Divine Origin of Language in the Tapestry of Creation

Reading Time: 20 minutes

Featured Image: Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Interpreting Creation:

Decoding Adam: Language, Thought, and Meaning in Genesis. (Opinion Piece)

Creation and Communication: Language Distinctions

The classical philosophers grappled extensively with the question of the origin and essence of language. Milka Rubin elucidates that within Jewish literature dating from the second century B.C.E., a prevailing concept asserted that Hebrew held a unique status as not only the language of divine revelation but also as the primal language through which God, in His divine utterance, brought forth the cosmos.

This language was believed to be the very medium of communication between God and Adam, as well as the lingua franca of all living beings before the Fall and all of humanity prior to the Tower of Babel incident. Rubin substantiates this notion with references from texts such as Midrash Rabbah 1, 1; Ber. Rabbah 1, 1; and BPesahim 54a. 1 (Rubin, Milka. “The language of creation or the primordial language: A case of cultural polemics in antiquity.” Journal of Jewish studies 49 (1998): 306-333.)

It is of paramount importance to acknowledge that the foundational principles guiding our understanding of ancient cosmology are derived from Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 [NASB]). These principles encompass the concept of God as the Creator, is distinct and holy in relation to His creation, which comprises the heavens and the earth and the things they contain.

This framework enables the author to emphasize a dissenting viewpoint regarding the presumption that Hebrew serves as the language employed by God in the act of creation. In this perspective, the fact that God exists outside the bounds of creation and possesses the unique attribute of being uncreated, consequently, only God, as the sole Creator operating ex nihilo, retains the knowledge of the language of such creative acts. The language of creation is God’s, and God’s alone! Otherwise how does one understand the text ” but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words” in Romans 8:26 [BSB]?

Nonetheless, it becomes evident that God engaged in direct communication with Adam, endowing him with the capacity to not only grasp the divine speech but also to engage in reciprocal dialogue.

Divine Utterance and Human Interpretation

out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

Gen.2:19 [RSV]

Here a theological distinction is acknowledged, that God, as the ultimate Creator, initiated the act of creation through divine speech, while in contrast, humankind, exemplified by Adam, engages in the expression of human comprehension, employing the tools of language and communication to articulate their role within the divine framework of that creation.

A significant theological theme emerges from Genesis 2:19 [RSV]. This passage portrays the Lord God’s creation of animals from the earth and their subsequent presentation to Adam for the assignment of names.

The underlying purpose of this narrative is to understand Adam’s comprehension and interpretation of the created world. Analogous to a mathematical exercise where knowledge of the working process shows ones understanding. This biblical account underscores the importance of elucidating Adam’s understanding of the world around him, through the deployment of words that encapsulate and convey meaning.

This narrative serves as a profound illustration of humanity’s responsibility to interpret and responsibly care for the world brought into existence by the divine utterance of God, thus emphasizing the intimate connection between language, interpretation, and humanity’s role as stewards of creation. (Gen. 2:15)

Notably, the Scriptures remain silent on the specific means by which Adam came to understand language, leaving room for further exploration and interpretation of this perplexing aspect of biblical anthropology.

Exploring Linguistic Dynamics

All (pasa | πᾶσα) Scripture (graphē | γραφή) is breathed out (theopneustos | θεοπνευστος) by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting, for training in righteousness”

2 Tim. 3:16

To contemporary readers, the written word has transformed into the printed word, manifested mostly in its digital form. II Timothy 3:16 literally refers to Scripture as having been given through the act of breathing, a concept denoted by the term “theopneustos,”  (from theós, “God” and pnéō, “breathe out”) which underscores a profound connection between God’s breath and the written word, as articulated by Berkouwer. It relates directly to God’s Spirit (pneuma) which can also be translated “breath.”

However, delving into the term “graphè,” we uncover a close association between the spoken and written word. The “graphè” comprises sacred letters, referred to as “hiera grammata” (2 Tim. 3:15)2 καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ βρέφους [τὰ] ἱερὰ γράμματα οἶδας, τὰ δυνάμενά σε σοφίσαι εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ πίστεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ., “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” signifying a sacredness in written language. Notably, the process of learning to read the written text is intimately linked with reading it aloud, rather than in private silence. This practice, known as “anagnōsis,” finds exemplification in the synagogue, with a notable instance being Jesus at the beginning of His public ministry, where He takes the scroll, reads a chosen passage 3the LXX. version of Isaiah 61:1-2, and delivers His message on Scripture (Luke 4:16). (de Boer. 65-66).

