Man's physical nature consists of two essential elements: (1) the dust of the ground and (2) the breath of life. The combination of the dust of the ground and the breath of life results in a living soul or person.
The historical record of God's formation of man provides the key to an understanding of man's physical nature. "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).
I. The Dust of the Ground
Man is made of "the dust of the ground." (Gen. 2:7.) God said unto Adam, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19).
The phrase the dust of the ground refers to the chemical elements that constitute man's body. God has made all things by using various combinations of approximately one hundred basic ingredients that men have named chemical elements.
A chemical analysis of man's body reveals that it consists of 72 parts oxygen, 13.5 parts carbon, 9.1 parts hydrogen, 2.5 parts nitrogen, 1.3 parts calcium, 1.15 parts phosphorus, and small amounts of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, iron, silicon, iodine, and fluorine. The first six elements listed in this paragraph, therefore, make up more than ninety-nine per cent of man's body.
These chemical elements are found in soil in various compounds. They are absorbed into plants, where through chemical action they are prepared to be assimilated into man's body. When man eats food, some of these elements become incorporated into his physical nature.
After death man's body decomposes and the chemical elements return to the earth. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 3:19). "Man shall turn again unto dust" (Job 34:15). "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth" (Psalm 146:4). "Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust" (Psalm 104:29). "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Eccl. 3:20). "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was" (Eccl. 12:7).
II. The Breath of Life
The dust-formed man was inanimate until he received life from God. "And the Lord God . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7).
The breath of life is that vital force which enables man's body to function. The remarkable workings of man's brain and nervous system are possible only because this divinely given vital force is constantly present in his body.
The English Bible sometimes refers to man's breath of life as his spirit. Man's spirit is his breath of life. Spirit is translated from the Hebrew words ruach and neshamah and the Greek word pneuma. Pneuma is in Greek what ruach is in Hebrew. Spirit means air, breath, wind, power, animation, and the manifestation of one's power. The English words "pneumonia" and "pneumatic" are derived from the Greek word pneuma.
Man receives his breath of life or spirit from God's power, the Holy Spirit (Job 33:4; 27:3). Animals also have breath of life (Gen. 7:21, 22). Animal's breath is the same as man's (Eccl. 3:19). At death man's breath of life returns to its Giver (Psalm 104:29, 30; 146:4; Eccl. 12:7; Job 34:14, 15).
Man's breath of life or spirit is not a being or an entity in itself. It enables man's mind to work, but it does not possess a mind independent of man's brain. The breath of life causes the brain and nervous system to function, but it has no ability to think, feel, or will in itself.
The breath of life is not something that has consciousness apart from man's body. The breath of life leaves man's body at death. "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psalm 146:4). When the spirit leaves man's body it continues to be the impersonal, unconscious power of God that causes man to live. Man's brain and nervous system are parts of man's body. They are buried in the grave and return to the earth. When the breath of life has left his body, man is dead. When his brain and nervous system are separated from that power of life which caused them to function, man becomes unconscious. "In that very day his thoughts perish."
III. Man Is a Living Soul
Man's dust-formed body animated by the breath of life (spirit) constituted a living soul. Read Genesis 2:7 again: "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." The word "soul" in this verse means creature or being. To say that a person is a soul is to say that he is a creature. In other words, Adam became a living creature.
The existence of the living creature required the union of the dust-formed body and the breath of life. The creation equation is as follows: the dust-formed body plus the breath of life equaled a living creature. Before Adam received the breath of life, he was an inanimate (soul) creature. After he received the breath of life, he was a living (soul) creature. When he died and the breath of life left his body, he became a dead (soul) creature.
1. Meaning of the word "Soul." The words translated "soul" in the Bible mean primarily life and secondarily creatures that possess that life.
2. Animals Designated as Souls. The Hebrew and Greek words translated soul are applied to animals as well as men. These words refer to the life possessed by both men and animals. Some of these verses are: Genesis 1:20, 21, 24; 2:19; 9:10, 16; Leviticus 11:46; Numbers 31:28; Proverbs 12:10; Ezekiel 47:9; Revelation 8:9; 16:3.
3. Man the Soul Is Mortal. The soul is never mentioned in the Bible as being "immortal," "undying," or "eternal." The soul is mortal. It is subject to death and destruction. It can be killed. It can die. The fact that the soul can die proves that it is not immortal. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul has no scriptural support.
When Jesus said, "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" He referred to the man's life. Christ's soul was His life. Christ's soul died. He gave His life as a sacrifice. "Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" (Isa. 53:10). "He hath poured out his soul unto death" (Isa. 53:12). "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 2:27). "His soul was not left in hell " (Acts 2:31). This shows that Christ did not have an immortal soul. If Jesus had been immortal, He could not have died. He who is immortal cannot die. Jesus poured out His soul or life in death. He was unconscious in death until God raised Him to immortality.
Man's soul, therefore, refers to the man himself and to the life that he possesses. The soul is not an entity distinct from man himself. It has no conscious existence apart from man's body. The soul is mortal. The soul, referring to man as a creature, goes to the grave at death. It can be utterly destroyed and will be destroyed in the second death if the person is non-Christian.
It will be observed that life was all that was added to man after his creation to make him "a living soul" or man; and consequently, all that was taken away at death. He was perfectly formed, having eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet, lungs, heart, arteries, veins, nerves, muscles and brain; but this wonderful formation, in the likeness of his Creator, was useless and helpless without life; as would be a water wheel without water, a sailing vessel without wind, or a steamship without steam; but no one calls the water a water wheel, the wind a sailing vessel, or the steam a steamship. When the water is shut off from the wheel, we do not say the wheel is gone; when the wind closes, we do not say the ship is taken away; nor when the steam is removed, that the steamship is gone. Why, then, say the man has gone to his reward or punishment; when only his life has been taken away? After a careful search, I have not been able to find any proof in the Bible, the facts of science, psychology, the eternal principles of pure reason, or common sense, to show that anything else leaves man at death but life, expressed in Hebrew by the words nephesh, ruach, and n'shah-mah; in the Greek by psuche, zoe, and pneuma; and in English by "soul," "spirit," and "breath." (Grant, Miles. Positive Theology, pp. 265, 266.)
IV. Man Is a Unity
Man is a unity. His physical nature is undivided and indivisible. The union of man's body and the breath of life forms one living unit. The living unit is a living person having a multiplicity of endowment. He possesses many powers and abilities. He can do many different things. He can think, feel, and choose. He has a conscience and possesses character. His personality, however, is one undivided whole.
Man's mental nature and physical nature are not two separate entities within the individual. They are linked together. They form two inseparable parts of one unit. Man's mental nature really is a part of his physical nature. Man's mind results from the functioning of his brain. Without a brain, man cannot possess a mind. The brain is a part of man's body, his physical nature. The thinking, conscious part of man, therefore, results from the functioning of the physical part of man. Man is a unit.
As we have observed, the Bible very clearly teaches that the spirit is man's breath of life, the God-given vital force of life. The soul is man himself and the life he possesses. The Word of God, moreover, presents abundant testimony that neither the spirit nor the soul is a conscious personality which can exist apart from man's body. We have noticed that man is a unity, that no part of man continues to live after man dies. All men are mortal; all of man is mortal.
(Adapted from Systematic Theology, by Alva Huffer, published by Church of God General Conference, Oregon, Illinois 61061, U.S.A.)
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