One of the challenges of producing animated videos is the limitation of exploring complex biblical ideas in a short amount of time—especially when it comes to theme videos! These short explanations condense essential ideas from the whole biblical story. The main goal is to excite curiosity about the theme, not explain all the details.
When we released the Holy Spirit theme video, we knew there was much more worth sharing on the topic. We received many great questions about the nature of the Spirit: “Is the Spirit just a form of divine energy? A personal being? Isn’t the Spirit a member of the Trinity alongside the Father and Son?” This is an important and fascinating topic—welcome to a two-thousand-year-old conversation!
First, it’s helpful to understand BibleProject’s approach to the biblical story. We hold to the orthodox confession of the historic Christian creeds (God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and we affirm the Spirit as a person and not an impersonal force. We also want to focus on the actual words and images used by the biblical authors—in academic circles, this is called a biblical theology approach. When appropriate, we try to avoid importing concepts that developed much later in Christian history back into earlier biblical texts. We don’t do this because we think those later developments are wrong. Rather, we are trying to hear what the biblical authors are saying in their own unique way even if it surprises us.
While the historic Christian creeds summarize the Bible’s teaching about God with words like “trinity” or “person,” we want to be conscious of the fact that these aren’t terms directly used in Scripture. And often, as people are introduced to the person of the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity, they haven’t first encountered the biblical storyline that gives this idea its profound meaning.
So in our video, we began by exploring the word for spirit, first mentioned in Genesis, ruakh. It’s a word used to describe an invisible energy, whether it’s wind, breath, or the personal presence of God. Throughout the Bible, the primary action of the Spirit is to create life, to energize, and to transform people. And it’s significant that one of the primary biblical words associated with Spirit is “power” (for example, Jesus in Luke 24:49 and Paul in Eph. 1:17,19).
However, when the biblical authors use the word ruakh to describe God, that energy is not an impersonal force—it is God’s Spirit! This is why we called the Spirit “God’s personal presence” that energizes and gives life to all creation in our Holy Spirit video. We fully affirm that the Spirit is a distinct person alongside the Father and Son, who are all together the one God. But we also want to acknowledge the fact that the biblical authors had their own ways of speaking about God’s Spirit before those later clarifications emerged in history.
Our hope is for the biblical story to speak for itself by showing how God first sent his Spirit into the world, and then how Jesus did the same for his disciples. By starting at page one, we allow the biblical narrative to reveal God’s identity on the narrative’s terms, with its own language, and the “wind/breath/energy” to shape our first conception of the Holy Spirit. After that, the personal element of God’s ruakh emerges from the story, alongside God the Father and then in the person of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit video concludes with the climax of the biblical story and points to the new creation. While many might prefer exploring its relationship to the other members of the Trinity, we wanted to follow the arc of the biblical story as it’s presented. But if you’re interested in understanding the Trinitarian concept of God and its presence in Scripture, we explore it more in our God theme video.
We hope this invites you into a new vision of the Spirit’s role in the biblical story. Do you want to continue and see how ruakh is woven throughout the beginning of the Bible? Our app’s Torah Reading Journey highlights each use of the word and lets you collect Scripture links that identify when and how the biblical authors use it. Our four-part conversation, the Holy Spirit podcast series, is also a great place to learn more.