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Breath; Breathe; Breathing

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 Genesis 2:7; 7:22; Job 27:3, where both words occur; \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; Psalms 18:15; 146:4; Ezekiel 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 Psalms 27:12 ("such as breathe out cruelty"), from yaphach, "to breathe hard," "to snort" (compare Acts 9:1). In the New Testament "breath" (pnoe) occurs once Acts 17:25 in the plain sense of vital principle, the gift of God. "Breathed" is employed in John 20:22 of our Lord's concrete symbolism of the giving of the Spirit. In Acts 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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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'BREATH; BREATHE; BREATHING'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.