The Holy Spirit's role in material creation is a subject that many people are interested in, but few actually write about. People know that God created the heavens and the earth, but often forget the role of the Holy Spirit in that act.
Many people in the world today think that the Spirit is simply God's power, but that is a false assumption. The Spirit is part of the Trinity. He is a separate, yet equal, individual, but united part of God. He has all the Godly attributes such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. He is in all and above all, He is (with God the father and God the Son), the creator who was never created.
The concept of the Holy Spirit came from scripture. There is mention of the Spirit in the Old Testament, but it is not as clear as the information we have in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit is non-material, invisible, but also a giver of life. Job 33:4 says, "The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life."
There are two words in the Old Testament that are used when speaking about "breathing", "wind", and "spirit" on different occasions. The first word is "ruach" which means wind or breath. (Conner 21) This word is often translated "spirit." This is he words that points to supernatural wind, not regular, everyday weather. "Shaman", another similar word which means simply "to breath." This word is not usually translated spirit, but simply breath (Green 19). This is the common word used in common speech about a common activity all humans do. By knowing these two words, one can look throughout the Old Testament and find where it talks about the Holy Spirit and where it is just talking about someone breathing.
Michael Green says that there are only four places in the Old Testament where the Spirit is connected with the physical world creation (Green 21). But, it is clear that the Holy Spirit did play a role in creation, simply because he is part of the trinity. Leo Boles says, "During all creation " the Godhead was present (36)." The Holy Spirit has had a distinct part in the creation of the material universe, just as the son and the father had a part.
God is the creator; Christ the word is the agent throughout whom God created all things, the Holy Spirit gives life, enacts laws, and organized the material universe. Creation was not finished until the Holy Spirit functioned. (Boles 37)
When God created, then both the Son and the Spirit were involved in the process. But what exactly was the Spirit's role when it came to creating the universe? To answer this question, scholars have looked into to the Old Testament, searching through the Genesis, Psalms, the books of the prophets and others looking for inspired words dealing with creation.
It is said that the general parts of the material creation are: the heavens, the earth, and all their host. "There is no account of the first creation of matter. Concerning that, man has no definite knowledge." (Morgan 48) Therefore, it is best to look at the material creation of the universe as we know it.
God created something out of nothing. This something was the material mass of earth and water all mixed together. In Genesis 1:1 the word "created" is the Hebrew word "bara" which means "called into existence" or "to cause to exist, where previously, (to this moment) there was no being." (Boles 38)
Gen 1:2 says, "the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
It is interesting that the word "formless" in Genesis is the same words that is translated chaos in Isaiah 34: 11: "God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation." Both passages use the exact same Hebrew word to describe desolation, chaos. It is interesting that the word is translated "formless" in Genesis and "chaos" in Isaiah. It is likely that the earth in Genesis 1:2 is not just formless, but chaotic.
Without the Spirit it was all a dead sea. A chaos. A confused heap covered darkness. (Owen 56) The Spirit of God was hovering over waters (of chaos). (Morgan 47) But what exactly was he doing to the chaos, if anything? What does the word "hover" mean?
The first work of the Holy Spirit in creation was his act of hovering, or moving over the waters as said in Gen 1:2b, "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." The word translated as "hovering" is "merachepeth". It means a gentle motion, like a dove over its nest, to communicate heat to its eggs, or to love its young. (Owen 56)
The Spirit, in his hovering, acted as the administrator of the will of God. It is "the will of God that order should supersede disorder." Therefore, the Spirit' s role in creation was to make order out of chaos. So, the Spirit hovered over the waters, and that, like the dove to her young calmed the chaos. (Boles 37)
W. T. Conner says that the Spirit brought "order out of chaos and light out of darkness (23)." G. Campbell Morgan says, "It was by the Spirit of God hovering over the confusion and emptiness that gave the universe order. The earth is therefore a direct outcome of the action of the Holy Spirit (49)." H Leo Boles says, "the Holy Spirit organized the material universe and gave living force to matter, and arranged the stability of the organization (39)."
It is likely that the natural laws were also created and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Job 26:13 says that the Spirit garnished the heavens and that might even mean He placed the planets in space in its proper place, and that He sustains them as they revolve in cycles of space so long as it exists. Psalm 104:30 says, "when you send your Spirit, they (the entire creation) are created, and you renew the face of the earth."
In Job 26:13 there is a picture of a storm swept sea, over which dark clouds hang. The cloud clears, and it is an "illustration of the fact that calm which follows the storm in nature is--actually and symbolically-- the work of the Spirit of God." (Morgan 51) The transformation of beauty is wrought by the Spirit of God. (Morgan 52)
The forming and perfecting of the universe is assigned to the Spirit of God. If the spirit was the one to make things order, and the account of the creation is mostly changing chaos into order, then it would seem that the Spirit part of God would have had a big part in creation(Owen 56).
Job 26:13 says, "by his breath the skies became fair; his hands pierce the gliding serpent." G. Campbell Morgan says, "the Holy Spirit is the creator of beauty." he is reveled in the garnishing of the heavens, in the blue of the day, and in the darkness of night (57)." The Spirit did not just bring order, but he made perfect, beautiful order.
Ezekiel 1:20 says, "wherever the Spirit would go, they would go and the wheels would rise along with them because the Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels." The wheels quite possibly could have been resembling the order of the universe, but even if they did not, the Spirit still controlled their movements. The spirit controls the universal laws. The Spirit who created, preserves energizes and moves through all nature, is in nature as an intercessory force. It is the spirit who keeps the universe from falling apart. It is God that holds all things together, specifically, God the Spirit. (Morgan 56)
Gen 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in Our own image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over all the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'"
God formed man out of dust and then "breathed the breath of life" into him. John Owen says, "It (the breath of life) was a vital immortal Spirit, something of Himself (57)." Life is the second work of the Holy Spirit in material creation.
The word "asah"in Hebrew means "to make. This word is used in Gen 1:26 when God says "let us make man in our own image." It is interesting that God made man from things that already existed. This is different from the "bara" creation out of nothing.(Boles 38)
The word "yarsar" means "to form". This word is used in Genesis 2:7. God "formed" man from the dust of the earth. The Holy Spirit took material already in existence and fashioned it according to Gods plan. (Boles 39)
The word used when God breathes into man, is not the "ruach", but "shaman". This implies that is was not the Holy Spirit that made man.
It is notable that the verse does not say, "God breathed into man,", but instead, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." Why specify that it was the "Breath of life"? How is that breath different from other breath? It seems that "the Breath of Life" could refer to the Holy Spirit, but in a general sense.
But, the Spirit of God and the breath of God are the same, only the one is the proper term, while the other metaphorical (Owen 57) Job 33:4 says, "the Spirit of the Lord made me." Job 33:4 says, "the Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life." And Exodus 31:3 says, "and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts." Both these verses seem to say that it was the spirit who made man alive.
The word "breath" could be written capitalized. The Breath of God's mouth reveled by the will of God, spoken by the word and done by the breath. (Morgan 49)
Whether the "breath of life" that God breathed into man was the Spirit or not does not change the fact that the Spirit is the giver of life. God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, man became a living soul." (Conner21)
In essence, creation was by the word of God, and by the breath of his mouth, came the order of all, the laws of the universe (Morgan 49).
I believe that the Holy Spirit played a role in creation, even if it was simply because He is part of the Godhead. The Spirit did give life to lifeless and it seems clear that he with the Godhead, created order out of chaos.