Soul & Spirit


a. These two words are synonyms, and are the principal translations of psuche and pneuma respectively in the Greek New Testament, with Hebrew counterparts in the Old Testament. Both are related to the mysterious conscious existence that we call "Life," about which there of more that we do not know than that we do know. But that to which the scriptures do furnish us is very significant, and evidently sufficient for divine purpose -- which is practical rather than to gratify curiosity. "The secret things belong unto Jehovah our God; but the things, that are revealed belong unto us and to our children, for ever that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). We shall glean from such of best we can for these notes, and invite whatever input others may provide.

  b. We often think in terms of vegetable life, animal life, and human life, all of which have some things in common. As far of we can ascertain, however, vegetable life is not sentient (possessing feeling or consciousness); and it does not have the power of locomotion. But each of these forms of life is something tangible, yet able, under certain conditions, to collect and fashion matter about itself in various tangible forms, and to exert energy within them and likewise without (form within) by means of said forms. Also, under certain conditions, it may or does vacate those material forms, leaving them dead.

  c. But the terms "soul" and "spirit" are never used in scripture with reference to plant Life. And, with the single exception of Ecclesiastes 3:21 (in the Old Testament), it seems that "spirit" is never used of animal life. But both "soul" and "spirit" are used freely in reference to human life. And "spirit," but not "soul" is also used of non-human entities both good and bad, as GOD (who is "Spirit," John 4:24, self-existent and uncreated, but Creator of all other spirits), the HOLY SPIRIT (included in the Godhead along with CHRIST and, like him, a participant in creation), ANGELS (whether good or fallen), SATAN (by implication a fallen angel and leader of the others), and DEMONS.

  d. Out of 105 times, psuche is translated "soul" 58 times, "life" 40 times, "mind" three times, "heartily" once, and twice it is untranslated (John 10:24; 2 Corinthians 12:15). And out of 385 times, pneuma is rendered "spirit" or "Spirit" 291 times in the King James Version and 381 times in the American Standard Version (the difference being that 89 times the latter has "Holy Spirit" where the former has "Holy Ghost" and the former has "Ghost" twice where the latter has "spirit" for Jesus' own spirit [Matthew 27:50; John 19:30]); it is also rendered "wind" once (John 3:8) "life" once (Revelation 8:11), "spiritual gift" once (1 Corinthians 14:12), and "spiritually minded" once (Romans 8:11).

  (Note: Where the King James Version has, "Ghost" or "ghost" instead of "Spirit" or "spirit," the instance referred to above, it is because in 1611 (when first published) the word "ghost" was often still used for "spirit" in the sense of "guest" -- both "ghost" and "guest" having a common linguistic ancestry. But with time, "ghost" came to be used of a disembodied spirit rather than the guest of a living human body, thereby making its use in the King James Version to be antiquated and easily misunderstood by modern readers. Also the American Standard Version has "Ghost" (Matthew 14:26; Mark 6:49), the King James Version has "spirit" -- the Greek word not being pneuma however, but phantasma, a phantom, apparition, or specter. The New King James Version (1983) renderings are the same as those of the American Standard Version (1901) to conform to the English usage.)