The Soul and the Spirit


Yesterday, an intense, yet polite discussion occurred at Tam’s blog. I sat out because the questions by Ed were so deep, I couldn’t see how to give a complete answer. And still, this response is only for one of the questions concerning the difference between the soul and the spirit. 😳

Anyway, my definitions of words don’t really matter if I’m way off from the original meaning. So I dig.

This is the result of my search. It comes from Vine’s Expository Dictionary. I’ve only separated the definitions and tried to give paragraph divisions for easier reading. I know it’s not fun reading, but we get so mixed up in our theologies when we try to make scripture mean something it does not say. I’m no scholar so I rely upon those who are/were.

Happy reading! 😉

The ability to skim will come in quite handy.  😀


Primarily denotes “the wind” (akin to pneo, “to breathe, blow”); also “breath;” then, especially “the spirit,” which, like the wind, is invisible, immaterial and powerful. The NT uses of the word may be analyzed approximately as follows:

“(a) the wind, Joh. 3:8 (where marg. is, perhaps, to be preferred); Heb. 1:7; cp. Am. 4:13, Sept.;

(b) the breath, 2Th. 2:8; Re. 11:11; 13:15; cp. Job. 12:10, Sept.;

(c) the immaterial, invisible part of man, Lu. 8:55; Ac. 7:59; 1Co. 5:5; Jas. 2:26; cp. Ec. 12:7, Sept.;

(d) the disembodied (or ‘unclothed,’ or ‘naked,’ 2Co. 5:3,4) man, Lu. 24:37,39; Heb. 12:23; 1Pe. 4:6;

(e) the resurrection body, 1Co. 15:45; 1Ti. 3:16; 1Pe. 3:18;

(f) the sentient element in man, that by which he perceives, reflects, feels, desires, Mt. 5:3; 26:41; Mr. 2:8; Lu. 1:47,80; Ac. 17:16; 20:22; 1Co. 2:11; 5:3,4; 14:4,15; 2Co. 7:1; cp. Ge. 26:35; Isa. 26:9; Eze. 13:3; Da. 7:15;

(g) purpose, aim, 2Co. 12:18; Php. 1:27; Eph. 4:23; Re. 19:10; cp. Ezr. 1:5; Ps. . 78:8; Da. 5:12;

(h) the equivalent of the personal pronoun, used for emphasis and effect: 1st person, 1Co. 16:18; cp. Ge. 6:3; 2nd person, 2Ti. 4:22; Phm. 1:25; cp. Ps. . 139:7; 3rd person, 2Co. 7:13; cp. Isa. 40:13;

(i) character, Lu. 1:17; Ro. 1:4; cp. Nu. 14:24;

(j) moral qualities and activities: bad, as of bondage, as of a slave, Ro. 8:15; cp. Isa. 61:3; stupor, Ro. 11:8; cp. Isa. 29:10; timidity, 2Ti. 1:7; cp. Jos. 5:1; good, as of adoption, i.e., liberty as of a son, Ro. 8:15; cp. Ps. . 51:12; meekness, 1Co. 4:21; cp. Pr. 16:19; faith, 2Co. 4:13; quietness, 1Pe. 3:4; cp. Pr. 14:29

(k) the Holy Spirit, e.g., Mt. 4:1 (see below); Lu. 4:18;

(l) ‘the inward man’ (an expression used only of the believer, Ro. 7:22; 2Co. 4:16; Eph. 3:16); the new life, Ro. 8:4-6,10,16; Heb. 12:9; cp. Ps. . 51:10;

(m) unclean spirits, demons, Mt. 8:16; Lu. 4:33; 1Pe. 3:19; cp. 1Sa. 18:10;

(n) angels, Heb. 1:14; cp. Ac. 12:15;

(o) divine gift for service, 1Co. 14:12,32;

(p) by metonymy, those who claim to be depostories of these gifts, 2Th. 2:2; 1Jo. 4:1-3;

(q) the significance, as contrasted with the form, of words, or of a rite, Joh. 6:63; Ro. 2:29; 7:6; 2Co. 3:6;

(r) a vision, Re. 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10.” * [* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp 204,205.]


