Breath; Breathe; Breathing

breth, breth, breath'-ing: In the English Versions of the Bible of the Old Testament "breath" is the rendering of neshamah, and of ruach. These words differ but slightly in meaning, both signifying primarily "wind," then "breath," though the former suggests a gentler blowing, the latter often a blast. As applied to persons there is no very clear distinction between the words. Yet in general one may say that of the two neshamah is employed preferably of breath regarded physiologically: "vital breath," hence, the vital principle, "Soul (animal) life" (compare Ge 2:7; 7:22; Job 27:3, where both words occur; Isa 42:25; Da 5:23); while ruach (though it, too, sometimes signifies "vital breath") is the word generally employed where the breath is regarded physically--breath or blast as an act or force--and so is related to the will or the emotions, whence the meaning "spirit," also sometimes "thought," "purpose" (compare Job 4:9; 9:18; Ps 18:15; 146:4; Eze 37:5-6,8-9,10). The examples cited, however, and other passages reveal a lack of uniformity of usage. Yet generally ruach is the expression, neshamah, the principle, of life. Yet when employed of God they of course signify the principle, not of His own life, but of that imparted to His creatures. "Breathe" in English Versions of the Bible of the Old Testament requires no remark except at Ps 27:12 ("such as breathe out cruelty"), from yaphach, "to breathe hard," "to snort" (compare Ac 9:1). In the New Testament "breath" (pnoe) occurs once Ac 17:25 in the plain sense of vital principle, the gift of God. "Breathed" is employed in Joh 20:22 of our Lord's concrete symbolism of the giving of the Spirit. In Ac 9:1 Saul's "breathing threatening and slaughter" is literally "snorting," etc., and the nouns are partitive genitives, being the element of which he breathed.

See also SPIRIT.

J. R. Van Pelt

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