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Giving Up The Ghost

The terms "giving up the ghost" or "yielding up the ghost" are found in the King James Version in describing physical death; burial is almost always included with the term e.g. "Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah" (see below). Numerous people throughout the Old and New Testaments, including Jesus Christ, are recorded as having "given up the ghost" before their bodies were placed in their graves (see What Happens When You Die?).

What "Ghost" Was Given Up?

In the Old Testament, the original Hebrew word translated as "ghost" in the term "giving up the ghost" is pronounced gaw-vah and means to breathe out, to exhale. As actually written in the Holy Scriptures, "giving up the ghost" means nothing more than a dying breath.

When Abraham, Isaac and Jacob "gave up the ghost," the Scriptures merely describe them as ceasing to breathe, after which their dead bodies were buried.

Holy Bible

"Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah" (Genesis 25:8-9 KJV)

"And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him" (Genesis 35:29 KJV)

"And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people ... his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah" (Genesis 49:33, 50:13 KJV)

In the New Testament, one of the two original Greek words translated as "ghost" in the term "giving up the ghost" is pronounced ek-psoo-coe and means to breathe out, to exhale. As with the Hebrew word explained above, the Greek word, as actually written in the Holy Scriptures, "giving up the ghost" means nothing more than a last gasp, a dying breath, as in the example of Ananias and Sapphira - after which they were buried.

"And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him." (Acts 5:5-6 KJV)

"Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband." (Acts 5:10 KJV)

Two Greek words are used in the account of Jesus Christ - interchangeably. Mark and Luke use the Greek word pronounced ek-pneh-oh which means exactly the same as the Hebrew and Greek words described above - to breathe out, a dying gasp.

"And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost." (Mark 15:37 KJV)

"And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost" (Luke 23:46 KJV)

The word "spirit" in Luke 23:46 above is a translation of the Greek word pronounced pnoo-mah - which also, surprisingly, literally means breath (see the Fact Finder question below). That same word, which is translated as "spirit" in Luke 23:46 is translated as "ghost," as in "giving up the ghost," in Matthew and John as quoted below. The words all mean the same thing in the original Hebrew and Greek - breath.

"Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost ... And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed" (Matthew 27:50,59 KJV)

Fact Finder: What were the actual words of the Holy Scriptures that are translated as "ghost" and "spirit" - and why did Bible translators sometimes use two different English words to translate a single original word?
See Ghost and Spirit: What's The Difference?


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