Difference Between Soul And Spirit

Discussion in 'Bible Study' started by Ravindran, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. Can someone try to explain the difference between soul and spirit? I have an idea.. But it is very hard to explain.. And Hebrews 4:12.. It says the Word of God can separate soul and spirit.. What exactly does that mean?
  2. Both of these words, soul and spirit, have lots of different uses in both Hebrew (nephesh and ruach) and Greek (psuche and pneuma) thought. Both words, in Greek and their Hebrew equivalents, are also used in several different ways in the Bible, so there are a lot of persuasive answers to that question, but no simple or obvious one.

    Hebrews 4:12 also says that the Word of God can divide "joints and marrow," and I'd say what exactly that means is an equally valid question. Scholarly debate on this passage seems to be more focused on what precisely "Word of God" refers to in this passage.

    The difference between nephesh and ruach in Hebrew thought is somewhat simpler to define than the difference between psuche and pneuma across all aspects of Greek thought, but if we're asking "what does the Bible teach about the difference between the soul and spirit," it doesn't necessarily make any completely satisfying distinction at all. "Spirit" is the word more commonly used to describe your eternal self, and comparatively, "soul" more often (and very arguably: always) refers to a sense of self, in some manner, not an actual spiritual thing, especially in Hebrew (nephesh). Psuche is translated "life" nearly as many times as it is translated "soul," and when it is translated "soul" it rarely inarguably means "eternal self."

    So I'd wager a guess that this particular Hebrews passage is focused on emphasizing the power of the Word of God, but doesn't, necessarily, attempt to teach that there even are two distinct things that can be called soul and spirit. The simplest way of looking at is probably that the Word of God is capable of separating the physical/temporal/worldly self from the spiritual/eternal self. So a literal/plain reading feels like a complex euphemism for ending your life, and a figurative reading feels more like a way of describing the potential for salvation in someone's life. But even that, I think, is reading beyond the actual intent of the verse, which, I'd say, is simply to emphasize the power and significance of the Word of God, without necessarily needing to teach anything in particular about a distinction between soul and spirit.

    So if your question is "what does the Bible teach about the distinction between soul and spirit," spirit is the standard word used for referring to your eternal self, although it's not always used that way, and soul is much more ambiguous, and is often, but not always, used to describe some manner of sense of self or sense of individual.
    Silk likes this.
  3. Many people accept soul and spirit as the same thing, I don't I think the soul is the part of the being that does not die and believe the spirit is what we follow for example either is spirit is following Him or following our flesh.
  4. I do agree it is very hard to give an explanation for soul and spirit.. Clearly, soul is what finally spends eternity in hell or heaven.. Every person has one soul.. When it comes to spirit, we use it in different ways.. Spirit of the person.. So it makes sense to say spirit is what we follow.. Are we following spirit of flesh or Spirit of God.. But, does every person have an unique spirit? Just like there is a soul? Or spirit is not something attributed to a person, but rather external to the person.. And the person simply follows a spirit..
  5. Soul seems like more of a combination of spirit/body. You are a soul. Although since angels don't have bodies I guess they are made of spirit like non flesh substance. But are still considered souls. The word spirit usually implies a force. You can usually tell by looking at the contexted used.
  6. I read a commentary article recently that had it defined this way: "Man is not a spirit, he has it. Man is a soul." So, the way I see it, the soul is the union of the body with the spirit. Whether that definition 'works' for all usages of the words in the Bible, I don't know. Context is the best way to determine the meaning.

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