Soul & Spirit

SOMETIMES DISTINGUISHED

  a. While "soul" and "spirit" are often used interchangeably, they are also sometimes contrasted with each other as well as with the body, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly: and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." And Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the word of God as, a sword so sharp that it can penetrate our inmost being, "piercing even to the dividing of the soul and spirit" -- not from each other but lying open as it were, both of them "and quick to discern [literally, able to judge] the thoughts and intents of the heart."

  b. When "soul" and "spirit" are distinguished, "soul" is used as the physical animation we have in common with the animal creation, and "spirit" is used of man’s higher nature that distinguishes him from the animals and makes him akin to God in a way they are not. It would seem that, while physical animation has been inherited by the human race form Adam the "spirit" is not thus inherited. Hebrews 12:9 states: "We had the fathers [plural] of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father [Singular] of spirits and live?"

  The margin of the American Standard Version says, "Or, our spirits." Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament supports this, saying, "Rather, 'Unto the Father of our spirits' (note article ton)." The Expositor’s Greek Testament likewise does so, suggesting that "the article before pneumaton [spirits] makes, it probable that there is no reference to angels but only an antithesis to teas sarkos hemon [our flesh]," and stating that "the position of the two words sarkos [flesh] and pneumaton [spirits] confirms this." And it is so translated by Macknight, with emphasis on "our" -- "shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of OUR spirits, and live?"; by Coneybeare and Howson The Life and Epistles of Saint Paul; by The Living Oracles; by the New International Version; and in several translations by individuals, of Rotherham, Weymouth, et al.

  (This is in harmony with Zechariah 12:1, that Jehovah "formeth the spirit of man within him," and has strong implications against the doctrine of hereditary depravity. While we also have our bodies from God, it is indirectly so, through Adam and all intervening ancestry down to our immediately earthly fathers ["the fathers of our flesh"]; but it seems not to be so of our "Spirits." When our spirit become tainted with sin, it is because of their own transgressions as in the case of Adam and Eve, and not because of heredity, just as their transgression was not.

  c. That "spirit" is superior to "soul" when not used interchangeably, is seen in 1 Corinthians 15:44-49. In v-44, the body that is "sown" (buried) is called a psuchikon (literally, "soulical." but translated "natural") body; whereas that which is raised is described as a pneumatikon ("spiritual") body. This does not mean a spirit without a body, just as natural body does not mean natural without a body (or soulical body is not a soul without a body). But in both instances, the kind of body is under consideration -- with the context indicating the spiritual to be superior to the soulical. This is further seen in vs. 45-49, where Adam is called "the first man Adam" and CHRIST is called "the last Adam", and it is said that the first became "a living soul" but the last was "a life-giving spirit" -- and that as we have borne the image of the former in our earthly life we shall bear the image of the latter in our heavenly existence – a higher existence. (Cf. Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:).

d. When it is stated in I Corinthians 15:45 that man became "a living soul," it did not mean he was "soul" without "spirit." But reference is made to what is called in Genesis 2:7 of the making of man: "And Jehovah God formed man out of the dust of the ground. And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." This indicates that when man’s physical body was made of elements of the earth, it was as lifeless as those elements themselves before being thus fashioned together. But when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life," he became a "living nephesh" – that is, a being or creature that lives by breathing -- nephesh being the word for creature in Genesis 1:20,21,24 – all such creatures having the breath of life" (see Genesis 7:15,22), though seemingly not breathed into them directly by God as in the case of Adam, and not recipients of the higher type of life that also was his.

  (NOTE: The Hebrew word nephesh has a great range of translations, depending on context, including the following: any, 4 times; appetite, 2 times; beast, 2 times; body, 7 times; breath, 1 time; creature, 9 times; the dead (with ‘body’ or ‘bodies’ understood), 5 times; desire, 5 times; ghost, 2 times; heart, 15 times; life, 119 times; lust, 2 times; man, 3 times; mind, 15 times; one, 1 time; own, 1 time; person, 39 times; pleasure, 4 times; self, 19 times; SOUL, 428 times; thing, 2 times; will, 4 times; and a few other exampleswith which we shall not take space. But notice that SOUL is the predominant use. And please observe carefully the following note.)

  (NOTE: By a figure of speech called "synecdoche," in which a part is put for the whole (or the whole for a part, as the case may be), persons are often called by a single part of their being. We frequently speak of "somebody," "anybody," and sometimes of "a body," meaning a person, some person, or any person. And in scriptures persons are frequently referred to as "souls" – as in Genesis 46:26, "all the souls which came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins." It is in that sense that Adam became a "living soul" when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." And, strange to say, three times we have the expression "dead soul" [Numbers 9:6,7,10, King James Version, and the American Standard Version saying "dead body"] -- in addition to 5 times for "the dead" mentioned in the foregoing paragraph. In each of the occurrences just cited in Numbers 9, the Hebrew word is nephesh, with the context indicating it to be dead – hence, a body no longer having the "breath of life" in its nostrils.")

  e. Man’s superiority to the animal creation is seen in the distinctive manner in which he was made, the special way in which the "breath of life" was communicated to him, and particularly from the fact that God [Elohim, plural] said in the beginning, "Let us make man in our image, after our LIKENESS…. And God created man in his own IMAGE. In the IMAGE of God created he him: male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:26-27). It must be his "spirit" – as distinguished from his "soul" (physical animation) – that is in the image of God, and that makes him vastly superior to all other of earth’s creatures.

  f. Obviously, the nature of that image is (1) intellectual (able to receive communication from God and to think God’s thoughts after him; also capable of abstract thought), (2) emotional (capable of joy and sorrow and of being grieved or glad by the things that grieve or please God), (3) moral (capable of evaluating character and distinguishing between right and wrong in harmony with the will of God if informed regarding the latter, (4) volitional (having the power of choice and will, and capable of more than instinctive responses to environment and stimuli, so as to be able to choose to do right and refuse to do wrong when these are understood); and (5) endowed with conscience, to sit in judgment on one’s own thoughts and conduct according to the standard he has adopted (a faculty that can become "seared" by abuse (cf. Timothy 4:2, king James and New King James Versions).

  These qualities enable communion and fellowship with God, or estrangement from God, also repentance (a change of evaluation, mindset, and determination), and therefore make him accountable to God for character and manner of life in a way that the animals are not, which are controlled principally by instinct within and conditioning from without.

  g. That distinction seems to make man akin to two worlds (earthly and heavenly), in a way that animals are not, and his life on earth to be one of probation, as that of animals evidently is not. It likewise accounts for the possibility and fact of sin on the part of man, for religion (whether of divine or human origin), for judgment of all mankind by God, and for divine scheme of human redemption – therefore, for the gospel of our salvation (see Acts 17:22-31; Romans1:16 -17; etc.) – and, of course, for the "scriptures" to make us "wise unto salvation" and furnish the man of God "completely unto every good work" (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

  These last matters cannot be too greatly emphasized, because they have to do with what GOD has done in his MERCY and PATIENCE and LOVE to mold (and remold and purify) the human moral conscience and character after his own will and for a blissful ETERNITY with him. "The GRACE of God hath appeared, bringing SALVATION to all men, INSTRUCTING us, to the intent that DENYING ungodliness and worldly lust, we should LIVE soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed HOPE and APPEARING of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who GAVE himself for us, that he might REDEEM us from all our iniquity, and PURIFY unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of GOOD works" (Titus 2:11-14).