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Here and Hereafter

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    5 The Words “Soul” and “Spirit.”

    EXAMINATION OF THE MEANING OF THE WORDS “SOUL” AND “SPIRIT,” AND WHAT USE THE SCRIPTURES MAKE OF THESE TERMS.HHMLD 58.1

    THE discussion of Genesis 2:7 (as in foregoing pages) brings directly before us for solution the question, What is meant by the terms “soul” and “spirit,” as applied to man? Believe in unconditional immortality point triumphantly to the fact that the terms “soul” and “spirit” are applied to human beings, and seem to regard that as settling the question, and raising an insuperable barrier against all further discussion. This arises simply from their not looking into this matter with sufficient thoroughness to see that all we question in the case is the popular definition that is given to these terms. We do not deny that there is a “soul” and a “spirit” pertaining to man; we only say that if our friends will show that the Bible anywhere attaches to them the meaning with which modern theology has invested them, they will supply what has thus far been a perpetual lack, and forever settle this controversy. The trouble is, men borrow from heathen philosophy and their own imagination, the conception of an immaterial, immortal entity, and call it the soul; then when they find the term used in the Bible, they attach to it their own definition, and call the question settled. This is not only illogical, but wicked.HHMLD 58.2

    What do theologians tell us these terms signify? Buck, in his theological dictionary, says: “Soul, that vital, immaterial, active substance or principle in man whereby he perceives, remembers, reasons, and wills.” On spirit, he says: “An incorporeal being or intelligence; in which sense God is said to be a spirit, as are the angels and the human soul.” On man, he says: “The constituent and essential parts of man created by God are two, — body and soul. The one was made out of dust; the other was breathed into him.” This soul, he further says, “is a spiritual substances;” and then, apparently feeling not exactly safe in calling that a substance which he claims to be immaterial, he bewilders it by saying “subsistence,” and then adds, “immaterial, immortal.”HHMLD 59.1

    This position must strike one as considerably open to criticism. On this definition of “soul,” how can it be denied to the lower animals? for they “perceive, remember, reason, and will.” And if spirit also means the “human soul,” the question arises, Has man two immortal elements in his nature? for the Bible applies both terms to him at the same time. Paul, to the Thessalonians, says: And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Does Paul here use tautology, by applying to man two terms meaning the same thing. That would be a serious charge against his inspiration. Then has man two immortal parts, soul and spirit both? This would evidently be overdoing the matter; for, where one is enough, two are a burden. And further: on this hypothesis, would these two immortal parts exist hereafter as two independent and separate beings?HHMLD 59.2

    This idea being preposterous, one question more remains: Which of these two is the immortal part? Is it the soul or the spirit? It cannot be both; and it matters not to us which is the one chosen. But we want to know what the decision is as between the two. If it is said that what we call the soul is the immortal part, then such texts as Ecclesiastes 12:7: “The spirit shall return unto God who gave it;” and Luke 23:46: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” etc., must be given up as proof of any such immortal part; for these texts do not use the term “soul.” On the other hand, if it is claimed that it is the spirit which is the immortal part, then such texts as Genesis 35:18: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing (for she died);” and 1 Kings 17:21: “Let this child’s soul come into him again,” must be given up as favoring man’s immortality; for they do not use the term “spirit.”HHMLD 59.3

    And, further, if the body and soul are both essential parts of a man, as Mr. B. affirms, how can either exist as a distinct, conscious, and perfect being without the other?HHMLD 60.1

    Foreseeing these difficulties, Smith, in his Bible Dictionary, distinguishes between soul and spirit, thus: “Soul (Hebrew nephesh, Greek psuche). One of three parts of which man was anciently believed to consist. The term is sometimes used to denote the vital principle, or seat of the senses, desires, affections, appetites, passions. In the letter sense, it is distinguished from (pneuma), the higher rational nature. This distinction appears in the Septuagint, and sometimes in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 5:23.” Then he quotes Olshausen on 1 Thessalonians 5:23, as saying: “For whilst the (soul) denotes the lower region of the spiritual man, — comprises, therefore, the powers to which analogous ones are found in animal life also, as understanding, appetitive faculty, memory, fancy, — the (pneuma) includes those capacities which constitute the true human life.”HHMLD 60.2

