What is the Holy Spirit?

The first mention of the Hebrew ruwach in Scripture, “And the Spirit [ruwach 7307] of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2), it’s “of God” as His possession. It wasn’t a separate person flying over the water like superman! It’s the breath of God as He was blowing from His mouth across the surface of the waters. The second occurrence of ruwach, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool [ruwach 7307] of the day” (Gen 3:8), it’s the wind blowing. Other Bible versions render it, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing” (NLT), “at the time of the evening breeze” (CSB), “at the breezy time of the day” (NET), “at the breeze of the day” (YLT). It’s simply air, breath, or wind. And in its third appearance, “And the LORD said, My spirit [ruwach 7307] shall not always strive with man” (Gen 6:3). The first time it was “the Breath of God” and now “My Breath.” It’s not another person at all—it’s God’s Breath.

The Greek equivalent of ruwach is pneuma. It’s where our English “pneumonia,” “pneumology,” and “pneumatics” are derived—all involving air or breath. Furthermore, its verb form pneo means “to blow” as Jesus Himself used it, “The wind [pneuma 4151] bloweth [pneo 4154]” (Jhn 3:8). Finally, Jesus even illustrated that the Holy Spirit is breath by literally breathing on His disciples, “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151]” (Jhn 20:22).

Man is a physical being brought to life by God breathing into his nostrils, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). The Son of God became fully human and entrusted His breath back to God when He died, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit [pneuma 4151]: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost [exhaled]” (Luk 23:46). Life and death are the imparting and departing of God’s breath in man’s lungs and nostrils.

Resurrection from the dead is simply God breathing life into the body as when God breathed into Adam: “It is the spirit [pneuma 4151] that quickeneth” (Jhn 6:63); “the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2); “the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of him that raised up Jesus from the dead” (Rom 8:11); “a quickening spirit [pneuma 4151]” (1Co 15:45); “quickened by the Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (1Pe 3:18); “the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of life from God entered into them” (Rev 11:11). In fact, Paul even cited Adam’s creation when teaching about the resurrection, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7), “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit [pneuma 4151]” (1Co 15:45). Being resurrected from death to life is consistent with being made alive initially—God breathing life into us.

The Greek hagios pneuma appears about 90 times in the New Testament and should be rendered “holy breath” instead of “holy spirit.” But why is God’s breath described as hagios or holy? It’s because God’s people will be raised to eternal life by His breath and they are holy or set apart from all others. In the Exodus, God separated His people from all other people to favor them and give them eternal life: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deu 7:6).

Many times hagios is used for God’s people as holy or saints: “the saints [hagios 40] which dwelt at Lydda” (Act 9:32); “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” [hagios 40]” (Rom 1:7); “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints [hagios 40]” (Rom 15:25); “All the saints [hagios 40] salute you” (2Co 13:13). And only God’s people have His breath in their hearts: “the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of God dwell in you” (Rom 8:9); “his Spirit [pneuma 4151] that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11); “ye have received the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of adoption” (Rom 8:15); “the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151] which is in you” (1Co 6:19); “given the earnest of the Spirit [pneuma 4151] in our hearts” (2Co 1:22); “given unto us the earnest of the Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (2Co 5:5); “God hath sent forth the Spirit [pneuma 4151] of his Son into your hearts” (Gal 4:6); “ye were sealed with that holy Spirit [pneuma 4151] of promise” (Eph 1:13); “an habitation of God through the Spirit [pneuma 4151]” (Eph 2:22); “the Holy Ghost [pneuma 4151] which dwelleth in us” (2Ti 1:14); “the Spirit [pneuma 4151] which he hath given us” (1Jo 3:24).

If ruwach and pneuma—found a combined total of over 750 times in Scripture—had been consistently translated as “air,” “breath,” or “wind,” there would be no chance of mistaking it for a person. Why then are these two words consistently translated into English as “spirit,” giving the impression of a personal being? It’s because the Trinity is a false view of God that Trinitarian ministers, scholars, and theologians want people to embrace.