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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 20

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 20.—Other Ways of Taking the Passage.

There are also some persons who understand the prophet’s words, “He gave breath to the people upon it,” that is to say, upon the earth, as if the word “breath,” flatus, were simply equivalent to “soul,” anima; while they construe the next clause, “and spirit to them that walk over it,” as referring to the Holy Ghost; and they suppose that the same order is observed by the prophet that is mentioned by the apostle: “That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.” 2368 Now from this view of the prophet’s words an elegant interpretation may, no doubt, p. 324 be formed consistent with the apostle’s sense. The phrase, “to them that walk over it,” is in the Latin, “calcantibus eam;” and as the literal meaning of these words is “treading upon it,” we may understand the idea of contempt of it to be implied. For they who receive the Holy Ghost despise earthly things in their love of heavenly things. None of these opinions, however, is contrary to the faith, whether one regards the two terms, breath and spirit, to pertain to human nature, or both of them to the Holy Ghost, or one of them, breath, to the soul, and the other, spirit, to the Holy Ghost. If, however, the soul and spirit of the human being be the meaning here, since undoubtedly it ought to be, as the gift of God to him, then we must further inquire, in what way does God bestow this gift? Is it by propagation, as He gives us our bodily limbs by this process? Or is it bestowed on each person severally by God’s inbreathing, not by propagation, but as always a fresh creation? These questions are not ambiguous, as this man would make them; but we wish that they be defended by the most certain warrant of the divine Scriptures.



1 Cor. xv. 46.

Next: Chapter 21

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