    So it seems that, according to these expositors, while the Hebrew nephesh, and the Greek psuche, usually translated “soul,” denote powers common to all animal life, the Hebrew (ruahh) and the corresponding Greek (pneuma), so often translated “spirit,” signify the higher powers, and consequently that part which is supposed to be immortal.HHMLD 61.1

    Let us now inquire for the true definition of these terms. The definition of each word will be given by standard lexicographers, and then references showing how these words are used in the Scriptures.HHMLD 61.2

    Hebrew nephesh ... SOUL.
    Greek psuche
    Hebrew ruahh ... SPIRIT.
    Greek pneuma

    To these no one is at liberty to attach any arbitrary meaning. Their signification must be determined by the sense in which they are used in the sacred record; and whoever goes beyond that, does violence to the word of God.HHMLD 61.3

    Nephesh Defined. — Gesenius, the standard Hebrew lexicographer, defines nephesh as follows:—HHMLD 61.4

    “1. Breath. 2. The vital spirit, as the Greek psuche, and Latin anima, through which the body lives; i.e., the principle of life manifested in the breath.” To this he also ascribes “whatever has respect to the sustenance of life by food and drink, and the contrary.” “3. The rational soul, mind, animus, as the seat of feelings, affections, and emotions. 4. Concr. living thing, animal in which is the nephesh, life.”HHMLD 61.5

    Parkhurst, author of a Greek and a Hebrew lexicon says:—HHMLD 61.6

    “As a noun, neh-phesh hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul. I must for myself confess that I can find no passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning. Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21, 22; Psalm 16:10, seem fairest for this signification. But may not neh-phesh, in the three former passages be most properly rendered, breath, and in the last, a breathing, or animal frame?”HHMLD 62.1

    Taylor, author of a Hebrew concordance, says that neh-phesh “signifies the animal life, or that principle by which every animal, according to its kind, lives. Genesis 1:20, 24, 30. Which animal life, so far as we know anything of the manner of its existence, or so far as the Scriptures lead our thoughts, consists in the breath (Job 41:21; 31:39) and in the blood. Leviticus 17:11, 14.” This will suffice for definition. Now for its use.HHMLD 62.2

    Nephesh as Used in the Scriptures. — The word nephesh occurs 745 times in the Old Testament, and is translated by the term “soul” about 473 times. In every instance in the Old Testament where the word “soul” occurs, it is from nephesh, with the exception of Job 30:15 where it comes from (n’dee-vah), and Isaiah 57:16, where it is from (n’shah-mah). But the mere use of the word “soul” determines nothing; for it cannot be claimed to signify an immortal part, until we somewhere find immortality affirmed of it.HHMLD 62.3

    Besides the word “soul,” nephesh is translated “life” and “lives,” as in Genesis 1:20, 30, in all 118 times. It is translated “person,” as in Genesis 14:21, in all 29 times. It is translated “mind,” as in Genesis 23:8, in all 15 times. It is translated “heart,” as in Exodus 23:9, in all 15 times. It is translated “body,” or “dead body,” as in Numbers 6:6, in all 11 times. It is translated “will,” as in Psalm 27:12, in all 4 times. It is translated “appetite,” as in Proverbs 23:2, twice; “lust,” as in Psalm 78:18, twice; “thing,” as in Leviticus 11:10, twice.HHMLD 62.4

    Besides the foregoing, it is rendered by the various pronouns, and by the words, “breath, beast, fish, creature, ghost, pleasure, desire,” etc., in all forty-three different ways. Nephesh is never rendered “spirit.”HHMLD 63.1

    Nephesh Is Mortal. — This “soul” (nephesh) is represented as in danger of the grave. Psalm 49:14, 15; 89:48; Job 33:18, 20, 22; Isaiah 38:17. It is also spoken of as liable to be destroyed, killed, etc. Genesis 17:14; Exodus 31:14: Joshua 10:30, 32, 35, 37, 39, etc.HHMLD 63.2

