The Latter-day Saint Reimaging of "the Breath of Life" (Genesis 2:7)

Volume 56:2 (2017)
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The Latter-day Saint Reimaging of "the Breath of Life" (Genesis 2:7)

Author Dana M. Pike

Many Latter-day Saints have come to transform the traditional biblical meaning of the phrase "the breath of life" into a new, Restoration-oriented use that refers to the embodiment of the first human's premortal spirit and, by extension, the embodiment of all other people's spirits. However, the phrase "the breath of life" as found in Genesis seems to best be understood as a figurative designation for a divinely originating animat­ing "breath" or life-force that enlivens all human and animal flesh, and is something beyond mere respiration. Such a divine breath/spirit is also referenced elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in poetic passages. It is no surprise that this is not depicted as or in association with the embodying of premortal spirits, since that doctrine is so rarely and so obtusely evident in the Hebrew Bible as it has come down to us. Reimaging the phrase diminishes consideration of the life-generating and life-sustaining power of God manifest in humans.