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Breath+Dust=Soul: The Truth about Death, Part 2

December 4, 2009

In the previous part of this continuing study on death, we discovered that there is no such thing as an immortal soul.  Only God hath immortality, and we are only given eternal life when Jesus comes again to take us home.  So if our souls aren’t immortal, then what are they, and what happens to us when we die?  This study will answer those questions.

What is a soul?

I believe the  whole initial misunderstanding with the concept of an immortal stems from the fact that the word Soul is found numerous times throughout the Bible, in all versions.  Couple that with the popular preconceived notion of a bodiless spirit floating around as taught by the Greeks, it’s no wonder the majority of Christians today accept the teaching without fully questioning the veracity of the doctrine. However, as we’ll see, soul often times in the Bible can literally be interchanged with person/being/body, and not as a disembodied spirit. Let’s look at the earliest mention of Soul in the Bible, Genesis 2:7 in the KJV.

7And 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. (KJV)

Let’s look at the other translations to get an broader picture:

7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (NIV)

7Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (NASB)

7 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 being. (NKJV)

7 Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. (NLT)

7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (ESV)

I want you to notice 2 things above: We can see that the word soul, is interchangeable with being/person/creature.  In essense, soul=a person.  When they say ‘there were 20 souls lost at sea’, it basically means 2o people died, not 20 spirits wandering around looking for land.  This interchange is illustrated many times over the Bible.  Soul in this case does not refer to the spirit that gets detached from a body when it dies.

The Hebrew expression translated “living soul” in Genesis 2:7 is nephesh; it is used in several other places in Genesis 1 and 2 as well as throughout the Old Testament and in many of these passages it refers to animals. The Englishmen who translated the King James Version of the Bible rendered nephesh as “living creature” in Genesis 1:21 where it refers to sea animals; they rendered it “living creature” in verse 24 where it refers to land animals. In verse 30, this same Hebrew expression is used to describe all living things on the earth. In Genesis 2:19, Adam was asked to name every “living creature”— again, the Hebrew expression is nephesh.  Hence the English Standard Version also uses ‘Living Creature’ to define God’s creation. So the term ‘living soul’ in this verse gives no hint of immortality of any kind.

The 2nd thing to note is the formula that was used to create a human being.

Dust + Breath of life = Living Soul/Person/Being

That is the formula for creating humans, dust from the ground, and the breath of life from God.  The exact opposite happens when we die, Genesis 3:19 says:

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

The Bible doesn’t say either that our spirits/souls will roam the earth either.

7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Ecclesiates 12:7 NKJV)

It’s the exact reverse of creating life.

Living Soul – Spirit = Dust

Or we can look at it this way too:

Soul = Spirit?

What is the spirit that Ecclesiates mentions, isn’t it like a soul or spirit that leaves the body upon death?  Not at all.  Let us use the Bible to be our translator.  James 2:26 says that the Spirit=Breath.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (NKJV)

26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. (NLT)

Job 27 confirms this:

3as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, (ESV)

3 As long as my breath is in me,
And the breath of God in my nostrils, (NKJV)

So basically, when you die, the spirit/breath goes back to God.  Some Christians will use this text as proof that we go straight to heaven at death.  That is misguided, as you can see, what returns to God is the breath he gave us.  The Bible says that people are still buried in their graves, waiting for Christ’s return:

28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:28-30 NKJV)

Peter even confirms this, he talks about David, a man after God’s own heart still buried in his grave, and not yet ascended to heaven in Acts 2:29, 34:

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens…(NKJV)

I am pretty sure that when Jesus comes again, we will see David raised from the dead at the first resurrection.  Like him, when we die, we will wait as well.

Souls Do Die…

Even the Bible dispels directly the idea of the immortal soul, as souls do die.  Ezekiel 18:20 says:

20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (NKJV)

20 The person who sins is the one who will die. (NLT)

20“The person who sins will die… (NASB)

Also notice how the above  is another instance of soul being interchanged for person.  The idea of a spirit that is separated from the body was borrowed from the Egyptians by the Greeks, Plato popularized that teaching and it crept into early Christianity.  The Bible clearly shows that a soul is a person, a being, a creature, and not a disembodied ‘spirit’.  No where in scriptures does it talk about souls being immortal.

