The Passages

Genesis 2:7 (KJV):

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.

1 Corinthians 15:44-45 (KJV):

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

Matthew 10:28 (KJV):

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

The Logical Contradiction

P1: a living soul is a combination of physical body and breath of life (from Gen 2:7 and 1 Cor 15:44-45)

P2: a human is a living soul (from Gen 2:7)

P3: if human A kills/destroys the body of human B, the soul of human B is NOT killed/destroyed, i.e., the soul remains (from Matthew 10:28)

P4: if human A kills/destroys the body of human B, human B no longer has a body (from common sense)

C1: if human A kills/destroys the body of human B, human B is no longer a living soul (from P4, P2, P1)

Contradiction/Paradox: if human A kills/destroys the body of human B, human B still has a soul (from P3) BUT no longer is a living soul (from C1)

In other words ...

If I kill someone (hypothetically, God forbid) by destroying their physical body, that person would no longer have a body, so by definition they would stop being a living soul (Genesis 2:7, 1 Cor 15:44-45), but paradoxically their soul would remain "unkilled"/undestroyed (Matthew 10:28). They would cease to be a living soul yet their soul would be untouched (??).


How can we make sense of this? Is this a real paradox/contradiction?

  • Apparently no one can make sense of it for you.
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 22:25
  • @steveowen - what do you mean?
    – user38524
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 22:25
  • 3
    Not my DV, but understandable. There are no biblical contradictions - only self-imposed or translated ones.
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 23:20
  • There’s a difference between existing and manifesting or interacting. A soul without a body cannot experience anything. It comes to “life” in the body much like a game card comes to life once inserted into a gaming console. The programming itself is immaterial but technically exists, though non functional. Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 23:55
  • 3
    There is nothing I can see in the texts provided that says a body is required to be a living soul. All it says is a human is a combination of both physical body and breath of life (spirit). In Gen 2:7 it says "man became a living soul" only after God breathed the breath of life (spirit) on him. It is the spirit which makes one a living soul. As Jesus put it John 6:63: "The spirit gives life. The flesh counts for nothing." The flesh is required to be a human who exists as a physic being but it is not required to be a living soul/spirit.
    – Marshall
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 9:08

12 Answers 12


This paradox arises for the same reason as the paradox of the dead football team:

  • Fan 1 asks football player: How did your team do against the other team?
  • Football player: We killed them!
  • Fan 1: When do you play them again?
  • Football player: In two weeks
  • Fan 2: You can't play them again...didn't you just say they were dead??


What is death

Biblically, death is a separation.

Physical death--separation of body & spirit:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

Spiritual death (separation from God) is described in Isaiah & 2 Thess.

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2)

Such people will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction by being separated from the Lord's presence and from his glorious power (2 Thess 1:9)

The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates this worldview very effectively (see Luke 15:24)--the son never physically dies in the story--but his father describes him as having been dead. His father isn't killing the fatted calf for a dia de los muertos celebration & dressing the boy up for a viewing at the morgue--he knows his son is alive. His son was separated (from his family, from his faith) and he has now rejoined.

Consider Paul's words in the second chapter to the Colossians:

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses

These people aren't physically dead; they were separated from God by sin; now they have been (or are being, if you like) born again.

See further discussion of death as separation on this site by Dave here & on bible.org here.


The opposite of dying

What is the opposite of dying?

Wouldn't it be birth? Yes, but if death is a separation, birth is a joining together:

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. (Genesis 2:7)

This definition offers substantial insight to Jesus' words to Nicodemus in John 3:

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

(to be fair, Nicodemus was puzzled by this at first too)

Jesus is not saying that we stop being physical entities and become only spirit; when we are physically born our self (more on that below) receives a physical body; when we are spiritually born our self receives the Holy Ghost.

(Is birth a process or an event? I've attended a childbirth up close--twice--and I can quite confidently describe it as a process)

And so Nicodemus could be as understandably confused--"how can someone be born if they are already born"--as we could be to ask "how can someone die if they're already dead?"


Eternal life & eternal death

The paradox in the OP appears because, like the aforementioned story of the football team, different kinds of death are being discussed.

Jesus taught that we shouldn't fear those who can physically kill (separate body & spirit); but we should fear separation from God--specifically, eternal separation from God in Gehenna.

("Hell" is sometimes used in English to refer to Sheol and sometimes used to refer to Gehenna, but this is not the message conveyed by the Biblical text--these are distinct states/places--further discussion here)

The death Jesus warns against is not the separation of body & spirit so often inflicted by the Romans, but this:

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

This is an eternal separation--a separation from God from which there is no return. (But wait, aren't we separated from God right now?? Yes, but it's temporary. We will return to God's presence to be judged--see Revelation 20:12)

Eternal life, on the other hand, describes more than just living forever (that's immortality). Life is a joining together--eternal life is a joining together described at length in John 17 (that's a full discussion on its own--my thoughts on immortality vs. eternal life here).


The eternal self

I used the word "self" above to avoid the soul/spirit distinction.


a. Sometimes ψυχή "psuché" (and its Hebrew counterpart נֶפֶשׁ "nephesh") is used to describe the entity created by the combination of a body & spirit (as in Genesis 2:7)

b. Sometimes it's used synonymously with spirit (as in Acts 20:10)

As noted by Rajesh, Thayer has an excellent discussion of two primary uses and 6 sub-uses of the word (see here).

That Matthew 10:28 uses the word to refer to the "spirit" is evident by comparing the two possible renderings of the passage:

a. If "soul" in this context = body + spirit: "fear him which is able to destroy both [spirit and body] and body in hell"

b. If "soul" in this context = spirit: "fear him which is able to destroy both [spirit] and body in hell"

Option a (as in Genesis 2:7) does not require appending the word "body" to the last clause; since "body" is appended to the statement, option b (as in Acts 20:10) is to be preferred.

Humans have a self--an identity--an inner person (Churchill called it an "inner sanctum") that changes at birth and death but doesn't cease to exist.

The idea of a person's complete destruction is known as annihilationism; The earliest clear source for annihilationism would be Arnobius of Sicca in the 4th century; the idea is discussed in detail by Talbot here. Talbot points out that Arnobius' ideas were repeatedly opposed by his contemporaries and later generations.

