What is the difference between spirit and soul?


The following two verses are the ones that raise the questions concerning the difference between "spirit and soul":

"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."  [1 Thessalonians 5:23]

"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."  [Hebrews 4:12]

In these two verses the word translated "spirit" is the Greek word "pneuma" which means "a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or breeze" which by analogy refers to a human "spirit" the rational "soul."  The word translated "soul" in the verse is the Greek word "psuche" which means "breath" and by implication "spirit."  So the use of the two words does not indicate that the immaterial part of man could be divided, but rather are used simply for emphasis.  There are not three parts to humans (body, soul, and spirit) but only two (body and "soul or spirit").  Throughout Scripture we see the two terms "spirit" and "soul" used interchangeably:

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain..."  [Hebrews 6:19]

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul."  [1 Peter 2:11]

"....that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard." -  [2 Peter 2:8]

In these three verses we find the word translated "soul" is the Greek word "psuche" = breath (by implication spirit).  So God is referring to that part of us which is our spirit, the eternal part He put into us when we were conceived (made alive)

"....the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."  [Genesis 2:7]

It is not "air" that made us alive but the "spirit or our soul" that caused us then to start breathing the air.  So we have only two parts: the body, and the spirit (or soul).  The words are interchangeable.  In the verses above the translators could have just as easily chosen to use the word "spirit" just as well. 

Now, we even see the same word "psuche" which is translated "spirit" or "soul" also translated "mind" in the next verse:

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."  [Acts 4:32]

The concept is that our "mind" is really our "spirit/soul" ....not the brain matter, but what is operating on and through the brain: our soul.  Some honestly feel that our "soul" or "spirit" actually resides in our heads, because the brain is located there.

Now, to show how important it is to know which Greek word is being use to gain a proper understanding, look at the next verse:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind...."  [Luke 10:27]

The word for "heart" here is "kardia" = "the thoughts or feelings (mind)"  It does not refer to the flesh of the heart that pumps blood, but really our "mind" in the sense of our "soul" or "spirit."  The word translated "soul" in the verse is "psuche" (breath).  But the word translated "mind" here is not referring to our "soul or spirit" for the Greek word used is "dianoia" which refers to our "deep thoughts" that is, the exercise of our minds.   So the verse used "heart and soul" for emphasis, since they really refer to the same thing: the "spirit," and then adds that we are to love our God with our actual thoughts.

So in summary, the "soul" and the "spirit" are one and the same, just two words meaning the same thing: the eternal immaterial part of each person.  I might note that when a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes and resides inside our "soul/spirit."

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Tony Capoccia's Questions and Answers" by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
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