(1) For phantasma, rendered “spirit,” Mt. 14:26; Mr. 6:49, AV, see APPARITION.

(2) For the distinction between “spirit” and “soul,” see under SOUL, last three paragraphs.

* The Holy Spirit   ~the following is a discussion on the Holy Spirit

The “Holy Spirit” is spoken of under various titles in the NT (“Spirit” and “Ghost” are renderings of the same word, pneuma; the advantage of the rendering “Spirit” is that it can always be used, whereas “Ghost” always requires the word “Holy” prefixed.) In the following list the omission of the definite article Mr. s its omission in the original (concerning this see below):

“Spirit, Mt. 22:43; Eternal Spirit, Heb. 9:14; the Spirit, Mt. 4:1; Holy Spirit, Mt. 1:18; the Holy Spirit, Mt. 28:19; the Spirit, the Holy, Mt. 12:32; the Spirit of promise, the Holy, Eph. 1:13; Spirit of God, Ro. 8:9; Spirit of (the) living God, 2Co. 3:3; the Spirit of God, 1Co. 2:11; the Spirit of our God, 1Co. 6:11; the Spirit of God, the Holy, Eph. 4:30; the Spirit of glory and of God, 1Pe. 4:14; the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead (i.e., God), Ro. 8:11; the Spirit of your Father, Mt. 10:20; the Spirit of His Son, Ga. 4:6; Spirit of (the) Lord, Ac. 8:39; the Spirit of (the) Lord, Ac. 5:9; (the) Lord, (the) Spirit, 2Co. 3:18; the Spirit of Jesus, Ac. 16:7; Spirit of Christ, Ro. 8:9; the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Php. 1:19; Spirit of adoption, Ro. 8:15; the Spirit of truth, Joh. 14:17; the Spirit of life, Ro. 8:2; the Spirit of grace, Heb. 10:29.” * [* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 193.]

The use or absence of the article in the original where the “Holy Spirit” is spoken of cannot always be decided by grammatical rules, nor can the presence or absence of the article alone determine whether the reference is to the “Holy Spirit.” Examples where the Person is meant when the article is absent are Mt. 22:43 (the article is used in Mr. 12:36); Ac. 4:25, RV (absent in some texts); 19:2,6; Ro. 14:17; 1Co. 2:4; Ga. 5:25 (twice); 1Pe. 1:2.

Sometimes the absence is to be accounted for by the fact that Pneuma (like Theos) is substantially a proper name, e.g., in Joh. 7:39.

As a general rule the article is present where the subject of the teaching is the Personality of the Holy Spirit, e.g., Joh. 14:26, where He is spoken of in distinction from the Father and the Son. See also 15:26 and cp. Lu. 3:22.

In Ga. 3:3, in the phrase “having begun in the Spirit,” it is difficult to say whether the reference is to the “Holy Spirit” or to the quickened spirit of the believer; that it possibly refers to the latter is not to be determined by the absence of the article, but by the contrast with “the flesh;” on the other hand, the contrast may be between the “Holy Spirit” who in the believer sets His seal on the perfect work of Christ, and the flesh which seeks to better itself by works of its own. There is no preposition before either noun, and if the reference is to the quickened spirit it cannot be dissociated from the operation of the “Holy Spirit.”

In Ga. 4:29 the phrase “after the Spirit” signifies “by supernatural power,” in contrast to “after the flesh,” i.e., “by natural power,” and the reference must be to the “Holy Spirit;” so in Ga. 5:17. The full title with the article before both pneuma and hagios (the “resumptive” use of the article), lit., “the Spirit the Holy,” stresses the character of the Person, e.g., Mt. 12:32; Mr. 3:29; 12:36; 13:11; Lu. 2:26; 10:21 (RV); Joh. 14:26; Ac. 1:16; 5:3; 7:51; 10:44,47; 13:2; 15:28; 19:6; 20:23,28; 21:11; 28:25; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:7; 9:8; 10:15.