I respectfully suggest that annihilationism is inconsistent with the Biblical understanding of death as a separation. At physical death the unique body + spirit entity created at the beginning of mortal life is separated; but the "self" is neither destroyed nor killed (separated eternally from God). The person may later be eternally separated from God, but that comes at God's hand at the time of judgement, not at man's hand at the time of death.


Rewriting the argument

(modifications in italics)

P1: a living soul_type_a is a combination of physical body and soul_type_b (aka breath of life aka ruach aka pneuma) (from Gen 2:7 and 1 Cor 15:44-45)

P2: a human becomes a living soul_type_a (from Gen 2:7)

P3: if human A separates the physical body & soul_type_b of human B, the soul_type_b of human B is NOT eternally separated from God (from Matthew 10:28)

P4: if human A separates the physical body & soul_type_b of human B, human B no longer has a physical body (from common sense)

C1: if human A separates the physical body & soul_type_b of human B, human B is no longer a living soul_type_a (from P4, P2, P1)

Contradiction/Paradox: if human A separates the physical body & soul_type_b of human B, human B still has a soul_type_b (from P3) BUT no longer is a living soul_type_a (from C1)



There is no contradiction/paradox, because P3 refers to two different kinds of death, and Genesis 2:7 & Matthew 10:28 refer to 2 different usages of the word "soul".

Jesus is making a play on words (or ideas), as is so common in Matthew. He's pointing out that there is a separation far more significant than a temporary absence of the spirit from the body.

  • 1
    "What is the opposite of death? Wouldn't it be birth?" What? The opposite of death is life. Do you mean to say that the opposite of the process of dying is the process of being born? Because that is correct. "Birth", however, is not the opposite of death; life is. That's so obvious. "but we should fear separation from God" Notice how Matthew 10:28 doesn't say that we should fear separation, but instead that we should fear destruction. In the same way that you can take the destruction as metaphorical, I can take it as literal. Annihilationism is not "at odds" with the Bible.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 6:23
  • 1
    @Rajesh my argument was for eternal separation rather than eternal torment. Although we come to different conclusions, I did in fact very much appreciate the logical methodology of your own response. Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 6:33
  • 1
    @Rajesh because He's talking about Gehenna rather than Sheol Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 6:37
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator yeah I didn't really spell that out did I? Post updated with revised logical proof. Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 18:56
  • 3
    Finally someone who discusses the correct understanding of death.
    – Austin
    Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 20:48

If one looks at the actual usage of the word for "soul" in the Hebrew and Greek writings, we will find that the writings are not in favour of the tripartite belief. Instead, they clearly always use that word to mean "being/self":

[Gen 1:30] And to every beast of the earth and to every flying [creature] of the heavens and to every [creature] that creeps on the earth, in which [is] a living soul, every green herb [is] for food. And it was so.
[Gen 2:7] And YHWH, God, formed Adam's body from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath/spirit of life, and the man came to be [a] living soul. [Also Gen 9:10, 12:5, 17:14]
[Gen 19:17,19] [...] Escape for your soul! [...] and you magnified kindness, which you did for me in saving my soul [...]
[Gen 27:4] [...] for [the] sake [that] my soul might bless you before I die.
[Exo 1:5] And all [the] souls that come out from the loins of Jacob were seventy souls, and Joseph was in Egypt.

[Num 6:6] All the days of his separating [himself] to YHWH, he shall not come near [a] dead soul.
[Num 15:30] Every [one] that smites [a] soul, by [the] mouth of witnesses [one] shall kill the [one] who killed, and one witness shall not testify for [a] soul to die. [Also Num 15:11,15]
[Mark 8:35] for whoever intends to save his soul will lose it, but whoever loses his soul on account of me and the good tidings, this [one] will save it.
[Rev 16:3] [...] and [it] became blood as of [a] dead [one] and every living soul in the sea died.

[Amos 6:8] The lord, YHWH, has sworn by his soul, declares YHWH, God of hosts. I ahbor the pride of Jacoh and I hate his palaces, and I will deliver up [the] city and its fullness.
[Zech 11:8] And I cut off the three who shepherd in one month, and my soul was short with them, and also their soul has loathed me.
[Matt 12:18] Behold, my son, whom I chose, my beloved [one], in whom my soul was pleased. I will put my breath/spirit upon him and [he] will report judgement to the nations.
[Heb 10:38] Moreover the righteous [one] will live out of faith, and if he draws back, my soul will not be pleased in him.

You can see that the ancient Israelite/Christian view is very different from the popular ancient Greek belief in substantive 'souls'. This distinction is in fact clearly recognized by scholars, who also note that even Rabbinic views began to diverge from what the Hebrew writings affirm.

In particular, the ancient Greeks think that the 'soul' is immortal and that the 'soul' is what makes a body alive. In contrast, the ancient Israelites/Christians affirm that it is God's breath/spirit that makes a body a living soul (being).

These souls (beings/selves) can bless others, or come out from the loins of Jacob, or eat, or touch unclean things, or die, or be smited, or be killed! They are not some special entity inside the people! They are simply they themselves!

Moreover, God also has a soul (self) that can be pleased!

And of course, animals also have the same breath/spirit that God gave to man:

[Gen 6:17, 7:15,22] [...] all flesh in which [there] [is] [the] breath/spirit of life [...] every [creature] in which [there] [is] [the] breath/spirit of life in its nostrils [...]
[Psa 104:25-29] [...] there [are] creeping [creatures], and no number, small with great beasts. [...] All of them patiently look to you to give their food in its time. You give to them; they collect. You open your hand; they are filled with good. You hide your face; they are troubled. You gather their breath/spirit; they perish and return to their dust.

So what about your argument and Matt 10:28?

[Matt 10:28] And do not fear the [ones] who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But fear more the [one] who can destroy both the soul and the body in Gehenna.

I think it is clear that this "soul" refers to "self"; do not be afraid of those who can merely take away your life but cannot take away your self. As per Mark 8:35 quoted above, whoever intends to save his soul (physical life) will lose his soul (self), but whoever loses his soul (physical life) on account of me and the good tidings, this [one] will save his soul (self). People can take away your physical life, but only God can destroy your very self.

