It is recognized that most of us have been taught from our early years that we all have an immortal soul. Then upon death, our soul would ultimately end up spending eternity in either heaven or hell depending on what Saint Peter decided at the Pearly Gates.
Unbeknownst to many, Scriptures give a quite different scenario.
What do Scriptures say about the matter?
First of all, Scriptures define man, called אדם (adam) in Hebrew, as a creature whose body was created from the material elements of the ground. These elements were arranged to form a body consisting of flesh, bone, and blood.
At the same time, because mankind’s blood cells breathe air in order to give him life, the Hebrew language refers to man as a נפש (nephesh; breather).
The word nephesh was translated into the Greek of the Septuagint and New Testament as ψυχή (psuche), rendered into English as “soul.” Although only a narrow understanding of psuche was originally intended by the translators, both the Greek term and the word “soul” can be misleading.
They often take on the general Greek connotation of being an entity that is “alive” and “immortal,” capable of living separately from the fleshly body; i.e., a spirit life that has a conscious existence after the death of the body.
After Yahweh created the first man and woman, he called them both Adam (Gen. 5:2). Adam not only became the personal name of the first man but it was also used as the generic term for all humankind.
Adam Is Composed of Aphar
The expression ha-adam (the man), accordingly, is found numerous times in the Hebrew text. Adam (a man) is composed of aphar (the material elements of the earth) which was taken from the adamah (the ground, red soil).
The Hebrew term adamah derives from the word adam, and means “to show blood (in the face), i.e. flush or turn rosy,” “ruddy,” “red, reddish brown.”
All the descendants of Adam, like their original earthly father, are also composed of the same aphar material. To demonstrate, Job defines humans as those “dwelling in houses of clay, whose foundation is in aphar (material elements) (Job 4:19).”
Meanwhile, both the first man and first woman were called adam because the male was created first from the adamah (ground, red soil) while the woman was, in turn, produced out of the male (Gen :4-7, 21-25).
We are all called adam because that is what we are, everyone being a descendant of a man made of adamah. In Genesis we read:
And he, Yahweh eloahim, molded ha-adam, aphar from the adamah. (Genesis 2:7)
In another passage, Yahweh tells Adam:
By the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the adamah; for out of it you have been taken; for aphar you are, and to aphar you will return. (Genesis 3:19)
Notice that Adam is aphar. Nowhere in Scriptures is a man (adam) said to be or to have an immortal soul. On the other hand, adam is scripturally defined as being a nephesh (breather) who possesses ruach (unseen animating force), which, as we will see, is quite a different characterization.
The above Scriptures do prove that adam is a material thing, i.e., aphar. Abraham, as another example, testifies to Yahweh, “I am aphar and ephar (worthless material) (Gen. 18:27).” The Hebrew term ephar refers to “anything worthless,” or something cast away, to “bestrew,” like “ashes.”
The numerous offspring of Jacob are also referred to as “the aphar of Jacob (Num. 23:10),” i.e., they descend from the material substance of Jacob; and in Job we read that upon death, “adam will return to aphar (Job 34:15).”
The book of Psalms informs us, “For he (Yahweh) knows our form; remembering that we are aphar (Ps. 103:14).” In another verse from this same text, David reminds Yahweh that when he takes away the life force of men, “they expire and they return to their aphar (Ps. 104:29).”
The Greek translation of the Hebrew word gewiyah is soma, meaning: “the body (as a sound whole),” “the dead body, corpse, carcase . . . generally, a body, i.e. any material substance . . . the whole body or mass of a thing.” The gewiyah or soma of something is merely the mass and shape in which that “thing” exists.
Adam Is a Nephesh
In Scriptures the type of body a man has is called a nephesh. The Hebrew term nephesh, collective plural nepheshim, is a primary root meaning “to breathe . . . a breathing creature, i.e. animal or (abstr.) vitality,” “an animal (that which breathes) . . . a person (Strongs Heb. #5314, 5315; Hebrew English Lexicon pp. 170-171).”
