Directory | Articles | About Author
Translation & Transliteration

Ruach Studies

"The Ruach of God was hovering over the surface of the waters."
(Genesis 1:2)

"Behold, my Servant whom I uphold...I have put my Ruach upon him."
(Isaiah 42:1)

"And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him,
and he opened the scroll and found the place where it was written:
The Ruach of YHVH is upon me, because he has anointed me."

(Luke 4:17-18a; Isa 61:1)

From holy spirit to Holy Ghost
Since the Middle Ages, Christian English Bibles have contained translational and typographical biases involving the Holy Spirit. Their purpose has been to promote the idea that the "Holy Ghost" of the NT is not the "holy spirit" of the OT. The Medieval Church taught that the Holy Ghost was unknown to the Jews in ancient Israel, because he (the third member of the Trinity) was first revealed only after the resurrection of Jesus. [8 HTML pages]

Meanings and Uses of Ruach
This study of ruach in the Hebrew Bible lays foundations and set parameters for understand the use of pneuma in the New Testament. [7 PDF pages]

The Messiah and the Spirit
This table lists activities that the NT attributes to both Yeshua the Messiah and to the Holy Spirit. [4 PDF pages]

The Personhood of the Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study 
Evidence in the Hebrew Bible shows that the Spirit of God denotes the presence, activity, and or character of God himself. Some Christian authorities have seen these texts and openly say that the Holy Spirit is not clearly depicted as a divine "person" distinct from God himself and third member of the Godhead. [8 HTML pages]

Ruach in the Hebrew Scriptures
A concordance list of all the occurrences of ruach in the Tanakh. Each citation gives the rendering of the word in the Revised Standard Version and the Jewish Publication Society's Tanakh (1985). [5 PDF pages]

The Spirit before Pentecost/Acts 2: David and the Good, Holy Spirit
Studies involving the Spirit of God in the Hebrew Bible don't always look deeply into the Text. Some have a prejudice that the "spirit" in the HB (Tanakh, "Old Testament") is not the same as the "Holy Spirit" in the New Testament. This study looks at the pre-history of the Spirit's presence in the life of King David. [7 HTML pages]

Focus on and worship of the Holy Spirit has long been a phenonemon in various quarters of the Christian Church: from Roman Catholics to Protestants and charismatic sects. Attention to and adoration of the Spirit has produced spiritual effects that indicate the movement of a "Different Spirit" (2 Cor 11:4) among the people of God. [7 HTML pages]

Synonyms of Ruach (A Study in Hebrew Metaphors)
To understand why Yeshua is called Messiah, it is key to examine the Hebrew Bible word ruach. The breadth of meanings encompassed by ruach also explains the oneness between God and Yeshua, Yeshua and his disciples, and what defines a true child of God. [1 HTML + 7 PDF pages, 159k]

Who is the Shepherd in Acts: The Holy Spirit or Messiah Yeshua?
Who supervised the emergence and growth of the Messianic Community following Yeshua's resurrection? The book of Acts attributes this work to the Holy Spirit and to the Resurrected Messiah. How do we reconcile this dual leadership? [11 PDF pages]

Related Text Lists

"Holy Ghost" in the King James Version

Occurrences of "Holy Spirit" in the N.T.

Psalm 110:1 in the N.T.

Salutations & Benedictions in the N.T.


The Meanings and Uses of


Understanding the Hebrew word ruach (and its Greek counterpart pneuma) is central to understanding why Yeshua is called "Messiah" (Mashiach, Christos).

It's also important to know what Scripture teaches about "spirit," in order to discern and avoid deceptions done in the name of and by a Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. There is a counterfeit "different Spirit," "who is now working in the children of disobedience" (2 Cor 11:4; Eph 2:2).

In the Hebrew Bible the word ruach occurs 378 times. Its base meaning is "moving air" — whether in the form of breath, a breeze, or violent storm winds.

Kohlenberger & Swanson, Hebrew English Concordnace to the Old Testament (1998), p. 1461 entry #8120.

Most often in English Bibles ruach is translated either as "spirit" or "Spirit" (the difference is explained below). This is the immaterial dimension of a human being or of God. Immaterial human ghosts and angelic beings are called "spirits" (ruchot).

A few times, ruach is translated "mind" in the sense of someone's thoughts, convictions, disposition, drive, even courage. God's ruach is his soul-etched characteristics. (At the end of this introduction is a fuller list of the range of definitions.)