Note that there is no reason to talk about the breath/spirit here, because the breath/spirit is not something that can be killed. As per Gen 2,6,7 and Psa 104, the breath/spirit given by God is simply the source of life, not some kind of individual entities.

Therefore, your P1, P2, P4 are true, but your P3 is false because it is based on an incorrect interpretation of "soul" in Matt 10:28. Once you realize that the "soul" in the Hebrew/Greek writings is not an entity by itself, then the interpretation I gave above for Matt 10:28 is the most natural one.


The given argument is a valid argument, i.e. the conclusion follows deductively from the premises. It is, however, unsound, that is to say, one of its premises is false. Which one? Premise 3: if human A kills/destroys the body of human B, the soul of human B is NOT killed/destroyed, i.e., the soul remains (from Matthew 10:28).

How so? Well, Matthew 10:28 has been wrongly interpreted. Let's read the passage;

Matthew 10:28 "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul[ψυχή]: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul[ψυχή] and body in hell."

The word translated as "soul" is ψυχή. Let's see Strong's Concordance for ψυχή.

From psucho; breath, i.e. (by implication) spirit, abstractly or concretely (the animal sentient principle only; thus distinguished on the one hand from pneuma, which is the rational and immortal soul; and on the other from zoe, which is mere vitality, even of plants: these terms thus exactly correspond respectively to the Hebrew nephesh, ruach and chay) -- heart (+ -ily), life, mind, soul, + us, + you.

And now, let us see Thayer's Greek Lexicon on the same word.

ψυχή, ψυχῆς, ἡ (ψύχω, to breathe, blow), from Homer down, the Sept. times too many to count for נֶפֶשׁ, occasionally also for לֵב and לֵבָב;

  1. breath (Latinanima), i.e. a. the breath of life; the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing: Acts 20:10; of animals, Revelation 8:9 (Genesis 9:4; Genesis 35:18; ἐπιστραφήτω ψυχή τοῦ παιδαρίου, 1 Kings 17:21); so also in those passages where, in accordance with the trichotomy or threefold division of human nature by the Greeks, ἡ ψυχή; is distinguished from τό πνεῦμα (see πνευαμ, 2, p. 520a (and references under the word πνεῦμα 5)), 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12. b. life: μέριμναν τῇ ψυχή, Matthew 6:25; Luke 12:22; τήν ψυχήν ἀγαπᾶν, Revelation 12:11; (μισεῖν, Luke 14:26); τιθέναι, John 10:11, 15, 17; John 13:37; John 15:13; 1 John 3:16; παραδιδόναι, Acts 15:26; διδόναι (λύτρον, which see), Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; ζητεῖν τήν ψυχήν τίνος (see ζητέω, 1 a.), Matthew 2:20; Romans 11:3; add, Matthew 6:25; Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9; Luke 12:20, 23; Acts 20:24; Acts 27:10, 22; Romans 16:4; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 2:30; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; in the pointed aphorisms of Christ, intended to fix themselves in the minds of his hearers, the phrases εὑρίσκειν, σῴζειν, ἀπολλύναι τήν ψυχήν αὐτοῦ, etc., designate as ψυχή in one of the antithetic members the life which is lived on earth, in the other, the (blessed) life in the eternal kingdom of God: Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35-37; Luke 9:24, 56 Rec.; ; John 12:25; the life destined to enjoy the Messianic salvation is meant also in the following phrases ((where R. V. soul)): περιποίησις ψυχῆς, Hebrews 10:39; κτᾶσθαι τάς ψυχάς, Luke 21:19; ὑπέρ τῶν ψυχῶν (here A. V. (not R. V.) for you; cf. c. below), 2 Corinthians 12:15. c. that in which there is life; a living being: ψυχή ζῶσα, a living soul, 1 Corinthians 15:45; (Revelation 16:3 R Tr marginal reading) (Genesis 2:7; plural ); πᾶσα ψυχή ζωῆς, Revelation 16:3 (G L T Tr text WH) (Leviticus 11:10); πᾶσα ψυχή, every soul, i.e. everyone, Acts 2:43; Acts 3:23; Romans 13:1 (so כָּל־נֶפֶשׁ, Leviticus 7:17 (27); ); with ἀνθρώπου added, every soul of man (אָדָם נֶפֶשׁ, Numbers 31:40, 46 (cf. 1 Macc. 2:38)), Romans 2:9. ψυχαί, souls (like the Latincapita) i.e. persons (in enumerations; cf. German Seelenzahl): Acts 2:41; Acts 7:14; Acts 27:37; 1 Peter 3:20 (Genesis 46:15, 18, 22, 26, 27; Exodus 1:5; Exodus 12:4; Leviticus 2:1; Numbers 19:11, 13, 18; (Deuteronomy 10:22); the examples from Greek authors (cf. Passow, under the word, 2, vol. ii, p. 2590b) are of a different sort (yet cf. Liddell and Scott, under the word, II. 2)); ψυχαί ἀνθρώπων of slaves (A. V. souls of men (R. V. with marginal reading 'Or lives')), Revelation 18:13 (so (Numbers 31:35); Ezekiel 27:13; see σῶμα, 1 c. (cf. Winer's Grammar, § 22, 7 N. 3)).
  2. the soul (Latinanimus), a. the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our soul, heart, etc. (R. V. almost uniformly soul); for examples from Greek writings see Passow, under the word, 2, vol. ii., p. 2589b; (Liddell and Scott, under the word, II. 3); Hebrew נֶפֶשׁ, cf. Gesenius, Thesaurus ii, p. 901 in 3): Luke 1:46; Luke 2:35; John 10:24 (cf. αἴρω, 1 b.); Acts 14:2, 22; Acts 15:24; Hebrews 6:19; 2 Peter 2:8, 14; ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς ψυχῆς, Revelation 18:14; ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς εὑρίσκειν, Matthew 11:29; ψυχή, ... ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε (WH brackets these three imperatives), εὐφραίνου (personification and direct address), Luke 12:19, cf. Luke 12:18 (ἡ ψυχή ἀναπαύσεται, Xenophon, Cyril 6, 2, 28; ἐυφραίνειν τήν ψυχήν, Aelian v. h. 1, 32); εὐδοκεῖ ἡ ψυχή μου (anthropopathically, of God), Matthew 12:18; Hebrews 10:38; περίλυπος ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή μου, Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34; ἡ ψυχή μου τετάρακται, John 12:27; ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ἀκλυόμενοι (fainting in your souls (cf. ἐκλύω, 2 b.)), Hebrews 12:3; ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχή σου, with all thy soul, Matthew 22:37; (Luke 10:27 L text T Tr WH); ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου (Latinex toto animo), with (literally, from (cf. ἐκ, II. 12 b.)) all thy soul, Mark 12:30, 33 (here T WH omit; L Tr marginal reading brackets the phrase); Luke 10:27 (R G) (Deuteronomy 6:5; (Epictetus diss. 3, 22, 18 (cf. Xenophon, anab. 7, 7, 43)); Antoninus 3, 4; (especially 4, 31; 12, 29); ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχή φροντίζειν τίνος (rather, with κεχαρισθαι), Xenophon, mem. 3, 11, 10); μία ψυχή, with one soul (cf. πνεῦμα, 2, p. 520a bottom), Philippians 1:27; τοῦ πλήθους ... ἦν ἡ καρδία καί ἡ ψυχή μία, Acts 4:32 (ἐρωτηθεις τί ἐστι φίλος, ἔφη. μία ψυχή δύο σώμασιν ἐνοικουσα, (Diogenes Laërtius 5, 20 (cf. Aristotle, eth. Nic. 9, 8, 2, p. 1168b, 7; on the elliptical ἀπό μιᾶς (namely, ψυχῆς?), see ἀπό, III.)); ἐκ ψυχῆς, from the heart, heartily (Ephesians 6:6 (Tr WH with Ephesians 6:7)); Colossians 3:23 (ἐκ τῆς ψυχῆς often in Xenophon; τό ἐκ ψυχῆς πένθος, Josephus, Antiquities 17, 6, 5). b. "the (human) soul in so far as it is so constituted that by the right use of the aids offered it by God it can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness, the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life": 3 John 1:2; ἀγρύπνειν ὑπέρ τῶν ψυχῶν, Hebrews 13:17; ἐπιθυμίαι, αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατά τῆς ψυχῆς, 1 Peter 2:11; ἐπίσκοπος τῶν ψυχῶν, 1 Peter 2:25; σῴζειν τάς ψυχάς, James 1:21; ψυχήν ἐκ θανάτου, from eternal death, James 5:20; σωτηρία ψυχῶν, 1 Peter 1:9; ἁγνίζειν τάς ψυχάς ἑαυτῶν, 1 Peter 1:22; (τάς ψυχάς πιστῷ κτίστῃ παρατίθεσθαι, 1 Peter 4:19). c. the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from τό σῶμα, as the other part of human nature (so in Greek writings from Isocrates and Xenophon down; cf. examples in Passow, under the word, p. 2589{a} bottom; Liddell and Scott, under the word, II. 2)): Matthew 10:28, cf. 4 Macc. 13:14 (it is called ἀθάνατος, Herodotus 2, 123; Plato Phaedr., p. 245 c., 246 a., others; ἄφθαρτος, Josephus, b. j. 2, 8, 14; διαλυθῆναι τήν ψυχήν ἀπό τοῦ σώματος, Epictetus diss. 3, 10, 14); the soul freed from the body, a disembodied soul, Acts 2:27, 31 Rec.; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4 (Wis. 3:1; (on the Homeric use of the word, see Ebeling, Lex. Homer, under the word, 3, and references at the end, also Proudfit in Bib. Sacr. for 1858, pp. 753-805)).