The term “-pneustos” shares its root with the verb “pneō” (to breathe), along with the nouns “pnoè” (breath) and “pneuma” (spirit). While Paul did not encounter the adjective in the Septuagint, he could not overlook the significance of “pnoè zōès,” the breath of life, bestowed upon Adam (Gen. 2:7). (de Boer. 71).

In Genesis 1:2, the Spirit (“ruach”) represents the breath and spirit of God, and this connection between the Spirit, language(s), and speech is immediately evident, particularly in the context of prophecy and magnification (Acts 10:46; 19:6). (de Boer. 72).

Yet, when Paul speaks of “graphè theopneustos,” he is alluding to the living breath of God within Scripture, activated when anyone takes up the text and reads it aloud to people. The Spirit is the very breath of God, flowing to and through those who read aloud and blessing those who listen. As Revelation 1:3 asserts, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it.” The Spirit thus establishes the authority of Scripture as the Word. (de Boer. 75).

Understanding Adam as Theopneustos

Adam can also be comprehended as in a way “Theopneustos” through the transformative agency of the life-giving breath of God. This profound concept finds its scriptural basis in Genesis 2:7, where both the Hebrew text (MT) and the Greek Septuagint (LXX) recount the formation of humanity from earthly elements and the breathing of the divine breath. While humans are consistently portrayed in other passages as being “formed” by the hand of God or as creatures fashioned from the dust of the earth, it is within this pivotal moment that the “breath of life” imparts a distinctive characteristic to humanity.

The translators of the ‘Septuagint’ consistently employ the term pneuma (πνεῦμα) as the equivalent of the Hebrew word ruach. Out of the 378 instances of ruach in the Hebrew Old Testament, 277 are rendered as pneuma (πνεῦμα) in the LXX. This encompasses the diverse range of meanings encompassed by the Hebrew term, including breath, wind, the principle of life, human disposition, mood, thoughts, determination, and the spirit of God. (Isaacs. 10)

In the Targumim (especially the Targum Onkelos), a later Jewish tradition, this event takes on the significance of God endowing Adam with a “speaking spirit,” marking the commencement of human speech. The Hebrew term “ruach” finds its translation in English as “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit,” imbuing it with an ethereal quality distinct from that of the physical realm. This distinction is allegorically mirrored in the creation narrative of Genesis 1:1, where the heavens represent the ethereal and the earth the physical. (Pageau).

Philo engages with Genesis 2:1–3, describing the culmination of Heaven and Earth. In his interpretation, he ascribes these elements to the primordial origins of Mind and Sense-perception. Moving on to Genesis 2:7, he draws a sharp contrast between the earthly man, formed from clay by the “Divine Artificer”, and the heavenly Man, bearing the image of God. Philo elaborates on the transformation that transpires in the earthly man by the inbreathing of Life.

[1] “And the heaven and the earth and all their world were completed” (Gen. 2:1). He had already told of the creation of mind and sense-perception; he now fully sets forth the consummation of both. He does not say that either the individual mind or the particular sense-perception have reached completion, but that the originals have done so, that of mind and that of sense-perception. For using symbolical language he calls the mind heaven, since heaven is the abode of natures discerned only by mind, but sense-perception he calls earth, because sense-perception possesses a composition of a more earthly and body-like sort. “World,” in the case of mind, means all incorporeal things, things discerned by mind alone: in the case of sense-perception it denotes things in bodily form and generally whatever sense perceives. 4Philo of Alexandria. Allegorical Interpretation of Genesis. Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1929