Only by pagan Greek usage is the idea of “spirit” implied. Since the Greek translation of the New Testament is merely an attempt to express the Hebrew thought in Scriptures, we must use the Hebrew meanings and Scriptures to define it.
Now here is where the confusion sets in for many. In various English translations of the Hebrew and Greek terms, the words nephesh and psuche are rendered as: soul, breath, life, creature, and mind. Let’s take a look at the following in the book of Genesis:
And Yahweh eloahim molded ha-adam from the aphar of the adamah, and blew into his nostrils the vital breath of life, and ha-adam became a living nephesh. (Genesis 2:7)
Notice that ha-adam (the man) “became a living nephesh.” It does not say Adam has a nephesh, rather, he is a nephesh.
Equally, although fish, birds, and all other animals have a different type of flesh, they too are considered to be this type of creature. The following passage from Genesis demonstrates the point:
And eloahim said: Let the land bring forth the living NEPHESH after its kind, cattle, and creeper, and living thing of the land after its kind. (Genesis 1:24)
The key to understanding the term nephesh is that it means “to breathe,” specifically in the blood. All creatures with blood breathe oxygen. Any variety of vegetation (e.g., trees, bushes, and such things), on the other hand, which breathes carbon dioxide, is never defined in Scriptures as a “nephesh.” This point is verified in Leviticus which reads:
For the NEPHESH of the flesh is IN THE BLOOD; and I have given it to you (the Israelites) upon the altar to make atonement for your NEPHESHIM (a collective plural of nephesh, i.e., the Israelites); for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the NEPHESH. (Leviticus 17:11-12)
Genesis 9:4, informs us, “Only you will not eat flesh in the nephesh of the blood,” and Deuteronomy, 12:23, states, “Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the nephesh, and you will not eat the nephesh with the flesh.”
Therefore, the nephesh—which is both in the blood and is the blood—permeates the human body, and as we shall see below, it has two qualities, being both divine and material.
It is the exchange of oxygen in the blood (the act of breathing) that separates the flesh species, whether fish, fowl, animal, or man, from other bodies (stars, moons, planets, the earth, rocks, vegetation, etc.). Therefore, a nephesh is one type of a gewiyah (body). It is a fleshly body of sinews, skin, and bones that contains blood and breathes oxygen.
Since the exchange of oxygen in the bloodstream is throughout the body, being the life principle itself, nephesh is often translated as “life,” because a thing that is breathing is “alive.”
Furthermore, after that thing dies, it is considered to have been “alive.” That a nephesh is understood by scholars as an oxygen-breathing, fleshly creature is demonstrated by the fact that the Hebrew word nephesh is often translated as “creature.”
The Neshamah (Vital Breath)
Nevertheless, the human nephesh is markedly different from the animal forms. Adam was created as a nephesh type creature, who was brought to life when Yahu Yahweh (later known as Yahushua the messiah) blew the neshamah (vital breath) into his body.
Yet, this was not merely a breath of air. Yahushua defines this type of neshamah when, after his resurrection, he breathed upon his disciples and said, “Receive the sacred ruach (John 20:22).”
Note that ruach is energy as an unseen animating force. The sacred ruach proceeds from out of father Yahweh, and was used by Yahu Yahweh (Yahushua) to create mankind.
The neshamah (vital breath) that Yahweh blew into Adam entered through his lungs and into his bloodstream. It then permeated every cell in Adam’s body making him a living, breathing nephesh. As it activated the brain, Adam became conscious and acquired the divine quality of self-awareness.
Keep in mind that the act of Yahweh blowing the neshamah (vital breath = sacred ruach) into Adam is not to be confused with the vital breath that exists in animals. The act undertaken with Adam was a one-time event, combining the sacred ruach with the physical body.
Nowhere is it said, for example, that Yahweh blew the neshamah into any animal, fish, or bird. Neither did he blow his neshamah into Eve. She obtained the neshamah from Adam when she was created out of the flesh and bone that came from Adam’s side.
All the descendants of Adam and Eve do likewise, being created from a human sperm and egg, combining the flesh and blood from both parents.