In about 100 places in English Bibles, the word is rendered "wind." Notice Yeshua's play on the Greek word pneuma in John 3 and the parallel in John 20:

That which is begotten of the flesh is flesh; and that which is begotten of pneuma is pneuma.... The pneuma blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is every one who is begotten of the pneuma (Jn 3:6,8).

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive holy pneuma." (Jn 20:22)

Ruach can denote divine power over the spirit world. Note the two versions of Yeshua's statement. Matthew's version seems to be an interpretation of the original metaphor recorded by Luke.

If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt 12:28)

If I cast out demons by the Finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)

In the days of Moses, the "Finger of God" obliterated the supernatural powers working through Pharoah's magicians (Exod 7:5).

[Top ]


Because the root meaning of ruach denotes moving air it's important to not always translate it "SPIRIT," which is only one possible meaning. For example, a survey of the many ways Isaiah uses ruach adds breadth to his references to the Ruach of God. This is especially true in his prophecies of the Mashiach, the one anointed with God's Ruach. (See "Ruach in the Hebrew Scriptures.)

As is common in Hebrew thought, many passages with parallel lines of thought reveal interconnected dimensions of ruach:

1) Ruach is often translated breath, and breath comes from the mouth. God's creative power is shown whenever his mouth speaks words: "God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light" (Gen 1:3).

By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the Ruach of his mouth all their host. (Psalm 33:6)

Isaiah says the future Anointed One "will slay the wicked...with the Ruach of his lips" (Isa 11:4), and Paul says Yeshua "will slay...the Lawless One...with the Pneuma of his mouth" (2 Thess 2:8).

2) Since words express one's mind, God's Ruach/Breath can denote his inner thoughts or mind. The usual Hebrew word for "mind" is lev or levav (literally "heart"), and it's often parallel to Ruach.

I shall give them one Lev and put a new Ruach within them. (Ezek 11:19)

Note how the Jewish translators of the Hebrew Bible into Greek (the Septuagint, LXX) rendered a line from Isaiah 40, and how the apostle Paul later validated their translation:

Who has directed [measured] the Ruach of the LORD? (Isa 40:13 Hebrew)
Who has known the Mind [nous] of the Lord? (Isa 40:13 LXX)
Who has known the Mind [nous] of the Lord? (Rom 11:34)

After quoting this same verse in 1 Cor 2:16a, Paul reminds his listeners that "we have the Mind of Messiah [nous Christos]" (v. 16b). Later, to the same group he affirms the wisdom of his counsel to them: "I think that I also have the pneuma of God" [on this issue] (1 Cor 7:40). Paul's interchangeable usage of Mind (nous) and Spirit (pneuma) has a bearing on his exposition on the Spirit in Romans 8.

[Top ]

3) God's Ruach/Heart/Mind could be called his resident disposition, character, or nature. This nature he wants implanted in Israel (and all human beings) to remold them, rebirth them, recreate them with his "new" character, in his image. In his "image" was the original intent (Gen 1:26).

I will give you a new Lev and put a new Ruach within you.
And I will put my Ruach within you. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

After David's great sin involving Bathsheba, he expressed his fear that God would "hide His face" from him. He was afraid the Lord would no longer look at him, hear his cries, or speak a word of forgiveness to him. (The Hebrew word for "face" is panim.) David thought God might totally withdraw his Panim and thus abandon him, or like a king, dismiss him from His court. So he begged God not to remove his Ruach, but hopefully "restore" it to him (Ps 51:10-12).

David used a rare Hebrew expression, "Holy Ruach" [ruach qodesh], * to form a parallel: God's Nature // Presence-Panim.

Renew a steadfast Ruach within me.
Do not cast me away from your Panim [presence],
And do not take your Holy Ruach from me. (Ps 51:10b-11)

* In rabbinic documents and many Messianic writings, ruach qodesh is alternately printed Ruach HaQodesh or Ruach HaKodesh or HaRuach HaKodesh. The "ha" prefix denotes the article "the." This indicates the phrase is to be rendered "the Holy Spirit." But this spelling—with the "ha" prefix—does not occur in the Hebrew Bible.