Philo of Alexandria

Within Philo’s writings, pneuma (πνεῦμα) is not primarily associated with emotions but is closely intertwined with human reason. While he occasionally employs the terms psuche (ψυχή), Nous (νοῦς), and pneuma interchangeably, he views nous as the predominant facet of the soul. Just as God is beyond human comprehension, the Nous cannot perceive itself or understand its own essence, as noted in Legum Allegoriae 1, 91. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that in other instances, Philo posits that nous is constituted of pneuma, as evident in Fug. 133 (De Fuga et Inventione), where he equates nous and pneuma. It’s exclusively within the nous that God imparts the divine breath, as conveyed in Legum Allegoriae I, 33. Philo identifies pneuma as the catalyst behind human reasoning, with Logismos representing the divine inspiration; the Logikon pneuma emerges as the dominant aspect of human nature, reflecting the archetypal form of the divine image, as expounded in Spec.Leg.1, 171, and further echoed in Spec.Leg.1, 277 (De Specialibus Legibus). (Isaacs. 38)

The ‘Breath of Life’: A Distinctly Human Feature

וַיִּיצֶר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־ הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־ הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃ Gen. 2:7

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life נִשְׁמַ֣ת (niš·maṯ ) חַיִּ֑ים (ḥay·yîm); and man became a living being לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ (lə·ne·p̄eš)חַיָּֽה׃ (ḥay·yāh). (Genesis 2:7 [NASB])

καὶ ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν (Genesis 2:7 [LXX])

And God formed (ἔπλασεν) the man, dust from the earth, and breathed into his face living breath (πνοὴν ζωῆς) and the man became as a living soul (ψυχὴν ζῶσαν)

Koch has presented a more nuanced interpretation of the phrase“breath of life” (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים), shedding light on its significance. Notably, he observes that the same terminology is employed in describing the creation of both animals and humans. In Genesis 2:19, Yhwh Elohim fashions the animals from the same earthly material as humans. Moreover, they share the common outcome of becoming “living creatures.”

This initial stage, involving the formation from the soil and the emergence as living beings, is a shared experience for both humans and animals. However, the distinctive step in the creation of humans is the breathing of the “breath of life” into their nostrils by Yhwh. Interestingly, this specific aspect appears unnecessary for animals, as the mention of the “breath of life” is absent, even though animals, like humans, require the act of breathing (Koch, 1988). 5 K. Koch, “Der Güter Gefährlichstes, die Sprache, dem Menschen gegeben …: Überlegungen zu Gen 2,7,” bn 48 (1988): 50–60; repr. in Spuren des hebräischen Denkens: Beiträge zuralttestamentlichen Theologie (K. Koch; ed. B. Janowski and M. Krause; ga 1; Neukirchen-Vluyn 1991), 238–247. cited in Noort, Ed. “Taken from the Soil, Gifted with the Breath of Life: The Anthropology of Gen 2:7 in Context”. Dust of the Ground and Breath of Life (Gen 2:7). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016. (p. 8) https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004334762_002 Web.

Mitchell’s 6T.C. Mitchell, “The Old Testament Usage of nešama,” vt 11, 19611961 research established that נְשָׁמָה “always has to do with human life and/or with divine actions. It never refers to animals”. (Noort. 8.). As a result, Koch determined that it is not tenable to uphold a broad interpretation, such as applying “breath” to all creatures. (Noort. 8.).

The Targumim interpret נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים as the capacity for speech. This interpretation aligns with the narrative, as Adam demonstrates his comprehension of Yhwh’s words in Genesis 2:16, 17. His need for speech becomes apparent during the process of naming all the animals (Genesis 2:19), and he joyfully exclaims that his true partner is a השׁא (Genesis 2:23). (Noort. 9.).

However, for Noort this narrow interpretation appears inadequate when considering later uses of נִשְׁמַ֣ת. For instance, in Job 32:8, it is stated, “But truly it is the spirit (רֽוּחַ־ ) in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty (וְנִשְׁמַ֖ת שַׁדַּ֣י), that makes for understanding.” In this context, “understanding” extends beyond mere speech, suggesting a more profound significance.

A similar question arises concerning the creation of the woman by Yhwh in Genesis 2:22, where the “breath of life” is conspicuously absent. This observation highlights that the “breath of life” is intricately linked to the initial moment of Yhwh’s formation of man from the soil. (Noort. 9.).

