The Great Salvation/18
The Spirit of Man Is Not an Immortal Entity, But the Word is Used for Life, Mind and Disposition
Now, reader, you may be under the impression that spirit is only applied to man in the Scriptures; and truly, if it is a word that signifies immortal entity, it ought never to apply to the beasts in any sense. If we show you testimonies in which spirit is spoken of as belonging to the beasts as well as to man, then you will see at once that it cannot have the meaning commonly attached to it.
Now there are different words in the original Scriptures that are rendered in our translation spirit. It will therefore be well for me to give these and a brief statement of the facts as to their meaning and use. To do this I will quote from the alphabetical appendix of the Emphatic Diaglott a statement whose correctness you can, with little trouble, test yourself.
The Definition and Use of the Word Spirit as Found in the Scriptures
"The Hebrew world ruach occurs 400 times in the Old Testament, and is rendered spirit 240 times; breath 28 times; wind 95 times; mind 6 times; and the balance in 18 different ways. The Greek word pneuma has been chosen by the inspired writers of the New Testament as the equivalent in meaning of ruach. It occurs 385 times, and is the only word rendered spirit, (with two exceptions, Matt. 14:26; Mark 6:49). Pneuma, like ruach of the Old Testament, has four significations: 1. It represents primarily the air that we breathe. 2. It denotes a being, as angels. 3. It represents an influence from a being. 4. It indicates a state of feeling. It is believed that there is not a passage where these words rendered spirit occur but what may be classified under one of these significations."
Now when it is said in Gen. 6:17, "I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath (ruach, the Hebrew word often rendered spirit) or life, we see that "immortal soul" or "immortal spirit' is out of the question; for "all flesh" included the beasts of the field.
When the wise man declares of man and beasts in Ecc. 3:19, "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth so dieth the other; YEA THEY HAVE ALL ONE BREATH (ruach), you would certainly not read, yea they have all one "immortal spirit. So, also, when it is said in Jas. 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit (pneuma) is dead, the meaning is, as you will see by the word breath in the margin, "the body without the breath (or life) is dead. And surely this is true of all flesh wherein is the breath or spirit of life.
It was the breath of life that God breathed into man to make him a living man. Before that he was a lifeless man. When God takes away the breath of life or the spirit of life, which all creatures possess, the man becomes as lifeless as he was before he received the breath of life. Hence Solomon says in Ecc. 12:7, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return to God who gave it." The word rendered spirit here is the same as is rendered breath in chapter 3:19, where it says of man and beasts, yea they have all one breath (ruach).
The fact that our translators have rendered the same word (ruach) breath and spirit does not change the fact that the inspired writers used the same word. A good way for you to test whether the inspired writers believed as theologians do now -- that spirit means "immortal spirit" or soul -- is to read "immortal spirit" in the verses where the words rendered spirit, breath and wind occur. Try in the following:
I Kings 2:9 And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
Job 9:18 He will not suffer me to take my breath ( ruach ).
Job 12:10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Job 27:3 All the while my breath is in me, and the Spirit of God is in my nostrils.
Job 33:4 The spirit of God hath made me and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
Eph. 4:23 Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Col. 2:5 For though I be absent in flesh yet am I with you in spirit.
Num. 16:22 O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh.
Num. 27:16 Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.
Josh. 5:1 Neither was there any spirit in them any more because of the children of Israel.
I Kings 10:4, 5 When the Queen of Sheba had seen Solomon’s wisdom there was no spirit in her.
Psa. 104:29, 30 Thou takest away their breath (spirit of the beasts, see context) they die and return to the dust.
We say, a proud spirit, a haughty spirit, a rebellious spirit, a meek spirit, etc.; but we use the word for disposition or state of mind, and not for immortal entity. We say a horse is in good spirits or is a spirited creature; but we do not use the word as theologians do.
Understanding spirit to be used for life, we can understand the words, "Lord Jesus receive my (not me) spirit and Stephen fell asleep (Acts 7:59); and, Jesus, when he had cried with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost," spirit or life (Matt. 27:50). But Jesus died. The spirit was not Jesus; it was that which gave Him life. When He yielded up the spirit He yielded up His life and then He --Jesus Himself--died. If the spirit that He yielded up was Jesus, the Christ, then He did not die, to claim which would imperil our salvation.
When you seek the meaning of a Scripture word it is not safe to take the theological meaning; for Scripture words have been made to serve in giving expression to heathen doctrines. If you take the radical meaning of spirit as given in the dictionary you will find it accords with the Scripture use in the primary sense. The meaning given by Webster for spirit is breath. The meaning the lexicons give of the Greek and Hebrew words pneuma and ruach--the words which stand for spirit--is breath. The noun in each case is derived from a verb meaning to breathe. So when God formed man of the dust of the ground He made him alive by causing him to breathe His spirit, which all the creatures that went into the ark possessed (Gen. 7:14, 15). When man dies "his breath (ruach, spirit) goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, and in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa. 146:4). The spirit of God is everywhere – in the air that surrounds us. That portion of it which God enables us to appropriate to our use in respiration (by breathing) is called breath; and as it is by this process of breathing that we live, it is called the breath or spirit of life. It is the same with all creatures; for, as we have seen, "they --man and beasts-- have all one breath" (Ecc. 3:19). So our breath or spirit of life comes from God to make and keep us alive; and when we die the breath or spirit of life returns to God who gave it. The giving of it makes us alive, and the taking away of it leaves us dead.
With these facts before you, that man is mortal, and that the soul and spirit of man are never spoken in the Scriptures as immortal, we may now ask you to listen to the use of the word immortal, so that you may more fully see that immortality is in no sense man's present possession, and that therefore "immortal soul" and "immortal spirit" are invented phrases--not scriptural.