[Top ]

4) Ruach is another way of describing God's presence because when he comes invisibly near human beings and speaks to them, his Breath and spoken words convey his Presence. If you can hear someone breathing or talking to you, they are present with you. We've all experienced how someone's character or spirit fills the room and draws everyone's attention.

Where can I go from your Ruach?
Or where can I flee from your Panim? (Psalm 139:7)

5) God's Ruach or Presence is God himself. Just as a person's spirit is themself (1 Cor 2:11), God's Ruach is God. His Spirit is not another personality or being.

The Egyptians are men, and not God,
And their horses are flesh and not Ruach. (Isaiah 31:3)

God...(is)...Ruach. (Isaiah 31:3)
God is Pneuma. (John 4:24)

6) Other Synonyms of Ruach

Hand [yad]:

The LORD spoke to me with a mighty Hand. (Isa 8:11)
I was strengthened according to the Hand of the LORD my God upon me. (Ezra 7:28)

The Hand of the Lord YHVH fell on me there...
He stretched out the form of a Hand...and the Ruach lifted me up. (Ezek 8:1, 3)

David gave to his son Solomon...the plan of all that he had by the Ruach with him [David said]. "All this, the LORD made me understand in writing by his Hand upon me."
(1 Chron 28:12, 19)

Where can I go from your Ruach?
Or where can I flee from your Presence?
Even there your Hand will lead me. (Ps 139:7, 9)

Glory [kavod]:

Messiah was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father. (Rom 6:4)
The Pneuma of [God]...raised Yeshua from the dead. (Rom 8:11)

[Top ]


The word cluster Ruach/Lev/Panim is key to understanding the concept of "Messiah" (the Anointed One), in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. For God's ruach underlies the deeper meaning of biblical anointing:

[The LORD says],
Behold, my Servant, whom I uphold;
My Chosen One in whom my soul delights,
I have put my Ruach upon him;
He will bring forth justice to the Goyim [nations]. (Isa 42:1; cited in Matt 12:18)

The Ruach of the Lord God is upon me,
Because he has anointed me. (Isa 61:1a; cited by Yeshua in Luke 4:18)

It's important to raise the question of why Yeshua of Nazareth is called "Christos" 529 times (Messiah in Greek).Why so? Because to decide whether Yeshua was a messiah or the Messiah depends on how we understand his anointing with God's Holy Ruach/Pneuma.

As the Ruach-Anointed one, Yeshua often associates himself with the Spirit. Not only did he breathe forth the Ruach before his death ("Receive Holy Ruach"; John 20:22), he said the Ruach will "be" the Spirit/divine Presence in the future, after his departure. He also said he himself would be with, accompany, teach, guide his disciples.

The Spirit of Truth...will be with you forever. You know him because
he abides with you [now]. (John 14:16, 17)
I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt 28:20)

They...were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia...
The Spirit of Yeshua did not permit them [to go into Asia]. (Acts 16:6, 7)

It is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)
I myself will give you utterance and wisdom... (Luke 21:14-14)

Note: "Who is the Shepherd in Acts: The Holy Spirit or Messiah Yeshua?" [PDF]

[Top ]


A major, artificial barrier to understanding Yeshua's messiahship was created by Christian Bible translators who operated with doctrinal beliefs that don't exist in Scripture.

Medieval English theologians believed the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Holy Trinity) was unknown to the Hebrews and Jews of the Old Testament era. They believed he first appeared at the festival of Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter 2.

This belief created a dilemma for them.

For if the Third Person was unknown prior to his appearance, who or what was the Ruach mentioned in the OT? And if the Holy Spirit did not "come" until Pentecost, what Spirit came upon and anointed Yeshua at his immersion and which he spoke of in the synagogue in Luke 4?

To solve the problem and prevent conflicting interpretations, these theologians and their printers created two distinctions.

They coined the phrase "Holy Ghost" to designate the Third Person of the Trinity. John Wycliffe's version of 1380 was the first major translation to use the phrase. Later Bible editors followed his example and used "Holy Ghost" only in their NT portions, never in the OT.

Over two centuries later, the King James Version of 1611 followed the tradition and has the phrase 90x in its NT. It never uses the phrases "the Ghost," "Ghost of God," "Ghost of Jesus," or "the Ghost of your Father." Instead, we find "the Spirit of...," even though the same Greek word pneuma lies behind "ghost" and "spirit."

The traditional coined phrase "Holy Ghost" denotes an independent, coequal member of the Godhead.

