Bible Question:

Genesis 2:7 is the description of God's formation of man (Adam). It uses the words dust, ground, blow, nostrils, breathe, life, man, living, and soul. Three words “came to be” a living soul describes man. The verse does not say that man “was a soul.

Bible Answer:

According to the King James Version Genesis 2:7 reads as follows,

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  (KJV)

However, the New American Standard Bible and New International Version translates the verse as,

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  Genesis 2:7  (NASB)

When we compare these verses, we notice that the NASB and NIV translate “living soul” differently than the KJV. The reason is that the actual Hebrew word, nephesh, that is translated as “soul” in the King James Version Bible actually means “life, creature, or person.” The strong sense of the word is a living flesh-and-blood person. That is, the word “soul” is another word that refers to physical life on this earth. This Hebrew word does not refer to a “spirit” of spiritual life. Notice that nephesh is translated as creature, living being, life and lifeblood in Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30; 2:7, 19; 9:12, 15 and 16. In everyone of those verses nephesh is used to refer to birds and land and water animals. Nephesh refers to the inner body which includes the organs such as mind and heart (Genesis 34:3). Therefore, we conclude that the KJV translation is inadequate for the twentieth century.

Genesis 3:19 reads as follows,

By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19  (NASB)

Here God is talking about the physical body returning to the ground, decaying and becoming dust. Our bodies are made of water and the elements of the soil. So God said that we are made of dust and we will return to dust. The word nephesh does not refer to the man’s spirit.


It is important to notice that every person has a body (material elements), soul (what causes the body to function) and spirit (spiritual life). The next verse reveals that man has body, soul and spirit.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Thessalonians 5:23  (NASB)

Souls and spirits are not the same. When we die, the spirit of a man or woman goes to either heaven or hell; but the body remains here. The soul appeared to refer to that part of man that causes his nephesh or body to function. The body is placed into a grave and decays and returns to the dust. Listen to Jesus’ comments about what happens to our spirits after we die,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16  (NASB)

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.  Matthew 25:46  (NASB)

Both verses reveal that we do have eternal life. The Bible does teach that we have eternal life if we believe in Jesus Christ. The word belief has the idea of belief plus submission to Christ. The last verse indicates that after death we either have eternal life or eternal punishment. Everyone lives forever, the question is, “Where will you live?” That is, the real you, your spirit, will experience eternal life or eternal punishment. The phrase “eternal life” means that we live in fellowship with God forever. One can live with God forever only if one believes in Jesus Christ. The true mark of a real Christian is that he or she submits to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Where will you live forever?

Suggested Links:

What is eternal life?
Searching For God
The Rescue!
What is the different between the soul and the spirit?
Is there a difference between the spirit of man and spirit of God?