As you can see, the word ψυχή has two primary meanings; one is with reference to the inner consciousness(soul/heart), and the other is with reference to the breath of life, i.e. the vital life-sustaining spirit. The root word of ψυχή, which is ψύχω, even means to breathe or blow cool air. Let's see Thayer's Greek Lexicon.

ψύχω: 2 future passive, ψυγήσομαι (cf. Lob. ad Phryn., p. 318; Moeris, Piers. edition, p. 421, under the word); from Homer down; to breathe, blow, cool by blowing; passive, to be made or to grow cool or cold: tropically, of waning love, Matthew 24:12.

In order to breathe or blow air, a breath is necessitated; if you have a breath, you are alive, i.e. if you are breathing, you are a living soul, hence breath of life. Jesus is not talking about a living, conscious soul in Matthew 10:28, but about the vital spirit/breath that sustains a living soul, along with a functional body(the two are paired in Matthew 10:28, and for good reason). Thus, Matthew 10:28 can be validly interpreted as such;

Matthew 10:28 "Do not fear those who can bring to ruin only the body(the physical part of you), but cannot bring to ruin the vital spirit(the spiritual part of you); rather, fear the One who can utterly destroy both the body(physical) and the vital spirit(spiritual) in Gehinnom(thus rendering you wholly obliterated)."

This is fully consistent with Genesis 2:7; not only that, it largely substantiates/corroborates it.

Genesis 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."

Your entirety/totality/being/soul is both physical(body, i.e. dust of the ground) and spiritual(vital spirit, i.e. breath of life); if both are nonexistent(via the only process that results in a breath of life being nonexistent, i.e. destruction by God], then YOU are nonexistent. This is what Jesus wants us to fear. The ability to fully destroy a person's soul/totality/whole being, that is, to fully destroy both the physical(body) and spiritual(vital spirit) parts of you, belongs solely to God, and no one else. Jesus is telling us not to fear men, as though they have the ability to obliterate us from existence, and instead to fear God, who alone has the ability to do so. That is the point Jesus is trying to make. He is not talking about a conscious soul or anything of such.

Also, any view of human existence that contradicts what is unambiguously described in Genesis 2:7 is demonstrably incorrect(e.g. a tripartite view of human existence). From the beginning, God has laid out the "blueprints", so to speak, of human beings. There is no need for any speculation of what the fundamental components of human beings are.

Physical/dust of the ground/body + spiritual/breath of life/vital spirit = living soul/being/person.

All Jesus is doing at Matthew 10:28 is teaching us who exactly has the capacity to obliterate all the fundamental components of a human(thus rendering us annihilated); how it is solely God who has this capacity and thus solely God that we must fear(men do not have this capacity whatsoever, and hence should not be feared as such). And Jesus does all this in one succinct expression; fear him who is able to destroy both vital spirit and body in Gehinnom. End of discussion.

