A soul is a living being. It is always a combination of two things: body plus breath. It cannot exist unless body and breath are combined. God’s Word teaches that we are souls—not that we have souls. “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 KJV).
And at death, the breath departs, the soul ceases to exist because it is a combination of two things. 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.”
Does the word “soul” ever mean anything other than a living being? Yes. When dust is infused with God’s “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 Sam. 18:13; etc.), (3) heart as the seat of affections (Gen. 34:3; S. of Sol. 1:7; etc.), (4) living being (Gen. 12:5; 36:6; Lev. 4:2; etc.), and (5) for emphasizing the personal pronouns (Ps. 3:2; 1 Sam. 18:1; etc.).
Note that the nephesh is made by God (Jer. 38:16), and can die (Judges 16:30), be killed (Num. 31:19), be eaten (metaphorically, Eze. 22:25), be redeemed (Ps. 34:22), and be refreshed (Ps. 19:7, Heb.). None of this applies to the spirit, ruach, indicating clearly the great difference between the two terms.
So, it obvious from the above verses 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 considered synonymous with “being,” we gain the Scriptural meaning of nephesh in this text.
In His service,
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