The author’s perspective diverges from Noort’s at this point. The author views the woman as being of the same essence (homooussion) as the man, and is explicitly described in Genesis 2:23: “And the man said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man she was taken'” (Genesis 2:23 [BSB]). She is taken from man and therefore shares the same essence as man as the scriptures make no mention of her being deficient in any quality. This viewpoint asserts that both man and woman share equal essence (taken to include the “breath of life” (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים)) but manifest differences in form, signifying their common humanity. This is substantiated by the text:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 1:27 [NASB]

The claim that “Men and women exhibit distinct physical attributes while sharing an equal essence, namely, their humanity” encapsulates a pivotal tenet of Christian anthropology. In this context, “Men” and “women” denote the biological categories of males and females, distinguished by their unique physical traits etc. The idea of equality in essence underscores the common humanity shared by both sexes, emphasizing that, regardless of these physical disparities, men and women possess equal inherent worth and value as human beings, as dictated by Christian theology’s belief in their creation in the image of God.

The Interwoven Dynamics of the ‘Spirit of God’ and Language

The intricate relationship between the Spirit of God, often referred to as Ruach (“rûaḥ ʾĕlōhîm”) in the Old Testament and Pneuma (πνεῦμα) in the New Testament, and the domain of language is a profound testament to the divine interaction with human communication. In Genesis 1:2, we witness the Ruach, the Spirit of God, “hovering over the surface of the waters.” Notably, this divine presence precedes the act of creation through language, as God speaks forth creation in Genesis 1:3.

The connection between the Spirit and language deepens in the New Testament, as Jesus promises the “gift” of tongues to his followers, a phenomenon exemplified in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2 reveals that these “tongues” were indeed languages, understood by visitors to Jerusalem, signifying a miraculous ability to speak in foreign tongues.

Furthermore, Acts 10 demonstrates that the Spirit’s influence extends to diverse linguistic expressions, as the household of Cornelius spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and even the Jews bore witness to these Gentiles “speaking with tongues.” This intricate interplay between the divine Spirit and human language underscores the notion that language, as a mode of expression, can be profoundly intertwined with the transcendent, as holy men of God, moved by the Holy Ghost, conveyed divine prophecies, as articulated in II Peter 1:21.

The Breath of God: Exploring the Profound Differences Between Humans and Animals

As mentioned earlier, it was noted that Yhwh Elohim shapes both animals and humans from the same earthly substance, and they both share the common attribute of becoming “living creatures” with the vital elements of breath and life. This notion finds resonance in the words of Ecclesiastes 3:19-20, emphasizing the shared fate of humanity and animals in mortality, as both possess the same breath, and ultimately return to the same dust.

For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

 Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 (English Standard Version)

However, it is essential to recognize the unique divine act that sets humans apart. Man stands as the sole creation into which God breathed His divine breath. Ephrem the Syrian posits that it is precisely this divine breath that distinguishes humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. Philo argues that humans possess the power of reasoning (τῷ δ ̓ ἡ λογική, logikē), a quality absent in animals (τὰ ἄλογα, aloga), as it is instilled in humans by God, the originator of reason. This “breath” (πνεῦμα) within humans is of divine origin, it is the celestial component of a human’s composition, endowing them with a God-like nature (τὸ θεοειδές, theoēides). (O’Connor. 94)

Rashi, in his commentary on Genesis 2:7, provides insight into the significance of God’s breath in the creation of humanity. He emphasizes that when God breathed into the nostrils of the first man, Adam, it signified the imparting of a unique and divine attribute. Rashi suggests that through this act, God granted humanity a semblance of the divine nature, particularly associated with the power of speech.

Rashi’s commentary underscores the idea that it was not merely the physical act of breathing but the spiritual and symbolic act of God’s breath that set humans apart and endowed them with the ability to communicate and engage in speech, distinguishing them from other creatures. This divine breath, according to Rashi, marked the moment when human beings acquired a special connection to the divine and became capable of language and communication, representing a profound aspect of their unique creation.

Both Rashi and Philo offer complementary perspectives on the significance of God’s breath in the creation of humanity, underscoring the divine and intellectual aspects of this act. Rashi, emphasizes the connection between God’s breath and human speech, suggesting that it is through God’s breath that humans gain the ability to communicate and possess a semblance of the divine nature, particularly associated with the power of speech.

