Chapter 14

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Poor Bible Word Choices


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. (Genesis 2:7)

To most people the word "soul" has become synonymous with immortality. Their soul lives forever! However, God formed man from the dust of the ground and we know our physical bodies die. Therefore, our soul must be a separate entity residing within our body. Consequently, great evangelists make statements such as:

You have a body, but living inside of you is your spirit or soul. And when a person dies, what happens? The soul lives on.

The word soul as defined by The Random House College Dictionary is as follows:

1 - the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in man,
     regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body; the
     spiritual part of man as distinct from the physical part.
 
2 - the spiritual part of man regarded in its moral aspect, or
     as capable of surviving  death and subject to happiness
     or misery in a life to come.

In Genesis 2:7 of the King James Bible, it specifically states that man was made a living soul. The word in the original scriptures translated here as "living soul" is the Hebrew word "nephesh." However, in two separate groups of Bible translations found on the internet, nephesh was translated in Genesis 2:7 as a soul only 30% of the time. In 70% of the translations man was created as a mortal being!

In the smaller group of thirteen scriptural translations man was created as a soul four times, a living being five times, a creature two times, a person one time, and as a breathing man one time. In the larger group of thirty translations, man was created as a soul nine times, a living being twelve times, a creature three times, a person three times, a thing one time, a breathing man one time, and was said to become alive once.

In both groups, the most widely used description of man was living being, which was used 38.5% and 40% of the time in the two groups. The only word used with immortal connotations was the word soul, which was used 30% and 30.8% of the time respectively. Mortal words were used to describe the creation of man in the vast majority of translations, 70% and 69% of the time in the two groups!

However, the majority does not rule in religious circles. The overwhelming majority of theologians teach what they believe and what they have been taught, that man is born as a soul living within a physical body. Therefore, most Christians today mistakenly believe man was made as two living beings, the physical human part from the dust of the ground and the spiritual part, or soul.

The word in the original Hebrew text which was translated into English in Genesis 2:7 as soul is "nephesh." Nephesh occurs over 750 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is used to describe living, breathing, beings, both man and beasts. It is best translated as a "living breathing being." In the plural it could be translated as "creatures or animals that breathe." Look at the use of nephesh in I Kings. The son of a widowed woman in the town of Zarephath fell sick and his breath left him:

And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. (I Kings 17:17)

Elijah prayed to God to let the child's nephesh (translated soul here) return to him, and his nephesh or breath did return, and he revived:

And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul (nephesh) come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul (nephesh) of the child came into him again, and he revived. (I Kings 17:21-22)

The same Hebrew word nephesh was used to refer to all animals and man. One of many instances where it obviously referred to beasts is Genesis 2:19:

And whatsoever Adam called every living creature (nephesh), that was the name thereof. (Genesis 2:19)

So in the original Hebrew language, the same word is used to refer to man and animals. That word is nephesh. There is an excellent reason the original inspired word of God used the same Hebrew word to refer to both man and beasts. The writers understood that all physical fleshy bodies are basically the same! They knew there are two body types, physical and spiritual. In references to man, a separate word was not required since man had no preeminence over the other animals:

For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

If a different word was truly needed to distinguish between man and the other animals when the scriptures were originally written as the inspired word of God, that different word would have been used. God did not inspire any of the original authors to use a separate word when describing man. One word, nephesh, was used to describe all living, breathing, creatures. Since the same word is used to describe man and beasts, the same physical characteristics apply to man and beasts. Consequently, since non-human creatures are not immortal, neither is man as described in the original Hebrew. The King James Version of the Bible is not the inspired word of God! It is a translation of the original. Only the original is truly the inspired word of God:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God... (II Timothy 3:16)

When the Hebrew was translated into English and other languages, the King James translators decided on their own initiative to distinguish between man and other animals. When the word nephesh obviously referred to man, it was invariably replaced with the word soul.

Thus: ...and man became a nephesh

became

...and man became a living soul.     (Genesis 2:7)

But

...whatsoever Adam called every nephesh

became

...whatsoever Adam called every living creature (Genesis 2:19)

The same word nephesh is thus translated 472 times as soul and 282 times as other words. Notice that the translators retained the word "living" in both of the above verses. Nephesh is best translated as "living being." If the English word soul implies immortality within it's definition, then adding the adjective "living" before it is redundant. That is, if all souls live forever, there is no such thing as a dead soul. Adding the adjective living implies that the soul can die. Consider the following verse:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

Those who believe the "soul living within the body" myth might point to this verse as "proof," as it indicates to them that they have a body and a soul. Since this verse is from the New Testament, the original scripture was probably written in Greek. In that case, the word translated as soul would have been the Greek word "psuche." Psuche is correctly translated into English as a living being that breathes. Notice that this verse and many others indicate that the soul can be killed. That is, it is not immortal.

In actuality, this verse refers to the two deaths which can befall mankind. The first death that man suffers is that which terminates his short one hundred and twenty year maximum first physical life on the earth. This is the death which is spoken of as sleep or rest throughout the scriptures. The majority of mankind will experience this first death without having accepting Jesus as their Savior. Consequently, they will be resurrected at the second mass resurrection as physical bodies once again. If they still do not accept Jesus as their Savior, their physical bodies will be cast into the fires of hell and suffer their second death, which is permanent.

This verse states that we should not fear those which can cause our first death but cannot cause our second death. These would be other men. Rather, we should fear God, who can cause both our first physical death and our permanent second physical death in the fires of hell. To their credit, the translators did not veer from this poor word choice of soul when it obviously did not make sense given the immortal life connotations of the word soul. Thus we have:

...the soul (nephesh) that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

Of all animals on earth, only man can sin. The other animals do not know right from wrong. Thus, this use of nephesh obviously refers to man. Therefore, it was translated into English as soul. However, if the soul is immortal it cannot die as the verse states. No problem! Christians who believe the immortal soul myth sink into what the Bible warns against, private interpretation. They "interpret" die as used here to mean "separation from God." So that "The soul that sinneth, it shall be separated from God." While this is a true statement, it is not the total true meaning of the verse. It means what it says. The nephesh or living breathing being that sins shall die. He or she will of course be separated from God as a result of being dead. The dead know nothing! Jesus speaks about a "great gulf" that separates Lazarus from the rich man who has been cast into hell:

And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from hence. (Luke 16:26)

Lazarus has been born again as a spirit and the rich man has been cast into hell and is dying. "Us and you" refers to those born again as spirits versus the nonbelievers who have been cast into hell. The great gulf between the two is death:

...the dead know not anything...   (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

Nephesh is the Hebrew word which is poorly translated into the word soul in the Old Testament. The corresponding Greek word used in the New Testament is "psuche." However, this is no great or original discovery on my part. Anyone can easily research these words over the Internet. Search for "nephesh" and "psuche." It is very interesting reading and apparently unopposed as truth for some time.


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