Then 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.Genesis 2:7 (JPS)
Breath of life – What is man made up of? That is the question here. Jewish traditions imply that humans are dual in nature made of a body and a soul. They adopted this concept from Plato’s dualism. However, Trinitarian Christians who desperately want to see their concept of a triune God imitated in the creation of mankind adopted the construct of a soul, a body, and a spirit. Which is correct?
I ran across an interesting post on chabad.org about why Jews bury their dead in a pine casket. Immediately I was struck by the author’s translation of Genesis 2:7 where God creates Adam. The author, Yehuda Shurpin, proposed this translation which comes from The Complete Jewish Bible.
The L‑rd G‑d formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.
Unfortunately, the Hebrew text does not read “soul of life” making this a faulty translation to support particular paradigms. This happens more often than not. Another reason why it is imperative for us to dig into the original text ourselves.
Notice that the word highlighted in red is “soul” which is the Hebrew word nephesh (נֶפֶשׁ). Nephesh is definitely not used in the context of the “breath of life.” So for the translator to interject the word “soul” in that placement is completely fabricated to fit that paradigm.
I’ve longed professed that Adam did not receive a soul from God. He simply became a living soul after receiving the breath of life. The Hebrew text completely supports this!
The word neshamah (נְשָׁמָה) from above is translated as “breath” or “spirit” throughout the Old Testament and is only represented as “soul” in one verse in the King James; Isaiah 57:16. Digging into this verse we find that God is referencing breathing beings. So while soul might be a fitting interpretation, stating it as “breathing beings” seems to work better with this word. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament does state that, “It is frequently found in combination with ruah “spirit” and seems synonymous with nepesh.” but I’m not sold on that… it seems to be… statement. Again, this appears to be an interpreter’s paradigm influencing interpretation.
Man does consist of a dual nature closely tied to how Judiasm believes, but not in the construct that they present. In the article from chabad.org, Yehuda Shurpin suggests,
The soul comes from G‑d Himself, and when the person dies, his or her soul returns to its source. The same is true for the body, which must return to dust, as we read, “For dust you are, and to dust you will return.”
However, the Prophet Ezekiel states that the soul which sins, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). The soul does not return to God for the simple reason that every soul has sinned, and so every soul dies.
While Christianity professes a body, a soul, and a spirit, there is no proof of this in Scripture. Man is not triune in nature. Man is created from the dust of the ground which forms the body, or otherwise indicated throughout the text as a soul. Yes, the body and soul are synonymous and used as such all through Scripture. The spirit is what is breathed into Adam. It is God’s spirit which provides life to all living beings. And it is the spirit that returns to God upon death. Just as Yeshua gave up the ghost when he died, so too does every man when they die. The ghost (or spirit) returns to God. It is the spirit that enables life, and without it, the body (or soul) dies.
Keep in mind that our own paradigms greatly influence how we interpret Scripture. Are we so willing to abandon actual literal translations to support our own beliefs?