Philo, on the other hand, delves into the philosophical dimension of this divine breath, asserting that God, as the originator of reason, instills the power of reasoning into humans. According to Philo, the “breath” within humans is the divine spark of reason, which sets them apart from the animal kingdom. This “breath” belonging to the divine endows humans with a God-like quality, distinguishing them through their capacity for rational thought.

In combining these perspectives, we see a harmonious theme: God’s breath as the conduit of divine qualities, encompassing both the ability to speak and the power of reason. Rashi’s emphasis on speech and Philo’s focus on reason together suggest that the divine breath not only grants humans the gift of communication but also elevates their cognitive capabilities, making them unique among all living creatures. This union of speech and reason, both rooted in God’s breath, distinguishes humanity and reinforces their exceptional status in the created order.

A substantial cognitive disparity exists between humans and animals, with the aspects of human cognition being found to be distinctively human. Hauser introduces four discerning elements of human cognition and elucidates how these capabilities render human thinking unparalleled. These four innovative constituents of human thought encompass the capacity to combine and recombine diverse forms of information and knowledge to acquire new understanding; the ability to employ the same “rule” or solution from one problem to one in a different circumstance; the skill to generate and readily comprehend symbolic representations for computation and sensory data; and the aptitude to disconnect modes of thinking from unprocessed sensory and perceptual input.7Harvard University. “What Is The Cognitive Rift Between Humans And Other Animals?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217102137.htm>.

Reason and Language: Exploring the Connections.

Studies in the philosophy of language and of mind, psychology and other academic disciplines, have elucidated the relationship between language and human cognition as a topic of significant import. Language is the fundamental medium through which humans engage in thought and communication and serves as the medium through which thoughts are formulated, conveyed, and interpreted. Consequently, the nexus between thought and language acts as a fundamental reference system, bridging the realm of human language, whether utilising spoken or conceptual expressions, with the process of discerning and constructing reasoned arguments.

The calibre of spoken language is indicative of the underlying quality of thought, and conversely, the quality of thought can be inferred from the manner of speech. This interconnected relationship between thought and speech finds support in the discipline of logic. Delving into the study of logic and the intricate connection it shares with speech equips individuals with the tools to refine their argumentation and scrutinize the arguments put forth by others, thereby enhancing the structure and critical evaluation of ideas and discourse. (Bogatu. 60)

Critical thinking plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the fidelity of information and the integrity of communicated meaning. It is a mental endeavour aimed at acquiring a profound understanding of the world, facilitating the formation of decisions grounded in rational argumentation regarding the world of phenomena and actions. In essence, critical thinking is indispensable for the pursuit of a more objective and reliable knowledge. It adheres to the stringent standards of precise thinking, including logical principles and the methodologies of scientific reasoning, while also serving as a means to validate knowledge. (Bogatu. 62)

Language is a dynamic force that profoundly affects our perception and interaction with reality. This relationship, often explained through the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, asserts that language shapes our understanding of the world. It does so by providing a framework for categorizing, labeling, and expressing thoughts and experiences. Language not only influences how we perceive and convey reality but also frames it, impacting decision-making and behavior. Cultural norms and values are embedded in language, giving rise to variations in social practices and worldviews. However, language can also have limitations in expressing complex or abstract concepts, leading to gaps in our understanding. Moreover, it plays a role in cognitive processing and can influence behaviour, making it a powerful and multifaceted tool for shaping our experience of reality.

Examining Philo and Transcendent Correspondence

God grants the “pneuma” (intended as breath) by his grace, permanently to man, by breathing into his nostrils the “breath of life” at creation. This act, as previously mentioned distinguishes man from the rest of creation, including the animals which he likewise formed out of the ground (Gen. 2:19), and who obtain life without the breathing in of His “breath”. This “pneuma” is that which is ‘of God’ in man (Isaacs. 38) understood by Philo to be man being made in God’s image: the ‘impression stamped by the divine power’, ‘the image of God’ (opif 72-74 cited in Isaacs. 37). It is the presence of the divine pneuma in man which makes contact between God and man possible.

Philo emphasized the idea of God as the ultimate reality, transcending the material world. He believed that God’s divine attributes and principles, which he called “Logos,” served as intermediaries between the divine and the created world. The Logos, in Philo’s thought, was a bridge between the ineffable God and the human understanding of the world. It helped explain how the divine could correspond with, influence, and order the lower levels of existence, including the material world and human beings.