The Personality of the Spirit is emphasized at the expense of strict grammatical procedure in Joh. 14:26; 15:26; 16:8,13,14, where the emphatic pronoun ekeinos, “He,” is used of Him in the masculine, whereas the noun pneuma is neuter in Greek, while the corresponding word in Aramaic, the language in which our Lord probably spoke, is feminine (rucha, cp. Heb. ruach). The rendering “itself” in Ro. 8:16,26, due to the Greek gender, is corrected to “Himself” in the RV.

The subject of the “Holy Spirit” in the NT may be considered as to His Divine attributes; His distinct Personality in the Godhead; His operation in connection with the Lord Jesus in His birth, His life, His baptism, His death; His operations in the world; in the church; His having been sent at Pentecost by the Father and by Christ; His operations in the individual believer; in local churches; His operations in the production of Holy Scripture; His work in the world, etc.


Denotes “the breath, the breath of life,” then “the soul,” in its various meanings. The NT uses “may be analyzed approximately as follows:

(a) the natural life of the body, Mt. 2:20; Lu. 12:22; Ac. 20:10; Re. 8:9; 12:11; cp. Le. 17:11; 2Sa. 14:7; Es. 8:11;

(b) the immaterial, invisible part of man, Mt. 10:28; Ac. 2:27; cp. 1Ki. 17:21;

(c) the disembodied (or “unclothed” or “naked,” 2Co. 5:3,4) man, Re. 6:9;

(d) the seat of personality, Lu. 9:24, explained as == “own self,” Lu. 9:25; Heb. 6:19; 10:39; cp. Isa. 53:10 with 1Ti. 2:6;

(e) the seat of the sentient element in man, that by which he perceives, reflects, feels, desires, Mt. 11:29; Lu. 1:46; 2:35; Ac. 14:2,22; cp. Ps. . 84:2; 139:14; Isa. 26:9;

(f) the seat of will and purpose, Mt. 22:37; Ac. 4:32; Eph. 6:6; Php. 1:27; Heb. 12:3; cp. Nu. 21:4; De. 11:13;

(g) the seat of appetite, Re. 18:14; cp. Ps. . 107:9; Pr. 6:30; Isa. 5:14 (“desire”); 29:8;

(h) persons, individuals, Ac. 2:41,43; Ro. 2:9; Jas. 5:20; 1Pe. 3:20; 2Pe. 2:14; cp. Ge. 12:5; 14:21 (“persons”); Le. 4:2 (‘any one’); Eze. 27:13; of dead bodies, Nu. 6:6, lit., “dead soul;” and of animals, Le. 24:18, lit., “soul for soul;”

(i) the equivalent of the personal pronoun, used for emphasis and effect:, 1st person, Joh. 10:24 (“us”); Heb. 10:38; cp. Ge. 12:13; Nu. 23:10; Jud. 16:30; Ps. . 120:2 (“me”); 2nd person, 2Co. 12:15; Heb. 13:17; Jas. 1:21; 1Pe. 1:9; 2:25; cp. Le. 17:11; 26:15; 1Sa. 1:26; 3rd person, 1Pe. 4:19; 2Pe. 2:8; cp. Ex. 30:12; Job. 32:2, Heb. “soul,” Sept. “self;”

(j) an animate creature, human or other, 1Co. 15:45; Re. 16:3; cp. Ge. 1:24; 2:7,19;

(k) “the inward man,” the seat of the new life, Lu. 21:19 (cp. Mt. 10:39); 1Pe. 2:11; 3Jo. 1:2. “With(j) compare a-psuchos, “soulless, inanimate,” 1Co. 14:7. “With (f) compare di-psuchos, “two-souled,” Jas. 1:8; 4:8; oligo-psuchos, “feeble-souled,” 1Th. 5:14; iso-psuchos, “like-souled,” Php. 2:20; sum-psuchos, “joint-souled” (with one accord”), Php. 2:2.

