Animals in Heaven: Part I: Do animals have a spirit?

When reading the Bible, it is often important to remember that we are not reading the text in its original language. It is also important to realize that God preserved and protected scripture in both its English copies, and also in the original language. No other document of ancient history survives in as many intact or partial manuscripts than do those of the Bible. It is clear that God's will has been to preserve it in supernatural excellence of both condition and numbers of manuscripts. (Mc Dowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict).

The preservation of the Bible in its original language, together with the fact that the Bible is readily available to anyone in various English translations, gives us a wonderful opportunity for a full and rich understanding of its contents. We can read passages with ease, in our native language. We can use concordances, lexicons, and other aids, to study the original texts, so that we have an even more detailed understanding of Biblical teachings.

A quick look at a concordance and lexicon will show that the translators of the Bible had conflicts to resolve. Preservation of the truth contained in the text was important, but so was the "flow" of the text as understandable in English. Translation may require an entire phrase in a second language, in order to convey accurately, all that is stated and implied by one word in the original language.

On this basis, I would like to focus on one Hebrew/Aramaic word, in order to address the question of animal spirits.

The English word, "spirit", is used 217 times in the New American Standard Version of the Old Testament. Using my Holman's New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, I find that in 213 cases, the original Heb/Aram word behind the English word "spirit", is the Heb/Aram word "ruach". That is to say, that in only 4 uses of the English word, "spirit", was there a word in the original text that was NOT "ruach".

This word, "ruach", also occurs in other places in the Old Testament. For whatever reason, in those passages, the translators felt it best to use another English word, other than "spirit". Here are the other words they chose:

air (used 2 times), anger (1 time), blast (2), breath (31), breathless (1), cool (1), courage (1), despondancy (1), exposed (1), grief (1), heart (1), inspired (1), mind (3), motives (1), points (1), quick-tempered (1), side (4), sides (2), strength (1), temper (2), thoughts (1), trustworthy (1), wind (96), winds (8), windy (2), wrath (1).

Now, to get a sense of the usual uses of the word "ruach", here are some selected (few) passages containing the word. In each verse, you'll find one or more words in ALL CAPS, which indicates the English word that has been translated from the word "ruach". Obviously, I cannot type out all 213 occurances, so these are my own selections.

Genesis 1:2
"And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the SPIRIT (ruach) of God was moving over the surface of the waters."

Genesis 7:20-22

The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath (neshamah) of the SPIRIT (ruach) of life (chayyim), died.

2 Kings 2:15

Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, "The SPIRIT (ruach) of Elijah rests on Elisha." And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

Psalm 31:5

Into Thy hand I commit my SPIRIT (ruach); Thou hast ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth.

Psalm 51:10-11

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast SPIRIT (ruach) within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy SPIRIT (ruach) from me.

(The word "ruach" is also used to denote "evil spirits"...)

Job 4:15

"Then a SPIRIT (ruach) passed by my face; The hair of my flesh bristled up.

There is nothing in the original Hebrew/Aramaic text to seperate the use of the word "ruach" in Genesis 1 and Genesis 7, from its uses in the rest of the Old Testament, except for the fact that those first two verses apply to animals. I believe the word probably means "spirit" in all of its uses.

Now, let me take you to Numbers 22 for a brief comment. In this passage, Balaam's donkey sees an angel, and Balaam does not. There is no mention in this passage of God "opening the eyes of the donkey to see the angel". There IS mention that Balaam did not see the angel until God opened his eyes. Why? Are animals, different in spirit, and aware of such, when humans are not? I speculate that this may be so.

Further, notice that when God "opens the mouth of the donkey", the donkey does NOT speak God's words. Instead, the donkey complains of the treatment Balaam has given it, saying, in essence, that it has always been an obedient donkey in the past, and does not deserve such treatment. Is it possible that the donkey has enough of a sense of self, to feel wronged? Is the donkey self-aware enough to know that its behavior has always been obedient, and therefore, good? Again, it is my speculation that this may be so.

I further have read much information about Koko the gorilla. She speaks in sign language, and has an extensive vocabulary. Koko has invented words for objects that she did not know the sign for, evidence that she is actually using language, not just mimicry or conditioned response. For example, Koko once called a "ring", a "finger-bracelet", because she had never seen a ring before. Similarly, a stale biscuit was signed "cookie-rock"!

Koko has much meaningful dialog with researchers, about "good" and "bad", and obviously interprets this in light of obedience of her human keepers. She also has an awareness of the finality of death, as evidenced by conversations with her about her pet kitten, when it died. (Yes, Koko, an animal, kept a PET)

Coupled with some other minor passages in the Bible, research in the field of "animal awareness", and my own observations, I have concluded that animals have a spirit, but that it is an ANIMAL spirit - different from our own.

However, please remember that these are my SPECULATIONS AND PERSONAL CONCLUSIONS, and that while I may share them with you, I wish no arguing or ill will to result from discussion of them.

This counter started October 6, 2013:

"El Shaddai"