The term “pneuma” assumes a pivotal role as it encapsulates the divine within the human experience. It serves as the embodiment of the immaterial within the material realm and signifies the eternal transcending the temporal. Importantly, Philo’s interpretation clarifies that the “pneuma” within man transcends the mere notion of physical breath; rather, it represents the life principle itself, or more significantly, the faculty of reason, where physical breath serves as a sign of this profound inner reality. Likewise, in the broader cosmic context, the pneuma is not confined to being one of the elements; rather, it stands as the fundamental principle of order, from which the elements derive their expression (Isaacs. 44)

Philo’s philosophy takes a striking turn as he emphasizes the pivotal role of the mind in this divine framework. The mind, in his view, serves as God’s deputy and the source of inspiration for the senses. It represents the aspect of humanity, that acts as the mirror “reflecting” the divine reason. As such, it is not only an image but an instrument of God’s divine will.

One of the most compelling aspects of Philo’s thought, is his assertion that God is perceivable only through the mind (in this exilic age). This notion underscores the centrality of reason in the quest for understanding the divine. Moreover, Philo’s outreach to the Gentiles rests on the foundational belief that reason is a universal and shared faculty among all human beings. He contends that God has not left the Gentiles devoid of knowledge about Himself, and by appealing to reason, Philo invokes a divine endowment, a common thread that binds all of humanity in the pursuit of truth. (Isaacs. 39) This is substantiated in Rom. 1:19-20.

Pneuma and Moral Understanding in Reason and Revelation

Philo, in his philosophical exploration, demonstrated a notable reluctance to place undue reliance on human reason as the sole means to attain a profound understanding of God. He acknowledged the inherent fallibility of human reasoning, recognizing its susceptibility to deception and error, particularly in the realm of spiritual matters.

This in fact resonates with scripture:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

(Prov. 3:5 [KJV])

Philo’s perspective emphasized that while philosophy might serve as a valuable foundation for theological pursuits, it was ultimately overshadowed by religious knowledge, which he regarded as superior to all other forms of human understanding.

In his view, reason could not claim supremacy in matters of divine revelation. Instead, the true wisdom essential for such pursuits was considered a divine gift, bestowed upon only a select few. This perspective underscores the distinction between human reason and the higher, transcendent wisdom accessible through divine revelation, a distinction central to Philo’s philosophical and theological contemplations.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 [ESV]

Furthermore in this philosophical framework, the possession of the divine pneuma is not simply a matter of intellectual attainment; it carries a moral condition that demands single-mindedness and a detachment from sensual preoccupations. This divine pneuma is reserved for the wise and virtuous, while the wicked are excluded from receiving it. Philo’s perspective reinforces the notion that reason alone cannot lead a person to the direct vision of God. (Isaacs. 46)

It is crucial to recognize that the concept of pneuma is closely intertwined with his understanding of conscience. Pneuma serves the purpose of making individuals aware of their own transgressions and, in a profound sense, convicts them from within. Moreover, it serves as a guide to enlightenment, illuminating the path to truth. It stands as a universal, enduring gift from God, fostering the knowledge of goodness in all individuals, regardless of their circumstances or background. (Isaacs. 42)

In conclusion, when examining a living human being possessing the faculty of language, we discover a multifaceted entity that exhibits the capacity for thinking, reasoning, assigning meaning, self-awareness, possessing a conscience, and being receptive to Divine Revelation. The ability to communicate through language is not merely a superficial skill, but rather, it serves as a profound indicator of the intricate cognitive and spiritual attributes inherent to human nature.

This interplay between linguistic expression and the profound qualities of the human mind and soul underscores the depth of our existence, suggesting a connection between our capacity for language and our potential receptivity to transcendent truths and Divine communication. In this holistic perspective, the human being emerges as a unique creation, intricately connected to the divine, capable of intellectual reflection and moral discernment, thereby highlighting the divine design inherent in the human experience, a gift of God, intrinsic to God’s act of breathing divine breath into the nostrils of man.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

(II Corinthians 13:14 [ASV])


Berkouwer, G. C. 1975. Holy Scripture. Grand Rapids. Eerdmans.

