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What Does the Bible Say About … THE HUMAN SPIRIT AND SOUL?

What is the different between the spirit and soul of a man?

This is a question that has been debated by many theologians. It is not our purpose here to take sides with one school of thought or another, but to share with you what the Bible in general has to say about soul and spirit.

Studies that would benefit you in a better understanding of this subject are:

When a person dies where does his soul go?


When you die are you present with the Lord, or at the second coming, when the graves are opened?


When unsaved people die, do they go into hell as soon as they die?

Now let us see what the Bible has to say about the soul and spirit of man.

According to Strong’s Numbers, the word soul means the following

In Hebrew: nephesh (neh’-fesh); properly, a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): KJV – any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, dead (-ly), desire, [dis-] contented, fish, ghost, greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortally, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thyself-), them (your)- selves, slay, soul, tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, would have it.

In Greek: pneuma (pnyoo’-mah); a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit: KJV – ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind.

The word spirit means:

In Hebrew: ruwach (roo’-akh); wind; by resemblance breath, i.e. a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively, life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension, a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions): KJV – air, anger, blast, breath, cool, courage, mind, quarter, side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).

In Greek: pneuma (pnyoo’-mah); a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit: KJV – ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind.

This sounds complicated, but again both words have different meanings according to the context they are in. This is why there is much debate as to how to simplify those two terms.

Here is what the Bible says about those two terms:

1. Both of these terms (soul, spirit) are often used interchangeably in the Scriptures.

Look at these texts:

a. John 12:27 7 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. ASV

1 Cor 16:18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours: acknowledge ye therefore them that are such. ASV

Matt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. ASV


b. James 5:20 let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins. ASV

1 Cor 5:5 to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. ASV


c. And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. ASV

1 Kings 17:21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto Jehovah, and said, O Jehovah my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. ASV

Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption. ASV

Matt 27:50 And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. ASV

Ecclesiastes 12:7-AV Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

NOTE: Now some have made a simple formula for these 2 terms. They say body + spirit = soul. When the person dies, the spirit goes back to God and so the soul and the body do not exist any longer.

a. But this goes against the last 4 texts that we have just read. Why would Elijah request for the child’s soul to return to him if it was the child’s spirit that went to God?

b. The formula body + spirit = soul is based on Gen 2:7. However, the word spirit (ruwach in Hebrew) never even appears in Gen 2:7. Instead the word neshamah (nesh-aw-maw’) is being used which is translated by breath. This simplistic explanation of a complex subject matter does not even fit the bill!

c. According to that formula, Adam and Eve should have physically died the day they disobeyed God. Gen 2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” AMP This is what the original text in Hebrew is saying! 2 warnings are associated with transgressing God’s will:

i. the day that you eat it (not 930 years from now). It’s a very specific time frame!

ii. You shall “surely” die. No doubt is given here. Death is guaranteed on the day of transgression.

Now, did Adam and Eve physically die on the day they transgressed God’s command? No they lived to be 930 years old, at least Adam did!

God is no liar! Whatever He says always comes true! Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie.” NIV

What did he refer to then when He said those words in Gen 2:17?

He was referring to Adam’s and Eve’s spiritual death. Spirit-wise they died. Their relationship with our Heavenly Father was broken the day they disobeyed God! This is clearly shown in Gen 3:8-10 “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” NIV

Clearly, the simplistic formula body + spirit = soul does not work out. There are too many inconsistencies with this theory!

Now, let us go back to our study of soul and spirit.

2. There are texts which make a distinction between soul and spirit: 1 Thess 5:23-24: May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV


Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. NIV

3. The word soul has generally 2 distinct meanings in the Bible. The first one is that which makes a human or animal body alive or “life” itself: Mark 8:36-37: “For whoever desires to save his life [soul] will lose it,” Jesus declared, “but whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

In the O.T., Gen 35:18 and 1 Kings 17:19-23 portray the same idea.

The second meaning of that word refers to the inner life of man, the seat of his emotions, and the centre of human personality. Gen 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (soul)”. The meaning here of soul means more than physical life. The writer of Genesis stresses that man became a “living soul,” or a person, a human being, one distinct from all other animals.

The soul is also the seat of many emotions and desires: the desire for food (Deut 12:20-21), love (Song 1:7), longing for God (Ps 63:1), rejoicing (Ps 86:4), knowing (Ps 139:14), and memory (Lam 3:20).

4. Spirit on the other hand seems to be used in 3 particular situations. The first one denoting the spirit of human beings.