This information means that the fleshly part of Adam’s nephesh, the gewiyah (body), which was created in a nonliving state, was combined with the sacred ruach from Yahweh to create a third thing, the living human nephesh. By Yahu Yahweh blowing father Yahweh’s sacred ruach directly into Adam, father Yahweh was conceiving an offspring.
Because the personality or innermost self of Adam was in part created from the sacred ruach, a substance derived from father Yahweh, Adam is called the son of the deity Yahweh (Luke 3:38).
For this reason the nephesh of man differs from that of the animals and at death allows the nephesh of a man to enter into a “state of being” called sheol which allows a person to be brought back to life.
On the other hand, animals, birds, and fish dissipate into nonexistence for the reason that their nephesh, lacking the sacred ruach, cannot enter the state of sheol.
Additionally, the human nephesh is more specifically the person. For example, sometimes nephesh is used for and, accordingly, translated as “mind (Gen. 23:8; 1Sam. 2:35).” The nephesh includes the mind because in a living creature, such as a man, the blood-oxygen exchange which takes place in the brain is essential for one’s mental activities.
The human nephesh was brought to life by Yahweh when he directly blew sacred ruach as the neshamah (vital breath) of life into the nostrils of the gewiyah (body) of Adam, thereby blending part of Yahweh, the divine, within the material creation of Adam.
It is therefore evident that Adam is a combination of both a physical creation from the aphar (dust) of the ground and from the sacred ruach. And although the “self” of the human nephesh (person) which will be raised back to life at the resurrection is derived from the divine, his personality is created by means of the physical and cannot remain alive without a physical breathing body.
As a result, it is improper to translate the Hebrew word nephesh as “soul,” as is so often done, the latter being an English word for “a disembodied spirit of a deceased person (The Random House College Dictionary, p. 1255, s.v. “soul”).”
Dr. H. M. Orlinsky of Hebrew Union College writes that the word “soul” had been eliminated from his new translation of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) because “the Hebrew word in question here is ‘Nefesh’.” He then adds:
Other translators have interpreted it to mean ‘soul,’ which is completely inaccurate. The Bible does not say we have a soul. ‘Nefesh’ is the person himself, his need for food, the very blood in his veins, his being. (New York Times, October 12, 1962.)
Another unique quality of the human nephesh (person) is the ability to pass on and expand the divine element (sacred ruach portion) of himself via human reproduction. As flesh gives birth to flesh, so does the vital breath multiply and continue within the offspring.
At death we give up the vital breath and the nephesh dies. The sacred ruach or divine portion of the nephesh (as we will discuss in a future post) falls into an unconscious “death sleep.” This life chain continues from generation to generation. Flesh begets flesh and a living nephesh begets a living nephesh (life begets life).
In turn, since the creation of Adam, the nephesh type which is called adam (mankind) can only be dead after it has been alive, for we were all alive in and are all derived from the original human being, Adam.
So far, the evidence demonstrates that humans are made of aphar or material elements of the ground. This material was molded into the original flesh and blood nephesh body of Adam and was imbued with sacred ruach, the very substance of father Yahweh, forming a living nephesh, a child of eloahim.
The unique nephesh of this creature is the person or self. Adam’s nephesh body, being infused with the sacred ruach, was used to create Eve and, in turn, by means of their offspring have been reproducing from generation to generation.
The scriptural fact is that you actually are a human nephesh (mistranslated as soul) which has blood, breathes, and lives.
The nephesh is also the person, the self-aware personality who is part divine via the sacred ruach that Yahu Yahweh (Yahushua) breathed into our progenitor, Adam, and is passed on to all succeeding generations.
We are not only children of Adam but, because of the sacred ruach breathed into Adam, we are also offspring of Yahweh.
The human nephesh is mortal and will eventually die only to enter into a “state of being” referred to as “sheol.” Sheol allows the human nephesh or person to be brought back to life.
There will be much more to say about these things so be sure to continue with our next post, Immortal Soul Unmasked.
For now, it is only important to conclude that you are a nephesh minus a soul.