Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Addressing Other Questions Pertaining to Ruach and Christian Materialism

Regarding RUACH: What makes us justified in believing that the import of RUACH in Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 12:7 is different from the import of RUACH in Psalm 104:29-30; Ecclesiastes 3:19-22, especially when Qoheleth writes that man and beast have "one spirit" and the same eventuality? My question is a linguistic rather than a theological one. I believe that we must be as objective as possible about defining words and exegeting texts. Ecclesiastes 3:19-22 is very compelling evidence that man and beast have the same RUACH or vital force. Of course, RUACH has different meanings in other contexts.

The meaning of RUACH is going to depend on the setting of the passage we're examining. Its basic denotations are "spirit, wind or breath." In Ecclesiastes 3:19-22; 12:7 and Psalm 104:29; 146:4, I believe that it denotes "life force." My understanding of "life force" is harmonious with the view presented in Insight on the Scriptures II:1025: the word "life force" refers to that energy or vitality which is active in our body's cells.

Concerning Christian materialism: Not all Christian materialists hold the same beliefs about human uniqueness. From the perspective of science, the way our brains have developed (especially the neocortex) makes us unique in terms of rationality, language, and spirituality. At the present time, I have no good reasons for attributing my spiritual appetite or my rational and sociable nature to anything but neurobiological processes. If there is something else that explains human uniqueness, it seems to go beyond the purview of empirical and naturalistic science. But you will find divergent views of materialism/physicalism among those who consider themselves Christian. And while Witnesses don't technically label themselves as "Christian materialists," I've just found that it's a convenient way to describe what I/we believe.

Finally, it's interesting to think about the role that the human body has qua identity. The Apostle Paul painstakingly outlines a position that says the body raised is not the same corpus as the body that was sown in death (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). While his inspired comments apply to those raised to immortal life in the heavens, based on what we seem to know about the resurrection of Christ and others, those resurrected in the new earth will probably have bodies that look similar to those bodies that were sown. In other words, God will not bring the same (exact) body to life that one had in this world.


Duncan said...


Duncan said...

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

Overwhelming Character.

Duncan said...


Edgar Foster said...

Good example with Psalm 139:7 since that verse uses ruach with panim. In other places, the divine spirit is equated with the breath of YHWH (Ps 33:6) or with his word. Gen 1:2 ambiguously uses ruach for the divine spirit, or was it wind hovering above the waters (like a bird)?

Later, Jehovah refers to his "spirit" in Gen 6:3. I think Insight understands the text to possibly mean a reference to God's self. In yet other verses, the ruach of YHWH is associated with hsi power.

On the other hand, the human spirit seems to mean life force, dominant mental attitude, one's disposition, breath, etc.

Edgar Foster said...

Here's an older work on ruach and related terms. I'm not vouching for his treatment of ruach, but the writer appears to seriously work with the texts.

See https://books.google.com/books?id=iTVVAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA9&dq=ruach&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjayvGyubzNAhULbj4KHV6PAlMQ6AEIRDAG#v=onepage&q=ruach&f=false

Duncan said...

מְרַחֶ֖פֶת this for the lxx is επεφέρετο at genesis 1:2. To bare down on the water, but the Hebrew term can mean flutter but also shake. Jeremiah 23:9.

If it is flutter then it does bear a similarity to Luke 3:22 but if it means that it shook the water this may have more relevance to physics.

Edgar Foster said...

The notion of "wind" (RUACH) or invisible force could be present in Gen 1:2. John Hartley (New International Biblical Commentary) further notes that the divine RUACH is depicted as a large bird of prey "hovering" over the waters in the Genesis account. Compare Deut 32:11.

Duncan said...

Lxx gives a significantly different Interpretation at Deut 32:11 as επεπόθησε διείς τας πτέρυγας αυτού . The Hebrew below and the Greek above. I have to wonder about how pnuma would be understood in Greek as it seems to be understood as something that can come from the ground as well as the sky.


But would Hellenised Jews see it this way (over or under)?

Edgar Foster said...

Here's a study on Deut. 32:11: http://www.septuagintstudies.com/home.php

In answer to your query about pneuma, I assume you're speaking of the divine ruach/pneuma coming from ground or sky. Maybe not. But the divine has to come from above, like divine wisdom, or anything else from Jehovah. Where does God's ruach ever come from the ground?