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By Tom Ballenger

We have come to the conclusion after much investigation of the Word of God that unless the believer has an understanding of man's soul he is hopelessly entangled in error and is ever at the mercy of the doctrines of men.

Before the time of Christ one of the early philosophers believed and taught that man had an immortal "soul." He referred to it as that part of man which will live on forever in some other place and in a different form. He taught that it was about the size of the human fist and at death it, being invisible, popped out of the bosom of man. It then went to its final reward. It, the human soul, lived on in another world. Other philosophers refined this and even added other dimensions to the teaching. Some began to teach that based upon your life here you earned the right to go to a place of eternal bliss or you forfeited this right by your conduct. Two places were imagined. One was a place of bliss based upon the goodness of the individual. Another was a place of torment based upon the wickedness of the individual. But whatever the philosophers imagined about man and his destiny turns out to be the imaginations of a darkened understanding.

Those who have studied the doctrines of the philosophers will recognize the influence they have had upon Christianity. Those who also have looked at other religions will recognize that in the main they subscribe to the doctrine of the soul that fits in with the imaginations of the philosophers. Until we as Bible believers allow the Word of God to speak to our hearts we are at the mercy of the unenlightened. The Bible is very emphatic about the "soul." It is not a deep theological subject. It is very clear and plain. If the Bible would be opened and the first thirty-six verses read you would come to the Divine explanation of the soul.

"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" (Gen. 2:7).

Even a casual look at the verse reveals That the Bible speaks of two things making a whole. "Formed man of the dust of the ground" - as a potter would form a vase with his hands out of clay, so God formed man out of the dust of the earth. The word "form" implies the shape, that is, his bodily shape or form. Isaiah 64:8 says. "But now, O Lord. Thou art our Father; we are the clay. and Thou our Potter: and we all are the work of Thy hand."

The form of man was simply his body. It ,vas lifeless until God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

". . . as the body without the spirit (i.e. the breath of life) is dead. . . "(James 2:26).

The body of man was formed and it was lifeless. We read in Ezekiel Chapter 37 that the dry bones of Israel will live again. We learn that the dry bones will have sinews and flesh put upon them, and then skin will cover the bones, and then God will put breath in them, "and (they) shall live."

"And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" - notice that it was the breath of life that caused man to live. The body was formed but it was lifeless. God caused breath to enter into the nostrils of Adam and he lived. When the breath of life was to be withdrawn God told Adam that he would return "unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). There is no mention of immortality here at all. Before Adam was created he did not exist. When God created him and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life Adam became a living soul. He was not one before that, and when he died and returned unto the ground from which he came he did not continue being a living soul. The breath of life was not immortal; it was temporary. It simply sustained life for awhile. The "tree of life" was placed in the Garden of God and its purpose was to produce the fruit that Adam could eat in order for him to "live forever" (Gen. 3:22).

After Adam sinned he was barred from the "tree of life." All he had was the breath of life. When God would withdraw the breath of life Adam would die. After sin entered in and death by sin, in order for Adam to live forever he would now have to die, and then live again later in resurrection.

The Bible speaks a great deal about the soul. This paper is only to set forth the basic premise of the "soul." Space does not allow more than that. The interested student can develop a study with a good concordance as he checks out every reference in the Bible to "soul." Remembering that God formed man from the ground, then breathed into his nostrils - thus man became a living soul. This tells us plainly that man is not a three-part being but rather a two-part being. The body of man equals "dust of the ground," the spirit equals "the breath of life." Therefore the equation, "the whole is equal to the sum of all its parts" can be applied to man. He is a body with a spirit, hence he is a living soul. Man is not a body, a spirit and a soul, but rather, he is A LIVING SOUL and as such is subject to death.

When the breath of life is withdrawn man ceases to be a "living soul." He dies and returns to the ground from whence he came. Man is not immortal, he does not live on in some other place in another form. First Timothy 6:16 says that Jesus Christ is the only one "Who hath immortality." It is at resurrection that immortality will be put on by those that "sleep in Jesus" (1 Cor. 15:53).

So we conclude that man was formed out of the dust of the ground. The Lord told Adam what death was in Genesis 3:19 when He said, "In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for OUT OF IT WAS THOU TAKEN: FOR DUST THOU ART, AND UNTO DUST SHALT THOU RETURN." The reader should note very carefully the emphasis on "return." This plainly states that Adam was taken from the dust and unto it will he return when he dies.

David asserts the same when he says in Psalms 103:14: "For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are DUST." The Lord remembers that we were born in the likeness of Adam and he was formed out of the dust. Hence, having his likeness we too are but dust. The preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:7 speaks of the death of man and says: "Then shall the DUST return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it." Note that the word "dust" is a figure of speech. It is a metonomy. The word "dust" is used in place of the word "body" because the body is made of dust.

