that the breath of God appears in them as the power that gives life to creatures. It appears as a profound reality of God which works deep within man. It appears as a manifestation of God's dynamism which is communicated to creatures." 
                                                                                                                       Pope John Paul II;  January 3, 1990.

CONTENTS:  IntroductionPope John Paul II - "The meaning of 'spirit' in the Old Testament" ; Pope John Paul II - "The Glory of the Trinity in the Living Human" ; Psalm 104:29-30 ; Excerpts from the Jerusalem Biblical Commentary regarding ruah as God's "anima vita" for His creatures ; The Holy Spirit, the Paracelete Author's Viewpoints and Disclaimers .

Introduction:  The Old Testament authors used the word ruah as wind, breath, and spirit to identify several aspects of God's presence.  Among all of these, one context is of particular interest here, the use of ruah to describe God's breath as an animating presence of God's Spirit, necessary for life in God's creatures.  Pope John Paul II, in two of his addresses cited below, differentiates between God's spirit as experienced by the Old Testament authors with its animating component present in all life, and "the" Holy Spirit of the New Testament, later fully manifested to the church on the day of Pentacost.  The unique understanding of ruah as an animating presence of God is also recognized in the scripture scholars' writings cited from the Jermrome Biblical Commentary (© 1968 by Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) below on this wegpage. It is historically most plausable that the ancient Hebrew's understanding of God's ruah described what the Hebrews experienced as God's vital anima for His creatures.

Pope John Paul II - "The meaning of 'spirit' in the Old Testament":  The Holy Father delivered an address on "The meaning of 'spirit' in the Old Testament" during his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Wednesday, January 3, 1990.  In this address, the Holy Father with profound insight embraces the wealth of the many realities in the meaning of ruah. This lecture was the twenty-seventh in a series of lectures on the Holy Spirit.In the conclusion of his address The Holy Father said, "One might waver between wind and breath, between breath and spirit, or between created spirit and the divine Spirit.  This multiplicity, however, has a certain wealth, for it establishes a fruitful communication between so many realities. In this regard it is better to give up in part the pretences of neat reasoning in order to embrace broader perspectives."  His Holiness observed that translations are unable to completely convey meaning to us because in translation other terms must be used.  The Holy Father pointed out that to render the Hebrew word ruah, the Greek Septuagint uses twenty-four different terms, which prevents one from seeing all of the connections between the texts of the Hebrew Bible.  Pope John Paul II concluded his address by stating that, "To end this terminological analysis of the Old Testament texts concerning ruah, we can say that the breath of God appears in them as the power that gives life to creatures. It appears as a profound reality of God which works deep within man. It appears as a manifestation of God's dynamism which is communicated to creatures."

The English translation of the Holy Father's address, published in L'Osservatore Romano of January 8, 1990, along with the other addresses in this series (Series on the Holy Spirit 1989-1991), may be found on the internet at:

Pope John Paul II - The Glory of the Trinity in the Living Human:  The Holy Father in a General Audience on June 7th, 2000 notes that:  1. "God's breath" is animatively natural to all living creatures and not just those who qualify as Judeo-Christian.  2.  That God's Spirit is not the manifestation of the Holy Spirit of Pentacost, but a "pre-announcement" of the Third Person of the Trinity.

"Every living creature is also entrusted with the breath of the Spirit of God, as the Psalmist sings: 'When you send forth your spirit, they are created' (Ps 104:30). In light of the New Testament it is possible to read these words as a pre-announcement of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. The source of our lives is, therefore, a Trinitarian presence of blessing and love."

Pope John Paul II concludes the audience with, "Let us conclude our reflections with the prayer of an Old Testament sage to the God who lives and who loves life: 'For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living. For your immortal spirit is in all things (Wis 11:24-12:1)."

