Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.


Question: What is the soul?


Answer: Genesis 2: 7 reads:

“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 soul.” This verse is an account of the creation of the first

man, Adam. By considering each of its three parts, we will better understand what a soul is:

(1.) “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” This clause refers to

the formation of the body, or organism of man from the various elements of the earth.

The body alone was not man, but would be made into man.

(2.) “And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” God then imparted the breath, or

spirit of life into the lifeless body that had been formed. The Hebrew word for breath is

neshamah, which means life power − the power to live.

(3.) “And man became a living soul.” The uniting of the body and the breath of life

resulted in a living soul, a living man, a sentient being capable of sensation, perception

and thought. The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, and means “a breathing creature.”

We see from the foregoing that the body is not the soul, nor is the breath of life the

soul, but that the combination of the two produces a living being.


The Scriptures show also that the lower animals, such as dogs, horses, cows, birds and fish are

all souls − they all possess the combination of a body and the breath of life, giving them the

powers of sense – to see, hear, feel, taste and smell. The differences between man and the lower

animals is not that man has a higher kind of life, but (1) man has a higher organism, and (2) God

has made provision for a future life for man, something He has not promised for the lower



There are many instances in the Scriptures when the Hebrew word nephesh should have been

translated “living soul” when referring to lower animals. The translators, however, laboring

under false ideas as to what a soul is, translated nephesh by using other English words instead.

The one case when it is properly translated “soul” is found in Numbers 31: 28:

“And levy a tribute unto the LORD of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five

hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep.”


Another characteristic of souls, when referring to human souls or human beings, is that they can

and do die because of Adam’s sin of disobedience − the whole human race can be spoken of as

resting under Adamic condemnation. Death means that the soul or sentient being ceases, that

thoughts and feelings come to an end (Ecclesiastes 9: 10). The body returns to the dust from

which it came, and the spirit or breath of life returns to God, who originally imparted it to Father

Adam, and to his race through him (Ecclesiastes 12: 7).


The good news is that God, through the redemptive sacrifice of Christ Jesus, has promised that

in due time mankind in general will be awakened from the unconscious sleep of death

(John 5: 28, 29). Each individual will be given the opportunity to go on to perfection and eternal

life, under the favorable arrangements of Christ’s Kingdom; or he may choose the way of sin,

and if so, he will suffer the penalty of death − not temporary, but permanent, spoken of in

Ezekiel 18: 20:

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall

the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and

the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”


Note: Please find a more thorough examination of this subject in Study 3 of Hope Beyond the






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