When do we get souls?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of when a human being receives a soul is rooted in theological and philosophical inquiry, touching upon issues of human identity, consciousness, and the nature of existence. The Genesis creation narrative provides foundational insights into the origin and nature of the human soul. Genesis 2:7 (NKJV) presents a pivotal moment in the creation of humanity:

“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.”

This verse encapsulates the divine act of creation wherein God forms the first human, Adam, from the dust of the ground and imbues him with the breath of life, resulting in the emergence of a living being – a soul.

Creation of Humanity

The Genesis creation narrative portrays humanity as the pinnacle of God’s creative work, uniquely fashioned in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Genesis 2:7 provides a detailed account of the intimate act of creation whereby God forms Adam from the dust of the ground, shaping his physical form with meticulous care and attention to detail.

However, it is the infusion of the divine breath of life that imparts to Adam the essence of his humanity, transforming him from an inert form into a living being. The Hebrew term for “breath of life” (neshamah) conveys the idea of a vital, animating force that animates the human body and endows it with consciousness, vitality, and agency.

In his commentary on Genesis, Jewish theologian Nahum Sarna elucidates the significance of the divine breath in the creation of humanity, stating, “The divine inbreathing is the point at which the living being emerges and takes on human characteristics.” This interpretation highlights the ontological transformation that occurs when God breathes life into Adam, infusing him with the divine spark that distinguishes him as a living soul.

A Living Soul

A soul is a living being, which is always a combination of two things: body plus breath. A soul cannot exist unless body and breath are combined. God’s Word teaches that we are souls—not that we have souls. When the lifeless form of man was infused with this divine “breath,” neshamah, of life, man became a living “soul,” nephesh. The word nephesh has a variety of meanings:

(1) breath (Job 41:21)
(2) life (1 Kings 17:21; 2 Samuel 18:13; etc.)
(3) heart as the seat of affections (Genesis 34:3; S. of Solomon 1:7; etc.)
(4) living being (Genesis 12:5; 36:6; Leviticus 4:2; etc.)
(5) and for emphasizing the personal pronouns (Psalms 3:2; 1 Samuel 18:1; etc.).

Note that the nephesh is made by God (Jeremiah 38:16), and can die (Judges 16:30), be killed (Numbers 31:19), be eaten (metaphorically, Ezekiel 22:25), be redeemed (Psalms 34:22), and be refreshed (Psalms 19:7, Heb.). None of this applies to the spirit, ruach, indicating clearly the great difference between the two terms. The spirit that returns to God at death is the breath of life. Nowhere in all of God’s book does the “spirit” have any life, wisdom, or feeling after a person dies. It is the “breath of life” and nothing more (James 2:26; Job 27:3).

According to God’s Word, souls die. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). The concept of an undying, immortal soul is not found in the Bible, which teaches that humans are subject to death. People do not go to heaven or to hell at death.

After death a person: returns to dust (Psalms 104:29), knows nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), possesses no mental powers (Psalms 146:4), has nothing to do with anything on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6), does not live (2 Kings 20:1), waits in the grave (Job 17:13), and continues not (Job 14:1, 2). They sleep in their graves till the day of resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:51–53).

It is obvious from the above references that the translation “soul” given by the KJV to the nephesh of ch. 2:7 is not appropriate, if the commonly used expression “immortal soul” be implied. Although popular, this concept is completely foreign to the Bible. This passage may rightly be translated: “Man became a living being” (RSV). When “soul” is regarded synonymous with “being,” we gain the Scriptural meaning of nephesh in Genesis 2:7.

For more on the state of the dead, check: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/112-the-intermediate-state/

Illustration

When you turn off a light, where does the light go? It doesn’t go anywhere. It just ceases to exist. Two things must combine to make a light: a bulb and electricity. Without the combination, a light is impossible. So with the soul; unless body and breath are combined, there can be no soul. There is no such thing as a “disembodied soul.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Genesis creation narrative provides foundational insights into the origin and nature of the human soul, portraying humanity as a divine creation endowed with inherent dignity, value, and purpose. Genesis 2:7 vividly depicts the intimate act of creation whereby God forms Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes into him the breath of life, resulting in the emergence of a living being endowed with a soul. The Genesis creation narrative serves as a reminder of the sacredness of human life and the dignity and value bestowed upon each individual as a living soul created in the image and likeness of God.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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