Therefore, Jesus is not implying at Matthew 10:28 that the soul cannot be killed by men; he is implying that the spirit/breath of life cannot be killed by men. But this is something that we've already known about for so long. Clearly, the breath/spirit does not cease to exist upon the destruction of the body, because Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us what happens to the spirit/breath of life.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 "And the dust returneth to the earth as it was, And the spirit returneth to God who gave it."

In conclusion, premise 3 is false. Let's see if the contradiction remains when premise 3 is out of the equation. Also, I reformulated the deductive argument in a more concise manner.

P1: A living soul is a combination of physical body and breath of life(from Gen 2:7, 1 Cor 15:44-45).

P2: A human is a living soul precisely because of the harmony between the physical body and the breath of life(from Gen 2:7, 1 Cor 15:45).

P3: If a human kills/destroys the body of another human, then that human no longer has a body, and the harmony between the physical and spiritual has been broken.

C1: If a human kills/destroys the body of another human, then that human is no longer a living soul(from P1, P2, P3).

All the premises are true, the conclusions follow from the premises, thus the argument is completely sound, and the contradiction vanishes altogether.

Hope this helps. Have a wonderful day. :)

  • Interesting take (+1). That said, I'm curious about the following: Also, any view of human existence that contradicts what is unambiguously described in Genesis 2:7(e.g. a tripartite view of human existence) - what are your thoughts on this question: In Hebrews 4:12 what is the difference between ψυχή ("soul") and πνεῦμα ("spirit")?
    – user38524
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 1:28
  • In Hebrew 4:12, the latter definition of ψυχή is in use. It is talking about our inner consciousness/mind/heart. However, it is not making any statements about our fundamental makeup, e.g. that we consist of both soul and spirit. I never denied that we have an inner consciousness/mind, because we certainly do. I'm denying that our inner consciousness/mind is a fundamental component of our existence, along with spirit and body(i.e. tripartite view). Hebrews 4:12 neither affirms nor denies a tripartite view of human existence. Also, thanks so much for the upvote. :)
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 1:31
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator: I disagree with this answer because in my opinion the Hebrew/Greek writings do not conflate the soul with the spirit/breath of life. The soul always refers to the whole being/self. The etymology of "ψυχη" is irrelevant, and the Greek beliefs behind their usages of the word also have nothing to do with what the ancient Israelites/Christians thought. Scholars have long noticed this clear distinction (as I mentioned in my answer). In the ancient Israelite worldview, we have living souls (Gen 2:7) as well as dead souls (Num 6:6).
    – David
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 17:50
  • That said, Rajesh clearly understood the general intention behind the author of Matt 10:28, which is in line with my answer. That is, only God can destroy humans completely. He misinterpreted "soul" in that verse to refer to the spirit, and as I explained in my answer the spirit/breath of life is literally God's breath and not something that God would destroy. But the general intention that Rajesh read isn't affected.
    – David
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 17:54
  • @David "I disagree with this answer because in my opinion the Hebrew/Greek writings do not conflate the soul with the spirit/breath of life." I agree. I never disagreed with this in my answer. All I said is that the word ψυχη can mean both soul(inner consciousness/mind) and spirit(breath of life). I never equated the two. The Hebrew word translated as "soul"(נֶפֶשׁ) is not the same as the Greek word translated as "soul"(ψυχη). In this case, the etymology of ψυχη is highly relevant.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 18:00

Here's a different perspective on killing of the soul for your consideration.

Jesus is telling his disciples not to fear those who could be so intimidating to them and that they could kill them. They have been proclaiming the kingdom of God but that was being rejected buy some..He says don't fear them but fear God because he can kill the the body as well as the soul in Gehenna which is in Israel.

So many of these scriptures seem to point to the millennium when the fires of Gehenna will be active again for the refuse of Israel and dead bodies.

Was any living thing ever permitted to be thrown into Gehenna? Not at all. Never! God's Law to Israel prevented torture of any kind to any creature. Apart from garbage, animal carcasses (dead dogs) and dead bodies of some vile criminals (those who were denied an honorable burial) were thrown into Gehenna. There they got burnt up i.e. destroyed. No living thing, not even an animal, suffered any torture there.

God is the one to be feared because He's the only one that can raise the body as well as breath His spirit into that body and therefore the soul returns to enjoy life again.

Remember man becomes a living soul when God formed man out of dust and blew the breath of life into the human became a living soul. Gen. 2:7

The body was not alive ; it had no feelings or self realization when God formed it from the soil. It was only when the breath life came out of God and into the body. Therefore, the fusion of the body and the breath of life became a living soul. He did not create a soul and put it in the body.

Here is a great example of God processes of bringing the bones of Israel back to life. Ezekiel 37:

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Look, they are saying, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.’

Therefore prophesy and tell them that this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘O My people, I will open your graves and bring you up from them, and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13Then you, My people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.’ ”

“O dry bones, hear the word of Yahweh . . . I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live . . . You shall live, and you shall knew that I am Yahweh” (37:4-6). When Ezekiel prophesied, there was a "rattling" (or an "earthquake," as in 3:12-13). The bones came together, and then flesh and skin came on them (37:7-8), “But there was no breath in them” (37:8). So Ezekiel prophesied “to the breath”—“Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live” (37:9). Breath came into the bones and they lived (37:10).

God made dead bones rise to life, and He did this by giving to the bones His live-giving breath. There is almost certainly a double meaning here, referring to both “breath” and God’s “Spirit.” The Hebrew word ר֖וּחַ (ruakh) can mean “breath,” “wind,” “spirit,” or “Spirit” depending on the context. (It is used 10 x in this chapter—37: 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14.) And we know that it is God’s Spirit that brings life. This is made explicit in 37:14—“And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” The coming of breath to the bones in Ezekiel 37 recalls God’s life-giving breath to Adam in Genesis 2:7:

If their bodies are not raised and have God's Spirit put back in them then they have no soul to enjoy life once again. They could be cut off and no part in the coming Kingdom. There will be no entrance into the Messiah's kingdom, into the glorious life of the future eons on the earth.
The worst that could happen to an unworthy member was exclusion from this kingdom. See Matthew 8:12,

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves are thrown out. Luke 13:28

So if they are not resurrected And have God's Spirit breathed back into them they have no soul and therefore have no entry into the kingdom. That is like killing the soul...