The full text of this General Audience may be found at:

Continuing with Psalm 104:29-30 spoken of above:  Psalm 104 spoken of above by the Holy Father is used for the responsorial Psalm on the Sunday of Pentacost, in the Liturgical Year A Cycle of readings, in the Catholic church. Interestingly Psalm 104 is an example that demonstrates well the understanding of "ruah" attested to by the scripture scholars in the Jerome Biblical Commentary. In the New American Bible we hear, (29).."When you take away their breath they perish and return to the dust from which they came. (30) When you send forth your breath, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth."  Even more interesting is the footnote for this passage: "On one level the spirit (or wind) of God is the fall and winter rains that provide food for all creatures. On another, it is the breath (or spirit) of God that makes beings live." (New American Bible, © 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.; page 628; footnote for Psalm 104:29-30). The concept of God's breath as the anima of all of God's living is in no way a new idea, rather it is a basic premise that our Judeo-Christian faith tradition has embraced all along.  As for the Jerusalem Biblical Commentary (Psalms; JBC 35:120 Ps 104; Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm.), "..God keeps creatures alive by his creative breath (ruah)...  God breathes and creatures live; when he stops breathing, they die.  ...underlines the Hebrew concept of the world as a continuing event, a continuous creation ..."

Excerpts from the Jerusalem Biblical Commentary regarding ruah as God's "anima vita" for His creatures:

1.  "Aspects of Old Testament Thought"; (JBC 77:32-39 The Spirit of God); John L. McKenzie:   (33) "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."  (34) "The breath of Yahweh is the principle of breath and of life for all living beings;  they survive by the communication of his spirit.  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).  (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."

2.  "Isaiah 1-39"; Isaiah 11:2 (JBC 16:25 The Rule of Emmanuel); Frederick L. Moriarty, S.J.:   (25) 2. the spirit of the Lord:  It is the life-giving "breath" (ruah) that comes from Yahweh to men and endows them with extrodinary power, insight, wisdom, and other qualities enumerated in this verse."

3.  "Micah"; Micah 3:8 (JBC 17:17 Indictment of False Prophets); Philip J. King:   (17)  "spirit of the Lord: In Hebrew, ruah yhwh;  the basic meaning of ruah is "breath" or "wind."  The ancient Israeliste 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."

The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete: reconciling the Hebrew "Ruah"  רוח  and "Ruach HaKodesh" רוח הקודש , and the Greek  πνευμα  "Pneuma". Contemporarily God's "breath" and "the Holy Spirit" are both often rendered simply as "spirit".  The Old Testament authors' unique concept of "ruah" as "God's breath" is consistently translated into English as "spirit";  however, with "ruah", these Hebrew authors were not speaking uniquely of "Ruach Ha Kodesh" - "the Holy Spirit", as the Prarclete, the third person of the Holy Trinity.  Apparently it was historically necessary for the risen Christ to first ascend to God, His Father, in order for "the Holy Spirit" - "Ruach HaKodesh" - to come as the Holy Paraclete anointing the church on the day of Pentecost.  For it was Christ who pointed out that He must leave in order for "the" Spirit to come. This in no way calls into question the timless existence of the Holy Spirit, who has always existed without beginning.  Though the focus of this web page is to examine the issues and implications of ruah in the context of God's animating breath present in His creatures, it must be noted here that this "ruah", which is animating "breath" of the One God as Father, thus cannot also be without connection to the same one God in three, who is also Son and Holy Spirit ("Ruach HaKodesh").

Author's Viewpoints and Disclaimers:   The historical viewpoint and any resulting implications expressed in this web site are conclusions of the author of this web site, Daryel Nance.  Though that author's personal viewpoint may indeed be based upon the contributing authors to the "Jerome Biblical Commentary", and the writings of Pope John Paul II, as sources; the author does not imply that either of these sources would either agree, nor disagree, with the conclusions expressed here. While these concepts of ruah are developed by the author from within his Roman Catholic faith viewpoint, and in spite of every attempt to intellectually and spiritually remain totally inaccord with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, know that the contents of this web site are in no way offically endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church.

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