Bogatu, Eugenia. “The reason and pragmatic knowledge: retrieving the integrative meaning.” Journal of Social Sciences 1.5 (2022): 57-65.

Caballero, Rosario, and Carita Paradis. “Sharing Perceptual Experiences through Language.” Journal of Intelligence, vol. 11, no. 7, June 2023, p. 129. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence11070129.

Croft, W., & Cruse, D. (2004). Categories, concepts and meanings. In Cognitive Linguistics (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics, pp. 74-106). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511803864.005

de Boer, Erik A. “Chapter 4 Spirit and Scripture: From Theopneustos through Inspiratus to God-Spirited”. The Spirit is Moving: New Pathways in Pneumatology. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004391741_006 Web.

Gibson, James J. 1966. The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems. Boston: Houghton Mufflin.

Harvard University. “What Is The Cognitive Rift Between Humans And Other Animals?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217102137.htm>.

Heck, Jr, Richard G. “Reason and language.” McDowell and his Critics (2006): 22-49.

Hinzen, Wolfram, and Michelle Sheehan, ‘Thought, language, and reality’, The Philosophy of Universal Grammar (Oxford, 2013; online edn, Oxford Academic, 23 Jan. 2014), https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654833.003.0009, accessed 16 Sept. 2023.

Isaacs, Marie E.. The Concept of Spirit: A Study of Pneuma in Hellenistic Judaism and Its Bearing on the New Testament. United Kingdom, Heythrop College, 1976.

Joseph D. Novak (1993) Human constructivism: A unification of psychological and epistemological phenomena in meaning making, International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 6:2, 167-193, DOI: 10.1080/08936039308404338

Noort, Ed. “Taken from the Soil, Gifted with the Breath of Life: The Anthropology of Gen 2:7 in Context”. Dust of the Ground and Breath of Life (Gen 2:7). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004334762_002 Web.

O’Connor, M. John-Patrick. “Genesis 2:7 in Conversation: The Exegesis of Paul, Philo, and the Hodayot” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, vol. 110, no. 1, 2019, pp. 84-103. https://doi.org/10.1515/znw-2019-0004

Pageau, Matthieu. The Language of Creation: Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis: a Commentary. United States, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018.

Putnam, Hilary. “Realism and reason.” Proceedings and addresses of the American philosophical association. Vol. 50. No. 6. American Philosophical Association, 1977.

Rubin, Milka. “The language of creation or the primordial language: A case of cultural polemics in antiquity.” Journal of Jewish studies 49 (1998): 306-333.

van der Meer, Michaël N. “Anthropology in the Ancient Greek Versions of Gen 2:7”. Dust of the Ground and Breath of Life (Gen 2:7). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004334762_004 Web.

Views: 9


  • 1
    (Rubin, Milka. “The language of creation or the primordial language: A case of cultural polemics in antiquity.” Journal of Jewish studies 49 (1998): 306-333.)
  • 2
    καὶ ὅτι ἀπὸ βρέφους [τὰ] ἱερὰ γράμματα οἶδας, τὰ δυνάμενά σε σοφίσαι εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ πίστεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ., “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
  • 3
    the LXX. version of Isaiah 61:1-2,
  • 4
    Philo of Alexandria. Allegorical Interpretation of Genesis. Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1929
  • 5
    K. Koch, “Der Güter Gefährlichstes, die Sprache, dem Menschen gegeben …: Überlegungen zu Gen 2,7,” bn 48 (1988): 50–60; repr. in Spuren des hebräischen Denkens: Beiträge zuralttestamentlichen Theologie (K. Koch; ed. B. Janowski and M. Krause; ga 1; Neukirchen-Vluyn 1991), 238–247. cited in Noort, Ed. “Taken from the Soil, Gifted with the Breath of Life: The Anthropology of Gen 2:7 in Context”. Dust of the Ground and Breath of Life (Gen 2:7). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016. (p. 8) https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004334762_002 Web.
  • 6
    T.C. Mitchell, “The Old Testament Usage of nešama,” vt 11, 1961
  • 7
    Harvard University. “What Is The Cognitive Rift Between Humans And Other Animals?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217102137.htm>.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »