Time or Eternity? ™

A Living Soul

In Creation, Image of God on February 6, 2011 at 8:00 am
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7)  Here is given the account of the building up of man, or the assembling of the different parts or elements of which he is composed. It is the statement of the closing work of the sixth day of creation as given in the previous chapter; it reads :— “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Gen. 1 : 27)  These two simple texts comprise all the historical record we have of the origin of our race. The successive steps in this work of creation, as given in these texts, are as follows :—First, Man was created in the image, or likeness, of God. Secondly, He was formed of the dust of the ground, and was then complete in every part, but was inanimate — without life. He was a perfect physical image, but lifeless. Thirdly, The Creator “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” He supplied the element lacking to start the heart beating, the blood circulating, and to set at work all the functions of this wonderfully constructed being. God breathed into man the breath which animated, or gave him life. Fourthly, “And man became a living soul.” He was now a “living being.” Before he was a lifeless soul, or a lifeless being.  What more can be gathered from these texts? Man was made in the image of his Creator; he was formed of dust; God breathed into his nostrils, thus starting respiration, and “the man” lived. He thus became a living being.  Tradition has invested the word “soul,” wherever it occurs, with the attribute of immortality. Hence it is taken for granted that the entering of the breath from God into the nostrils of man, was the giving to him of a living, immortal soul. But the text does not admit of such a construction. The reading is plain, “And man became a living soul,” or, according to the translation of Young and others, “And man became a living being.”(See also the translation of Rabbi Isaac Leeser, p. 16.) There is therefore in this text no hint of an immortal entity capable of conscious existence apart from the body.
The terms “soul ” and “spirit ” occur many times in the Scriptures, in which they are in most instances applied to human beings. These facts are popularly accepted as proof positive that man is possessed of natural immortality; “for,” it is argued, “the soul cannot die, and the spirit cannot be destroyed.”
Searching the Bible for a definite meaning of the words soul and spirit, we find that they have so many different meanings, and are used in so many different ways, that neither word can be covered by any single definition.  But the candid and honest student need not become perplexed by this, for, by a careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture, the humble searcher after truth will be rewarded, and God’s word become indeed a lamp to his feet. But that the word “soul,” in Scripture, is not always used in the same sense, is the testimony of the best arid most eminent clergymen and Biblical students. This also applies with equal weight, to the word “spirit”  All matters of Bible truth must be decided upon unequivocal statements of Scripture. When a doctrine is plainly and fully established by a “thus saith the Lord,” it is not safe to allow a word, or a half understood sentence, to overthrow our faith. God’s word is not “yea and nay,” but “yea and amen.” It never contradicts itself. Yet after reading the plain, positive statement of a truth, we may find texts which to us seem to conflict with it. In all such cases it is safer to doubt our understanding of more obscure words and passages, and hold firmly to the plain, positive declarations of the word. No one is at liberty to attach any arbitrary meaning to the original words from which soul and spirit are translated.
Scripture examples of  ‘soul’-
1.The whole man in his entirety, as in Gen. 2:7, “And man became a living soul;” hence also person, creature.  2. It signifies life, as in Matt. 16 : 26, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the -whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Commenting upon this text Dr. Clarke says, “On what authority some have translated the word psukee in the 25th verse life, and in this verse soul, I know not, but am certain it means life in both places.”  3. It means desire (Jer. 50: 19), heart (Gen. 34:8), appetite (Deut. 12 : 15), and indeed embraces the entire range of the affections.
In every one of the many hundred instances in which the word soul occurs in the Bible, it naturally comes under the head of some one of the three definitions given above.Dr. McCulloch, author of  “Credibility of the Scriptures,” vol. ii, p. 466, says :—’ There is no word in the Hebrew language that signifies either soul or spirit, in the technical sense in which we use the terms, as implying something distinct from the body.”  “Significance must be determined by the sense in which they are used in the Sacred Record; and whoever goes beyond that, does violence to the word of God.”—Here and Hereafter, p. 61.


The Hebrew word nehphesh is defined by the lexicographer Gesenius, as follows :—”1. Breath. 2. The vital spirit, as the Greek psukee, and Latin anhiKi, through which the body lives; i. e., the principle of life manifested in the breath.” Also, “whatever has respect to the sustenance of life by food and drink, and the contrary.” 3. The rational soul, mind, animus, as the seat of feelings, affections, and emotions. 4. Concrete, living thing, animal in which is the nehphesh, life.”  The word nehphesh occurs 745 times in the Old Testament, and is translated 43 different ways, as follows :—Soul 473 times; life and lives 120; person 30; mind 16; heart 15; body and dead body 13 ; creature 9; himself 8; yourselves 5; pleasure 4; desire 4; themselves 3 ; thee 3; herself 2; ghost 2; man 2; any 2; jeopardy of life 2; he 2; me 2; beast 2; and one each as follows: would we have it, him, own, hearty, tablets, fish, greedy, one, mortality, life in jeopardy, whither she will, discontented, thyself, will, she, they, deadly, myself, breath, dead, slay.


The Greek word psukee is defined by Greenfield as follows :—”Breath; life; i.e., the animal soul, principle of life; Luke 12: 19, 20; Acts 20:10; life; i. e., the state of being alive, existence (spoken of natural life) , Matt. 2 : 20; 6 : 25; and by implication, of life extending beyond the grave; Matt. 10 : 39; John 12 : 25; by metonymy, that which has life, a living creature, living being; 1 Cor. 15:45; spoken of a man, person, individual; Acts 2:41.” The word psukee occurs 105 times in the New Testament, and is translated six different ways, as follows :— Soul 58 times; life 40; mind 3; heart twice; us and you, once each.

“Though the Bible speaks to us 875 times of the soul, it never once calls it an ‘immortal soul;’ and though it tells us 827 times of the spirit, it never once tells of a ‘deathless spirit.'”

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