So if we don’t go straight to heaven or hell, and our souls can die, what happens to us when we’re dead?  Stay tuned for Part 3 as it’ll answer those questions and more.  ~God bless.

Related Posts:

Souls are NOT immortal

Death=Sleep

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert Xavier permalink
    January 17, 2010 3:01 am

    Okee Dokee, if Soul is the Person..? (”.)
    Then I don’t understand the grammatical structure of Luke 12:

    19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

    Okay, I can talk to myself, aka “say to my soul”
    But how can God say, “this night YOUR SOUL will be required of YOU”..?
    As if the person is separate from the Soul..? (”.)

    How do we reconcile this passage with the theory that Soul = Person/Being

    • January 17, 2010 10:06 am

      The greek for soul in this verse is psuche, which is the same word for “life” in Acts 20:10. So basically, God was requiring his LIFE. Makes sense now?

    • January 17, 2010 10:48 am

      Remember those fundamental rules I linked you? All you had to do was check a different translation….

      NIV
      20″But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

      NLV
      20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

  2. Robert Xavier permalink
    January 18, 2010 9:12 pm

    I appreciate you providing the Greek word “psuche” 🙂

    I did a quick study of it, as it relates to the Bible
    and found that the Greek word “psuche” has been translated as
    “Soul” roughly 50x & “Mind” roughly 40x; in the KJV.

    Understanding what “Mind” means,
    I ran a quick etymological study of the word “Soul”
    to try to understand what it means in KJV English.

    From what I was able to gather,
    in a brief study, so forgive me if I’m wrong,
    is that the word Soul, generally means “Life”
    but specifically as it relates to the Mind;
    probably why it was translated as both in the KJV.

    So my understanding is, “Soul” means “Consciousness”
    and so when the word “Being” or “Person” or “Creature” is used
    by other translations, it is not too far from the same meaning of “Consciousness”
    as you and I are not the body itself, but the Consciousness within.

    So yes, even though I’m very weary of jumping between English Bible versions,
    I can accept, “Life” as the appropriate use of the term in Luke 12 🙂

    I guess there’s always that little something that gets lost in translation;
    and that little something is often the cultural form of sentence structure,
    and the way the sentence is spoken aloud.

    Probably has a more sophisticated flow in the original Greek

    Cool Stuff Glenn,
    an interesting Study 😉

    • January 19, 2010 12:37 pm

      Yup, we gotta look at the whole context of a passage, even the translation, and cross-reference with what other translators identify in the passage. But we can tell just by looking at the story, God was saying this is the last day you’re going to enjoy all of your riches, because tomorrow you’re dead. To read into that story certain truth on souls is going too far. Yes, some people only take the Bible literally at face value, and others believe there’s a hidden/cryptic message in every passage. The key is striking a balance between both, knowing that some passages have other/secondary points, while others are to be taken literally.

  3. Robert Xavier permalink
    January 18, 2010 9:13 pm

    Oops <:) I posted twice… (:I)

  4. Robert Xavier permalink
    January 23, 2010 5:53 am

    Okay, so I just did a very quick study on “Spirit” and although it does literally mean Breath of God, I believe it means Life Force; or something similar.

    Reason being, when the original Greek word is translated into English as Breath it means Breath, but when it shows up as Spirit, I believe the original translator understood from the context & by the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit that he should use the term Spirit instead of Breath.

    And since “Spirit” & “Breath” are two different English words, they must have different meanings; even if only sightly. So even though breathing keeps the physical body fueled with Oxygen, technically it’s not the Oxygen that is keeping the body alive; rather the Oxygen is merely a vital chemical propellant in our body’s metabolism.