Matt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. NIV

Rom 8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. NIV

Gal 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. NIV

These texts seem to refer to the spiritual aspect of man. This is especially clear when Jesus said: Matt 8:22 “But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and leave the dead [in sin] to bury their own dead.” AMP A person is considered spiritually dead if he is not regenerated by God!

The second meaning in reference to good and evil spirits, in other words beings other than God and humans.

Ps 104:4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire KJV

Mark 9:25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

Thirdly, spirit also refers to the God’s Spirit.

Judg 14:5-6 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. KJV

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. KJV)

What is amazing is that God cares for our whole being and Jesus came on earth so that He could save us completely from hell. Are you tired of living a life in sin? Frustrations, addictions and hurting yourself and others can be broken if you only let Jesus into your heart. He is the only One who will give you inner peace. Why don’t you accept Him now by answering His call at . You won’t regret your decision.

Rob Chaffart


Soul and Spirit

Background on “soul” “Soul” — the English translation found 473 times (KJV) has the primary meaning in the Old Testament Hebrew (“nephesh”) of a human life — “one who breathes.”

However, by New Testament times, in the unfolding revelation of God’s Word, “soul” is further defined (as opposed to “spirit”) by the Greek word “psuche.” The primary definition still includes the larger generic concept of a “life,” but where “soul” and “spirit” are set side-by-side in New Testament text, it becomes clear that “psuche” relates more to “mind” and “thinking process” than to “spirit”-related issues. (examples to follow)

Background on “spirit” “Spirit” — the English word found 464 times (KJV), in the Old Testament Hebrew (“ruach”) has the primary meaning of “spirit” — with additional translations of “wind” and “breath.” New Testament Greek word “spirit” (“pneuma”), likewise deals with the invisible spirit (human, angelic, demonic or Divine), and is also translated “wind” in John 3. Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus in verse 8: “…the ‘wind’ (pneuma) bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the ‘Spirit’ (pneuma).” Here it is clear that “spirit” is invisible, as air, wind are invisible… but has life and action leaving discernible impact wherever it moves in the three-dimensional time-space realm.

Dictionary Definitions The New Testament word for soul, “psuche,” is the foundation for words we use today dealing with the “mind” — words like “psyche,” “psychology,” “psychiatry.” These words describe cognitive functions of “mind” — the “thinking process.”

The New Testament word for spirit, “pneuma,” is the foundation for words we use today: “pneumatic,” “pneumonia,” “pneumatology,” “pneumothorax,” etc. These words have to do with air, wind, gases, medical concerns dealing with breathing.

Conclusion Thus, simplifying the comparison, “soul” has more to do with the human mind (which includes the will and emotions). “Soul” makes us aware of all the three-dimensional reality in our world.

“Spirit” is the core of our lives — the center of our existence. “Spirit” makes us aware of God, angels, demons.

The unbeliever’s spirit is not alive to God or these issues, since that human spirit has not been “regenerated,” “born again,” “born from above.” Thus the New Testament term “dead in your sins.” The conversion process awakens the human spirit to God’s life, God’s word, God’s will, God’s purpose for that person.

(for instance, I believe that when a person “gets saved,” it is the “spirit” that is born again, not the mind. Hence, it is imperative to “renew the mind” in Scripture and being discipled, as the mind is the center of the will and the decision-point for future decisions. The spirit is now awakened and brings with it a heavenly conscience, making old sinful habits uncomfortable… but the mind needs to be focused on the Scriptures, which are authored by the Holy Spirit — that Divine giver of this new life.

Thus, one morning when you wake up, and you don’t feel like going to work, it may be your “soul” — “mind” — telling your spirit that you must call in sick, arguing with your spirit, in effect saying, “Well, YOU got saved, but I DIDN’T!” Paul speaks of the “old man” and the “new man” being in disagreement, and this may well be related.)

Scriptural References Here are some Scriptures using these two words side-by-side, so the difference may be demonstrated in context:

I Corinthians 15:45 “And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living “soul” (“psuche”); the last Adam was made a quickening ‘spirit’ (pneuma).”

Philippians 1:27 “…whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in on ‘spirit’ (pneuma) with one ‘mind’ (psuche) striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole ‘spirit’ (pneuma) and ‘soul’ (psuche) and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of ‘soul’ (psuche) and ‘spirit’ (pneuma), and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Pastor Phil


Many think that there is no difference between the spirit and soul, but there most definitely is. It’s spelled out for us in scripture

1 Thes. 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


According to the bible, we are DEAD in trespasses and sin before we accept Jesus Christ.

Ephes. 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

Since we have beating hearts, this can only refer to how God views us before he rescues us. When we are dead spiritually we have no communication with God and we do not comprehend the things that are spiritual. The spirit is that part of man that can grasp and perceive spiritual things. The spirit is what the Lord gave us. No other living thing has a spirit except humans! Animals do not! Only humans.

