The Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2


In my review of the book Presence, Power, and Promise: The Role of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament by David G. Firth and Paul D. Wegner, I mentioned that a full review would be impossible because of the large number of essays in the book. I also said that in future posts I would discuss a few of the essays in more detail.

Today I want to discuss the first essay in the book. The essay, “Breath, wind, spirit and the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament” (pp. 25-37), was written by Richard E. Averbeck and it deals with the basic meaning of the Hebrew word rûaḥ translated as “spirit” in our English Bibles.

Averbeck mentions that the expression “Holy Spirit” appears only three times in the Old Testament: Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10 and 11. Averbeck recognizes that the literal translation of the Hebrew expression is “the Spirit of holiness.” The reason for this translation is because the two nouns are in a construct relationship in which the second noun serves as an adjective (p. 15).

In his essay, Averbeck discusses the primary meaning of the Hebrew word rûaḥ. In most places where the Hebrew word rûaḥ appears, the word is generally translated as “wind” or “breath.” On a few occasions, the context requires that the word be translated as “spirit.” However, as I will demonstrate below, the context may not be clear enough and the word can be either translated as “wind” or “spirit.”

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