Of course even for these Israelites who desperately wanted to be a part of their kingdom and miss out on does that mean they remain dead?

When a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, until my renewal comes. Job 14:14

  • ‘breath His spirit“. Hmm, if God did that, it would be Holy Spirit, this is not the spirit in man. The Holy Spirit comes as a gift at some later time doesn’t it?
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 5:14
  • @steveowen Not necessarily. All spirits belong to God. See Job 34:14, where our spirit and breath is said to be possessed by God.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 6:00
  • @steveowen: The Hebrew word for "spirit" is exactly the same word for "breath". Same in Greek. There is no capitalization in Hebrew/Greek, so there is absolutely no scriptural distinction between God's breath and God's spirit. You can take a look at some of the other verses listed in my answer to get a better picture of what these words mean to the ancient Israelites/Christians.
    – David
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 17:57

It is a valid arguement. A soul without the breath of life is dead. See James 2:26 (quoted later).

So, what does Matt 10:28 mean?

In the debate between those who believe in a mortal soul vs immortal soul, Matt 10:28 is problematic for both sides. Both claim too much and both ignore too much in this text.

For example, Barnes says, "Them which kill the body - That is, people, who have no power to injure the soul, the immortal part." Thus Barnes ignores the part of the verse that says the soul is killed in hell!!.

So what does this text say and what does it not say?

  • it says nothing about whether the soul is conscious after death or not.
  • it does say that the soul can be destroyed in hell
  • it does say that the body can be killed without killing the soul. But what here is meant by "soul"?

In reading this passage, we should recall other passages like:

  • Eph 2:6 - And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus [This is not literally true, but will be true one day.]
  • Luke 20:38 - He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”
  • James 2:26 - As the body without the spirit is dead ...

Back to Matt 10:28. Let us place the parallel verse in Luke 12:4, 5 beside Matt 10:28 -

  • Matt 10:28 - (a) Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, (b) fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
  • Luke 12:5, 6 - (a) I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: (b) Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Let us observe what we can learn from this instruction of Jesus:

  1. Hell (Gehenna) is the place where souls are killed and destroyed. This is the opposite of eternal life in hell and eternal torment.
  2. The context determines that the one who can kill the body (only) are human persecutors. The One who can kill the soul in hell is the God alone.

This is as far as we can go on this passage alone. It is from other Scripture that we learn more about the details. Notice Luke's version: "Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has authority to throw you into hell". The timing of the "after that" (Greek, meta) is not specified.

If people die and "fall asleep" (1 Cor 15:18, 20, John 11:11, Matt 27:52, 1 Thess 4:15, 1 Cor 7:39, etc) and then resurrected at the second coming, God has no body to resurrect - it would have rotted away; God "remembers" us when He comes again in His kingdom (Luke 23:42) - we are resurrected back to life.

If God judges the person wicked, the person is resurrected to the "resurrection of damnation" (John 5:24-29) and they are destroyed in Hell, both body and soul (2 Thess 1:8, Matt 10:28, Eze 18:4, 20, 24, Mal 4:1, 3.)

Thus, in Matt 10:28 we have two situations:

  • either the body is only destroyed by persecuting humans. However, God would remember the righteous.
  • or, the body and soul (of the wicked) are destroyed by God at the great final judgement.

As I've read about it, it seams that the word soul has a special meaning in Hebrew (soul = nephesh). It does not mean something that we have but it means the thing that we are, what it defines us as persons (i.e.: thoughts, actions, desires) in a single word, you could say that it is our being (literally, from the word to be), or our identity.

Below I'll put a few examples of the complex meaning of the word soul, that I mentioned above.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul (nephesh), and with all thy might. - Deuteronomy 6:5

This is repeated by Christ in Matthew 22:37:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul (greek: psyche), and with all thy mind. - Matthew 22:37

At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart (nephesh) upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee.- Deuteronomy 24:15

But God will redeem my soul (nephesh) from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah. - Psalm 49: 15

Indeed, Adam's being, his identity, started when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life". But, at least in the Torah, there was no certainty as to what happened to his soul (identity) after he died.

So before Christ, what happens to our identity after death, was somehow unknown, but, from Christ, the fact that our identity (soul) can exist without the body, is a certainty.

In conclusion, in the light of the original meaning of the word soul, there is no contradiction between what is said in Genesis and What Jesus said according to Matthew's gospel, instead it is a completion.


Without assigning intent, it appears that you are looking for a problem with a Hebrew word (nepes) that is mostly used differently in the KJV version than other more modern and understandable versions including the ESV, NASB, etc. as 'living creature'.

Of course, several Hebrew and Greek words have multiple meanings, just as English words do. I believe creature, person, or being is a better translation of Gen.2:7 Even the NKJV gives us 'living being'.

Many use the term soul to refer to human beings (Coast Guard refers to souls aboard a ship). But the soul and spirit are distinct.

A decent way to state it in my opinion is that our soul possesses (in the has sense) a body while alive on earth. It continues on after our body has perished. So what looks like a contradiction is most likely only poor word choice (or ambiguous word choice by the editors of Old English in the 16th C.).

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    – agarza
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 17:32

I don't believe that Genesis 2:7 is teaching us that the breath (spirit) of life, is a living soul, or living person that God blows into the flesh and blood human body. From my study of the scriptures, this Scripture is teaching me it takes the combination of God forming the flesh and blood human body from the dust of the ground and then the act of God blowing the breath (spirit) of life into that flesh and blood human body then that flesh and blood human body becomes a living soul or living person.

So it's my understanding from my study of the scriptures that a human being ceases to be a living soul or living person when the breath (spirit) of life leaves the human body. This is why the scriptures say regarding death, that human beings have no superiority over animals. Just as when the breath (spirit) of life leaves the animal's body at death they cease to be living souls or living animals, so human beings cease to be living souls or living persons when the breath (spirit) of life leaves the human body. The spirit that's in human beings is the same spirit that's in animals. So just as the spirit that's in an animal's body isn't a living soul, or living animal that's leaving that animal's body at death, so it's not a living soul or living person leaving the human being's body at death. The only hope human beings have after death is if God has judged that human being who has died to be worthy of a resurrection.