    Psuche Defined. — Greenfield given to psuche the following definition:—HHMLD 63.3

    “Breath; life; i.e., the animal soul, principle of life; Luke 12:19, 20; Acts 20:10; life i.e., the state of being alive, existence (spoken of natural life); Matthew 2:20; 6:25; and by implication, of life as extending beyond the grave: Matthew 10:39; John 12:25; by metonymy, that which has life, a living creature, living being; 1 Corinthians 15:45; spoken of a man, person, individual; Acts 2:41.”HHMLD 63.4

    Bagster’s Analytical Greek Lexicon gives substantially the same definition, as follows:—HHMLD 63.5

    “Breath: the principle of animal life; the life, Matthew 2:20, an inanimate being, 1 Corinthians 15:45, a human individual, soul, Acts 2:41; the immaterial soul, Matthew 10:28; the soul as the seat of religious and moral sentiment, Matthew 11:29; the soul as a seat of feeling, Matthew 12:18; the soul, the inner self, Luke 12:19.”HHMLD 63.6

    Psuche as Used in the Scriptures. — The word “soul” in the New Testament comes invariably from the Greek (psuche); which word occurs 105 times. It is translated “soul” 58 times; “life” 40 times; “mind” 3 times; “heart” twice’ “us” once; and “you” once; six different ways.HHMLD 63.7

    Ruahh Defined. — For the definition of this word we appeal again to Gesenius:—HHMLD 63.8

    , 1. Breath, a breathing, blowing; i.e., (a) breath of the nostrils, a snuffing, snorting; (b) breath of the mouth. Often of the vital breath, breath of life; fully, Genesis 6:17; (c) breath of air, air in motion. 2. The same as,, anima; i.e., the vital spirit, breath of life. 3. The rational soul, mind, spirit (a) as the seat of the affections; (b) in reference to the disposition, the mode of feeling and acting; (a) of will, counsel, purpose; (d) more rarely of the understanding. 4. The Spirit of God.HHMLD 64.1

    Ruahh as Used in the Scriptures. — This word occurs in the Old Testament 442 times. The word “spirit,” in every instance of its occurrence in the Old Testament, 234 times, is from this word, except in Job 26:4 and Proverbs 20:27, where it is from n’shah-mah. Besides being rendered 232 times “spirit,” it is translated “wind” 97 times, “breath” 28 times, “smell” 8 times, “mind” 6 times, “blast” 4 times, also “anger, courage, smell, air,” etc., in all sixteen different ways.HHMLD 64.2

    “Spirit” in the Testament is from the Greek (pneuma) in every instance.HHMLD 64.3

    Pneuma Defined. — Robinson, in his Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, defines this word to mean, primarily, “1. A breathing, breath, breath of air, air in motion. 2. The spirit of man; i.e., the vital spirit, life, soul, the principle of life residing in the breath breathed into men from God, and again returning to God.” Parkhurst, in his Greek Lexicon, says: “It may be worth remarking that the leading sense of the old English word ‘ghost’ [which in Matthew 27:50; John 19:30, and ninety other places is from this word pneuma] is breath; ... that ghost is evidently of the same root with gust of wind; and that both these words are plain derivatives from the Hebrew, to more with violence; whence also gush, etc.,”HHMLD 64.4

    Pneuma as Used in the Scriptures. — This word occurs in the New Testament 385 times; and besides being rendered “spirit” 288 times is rendered “ghost” 92 times, “wind” once, and “life” once; four different ways.HHMLD 64.5

    There is another word rendered “spirit,” in the Old Testament, and that is —HHMLD 65.1

    N’SHAH-MAH.HHMLD 65.2

    N’shah-mah Defined. — Gesenius gives to this word the following definitions:—HHMLD 65.3

    “נשָמָה‎, 1. Breath, spirit, spoken of the breath of God, i.e., (a) the wind; (b) the breath, breathing, of his anger; (c) the spirit of God, imparting life and wisdom. 2. Breath, life, of man and beasts; Genesis 2:7; and breathed into his nostrils,, the breath of life; more fully,, Genesis 7:22. Hence, anima, the vital spirit,ψυχή, the same as 3. The mind, the intellect. 4. Concrete, living thing, animal.”HHMLD 65.4