The "Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit" distinction was abandoned in most English Bibles in the late 1800s, in favor of "Holy Spirit" throughout both portions (OT, NT).

Capitalization of "Spirit" in English Bibles began in the 1500s. Its use or non-use is solely the opinion of the editors. Ancient Hebrew and Greek do not have capital and small letters.

In the 1500s, Bible printers introduced the convention of capitalizing the word "Spirit" when they believed the word stood for the Third Person. If it didn't, they lower-cased "spirit." In early English versions, "Spirit" was used only in the NT.

Even today, "spirit of God/of the Lord" and "holy spirit" are found in Jewish, Catholic, and liberal Protestant translations of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. [See the article "From holy spirit to Holy Ghost".]

[Top ]


Distinguishing the biblical data from later Christian interpretations helps to clarify what the Bible means for us to understand about the Spirit of God and of Yeshua.

As mentioned above, we want to know why the NT emphasizes over and over that Yeshua is the Anointed (529x) — anointed with God's Ruach/Pneuma. Does this mean he was anointed with the Third Person of the Godhead or with God's own Spirit, as defined as his power, mind, heart, nature?

Another question is why God the Father is called "father," if the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit (the Third Person) is the actual father of Yeshua, according to the NT writers (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:35).

Another question arising from the Text is why the Holy Spirit is never prayed to or worshiped by Yeshua himself or his Jewish followers, or by the angels and martyrs in the heavenly court. On this point, early Christian creeds conflict with the Bible.

"We the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-giver, that proceeds from the Father, who with Father and Son is worshipped together and glorified together."
[Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, mid-to-late 300s AD]

[Top ]


Concordance and Lexical Data

Related to God, we find: ruach YHVH (spirit/Spirit of the LORD); ruach elohim (spirit or Spirit of God); ruach qodesh (holy spirit/Spirit); ruach tovah (good spirit/Spirit). The phrase "(the) Spirit" with no modifiers occurs some 76x.

ruach elohim [13x]: Gen 1:2; 41:38; Exod 31:3; Num 24:2; 1Sam 10:10; 11:6; 19:20, 23; Ezek 11:24; Ps 106:33; Job 33:4; 2Chron 15:1; 24:20

ruach YHVH [26x]: Jud 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1Sam 10:6; 16:13, 14; 19:20; 2Sam 23:2; 1Kgs 18:12; 22:24; 2Kgs 2:16; Isa 11:2; 40:7, 13; 59:19; [61:1 Adonai YHVH]; 63:14; Ezek 11:5; 37:1; Micah 2:7; 3:8; 2Chron 18:23; 20:14

ruach qodesh [3x]: Isa 63:10, 11; Ps 51:13 (Eng. v. 11)

ruach tovah [2x]: Ps 143:10; Neh 9:20

Ruach also denotes other entities:

angelic beings ["spirits"]: Jud 9:23; 1 Sam 16:14-16, 23; 1 Kgs 22:21-24; 2 Kgs 19:7; Job 4:15

ghosts of dead people: 1 Sam 28:8, 13; Isa 14:9; 26:14, 19

[Top ]

Ruach is defined in the following Hebrew lexicons:

Brown-Driver-Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (pages 924-26):breath; wind (kinds of winds, quarters or directions of heaven); spirit (temper, disposition, vivacity, vigour, courage, impatience, etc.); seat of emotion (desire, sorrow, trouble); the will (=lev, heart); spirit of God (activity in inspiring prophets, the ancient angel of the presence and later Shekina, divine presence).

William Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (pages 334-35): air in motion, blowing; wind, what is empty or transitory, spirit, mind; breath; directions; spirit of man; mind, disposition, temper; spirit of God.

Samuel Tregelles, Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (pages 760-61): spirit, breath, air in motion, breeze, wind; direction or quarter of heaven; life, the vital principle; animus, rational mind, seat of affections; disposition (thinking), will and counsel, intellect; Spirit of God, Holy Spirit, divine Spirit: peculiar endowments of mind.

Alexander Harkavy, Students' Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament (pages 661-62): air; wind, breeze; vanity; side, quarter (of heavens); breath; vital breath (spirit, life); spirit (versus flesh, invisible power of God, of inspired prophets); mind, purpose; courage.

[Top ]

Directory | Articles | Explanation | Monotheism | Author
Translation & Transliteration