Does God actually “receive” the spirits of the dead in the Old Testament?

At first sight, Stephen’s request to “receive my spirit” does look like the sort of thing we would expect to God to do, not Jesus. The somewhat surprising thing is that the terminology of God “receiving” men’s spirits does not actually occur in the Old Testament.

The nearest parallel in the Old Testament is probably this:

“and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

But that breath/spirit returning to God, is in the context of Ecclesiastes only the same “breath/spirit” (Hebrew ruakh) entering the womb in Ecclesiastes 11:5. The Ecclesiastes 11:5, 12:7 breath/spirit is the same as the recycling of breath with new generations in Psalm 104:29-30:

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath [or spirit, Hebrew ruakh], they die
    and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit [or breath, Hebrew ruakh] they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

 Even when Jesus died, there is no mention of God having “received” his spirit. Jesus simply “gave up his spirit”:

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

So Jesus actually “receiving”  Stephen’s spirit (or in Old Testament terms breath) is something new that Jesus would do for Stephen, but which God did not do for even Abraham, Moses or David in the Old Testament.

So what did Stephen expect?

What Stephen meant, or wanted by “receive my spirit” is a bigger subject than the question – which is whether “receive my spirit” means that Jesus is God. To answer that question please see many other questions on this site related to After death what?

But, put simply, Stephen’s belief would be in line with Old Testament and New Testament teaching that the “names” (or memory) of the dead are remembered (or written in a book) by God until the future resurrection at the coming of Jesus. This is what Paul also means:

23 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

So does this make Jesus God?

So does Jesus receiving Stephen’s spirit (or breath, or memory) make Jesus God? No. All Stephen is saying is what he said “Lord Jesus receive my spirit”. The statement is only equivalent to Paul’s saying in Colossians 3:

3 “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ” (Colossians 3:3)

That was Paul speaking to the living, but he was saying their (eternal) life was already entrusted, or hidden with Christ, in God. That makes Christ the way to God, the access to God, but it does not make Christ God.

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