1 Cor. 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The Divine Spirit indwells our human spirit when we become saved. Jesus talks of this specifically when asked by Nicodemus how he can be saved (see John 3:1-21). Now we have communication with the Father through our Spirits.

SOUL Soul on the other hand is our intellect, reasoning, will and personality. The things that make us the person that we are (separate from the characteristics of our bodies). Some of us have nice acceptable souls and some of us have despicable ones – no matter, as long as we are “dead in our sins” they both end up the same place – hell.

Those who have renewed Spirits regardless of how despicable they may appear go to heaven. Just like the thief on the cross – despicable soul but in the end a renewed spirit- destination; heaven)!

Philip. 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. This verse says ” for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”, or He is our helper in this process. Demons and Satan’s forces can no longer attack our soul since it now belongs to the King of Kings –Jesus.

This verse also refers to all three aspects of a human. These are:

God who works (God is Spirit working together with our spirit)

in you to will (reference to the our soul – intellect, reasoning, will and personality traits)

and to act (reference to our bodies – where we act out our will)

according to his good purpose.



THe Soul is the eternal part of a man that was breathed into Adam, and has been a part of humanity since. Each person has a soul from the moment of conception. Jeremiah was told by God that he was known from before he was formed in his mother’s womb. The soul is owned by God, but must be given back to God by choice.

EVery creature that has ever lived has a spirit. According to the Bible, even inanimate objects have spirits! The spirit of any creature is made up of its character and traits. It can be shaped by discipline and experience. Jesus said that if the people did not praise Him, the rocks would cry out. David speaks over and over again throughout Psalms, especially in Psalms 148 of all of God’s creation praising Him.

EVerything that God created, He created with purpose. Man is the only creation of God that has corrupted that purpose through his knowledge of good and evil. Our God given purpose, aka “instinct” has been contaminated through our iniquities (perversions of those things God created to be good.)

1 Cor 15:45 So also it is written, “The first MAN R650 , Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last R651 Adam became a life-giving R652 spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from R653 the earth, earthy; R654 F178 the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so R655 also are those who are heavenly.

The above text proves that Adam was an earthly being that was given an eternal soul, and that Christ was a heavenly being that chose to become a man, and be able to give us the hope of life through His disciplined determination. Through Christ’s unbreakable spirit, we are more than conquerors. By what He has acheived, our Spirit can be effected so that we not lose hope, but keep His commandments, remain faithful, and inheirit eternal life.

One last comment: Calvary is also known as Golgotha, the place of the skull. Any idea why God would allow Christ to go to the place of the skull? Very simple: If we get it in our head that our sin debt is paid by Him and His righteousness, then our life becomes a living sacrifice out of gratitude. We, knowing that “our righteousness is as filthy rags,” become committed to offering the best we can so that we can “prove our love for Him by keeping His comandments!”


Praise the Lord my brothers and sisters! The difference between the spirit and soul of man is a good topic to discuss. We need to understand the difference between the two entities. I Thessalonians 5:23 says: ” And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We must understand that man (mankind) is a triune being. In other words, man is a spirit who lives in a body and possesses a soul. The scripture reference above confirms this truth. Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The Word of God is able to discern the difference between the soul and the spirit. Therefore, any person who is led by the Holy Spirit can tell when another person is operating by the Spirit of God or in the soul.

The spirit of the born-again person is that part of him/her that is God conscious. Through the born-again spirit, a person can communicate with God and worship Him. A person who is not born-again cannot communicate with God because his/her spirit is inactive because of sin. Sin blocks a person from communicating with God. Therefore, only the born-again spirit of a person has direct access to God. When a person dies, his/her spirit returns to God (Ecclessiates 12:7). The soul of a person is self conscious. The soul consists of a person’s mind, will, emotions and intelligence. The soul of a person cannot comprehend the things of God because it is self conscious.

When a person dies, that soul will either be joined with the spirit and live forever with God or it will be eternally separated from God in hell (Ezekiel 18:4). The physical body of a person is world conscious. Our body receives information to the soul through the five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. The body can only relate to this world because it is composed of elements of this world (Genesis 2:7). When the body dies, it will return to the dust of the ground (Ecclesiastes 12:7). We have to make a decision about which “part” of us will have the most influence in our lives: our born-again spirit (God conscious), the soul (self conscious) or the body (world conscious). The only way that the born-again spirit can have total influence in our lives is to be born-again. The way to become born-again is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. If you have not made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, I invite you to answer the Savior’s call and accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.

Melvin Lewis