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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.[citation needed]

Biblical use[edit]

The word nephesh occurs 754 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.[4][5][6] 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.[7][8]

The Hebrew term, nephesh chayyah is often translated "living soul".[9] Chayyah alone is often translated living thing or animal.[10] The Hebrew word tsiyyi is translated wild animal.[11]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hoffman, Joel M. And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning, Chapter 4.
  2. ^, Nephesh
  3. ^
  4. ^ The first occurrence of nephesh in the Bible is Gen. 1:20, "the moving creature that hath life (nephesh)".
  5. ^ Dan. 3:64
  6. ^ Job 12:10
  7. ^ Archie T. Wright, “The Spirit in Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation: Examing John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit,” Pneuma 33(2011) 37.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^, Living Creature
  10. ^ Strong's Lexicon #2421b
  11. ^ Strong's Concordance, tsiyyi
  12. ^ 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