Randy Alcorn claims in his book Heaven (page 374) that animals have souls, though not necessarily like humans. Is there any Biblical support for this?
In the Bible, the word for "spirit" is the same as "breathe." But there is ultimately a difference between the life of humans and the life in animals.
In Genesis 2:7, God breathes into the nostrils of man and gives him life, but all land animals have this same breath as well. "And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." (Genesis 7:15 (KJV))
However, the distinction between the two types of spirits is apparent in the following verses:
It is clear that God does care for the animals. In many passages, God shows compassion for the beast or bird, whether by the law, or other means. Though they do not have eternal souls, they are part of God's creation, and they give Him His due worship.
I think the fundamental difference between the animals and humans is not the soul, but the presence of a spirit. I think that distinction can be derived from Genesis 1 (KJV):
In verses 24-25, God describes his creation of the animals...that he made the animals "according to their kind". In verses 26-27, God describes his creation of man, and clearly delineates that man was made after HIS OWN IMAGE AND LIKENESS. The likeness of God is that of an eternal being with a spirit, the Holy Spirit.
This distinction is made clearer in other passages, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (KJV):
Where the spirit is described separately from the soul. The spirit is also described in 1 Corinthians 2 (KJV):
Which brings clarity to the purpose of a healthy, living spirit... It is the spirit that is rejuvenated or given to us when we are born again. It is our spirit that gives us the ability to commune with God via his Holy Spirit. It is the part of our being that, because it is in the likeness of God, allows us to commune with him. There are differences between different translations of the bible, and some seem to indicate that unsaved man does not have a spirit, while saved man does. I am unsure what that means, or which translations are accurate. However it is an intriguing state, one which may beg the question...are we no better than animals until we accept salvation from God? Are we simply more intelligent beings with a soul until the day we repent of our sins and ask God for forgiveness and eternal life in heaven? I am not educated in the word or its language roots enough to answer that question myself, so hopefully someone more versed than I am will come along and provide a more definitive answer.
Regarding animals, there is no reference to them having a spirit in the bible. It is intriguing to note, however, that animals are referenced at least once in Revelation (that I can think of):
I do believe God cared for the animals, despite the difference between them and man. He gave mankind, the beings he created in his own image and likeness, his most cherished creation, dominion over the animals and the earth, so he must have cared for the animals. I cannot say for sure what the passage from revelation means, however it seems that there will be animals in heaven as well. Whether they are the resurrected/eternal souls of animals on earth, or new creations, I cannot say.
Any Biblical support? Yes; the writer of Ecclesiastes takes it as a given (Ecclesiastes 3:21, ESV quoted):
Also, the book of Revelation appears to refer to creatures in the sea as living souls - some translations do say living things, but the Greek word is ψυχή "breath, soul, spirit" (Revelation 16:3, KJV quoted):
Either way, if animals do have souls, your author is right that they may differ in important ways from human souls.
What effect are you trying to observe when you ask whether animals have souls? Or what properties associated with the English word "soul" are you looking to find in animals? A better directed question will help quell the quibbles about definitions appearing in every other answer here.
Hebrews 4:12 indicates that the word of God is able to divide the soul and the spirit. From the Bible, we understand that humans are, if I may use the word, little "trinities". We have 1) a body, 2) a soul, and 3) a spirit. This is part of the way in which mankind is made "in the image of God."
It is the spiritual part of us that distinguishes us from the animals, so animals would only have a body and a soul, with the soul being the personality.
Lastly, plants are distinguished from animals, I believe, in that there is no soul. They only have the physical aspect of existence--the body.
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protected by Community♦ Sep 18 '12 at 19:22
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