We should recognize that the first mention of a word in the Bible generally sets the meaning of the word throughout the rest of the Bible. This is irrespective of the original languages. The Lord superintended in the preservation of His Word so that the Bible believer can trust the Book that the Lord Jesus Christ used to call him out of darkness. He can trust the English Bible (i.e. the Authorized Version) to guide him into all truth as the Spirit of God grants light and understanding. The Spirit of God has so providentially directed that we notice the first time the word "soul" is used in the Bible it is in association with the creation of man.

The first occurrence of the word "soul" in the Bible is in association with the creation of man and not animals. It is quite apparent that the reason the Lord providentially directed in such a manner is not to lend credence to the naturalistic influences that man is now swallowing hook, line and sinker. The student who is concerned with truth arrives at it through enlightenment and study, not through criticism of the Bible. The doctrines of evolution are so prevalent that by the time of the Great Tribulation this will be the doctrines and creeds of professing Christians. Modern schools of theology have adopted what they refer to as "Theistic Evolution." This will become more pronounced as the Bible is set aside. It all culminates with the angel of Revelation 14:6-7 flying through the heavens declaring the "everlasting gospel," that is, give glory to God as Creator.

Those who have some acquaintance with the Hebrew text point out that the word for "soul" in Hebrew is "nephesh" and that it first occurs in Genesis 1:21 where it is translated "creature." "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth . . ."

Many would criticize the translation and say that the translators tried to keep the Engilsh reader front knowing that the word for "soul" is "nephesh" and that it also applies to animals as well as man. Of course this would be a false charge and a maligning of the translators, but even more important, such statements render a great disservice to the Word of God Itself. In Job 12:10 we read: "In Whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." A close look at the context shows that the "soul of every living thing" has reference to "beasts" and "the fowls of the air" (v. 7) and "the fishes of the sea" (v. 8). Thus in job 12 we note that the "beasts," and the "fowls" and the "fishes" are referred to as being "souls." Not only that, the translators translated the word "nephesh" SOUL, AND IT SPEAKS OF LIVING CREATURES OTHER THAN MAN.

"Nephesh" is again translated "soul" in Numbers 31:28 where there is a reference to animals as well as men.

"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 asses, and of the sheep. "

Again we notice that "nephesh" is translated "soul" in the Authorized Version and it is connected with animals, as well as men. Hence, the charge laid at the translators that they failed to translate "nephesh" as "soul" when it is related to animals is found to be false. As a matter of fact, it is apparent from the King James Authorized Version that man and beast have something in common; that being the soul. Remember that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul. It is clear that a living soul pertains to man and beast. To this agrees Ecclesiastes 3:19-20.

"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."

Psalms 49:12 agrees with this also for it says, "man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish." The twentieth verse says, "Man that is in honour and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish."

Psalms 146:4 states: "His (i.e. man) breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Therefore, man and beast both return to the dust when the breath of life is withdrawn. They were both living souls. They both perish. The big difference though is that man has the capability to live again in resurrection; for he has a Redeemer. Those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ will live again. The "gates of hell" shall not be able to hold them.

The Bible word "soul" refers to the total living creature whether it be man or beast, fowl or fish. This paper's purpose however is to point the student to the fact that the word "soul" refers to the total man. Man is equal to the sum of all his parts. That is, man is a living soul. He possesses a body and the breath of life. These two parts make him a living soul. Just as water is composed of two elements: two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, so man is composed of two parts. H2 plus O equals water. Take either part away and you do not have water. It takes the two to make water. The same is true with man. Man is not composed of a body, a soul and a spirit. He is a living soul. He does not have a soul: he is a soul.

Lest we be misunderstood it should be pointed out that we must not carry the likeness of man and beast too far. It is true indeed that man and beast are alike --- "living souls," they both have the "breath of life" (Gen. 7:22). There is however a big difference. Man alone was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). The other living creatures were not. Genesis 1 refers to the living creatures being brought forth from the earth (vs. 24 and 25). But of man the Bible says in Genesis 1: "Let us make man in our image after our likeness: and let them have dominion . . . so God created man in His own image, and in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them" (vs. 26,27). The Genesis 1 account of creation mentions the lower creatures being brought forth from the earth. In Genesis 2, the exact account of Adam's creation, we find that he too was made from the earth. But Genesis 1 conditions us to realize that Adam was made in the likeness or image of God.

This likeness or image of God does not mean that Adam was created immortal. If we are to ascribe immortality to Adam or mankind we might as well ascribe to Adam the other qualities of God, such as: omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.