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    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 0:29
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  • Thank you for your helpful advise Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 0:38

The OP may have missed the prime message of resurrection and arise to this paradox. Let me rephrase it.

P1: a living soul is a combination of natural body and breath of life (from Gen 2:7 and 1 Cor 15:44-45)

P2: a human is a living soul (from Gen 2:7)

P3: if human A kills/destroys the natural body of human B, the soul of human B is NOT killed/destroyed, i.e., the soul remains (from Matthew 10:28)

P4: if human A kills/destroys the natural body of human B, human B no longer has a natural body (from common sense)

C1: if human A kills/destroys the natural body of human B, human B is no longer a living soul (from P4, P2, P1)

On the day of final judgment, human B resurrected (Revelation 20:12), if human B name was in the book of life, human B will be given a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44) which is imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42). The spiritual body combine with the remaining soul are then capable to inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). If human B name was not in the book of life, human B will not receive a spiritual body, human B remaining soul will be destroyed by God in hell (Matthew 10:28)

1 Corinthians 15:50 NIV)

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood (the natural body) cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Matthew 10:28 NIV

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One (God) who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

It does not exist a paradox.


The traditional ‘view’ of what ‘man’ is complicates a fundamental understanding of questions such as this. That traditional ‘view’ apologetically ‘argues’ that soul and spirit are essentially ‘one’, the ‘same’. And that ‘interpretation’ can be ‘read’ in Genesis 1/2 - as can the opposing view that they are two separate parts.

But, to “…. [snip] make sense of this?” - (that is, to answer your Q), it really helps to clarify this

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.”

This passage needs to be considered from a Hebraic perspective. Which essentially ‘translates’ this as “Man is a Speaking Spirit”

Gen 2:7 reads, “and man became a living soul.” There is an interpretation that is more precise… A more accurate interpretation. The verse actually says, “and man became a speaking spirit.”

ha’adam l’nef’fish kai’yah – adam, nephesh chai-yah …

Note, we are not suggesting that the traditional English translation is wrong, rather that it’s incomplete and lacks the essence of the message.

ha’adam = the man, l’nephesh = to a soul, a being kai-yah = living, alive “The man became a living being” is literally accurate.

Man was ‘created’ in Genesis 1, and given a ‘body’ in Genesis 2. so, what is man? According to Genesis 2:7 ‘man’ is not a ‘body’. The physical ‘body’ is [bit/only] a ‘home’ for man [a spirit] ..

MAT 12: 43 When an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places looking for rest but does not find it. 44 *Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’ When it returns, it finds the house empty, swept clean, and put in order.

The ‘spirit’ gives man ‘life’ - where as the blood gives the body ‘life’

JOHN 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.

LEVITICUS 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, [snip]

So a ‘soul’ needs man’s spirit in order to live - not a body. The ‘soul’ [only] needs a ‘body’ to ‘speak’, and to ‘live’ [be able to ‘do’ ‘things’ here on [this physical] earth.

So what is ‘man’? - not his body! So if ‘man’ kills the body - then all that would do is that ‘that man’ could no longer ‘do things’ [operate] in this earthly realm. But ‘he’ would still ‘be’. [conscious]. BUT … he could then no longer ‘effect’ salvation, because that needs a ‘mouth’. (Speaks/says is a crucial component of ‘being saved’.)

So this is …… “How can we make sense of this? Is this a real paradox/contradiction” - No!


A wonderful question! The contradiction is clear, and unless Bible contradicts itself, which is not and cannot be the case from my and any Christian's point of view, for "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16), there should be some problem in the premises.

The Matthew 10:28 - and Luke 5:12 that further clarifies it - clearly say that something in us, that has everything to do with our identity+consciousness-retaining personality, for it is referred by Lord as "you", after having been killed, can be cast to hell, and that we should fear this. Now, this something must necessarily be conscious, for unconscious fears nothing, and this conscious something has to do, again, everything with our very "I", and this "I" is necessarily there with the soul that is not killed together with body. Unless, of course, we hazard an outlandishly counterintuitive interpretation that the Lord means that, although a killed person will disappear from being, from existence totally and wholly, He will resurrect, which will be the same as to re-create, this person out of memory and then he, if he lived a bad and shameless life, be cast to hell together with the newly re-created body and newly re-created conscious soul. But this counterintuitive and mercilessly forced interpretation should be abandoned.

Moreover, it is a calumny on God to say that He re-creates both body and soul of man just for the reason of either tormenting him eternally or annihilating him immediately after this hapless re-creation; for in the first case the Lord would be a sadist, while in the second case He will be busying Himself in a totally superfluous activity of re-creating somebody with an aim of immediate annihilation of the sorry guy. One more: how can God, out of memory re-create a an unrepenting sinner? Then He must create both sin and unrepentedness and become thus an active cause of evil and sin, which, besides being absurd, is also sacrilegious. When we put aside those three absurdities, what is left, is the traditional and sound-reason-based Christian teaching adhered by all mainstream Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and majority of Protestant denominations (not to mention also Mono- or as recent theologians more frequently term Mia-Physites, Copts and Armenians) that human soul survives body consciously.

Moreover, when the Lord warns about being afraid of that or Him who can cast us to hell after death (Luke 12:5), He necessarily and unavoidably implies that if we heed to His warning, we shall not be cast to hell after death, which means that that which is not cast to hell after death is alive and conscious, even though his body lays in tomb decaying, or, in some special cases with some but not all saints, kept by God undecayed for edification and strengthening of weak-faithed people in faith.

Now, this having been established, we can explain also the Gen. 2:7, which says nothing but that the body of a man is an indispensable aspect of his wholesome personality, but this does not mean at all that the "breath of life", which is the intelligent soul of this body does not survive it. Moreover, yes, body and intelligent soul make one wholesome personality, but there can be a dilemma which to choose as a priority - health of body or that of its intelligent soul? For instance, you are caught by an opposite mafia-gang which asks you to say whereabouts of your hiding brother, whom they vengefully seek, under a barrel of а gun, and you understand that to do so will save your body but harm your intelligent soul, and your person chooses the health of the intelligent soul at detriment of health and even life of body. If life of body is the same as the intelligent soul, then destruction of the life of body will equal to not only destruction of health of the intelligent soul, but to the very death of the intelligent soul, which is incomparably worse than just harming it, for total destruction is worse than harming.