    I believe it is a Life Giving Force from God, that keeps the body alive; and so I believe that was the intended meaning of the word Spirit, as it relates to our spirit returning to God when we die.

    All that being said, the question is…

    Since God joined His Life Giving Force to the man formed of the Dust of the Ground, & created a person (Consciousness/Living Mind) does that mean that if He takes His Life Giving Force from the body, that the Consciousness ceases to exist..? (”.)

    I ask because, we know the Spirit (Life Giving Force) goes back to God, but we also know that the Spirit & the Soul (Consciousness) are not the same; and that other Consciousnesses, such as Evil Spirits, can exist out side the body.

    So then is it possible, that once a Soul (Consciousness/Living Mind) is created by the melding of a Body & God’s Life Giving Spirit, that it can exist without Body nor Spirit…? (”,) …The math doesn’t add up, but I haven’t found anything to say otherwise; as even a sleeping mind is still a living thing.

    Hmmm..? Looks like just questions. No answers from me at this time.

    • January 23, 2010 9:44 am

      Sigh… dude forget what the translators thought. Because different translators use different words for the same “word” What did the original author mean? That’s why its important to go to the original language. Spirit=Breath in those contexts, not a separate entity or being. When you breath out, is it conscious? Exactly, the breath God gives us is like a ‘life force. The key is, it’s totally contingent upon him. The breath that God gives us when we live, and the breath that returns to God when we die are the same. Breath doesn’t mean a separate consciousness. We don’t cease to exist, we still remain in God’s memory until we are resurrected. We don’t go to a “holding” place. You gotta get the hellenistic ideas out of your head.

      Evil spirits are fallen angels/demons, I thought we made that clear. I feel like I’m repeating myself over and over again.

  5. kittycat77 permalink
    February 20, 2011 10:13 pm

    Great write-up, emmiglenn,

    The word “soul” is really a pour translation of the Hebrew meaning of a “nephesh.” Actually mankind is a living nephesh. A nephesh means a creature that has oxygen in the bloodstream. There is a nephesh of cats, dogs, all animals, and there is a living nephesh of humans.

    The first breath of life is called the neshamah.

    Gen 2:7 And Yahweh eloahim formed the adam out of dust from the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life (divine breath); and man(adam) became a living nephesh.

    Here we notice several things. First off, Yahweh breathed into our first parent the breath of life (the divine spark; sacred ruach) and then he became a living nephesh.

    Notice that he became a living nephesh. I.e., he didn’t have a separate entity in him, but he became a living nephesh. The word “soul” comes from the Greeks, and they were always into demon worship, all kinds of entities, etc.. A “soul” to them would have been a different entity.

    And like the word “spirit,” this is not a disembodied spirit, per se. It’s usually translated as “ruach,” which is the power/force. I.e., father Yahweh has the sacred ruach, which is his power/force. The comparison would be the wind. You know it’s blowing from the effect of it’s movement throughout trees and whatever, but you can really see it either. Well, in case of some instances when it was used in Acts as tongues of fire. It was seen, but it’s still the power/force that emanates from father Yahweh.

    • February 22, 2011 11:18 am

      Thanks KC7! I appreciate your comments and added insight into these posts. They help to clarify some ideas

      • kittycat77 permalink
        February 23, 2011 5:54 pm

        Thanks. I’m not meaning to take over either. But you have good subjects at your blog. Wish that I had more time. I appreciate your blog too!

      • February 23, 2011 9:43 pm

        Hey, by all means add your thoughts. I’ve been really busy with a course I’ve been taking that my writing/studies has suffered. I’ll be able to pick it up once I’m done, God-willing. Any topics you’d like to see discussed here? I’ve put on hold a study on the “Once Saved, Always Saved” doctrine. It’ll probably be my next post.

