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
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
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.
"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."
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
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.
Into Thy hand I commit my SPIRIT (ruach); Thou hast ransomed me,
O Lord, God of truth.
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"...)
"Then a SPIRIT (ruach) passed by my face; The hair of my flesh
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
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