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Does Genesis 2:7 Indicate Supernatural Human Abilities?


Genesis 2:7, a key verse in the Biblical creation narrative, states: "Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." This verse has been subject to various interpretations, including modern-day psychics’ claims that the "breath of life" implies humans possessing supernatural abilities. This article aims to analyze these interpretations in the light of conservative biblical scholarship.

The "Breath of Life" in Genesis 2:7

Biblical Context and Meaning

The "breath of life" in Genesis 2:7 is traditionally understood as the animating force that transforms Adam from a lifeless form into a living being. This act symbolizes God’s impartation of life, distinguishing humans from other creations by granting them a unique spirit and soul.

Misinterpretations by Modern Psychics

Some modern psychics have extrapolated from this verse the idea that humans can harness supernatural abilities. However, such an interpretation stretches beyond the text's intended meaning and lacks support from the broader scriptural context.

Analyzing the Psychic Interpretation

The Flawed Basis for Supernatural Claims

The claim that Genesis 2:7 endows humans with latent supernatural powers is unfounded when the verse is examined within its biblical context. The Bible consistently portrays the "breath of life" as a metaphor for the vitalizing power of God, not as a source of mystical human abilities.

Contrast with Biblical Teachings

Biblical teachings emphasize reliance on God’s power rather than innate human supernatural abilities. Miracles and spiritual gifts in the Bible are consistently attributed to divine intervention rather than human origin.

Theological Implications of Genesis 2:7

Understanding the Human Soul and Spirit

From a conservative theological perspective, Genesis 2:7 is significant for its portrayal of the creation of the human soul and spirit. It highlights the special status of humans in God’s creation, endowed with moral consciousness and the capacity for a relationship with God.

The Nature of Life and God’s Role

This verse underlines the belief that life itself is a gift from God, with humans uniquely created in His image. It reinforces the understanding of God as the giver and sustainer of life.

Critique of Psychic Interpretations

Evaluating Non-Biblical Interpretations

While respecting diverse beliefs, it's crucial to critique interpretations that deviate from the intended biblical message. The psychic interpretation of Genesis 2:7 lacks theological and exegetical substantiation and diverts from orthodox Christian doctrine.

Upholding Scriptural Authority

In evaluating such interpretations, the authority of Scripture and the consistency of biblical themes should be the guiding principles. Interpretations that introduce concepts foreign to the Bible’s teachings must be approached with caution.


Affirming the Biblical Meaning of Genesis 2:7

Genesis 2:7, when understood in its biblical context, does not suggest that humans have inherent supernatural abilities. Instead, it beautifully portrays the creation of human life, emphasizing the special role and value of humanity in God's creation.

Navigating Diverse Interpretations

While acknowledging the variety of interpretations that exist, it's essential for conservative biblical scholarship to remain grounded in a faithful understanding of the Scriptures. The goal is to discern and uphold the true meaning of biblical texts, such as Genesis 2:7, in the face of various modern reinterpretations.

In conclusion, Genesis 2:7 stands as a testament to the divine origin of human life, refuting claims of inherent supernatural human abilities. It underscores the importance of maintaining fidelity to the scriptural narrative and its theological implications, thereby preserving the integrity of biblical teachings.

Digging Deeper Into the Truth of Genesis 2:7

The Human Soul and Its Distinction in Creation

The term "neʹphesh chai·yahʹ" (living soul) used in Genesis 2:7 to describe Adam, is identical to the phrase used for animals. However, the distinction between man and animals in the Biblical account is not based on the soul, as both are described as "living souls." The key difference lies in man being created "in God's image" (Genesis 1:26, 27). This image includes moral qualities akin to God’s, intellectual superiority, and dominion over other creatures (Genesis 1:26, 28). Unlike animals, man was created with a more complex and versatile organism (1 Corinthians 15:39) and had the potential for eternal life, which was lost due to sin (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:22-24).

Breath of Life in Man and Animals

The creation account highlights that God "blew into the man’s nostrils the breath [nesha·mahʹ] of life" (Genesis 2:7), a detail not mentioned in the creation of animals. However, Genesis 7:21-23, which describes the Great Flood, indicates that animals also possessed the "breath [nesha·mahʹ] of the force of life." This suggests that the life-giving breath in both humans and animals originated from Jehovah God.

