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A Boundless God

The Spirit according to the Old Testament

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Christianity Today 2021 Award of Merit (Biblical Studies)

The word rûaḥ (commonly translated as breath, wind, spirit, or Spirit) occurs in the Old Testament 378 times--more frequently than torah, shalom, or Sabbath. In this volume, a popular Old Testament scholar, whose previous books have received wide acclaim, cracks open the challenging and provocative world of the Spirit in the Old Testament, offering readers cogent yet comprehensive insights.

Grounded in scholarship yet accessible and inviting, this book unlocks the world of the Spirit, plunging readers into an imaginative realm of fresh senses, sounds, and skills.d The book gives readers the opportunity to recapture Israel's tenacious sense of the Spirit's energy as it was expressed by a series of vibrant verbs: blowing, breathing, coming, resting, passing, pouring, filling, cleansing, standing, and guiding. Readers will encounter in these pages all of the Old Testament expressions of the Spirit--passages that will challenge the conventional, confront the commonplace, and transport them to a world of wisdom, work, and wonder.

1. Spirit Blowing and Breathing
2. Spirit Coming Upon
3. Spirit Resting Upon
4. Spirit Passed On
5. Spirit Poured Out
6. Spirit Filling
7. Spirit Cleansing
8. Spirit Standing and Guiding


"In this fluent and elegant book, Jack Levison makes two points of fundamental importance for Christian theology: (1) the Christian understanding of the spirit must be grounded in the multifaceted rûaḥ (breath, wind, spirit) of the Hebrew Bible, and (2) the saving spirit of God cannot be divorced from the spirit/breath that gives life. A remarkable and subtle contribution to biblical theology."

John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale Divinity School

"It's well known that the Hebrew word for spirit is also the word for wind and for breath, but I don't think anyone has done as much with that fact as Jack Levison in this book. He shows how the word rûaḥ speaks of the spiritual and the material not as two separate things but as related facets of the way that God in his liveliness involves himself in the world. It is appropriate that this book on the spirit should be inspiring. A beautiful combination of the academic and the nurturing, it works by careful, thoughtful, life-giving study of whole passages where rûaḥ appears, and it invites measured and reflective assimilation."

John Goldingay, professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"A Boundless God offers us a careful study of rûaḥ from the Jewish Scriptures that takes the reader on a journey into an expansive vision for what is meant by talk of the breath, wind, spirit, or Spirit of God. Jack Levison demonstrates the depth and breadth of the rich and full experience of God as Spirit and of God and spirit in bringing humanity to the fullness of life. Readers will be challenged to lay down old paradigms and dichotomies and to embrace an understanding of the spirit that is far more nuanced than before, all while being confronted with a vibrant, fresh, and life-filled vision of how God moves among his creation in and by the spirit."

Lucy Peppiatt, principal, Westminster Theological Centre, United Kingdom

"By allowing the Hebrew Scriptures to speak with their own voice, Levison has demonstrated that spirit in the witness of ancient Israel overflows our neatly drawn theological boundaries. The result is a fresh theological vision of the mystery of life that we share with all of creation. I found this book richly stimulating."

Frank D. Macchia, professor of Christian theology, Vanguard University of Southern California; associate director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies, Bangor University, Wales, United Kingdom

"It's easy for Christians to imagine that in the Old Testament the holy spirit is mostly waiting in the wings until a grand entrance can be made in the New Testament. But in A Boundless God Jack Levison shows this to be entirely false. From the spirit that broods over the face of the deep in Genesis to a remnant of the spirit found in Malachi, the Old Testament is saturated with the holy breath, wind, and spirit of God. A Boundless God is a remarkable achievement, alerting the reader to the ubiquitous and transforming presence of the holy spirit throughout the Old Testament."

Brian Zahnd, pastor of Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Missouri; author of Postcards from Babylon

The Author

  1. Jack Levison
    Jeremy Pope-Levison

    Jack Levison

    Jack Levison (PhD, Duke University; MA, Cambridge University; BA, Wheaton College) is an internationally acclaimed scholar and award-winning author. He holds the W. J. A. Power Chair of Old Testament Interpretation and Biblical Hebrew at Southern Methodist...

    Continue reading about Jack Levison


Christianity Today 2021 Award of Merit (Biblical Studies)

"Who knew that a word study could read like an adventure story--welcome to the world of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. As Jack Levison guides us through the various uses of the word in the Hebrew Scriptures, he offers insight into the refreshment, the surprise, the danger, and the boundlessness of the Spirit of God. Reading this book instantly enhanced my own appreciation for how the New Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit not in a vacuum but in continuity with the Old Testament witness. This is an exciting, illuminating read from beginning to end."

Peter Gosnell,

Christianity Today

"[A] helpful analysis. . . . Those looking for an academic Bible study guide or interested in the development of particular concepts within biblical interpretation will enjoy Levison's erudite take on the linguistic choices that form the foundation of the Old Testament."

Publishers Weekly