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When looking at scripture when does the soul enter the body

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  • See Genesis 2:7. The spirit (related to respiration, meaning breath, without which life is impossible) enters us, making us alive, and thereby turning us into living souls. Even preventing someone's conception or birth is prohibited; see Genesis 38:9-10 and Exodus 21:22-23.
    – Lucian
    Dec 21 '18 at 23:12
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"Scripture" is a bit broad of a scope but I'll go ahead and kick off the discussion. The language of the creation account, at least, doesn't assume or support that humans "receive a soul."

The relevant phrase is: ‎וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה "man became a living creature/being/soul" (Gen. 2:7)

What the adam did receive was the ‎נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים (Gen. 2:7) "breath of life." So in a nutshell, the dust-formed adam received the "breath of life" and became a soul, rather than received a soul.

Many later translations have avoided even using the word "soul" in this text (even though nephesh is most commonly translated as soul) probably because it is so misleading to translate nephesh as "soul" only in relation to humans. Reading the entire creation account from Gen 1:20, one comes across nephesh/soul in terms of water animals, earth animals, and so forth (usually translated as creatures). So in the name of consistency, one should call fish, dogs, and insects "souls" or else just call them (including humans) all "creatures/beings." But since older English versions only translated nephesh as "soul" in man's creation, it left a mistaken impression that "soul" was an exclusively human oriented term.

Others have then relied on the "breath of life" as perhaps the source of a uniquely human soul. But that runs into the same problem as nephesh because this "breath of life" is recorded as being in the nostrils of animals (with the added ruach between nishmat and the chayim) as in the text below:

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died (Gen. 7:22 KJV)

Notice that humankind and animal kind are in the same boat as far as "breath of life." This makes it difficult to derive a uniquely human soul from the giving of a "breath of life."

This is really a broad topic that falls under biblical anthropology but I think there is good Hebrew scripture support (of which I have given a fraction) for a wholistic anthropology in which humankind is seen as a multidimensional whole in contrast with soul/body dualism. So to address your question specifically, I'd say the assumption of "receiving a soul" in the first place is misguided, though understandably so, because of its prevalence in popular Christian theology.

Welcome to the StackExchange, Mark!

Check out this article that just came out on Alter's English translation of the Hebrew Bible. Notice the first issue dealt with. Nephesh! https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/magazine/hebrew-bible-translation.html

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  • Excellent summary. +1
    – user25930
    Dec 17 '18 at 20:22
  • The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. Job 33 which was written earlier than any other scripture says the breath was imparted by/from/of God. Wouldn't that mean life's origin is from God, the principle of law that only organic can come from organic as well as spiritual originates from the spiritual? Therefor it follows that all components of our being originated from God. Someone said there is a light that takes place at conception being either the soul or dna. Concerning your answer, wouldn't a soul be lost in the womb after conception then? Dec 23 '18 at 5:09

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