Thus, death and destruction of body is not and cannot be death and destruction of our intelligent soul that our person chooses over against the health and even life of a body, and thus our personhood can healthily survive together with our intelligent souls after the death of a body, which is so clear in Matthew 10:28. And yet, since the body in which we lived a historical life is also an indispensable part of our eternal personality that has survived it, this body will also be resurrected and re-united to the disembodied person with his intelligent soul. Just as the Lord Jesus Himself: having died, He retained His human created intelligent soul, with which He descended to Hades having preached to the deceased souls there (1 Peter 3:19), and then after three days He resurrected His own dead body, i.e. rejoined it to His divine Person and the human intelligent soul. Thus, not any kind of philosophy, even most sublime and profound forms of it, but only this correct Christology revealed in the Scriptures, shows us also the correct anthropology, and this not only to Christians, but surely to all humans.

  • This is insightful, +1 Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 0:26
  • 1
    @HoldToTheRod Thanks! I think, the problem with interpreting this issue is not the text of the Scripture, but the overall spiritual gravity of an average modern Westerner, who hardly ever thinks about Eternity and anything that can be related to Eternity in himself, the temporality has swamped the entirety of a Westerner's life, with all Elon Musk's technological breakthroughs the swamp remains as swampy as before; when technology substitutes a perception of Eternal/Sacred, the result is still swamp of materiality, and modern exegeses of Bible suffer from this general swampy spiritual climate. Commented Jan 29, 2022 at 5:28

Little reference to the Bible is needed to resolve this, which is not a matter for hermeneutics nor a valid argument—because it obviously rests on the fallacy of equivocation (on the meaning of “living soul” and “soul” in P2 and P3).

When Adam was said to be a “living soul,” what was this state being contrasted with? With inanimate matter. When Adam died, he then ceased to be a “living soul” in that precise sense: he was no longer animated matter. His soul would still exist but he would not be a “living soul* in the sense originally introduced. Of course, if you absolutely insist that “living soul” meant only the soul, and not the soul giving life to a body, then you will (a) be mistaken but (b) able to mount your “paradox.”

While all this should be reasonably obvious even to Bible readers not bent on reading contradictions into it, acquaintance with the Hebrew text does help. The word translated “soul” here, nephesh, has a very rich semantics. It is glossed, variously, “soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion” (all according to Strong’s). Some commentators and translators insist that “soul” is in fact the wrong translation, since it suggests Greek notions of dualism, and that “being,” “creature,” or “person” would work much better. In any event, what is very clear from the Hebrew, not to mention the context and Biblical theology, is that when God breathed into Adam’s nostrils, he became alive, i.e., a living being: his nephesh comes from God and, in combination with a body, makes a living man. It is the combination that makes the man living; when the nephesh departs, the man is no more, but is dead. If the nephesh lives on (as we are told elsewhere in the Bible, indeed), it “lives” in a sense different from the sense in which a body or a person or a person’s body is “alive.”

Understood this way, there is no contradiction or paradox; P2 and P3 are literally about different uses of “living soul.”

This point can be drawn out more clearly as a criticism of or comment on P1, which claims, “a living soul is a combination of physical body and breath of life”. On the one hand, this is true: when there is a physical body with a breath of life, there is a living soul. On the other hand, it does too much violence to other texts (not to mention common sense) to say that the body is somehow literally part of, or a component of, a soul. The soul is capable of leaving and returning to a body: it cannot, therefore, have a body as a component of itself.

So what then can it mean to say there is a living soul when the breath of life animates the body? We can simply say quite simply that the breath of life created Adam’s soul, a purely mental or immaterial part of the “living being” that was Adam. When the soul entered the body, Adam became alive. His body was “animated” (from anima, Latin spirit or soul). When he was described as a living soul, the word “soul” was not used just for his immaterial soul alone, but for himself, for the man, body and soul, that he was. But this is a derivative sense of the word, as when we say there where 316 souls aboard a ship: there were 316 people, each of whom was dignified and animated by a soul. Is the same soul that will depart the body upon death, and be put into (and reanimate) a new resurrection body upon resurrection, to face the last judgment.

  • His soul would still exist - based on what? Or in what form?
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 5:09
  • Are you asking a question about philosophy or Biblical doctrine (I maintain true philosophy = Biblical doctrine, but you might not)? I’m merely conceding the original poster’s P3, which is supported by many Bible verses. Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 5:14
  • 1
    @globewalldesk You miss the point. Adam was not given a soul; he did not have a soul. He was made INTO a soul(Genesis 2:7 and 1 Corinthians 15:45); he WAS a soul. I have a doctor, but I am most certainly not a doctor. Being something and having something are two entirely different things. We do not have souls; we are souls. Thus, when we die, being souls, our souls die. It's as straightforward as that.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 5:29
  • "his nephesh comes from God and, in combination with a body, makes a living man" The nephesh + body does not make him a living man. You should reread Genesis 2:7. The breath of life + body makes him a living man. It's right there in the text. God took the dust and made a body, then breathed the breath of life and made Adam into a soul. Not, God took a soul and put it in Adam's body to make him alive. Adam did not receive a nephesh from God; he was made INTO a nephesh by God. This is the fundamental distinction so many people fail to make.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 5:30
  • 1
    "“Living” in the KJV phrase “living soul” = חַי or chay." No, the word נֶפֶשׁ(nephesh) is there too. It says that Adam became a חַיָּֽה לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ(nephesh chayyah). Do you want to look at the interlinear and see who is right? Genesis 2:7 unequivocally says that Adam became a חַיָּֽה לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ, i.e. living soul. It's right there. As for this, "Nepheshes are breathed in. leave, and return to bodies throughout the OT"; show me one scripture where a nephesh is breathed into a body. Technically you have to show me multiple, as you said "throughout" the Hebrew Bible. Go on, show me.
    – Rajesh
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 5:58

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