The Shared Life Force in Humans and Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 reveals that humans and animals share the same "spirit" (Hebrew, ruʹach; Greek, pneuʹma), or life force. This indicates that the life force in humans is not distinct from that in animals, challenging the notion of a uniquely human spiritual essence.

Soul as a Living Being

In line with Genesis 2:7, humans are described as "living souls," meaning that a human is a soul, not that they possess a soul as a separate, immaterial entity. The Apostle Paul reaffirms this Hebrew teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:45-47, where he quotes Genesis 2:7, emphasizing that "The first man Adam became a living soul [psy·khenʹ zoʹsan]." The Genesis account suggests that a living soul is the combination of a physical body and the "breath of the force of life." This "breath of life" sustains the life force or "spirit" in all creatures, both humans and animals, through the process of respiration.

Breath, Breath of Life, and Life-Force in Biblical Context

The creation of man, as described in Genesis 2:7, states that God formed man from the ground and then “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul [neʹphesh].” The term "neʹphesh" translates literally to “a breather” or “a breathing creature,” applicable to both humans and animals. The Hebrew term "nesha·mahʹ" is used in this context to mean “breathing thing” or “creature,” and is virtually synonymous with "neʹphesh," “soul” (as seen in Deuteronomy 20:16; Joshua 10:39, 40; 1 Kings 15:29). In Genesis 2:7, "nesha·mahʹ" is used to describe the life given to Adam’s body, making him “a living soul.” Yet, other biblical texts reveal that "nesha·mahʹ" signifies more than just the physical act of breathing air. Genesis 7:22, during the account of the Flood, states: “Everything in which the breath [nesha·mahʹ] of the force [ruʹach] of life was active in its nostrils, died.” Thus, "nesha·mahʹ," or “breath,” is associated with "ruʹach," denoting the spirit or life force active in all living creatures.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. VI, p. 336) notes that breath is observable only in movement and is a sign, condition, and agent of life, especially linked with breathing. Consequently, the "nesha·mahʹ" or “breath,” is both a product of the "ruʹach," or life-force, and a key means of sustaining it in living creatures. Scientific studies show that life is present in each cell of the body, with cells constantly dying and reproducing. The life-force active in these cells relies on oxygen, brought into the body through breathing and circulated by the bloodstream. Without oxygen, cells begin to die within minutes. When a person ceases breathing, the life force in his cells ceases, resulting in death beyond human revival. The Hebrew Scriptures use "ruʹach" to denote this vital force, the principle of life, and "nesha·mahʹ" to represent the breathing that sustains it.

In various texts, "nesha·mahʹ" and "ruʹach" are used parallelly. Job, for instance, speaks of his breath [nesha·mahʹ] being whole within him and the spirit [ruʹach] of God in his nostrils (Job 27:3-5). Elihu describes God as gathering his spirit [ruʹach] and breath [nesha·mahʹ], causing all flesh to expire and return to dust (Job 34:14, 15). Psalm 104:29 echoes this, stating creatures expire and return to dust when God takes away their spirit. Isaiah 42:5 refers to Jehovah giving breath [nesha·mahʹ] to people and spirit [ruʹach] to those walking on Earth, where breath sustains existence and spirit energizes life.

While "nesha·mahʹ" (breath) and "ruʹach" (spirit; life-force) sometimes appear parallel, they are not identical. The "spirit," or "ruʹach," is often spoken of as respiration itself, but this is likely because breathing is the most visible evidence of the life-force in one’s body. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10) illustrates this distinction. The bones, covered with sinews, flesh, and skin, lacked breath [ruʹach]. When wind [ruʹach] entered their nostrils, it became “breath,” observable as the bodies began to breathe. This vision symbolized the spiritual revival of Israel, who were physically alive but in a spiritually dead state due to exile. Similarly, Revelation 11:1-11 uses a physical reality to illustrate spiritual revivification, with the "spirit [pneuʹma] of life from God" entering two witnesses, symbolizing life-giving force animating the human soul.

