1st Corinthians makes a distinction between the first Adam and Jesus Christ and it also distinguishes between the soul and the spirit. What does the expression a "quickening spirit" mean here and how is a contrast from the previous expression "living soul"?

1 Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit.

5 Answers 5


As Paul quoted from Genesis 2:7, Man became living soul which means that he is created with a animal soul - the body with a life and soul, the living principle of his body.

Quickening spirit would mean not only living soul but the soul which makes alive or the soul which has the power/authority to give life. The gospel of John has more textual evidence of quickening spirit, the one which is alive and gives life ( John 5:21 , John 6:33, John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:54, John 6:57, John 6:62 and John 6:63).

  • The verses you quoted seem to claim that after the resurrection, Jesus Christ the eternally begotten has become the eternal begetter. Why not go ahead and show verses, they prove your point!
    – Rick
    Feb 7, 2017 at 13:19

When one first reads this, perhaps they may be compelled to examine Gen. 2:7 (since Paulos quotes it), in which it is written,

English translation:

And YHVH God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

Hebrew text (Masoretic):

וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם עָפָר מִן־הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַיְהִי הָֽאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה

Greek text (LXX):

καὶ ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν

Notice what occurs.

  • YHVH God forms man.
  • YHVH God breathes the "breath of life" into man.
  • Man becomes a "living soul."

What is interesting about the LXX is that it uses the Greek verb ἐνεφύσησεν (enephysēsen), a conjugation of the root verb ἐμφυσάω (emphysaō), "meaning "to breathe on, infuse." In the entire corpus of the Greek text of the Bible, this verb only occurs twice: Gen. 2:7 of the LXX, and John 20:22 of the NT, in which it is written,

English translation:

And when he said this, he breathed on [them] and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit!"

Greek text:

καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησεν καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς Λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον

Arthur W. Pink, in his Exposition of the Gospel of John, p. 1100, wrote,

The Greek word here used is employed nowhere else in the New Testament, but is the very one used by the Septuagint translators of Gen 2:7: '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.' There, man's original creation was completed by this act of God; who, then, can fail to see that here in John 20, on the day of the Saviour's resurrection, the new creation had begun, begun by the Head of the new creation, the last Adam acting as 'a quickening spirit' (1Cr 15:45)!"

John Gill, on the phrase "quickening" or "life-making spirit," writes,

though rather I think it is to be understood of his spiritual body, of his body, not as it was made of the virgin, for that was a natural, or an animal one; it was conceived and bred, and born as animal bodies are; it grew and increased, and was nourished with meat and drink, and sleep and rest; and was subject to infirmities, and to death itself, as our bodies be; but it is to be understood of it as raised from the dead, when it was made a spiritual body, for which reason it is called a "spirit":

not that it was changed into a spirit, for it still remained flesh and blood; but because it was no more supported in an animal way; nor subject to those weaknesses that animal bodies are, but lives as spirits, or angels do; and a quickening one, not only because it has life itself, but because by virtue of the saints' union to it, as it subsists in the divine person of the Son of God, their bodies will be quickened at the last day, and made like unto it, spiritual bodies; also because he lives in his body as a spiritual one, they shall live in theirs as spiritual ones: and so the apostle shows, that there is a spiritual, as well as an animal body; that as the first man's body, even before the fall, was an animal or natural one; the last Adam's body upon his resurrection is a spiritual and life giving one, as the Syriac version renders it

  • 1
    Yes, as the breath entered into the clay and made it live so Jesus who has received God's breath without limit, by God's breath coming forth from his mouth gives life to the dead at the last day: John 5: 25Truly, truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 2, 2017 at 19:08

Tertullian, in his On the Resurrection of the Flesh 410, opined:

Now the apostle ... fairly distinguishes between the two states, in the very essentials of their difference.

And what is their difference? As I understand Tertullian's comment in the light of the OT scripture referred to by Paul (Gen. 2:7), the spirit of the first man (Adam) became alive (sentient, animated) with self-centered animal energy (vitality) and instincts.

But "the last Adam" (Jesus of Nazareth) became a supernatural energy (spirit) capable of influencing and motivating animalistic people to, among other things, willingly demonstrate continuous benevolence (unselfish, kind, and charitable acts of goodwill) toward other people.

FWIW, that's how I see the differences between a "living soul" and a "quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).


To add to the other posts...

What is a "quickening spirit" and how is it different from a 'living soul"?

The translated term, "quickening spirit," makes it difficult to see the point of this passage. It is translated this way in the King James version and in the Darby bible. "Life-giving spirit" is easier to understand and is used in the following translations: ASV, ESV, HCSB, HNV, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, RSV and YLT. The life-giving spirit of Christ gives eternal life (John 3:16, John 20:22, Romans 8:2). Death was brought through Adam (Romans 5:12). Christ's "quickening spirit" or "life-giving spirit" is different than Adam's "living soul" for this reason.

"The first Adam was made a living soul."

Adam and Eve were the first and last created beings, until Christ. Adam, as the bearer of original sin (with Eve) brought death into the world (Genesis 2:16-17). He could procreate/reproduce/have children. He could give life of the flesh, not of the spirit (1 Corinthians 15:46). He was unable to give eternal life.

"the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (life-giving spirit)."

This is the holy spirit (breath) given to Christ at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22). This holy spirit made Christ the anointed one, the messiah (Acts 2:33). This holy spirit needed to come into the world, die and resurrect (John 16:7). This is the spirit (breath) that gives eternal life (John 3:5, John 6:63).


The living soul, while being spirit, it is a spirit that is tainted by our carnal nature. The soul then is made up of our spirit, which is the image of God, and our carnal nature. According to strong's lexicon, quickening of the spirit means; endued with new and greater powers of life; spiritual power to arouse and invigorate; to (re-)vitalize (literally or figuratively):—make alive, give life, quicken. Paul then is describing the difference between Adam's carnal soul and Christ's pure spirit that overcame the carnal aspect of the soul. This was done by a quickening, or growth of the spirit. And this had to be done as a human to be of any significance. This is why Jesus emptied out his divinity - so he could accomplish these things in human form.

  • Where do the scriptures assert that the "living soul" is "spirit"?
    – user10231
    Apr 28, 2016 at 18:06
  • People often make the mistake of defining the body, soul, and spirit as three separate entities. But the truth is, they are similar to the Holy Trinity in that they exist together as one. The body is the outer shell that contains both soul and spirit. Scripture even identifies the place that the soul resides is in the blood. This is why we are not to eat blood. And it is why we have the saying a persons blood cries for revenge. The inference being that the soul in the blood cries for revenge. (end Pt one)
    – TrustinJC
    Apr 28, 2016 at 21:04
  • Please modify your answer to include some scripture, etc. rather than simply opining. Thanks.
    – user10231
    Apr 28, 2016 at 21:14

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