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For other uses, see Nefesh (disambiguation).

Nephesh (נֶפֶש) is a Biblical Hebrew word which occurs in the Hebrew Bible. The word refers to the tangible aspects of life, and human beings and higher animals are both described as having a nephesh.[1][2][3] The Hebrew term נפש is literally "living being", although it is commonly rendered as soul in English translations.[4]

Biblical use[edit]

The word nephesh occurs 754 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.[5][6][7] The first four times nephesh is used in the Bible, it is used exclusively to describe animals: Gen 1:20 (sea life), Gen 1:21 (sea life), Gen 1:24 (land creatures), Gen 1:30 (birds and land creatures). At Gen 2:7 nephesh is used as description of man.

Job 12:7-10 offers a distinct similarity between רוח (ruah) and נפׁש (nephesh): “In His hand is the life (nephesh) of every living thing and the spirit (ruah) of every human being.” Although this passage could indicate that only humans have a spirit, while animals are only imbued with life, Levison asserts that this passage actually implies that every living creature, including animals, is endowed with the spirit (ruah) of God.[8][9]

The Hebrew term, nephesh chayyah is often translated "living soul".[10] Chayyah alone is often translated living thing or animal.[11] The Hebrew word tsiyyi is translated wild animal.[12]

The Greek the word ψυχή (psyche) is the closest equivalent to the Hebrew nephesh.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hoffman, Joel M. And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning, Chapter 4.
  2. ^, Nephesh
  3. ^
  4. ^ lexicons, Hebrew word Nephesh use count]
  5. ^ The first occurrence of nephesh in the Bible is Gen. 1:20, "the moving creature that hath life (nephesh)".
  6. ^ Dan. 3:64
  7. ^ Job 12:10
  8. ^ Archie T. Wright, “The Spirit in Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation: Examing John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit,” Pneuma 33(2011) 37.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^, Living Creature
  11. ^ Strong's Lexicon #2421b
  12. ^ Strong's Concordance, tsiyyi
  13. ^ Compare Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:27; Also, SDA Bible Commentary (Review and Herald; Washington DC, 1960), Vol.8, Bible Dictionary, p.1037 notes "The usage of the Greek word psuche in the NT is similar to that of nephesh in the OT."
  14. ^ a b Numbers come from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Zondervan’s Exhaustive NIV Concordance.
  • Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (3 Volume Set), March, 1993, by Horst Balz