Therefore, when God created Adam and blew into his nostrils “the breath [nesha·mahʹ] of life,” it involved more than filling his lungs with air; it was the initiation of the life force, or spirit [ruʹach], vitalizing all of Adam’s body cells. This life force, originating from Jehovah, is transferred from parents to offspring through conception, attributing one's life to God, though indirectly received through parents.

The Biblical Concept of the Soul

"The man came to be a living soul."—GENESIS 2:7.

Varied Beliefs and the Biblical Truth About the Soul

There exists a wide range of beliefs about the soul, even among those who base their understanding on the Bible. However, to truly grasp what the Bible teaches about the soul, one must delve into the original Hebrew and Greek words translated as “soul” in the Scriptures.

"Soul" as a Living Being in Hebrew Scripture

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the word for “soul” is neʹphesh, appearing 754 times. According to The Dictionary of Bible and Religion, neʹphesh typically refers to an entire living being or the whole individual. As Genesis 2:7 states, Adam became a living soul, indicating that he was a soul, not that he possessed a soul. This concept is echoed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, with phrases like “a soul sins” (Leviticus 5:1), “kidnapping a soul” (Deuteronomy 24:7), or “my soul has been sleepless from grief” (Psalm 119:28). These passages do not suggest the soul is an immortal entity that lives on after death.

"Soul" in the Christian Greek Scriptures

In the New Testament, the Greek equivalent for “soul” is psy·kheʹ, used more than a hundred times. Like neʹphesh, psy·kheʹ often refers to a whole person. Examples include “My soul is troubled” (John 12:27) and “Fear began to fall upon every soul” (Acts 2:43). Scholar Nigel Turner notes that psy·kheʹ signifies the characteristically human self, emphasizing the whole person.

"Soul" Applied to Animals

The Bible applies the term “soul” to animals as well. Genesis 1:20 speaks of sea creatures as “living souls,” and Genesis 1:24 uses similar language for land animals. Thus, “soul” can refer to any living creature, human or animal.

"Soul" as Life in a Creature

At times, “soul” in the Bible refers to the life enjoyed by a person or animal. This does not change the definition of the soul as a living being but rather emphasizes its aspect of life. For instance, Moses’ life was in danger when it was said that “all the men who were hunting for your soul are dead” (Exodus 4:19). Other examples like “The Son of man came to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many” (Matthew 20:28) use “soul” to mean “life.”

Conclusion: The Soul in Biblical Context

The biblical definition of the soul is straightforward and consistent, referring to a living person or animal or the life they possess. This simple, clear understanding stands apart from complex human philosophies and superstitions. To fully understand what happens to the soul at death, one must first comprehend the biblical reasoning behind death itself.

Based on the historical-grammatical interpretation method, original language terms, and a literal Bible translation philosophy, the information provided in the responses about Genesis 2:7 aligns well with a conservative, scholarly approach to biblical interpretation. Here's an overview of how the interpretation fits these criteria:

  1. Historical-Grammatical Interpretation Method: This approach emphasizes understanding the text within its original historical context and according to its grammatical construction. The explanation of Genesis 2:7 considers the historical context of the creation account and analyzes the grammatical structure of key Hebrew terms like "neʹphesh" (soul) and "nesha·mahʹ" (breath of life). It also acknowledges the cultural and theological backdrop of the ancient Near Eastern world in which Genesis was written.

  2. Original Language Terms: The response carefully examines the Hebrew words used in Genesis 2:7. For example, it explains that "neʹphesh" is often translated as "soul" but in a way that denotes a living being or creature, whether human or animal. This aligns with the literal meaning of the Hebrew term. Similarly, "nesha·mahʹ" is understood in its context as the "breath of life" that God breathed into Adam.

  3. Literal Bible Translation Philosophy: A literal translation philosophy seeks to closely adhere to the original wording and structure of the text. The explanation provided sticks closely to the literal meanings of the Hebrew words without inserting interpretive ideas that go beyond the text. For example, it interprets the "breath of life" as the life-giving force from God rather than ascribing to it modern psychic or supernatural interpretations.

In conclusion, the analysis of Genesis 2:7, considering the historical-grammatical method, the original language, and a literal translation approach, appears to be biblically sound and consistent with conservative biblical scholarship.

About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


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