    N’shah-mah as Used in the Scriptures. — This word occurs in the Old Testament 24 times. It is 17 times rendered “breath,” 3 times “blast,” twice “spirit,” once “soul,” and once “inspiration;” five different ways.HHMLD 65.5

    We now have before us the definitions and use of the words from which “soul” and “spirit” are translated. From the facts presented, we learn that a large variety of meanings attaches to them; and that we are at liberty, wherever they occur, to give them that definition which the sense of the context requires. But when a certain meaning is attached to either of these words in one place, it is not saying that it has the same meaning in every other place.HHMLD 65.6

    By a dishonorable perversion on this point, some have tried to hold up to ridicule the advocates of the view here defended. Thus, when we read in Genesis 2:7, that Adam became a “living soul,” the sense demands, and the meaning of the word “soul” will warrant, that we then apply it to the whole person; Adam, as a complete being, was a “living soul.” But when we read in Genesis 35:18, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing (for she died),” we give the word, according to another of its definitions, a more limited signification, and apply it, with the lexicographer Parkhurst, to the “breath of life.”HHMLD 65.7

    But, strange to say, doctors of divinity have on this point descended to such trifling as the following: “Materialists tell us that ‘soul’ means the whole man; then let us see how it will read in Genesis 35:18: ‘And it came to pass as her whole man was in departing (for she died).’” Or they will say, “Materialists tell us that ‘soul’ means the breath; then let us try it in Genesis 2:7: ‘And Adam became a living breath. ’”HHMLD 66.1

    Such a course, while it is no credit to their mental acumen, is utterly disastrous to all their claims of candor and honesty in their treatment of this important subject. But in the whole list of definitions, and in the entire use of the words, we find nothing answering to that immaterial, independent, immortal part, capable of a conscious, intelligent, active existence out of the body as well as in.HHMLD 66.2

    It will be noticed also that some of the definitions are determined by the theological views extant upon this subject; as, for instance, when psuche is defined to mean the “immaterial soul,” and Matthew 10:28 is quoted to prove it. We shall find, when we come to an examination of that passage, that no such “immaterial” thing can be there referred to. But let it be marked that in all the definitions of the words “soul” and “spirit,” and in all the instances of their use in the Scriptures, they are never once described or referred to as existing, or capable of existing, without a body. Dr. McCullock 1 says: “There is no word in the Hebrew language that signifies either soul or spirit in the technical sense of implying something distinct from the body.”HHMLD 66.3

    And now we would commend to the attention of the reader another stupendous fact, the bearing of which he cannot fail to appreciate. We want to know if this “soul,” or “spirit,” is immortal. The Hebrew and Greek words from which they are translated, occur in the Bible, as we have seen, seventeen hundred times. Surely, once at least, in that long list, we shall be told that the soul is immortal, if this is its high prerogative. Seventeen hundred times we inquire if the soul is once said to be immortal or the spirit deathless. And the invariable and overwhelming response we meet is, Not once! Nowhere, though used so many hundred times, is the soul said to be “undying” in its nature, or the spirit “deathless.” Strange and unaccountable fact, if immortality is an inseparable attribute of the soul and spirit!HHMLD 67.1

    An attempt is something made to parry the force of this fact by saying that the immortality of the soul, like that of God, is taken for granted. We reply, The immortality of God is not taken for granted. Although this might be taken for granted if anything could be so taken, yet it is directly asserted that God is immortal. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal,” etc., 1 Timothy 1:17; “The King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality,” etc. 1 Timothy 6:15, 16. Let now the advocates of the soul’s natural immortality, produce one text where it is said to have immortality, as God is said to have it (1 Timothy 6:16), or where it is said to be immortal, as God is said to be (1 Timothy 1:17), and the question is settled. But this cannot be done; and the ignoble “taken-for-granted” argument falls dead to the floor. 1“Credibility of the Scriptures,” Vol. ii, p. 466.HHMLD 67.2

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