Yet, is this a biblical view? In this post I will look at the evidence from the Old Testament. How does the OT view the human? I will argue that the separation of the body, soul, and spirit is foreign to the writers of the OT. In order to demonstrate this, I will look at two different words that are used to describe the nature of the human in the OT.
One of the most common terms for the human in the OT is the Hebrew word nefesh (Sorry, my hebrew font is not working with blogger's composition tool). This word, when translated into the Greek, was usually represented by the word ψυχή (psyche). ψυχή is usually translated into English as "soul." Yet, this sense of soul, as the inner or true core of a person that lives on after death is foreign to the ancient Hebrews. Rather, nefesh usually carries the meaning of a "living being" in the OT. The term just represents the self. See how nefesh is translated in the following verses as merely "life" or "me."
Gen. 12:13 Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life (nefesh) may be spared on your account.”Nefesh in the OT is merely the self, the person, the living being. Perhaps most illustrative is the use of the term in Genesis 2:7.
Job 19:2 “How long will you torment me (nefesh), and break me in pieces with words?
Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (nefesh hayya).Thus, when Adam receives the breath of life, he becomes a "living being."
This leads us to a secondary term used of humans, and that is ruach. When translated into Greek, ruach was rendered as πνεῦμα (pneuma). πνεῦμα is usually translated into English as "spirit." Yet again, the sense of a spirit that exists as a separate part of the person is again foreign to the OT authors. Instead, the ruach in the OT is usually the breath of God that animates humans. It can even be synonymous with the "breath of life" that God breathed into Adam in Genesis. See the following verses:
Is. 42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath (neshama) to the people upon it and spirit (ruach) to those who walk in it.Here ruach is seen in parallel with the word neshama, which is the word used for breath in Genesis 2:7. Thus, God is the animating spirit, the breath of God that gives life to a person. So what happens when that spirit or breath is separated from the person? They die. The spirit does not go on and live some spiritual existence, rather, the person ceases to be.
Psa. 104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath (ruach), they die and return to their dust.These two Hebrew terms, nefesh and ruach are often done a disservice by their common translations as "soul" and "spirit." The context of these terms, soul and spirit, are usually viewed through their Greek contexts, which we will see in part III, are very different from the Hebrew usage.
Psa. 146:4 When their breath (ruach) departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
In conclusion, in the Old Testament, the human is a living being (nefesh), given life or animated by breath or spirit (neshema, ruach), but that breath is given by God. When that breath leaves, the human dies. The human, whether one speaks about him as a nefesh or a ruach, is essentially a unity, a living being dependent on God for life. There is no conception of an immortal soul that lives on after the breath of life has departed.