May 17, 2015


The idea of breathing reminded me of the basic use of breath in the Bible. Remarkably, one original word in both Old and New Testaments is translated breath, wind, or spirit. The Hebrew ruach and the Greek, pneuma, both translate to these three words, the specific meaning depending on context.

However, difficulty in finding the intended meaning in each case is highlighted in both testaments. In both Ezekiel 37—the Valley of Dry Bones—and John 3—Jesus’ discourse on spiritual birth, the overlap of meaning comes through pun style.

Ezekiel 37, uses the word ruach eight times in the first fourteen verses, both for breath and Spirit. Even a cursory reading shows that the translator could have used Spirit for breath in most locations, that is, the breath of God in this instance could equally be His Spirit.

By way of contrast, Genesis 2:7, uses a different Hebrew word, mappah, for breath. This gives the sense God forced breath into the nostrils of the first man providing basic existence, a breathing life all humans share. But in other Scriptures, the same word also means forcing breath out, or loss of life, showing the original existence is temporary.

Like the Ezekiel passage, John 3 invites us to share in a life-giving breath that is permanent. Verses 6–8 translate wind and Spirit from the same root, pneuma. Verse 8 signifies human reasoning can neither understand nor obtain this new life. It is a gift of the Spirit of God.

This revelation colours dramatically what I understand should be the breathings of my heart. Whatever passion our natural life may inspire, it is temporary, but breathing in the Spirit of God as we write will provide the seeds of immortal life as we breathe it out.

As we hear Him, from the Word, or His Spirit’s still small voice, the breathing our hearts will be the breathing of His heart within us. We will find no greater resource for our words to penetrate this life and the next.


  1. thank you for this informative and inspiring post. I love the way you tied the word lesson to your own writing story

  2. "...the Spirit of God as we write will provide the seeds of immortal life as we breathe it out." I often feel inadequate because I don't have an educational base to support my understanding of the Bible. But then someone like you, Bryan, explains something like this in a way I can understand, and I do feel adequate, enough to trust that God will use my writing as he breathes in me and through. Thanks for the affirmation for all of us!

  3. Oh I loved this post Bryan!! Thank you for researching the meaning of the word. It is such a good reminder for me to breathe in Christ and then allow His breath, and Spirit, to give life through my words as I breathe Him out. I like your last line too - we absolutely need His breath and we are foolish to think we can do it in any other way. Thank you Bryan.

  4. Thanks for turning us all back to God's breathings and the breath of the Holy Spirit. Beautiful.

  5. What you are saying is powerful, Bryan, and such a good reminder. Thank you for your instructive blog that takes us deeper in our thinking about the breath or Spirit of God. I read your post quickly the other day, but I came back to read it again, going to the scriptures you mentioned, and reading it more prayerfully. Thanks for this writing. I closed my devotional session by listening to a YouTube rendition of "Breathe on My, Breath of God." May God continue to bless your writing, Bryan.

  6. I like knowing the meanings of the words, thanks for an interesting and inspiring post, Bryan!


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