The Berean Expositor
Volume 7 - Page 28 of 133
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It is common mistake to speak of the soul of man as something separate from himself;
Gen. 2: 7 does not say man became the possessor for the time of a living soul, but that
man himself became a living soul. A living man is a living soul, a dead man is a dead
soul, an immaterial independent "spiritual" something is not the "soul" of the Bible. The
Hebrew word "soul" (nephesh) is closely related to the word "to breathe", which is
naphach. Ex. 23: 12, "be refreshed", naphash, have time to breathe. The Hebrew word
"nostril" is also similarly connected, aph meaning a breathing organ. Seeing the close
connection that the inspired language makes between "soul", "breath", and "nostril", and
having seen sufficient to dispose of the general teaching that the soul is synonymous with
the spirit, we may be able to learn the lesson of man's lowly place from Gen. 2: 7,
instead of finding there a God-breathed immortality. We have often heard the idea urged
that the fact that God breathed into Adam must of necessity convey to Adam something
of the Divine nature. "The breath" of life of Gen. 2: 7 is used in Josh. 10: 40 ("utterly
destroyed all that breathed") as an equivalent for "soul" in verse 37 ("utterly destroyed
all the souls"). So also Josh. 11: 11, 14. Has it ever struck the reader that the "nostrils"
are a strange entrance for immortality to enter into man? The fact that man is one whose
"breath is in his nostrils" is used in the Scriptures to indicate his helplessness; if tradition
were truth it would lend encouragement to the doctrine that man by nature is allied with
the Godhead. Gen. 2: 7 gives no warrant for teaching that there was anything spiritual
about Adam at all. As every other "soul" that was to become a "living soul", he breathed
with (not "into", see usage of Hebrew preposition beth) his nostrils the breath of life, and
man became a living soul (a "breather", nephesh). The passage does not say, "God
breathed"; it says "he breathed", and the context alone can decide to whom the "he"
We feel that it is essential, if we would not make a most fundamental error, to see the
true nature of man at his creation. As a perfect man he was placed upon the earth, but the
perfect man was "natural", not super-natural. He was "flesh and blood". He was
innocent, nevertheless he was not righteous. His communion with God was that of an
unfallen creature. All that is said of his surroundings were of a nature to attract "a living
soul", the fruit trees good for food, the garden, etc., but nothing for the spirit. I Cor. 15:
tells us that the spiritual was not first, that man as a living soul was not spiritual, he was
earthy, and flesh and blood. A being that is not spiritual cannot have a spiritual fall. If
he transgresses, his sin and his punishment must be within his own sphere. The death
penalty threatened to Adam could not have been "spiritual death" unless Adam had a
"spiritual" nature. The "spiritual" nature of man came after the fall, where faith and hope
were called into exercise, where sacrifice and worship and longing for the new life began
to take hold upon those who believed. Adam as created was placed at the head of
physical creation. From this position he fell, and that position will be taken up with
added glory by the Son of man when He comes again.