Original Research

The Spirit of God, or is it?

Petrus J. van Dyk
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4670 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4670 | © 2017 Petrus J. van Dyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 May 2017 | Published: 29 September 2017

About the author(s)

Petrus J. van Dyk, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


When the modern reader and the ancient biblical text do not share the same cosmology, this may lead to gross misinterpretation of the text, or to a reduction in meaning. The term רוח אלהים [spirit of God] is used as an example to illustrate the possibility of such misinterpretation. It is argued that the term should be viewed as a case of polysemy (words with multiple senses, which are not trivially related to one another) and thus form a rich complex of meaning. This implies that the so-called fallacy of ‘illegitimate totality transfer’ does not apply to polysemous words, because all the senses are activated in every context. The senses of spirit, breath and wind should therefore not be viewed as alternative meanings (as one would do in the case of homonyms), but as contributing to a rich complex meaning, which makes logical sense within the magico-mythical cosmology of the Old Testament.


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Crossref Citations

1. When misinterpreting the Bible becomes a habit
Peet J. Van Dyk
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 74  issue: 4  year: 2018  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v74i4.4898