  6. kittycat77 permalink
    February 20, 2011 10:17 pm

    Let me add one thing. The divine spark that Yahweh (the son) breathed into adam was the sacred ruach. So every human being in this world has that same spark that has been passed down through generations upon generations, but it’s sad because we have to build upon that divine (sacred ruach) spark to make it grow. The ones that don’t build upon it, and follow the ways of the world, they become as the beasts, plain and simple. Many beasts are just centered upon the fleshly side of nature. Even though mankind has a half of that side too! So we either feed the side of truth of Yahweh, or feed the fleshly/beast side.

  7. kittycat77 permalink
    February 20, 2011 10:29 pm

    And with all sadness I have to say this, we don’t have any kind of references where Yahweh breathed the neshamah (breath of life) into animals. So this is their time now. Lots of people get ticked off at me for saying this, but this is their time. They cannot be resurrected because they do not have the sacred breath. But they are here for our service, to service mankind in whatever he needs, and to teach of heavenly things. All earthly things will teach heavenly things. They are parables. Animals teach us too, just got to look for it, like consider the sheep and the goats!

    But it’s okay to love them in our human way. They can love you back in their way. It’s just that this is their only time. They will not be in the resurrections. It’s because they do not have the sacred breath of life. However, they do have a nephesh and a ruach, but not the spark of the sacred ruach that mankind has.

    Right now this may matter to people, but in Yahweh’s world to come, it will not matter at all. You won’t care about these things.

    • February 22, 2011 11:20 am

      Yeah I agree, I had a pet rabbit, and when we let her go… it was tough as she was part of the family, and there was no consolation that we’d meet her again. You’re right… now is their time, and only now. Kind of sad, but thats reality.

      • kittycat77 permalink
        February 23, 2011 5:51 pm

        I know, and I really love some animals, especially the kinder ones. And Yahweh did give each of them a programming to do what they do. It’s so mind-boggling that he is such a master scientist, that he can program into them what to do and how to take care of themselves. He’s by far the intelligent designer.

        Oh, but we have to consider this, right now when they pass, we miss them as little members of our family. However, when we’re resurrected we won’t. It’s kind of like when we were little children. The things that we did, we don’t miss as we get older (usually). I’m just speaking generally. For example, you don’t miss your doll or Tonka truck, etc., or other little toys.

        And the animals were put here for service, to give mankind various forms of service, that is, and also to teach us about the heavenlies. All earthly things teach us the heavenly things.

        But I have had cats that have passed that I still miss. I’m thankful that I had my little friends for a time, though. It kind of helps you escape from the mess going on in the world for a time. Sometimes we need that little bit of an escape to stay sane in an insane world that is growing worse as we speak.

  8. kittycat77 permalink
    February 23, 2011 10:48 pm

    Just my two cents’ worth here, but when you’re studying the terms “soul, spirit, breath, etc.,” you need to put all the Greek and Hebrew terms together and give the definitions. One must start with the definitions to rightly start dividing the word of Truth. Then use many scriptural references talking about them. For example, man (adam) became a living nephesh. Well, this is something that he became, not that he has a separate entity living in him. He became a living nephesh (a creature whether man or animal that has oxygen in the bloodstream). It’s pretty interesting. There will be a book coming out soon that will break all of these down for you, and you can see where mankind got off on their understanding. How the pagan Greeks influenced this thoughts. They would have a person be possessed in their way of thinking because they have people having a soul and a spirit, therefore, in their minds (as well as modern-day thinking), you’re possessed with two entities. This isn’t what the Scriptures teach at all. Even with the term “spirit,” is not a separate entity, but it’s a power/force. There’s also a ruach in mankind because the spark of the sacred ruach.

    Then with the heart in Hebrew (leb), it should be translated mental heart; mind. After that is the term sometimes translated as “heart” which should be lebab, your innermost self, your subconscious. All of these things combine to make you who you are. Once you understand the terms and the usages in the Scriptures, you’ll know what is being put back together when you’re resurrected.

  9. kittycat77 permalink
    February 24, 2011 10:59 pm

    emmilglenn,

    I’ll let you know when it comes out, but want you to know that I come to your site for “peace.” And the great escape from all the world!

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