“The language of Heb. 4:12 suggests the extreme difficulty of distinguishing between the soul and the spirit, alike in their nature and in their activities. Generally speaking the spirit is the higher, the soul the lower element. The spirit may be recognized as the life principle bestowed on man by God, the soul as the resulting life constituted in the individual, the body being the material organism animated by soul and spirit. …

“Body and soul are the constituents of the man according to Mt. 6:25; 10:28; Lu. 12:20; Ac. 20:10; body and spirit according to Lu. 8:55; 1Co. 5:3; 7:34; Jas. 2:26. In Mt. 26:38 the emotions are associated with the soul, in Joh. 13:21 with the spirit; cp. also Ps. . 42:11 with 1Ki. 21:5. In Ps. . 35:9 the soul rejoices in God, in Lu. 1:47 the spirit.

“Apparently, then, the relationships may be thus summed up ‘Soma, body, and pneuma, spirit, may be separated, pneuma and psuche, soul, can only be distinguished’ (Cremer).”* [* From notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 205-207.]

My thoughts:

So, if I am reading this correctly, distinguishing between soul and spirit is not always possible.  They are both housed within the body and have many of the same characteristics.  They are not totally separated in the Greek and Hebrew, often used interchangeably.  When split apart in a sentence, it appears to be done to ensure every part of man is understood.  An example:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~Thess. 5:23.

The point being, may “every bit” of us be separated for God and be found without blame when Jesus returns to earth.

We also see in Hebrews 4:12 it is the word of God that is able to divide the soul and spirit.  His word will speak to us in the innermost parts of our being.  His word will lead us to truth as Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.”

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Can we know God apart from His word? I’m not so sure. If we have created a god contrary to His word,  he must be a false god. Only the word of God is truth. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

15 responses »

  1. love you! and you do your homework!! this really made me smile..and I am guessing will keep alot of people busy 😉

  2. “Can we know God apart from His word?”
    I honestly think in the sense of the written word – the scriptures – yes.
    But then to prove it I go to Psalms to quote “The heavens declare the glory of God” and Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill where he declares God is revealed through nature.
    And I recount the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
    Adam and Eve knew God as did many of their descendants before there was a written word.
    I follow your argument that I believe to be one needs to spend time in scripture to better understand, commune with God and understand how he wants you to behave as in Jesus’ teachings. But I also believe that were words on a page the entirety of the relationship there’d be far fewer believers.
    Don’t feel like expanding on that right now but it’s sort of what you touch on John 1:1 and then guidance through the Holy Spirit… Wait, I’m not going to try to explain my understanding of the interaction of the Holy Trinity and each believer.
    My point is you can have a relationship with God and not deify the scriptures chosen at the Council of Nicea for inclusion into the modern canon.
    The basis for that relationship has to be an action taken – not a word read although reading is an action. I read the Bible cover-to-cover a few times as a child just to show off and win contests. It wasn’t until as a young teen that I realized my relationship with Jesus, through him God the Father and empowerment by the Holy Spirit. That had to come about through an act of faith based on what I’d read – but the faith had grown outside of what I’d read and rested with who I’d read about.
    Does that make any sense?

  3. Yes, Sam, I hear what you are saying. Please don’t misunderstand. I do not believe we are to hold the scriptures as divine. We are never to worship scripture.

    But I do believe we are to have a high regard for it, as Jesus did. He explained everything about Himself to the disciples using the Law and the Prophets (the scriptures during His time). He spoke of the word (logos) being truth (John17:17) and was given the title, the Word (logos) in the first chapter of John. The passage I gave from Hebrews is the same greek word – logos.

    I did not mean to say the word (the scripture) saves us, but it does reveal the Savior to us. How would we know anything about Jesus if it had not been written? The revelation of Him begins in the Old Testament and is explained in the New. If I want to know Him, I need to read the words that tell me who He is. What we have from Genesis to Revelation tells us the complete story. None of us would know, 2000 years later if it had not been written down.

    I do believe He can and does speak apart from His written word, we have the revelation of Him within ourselves and through His creation (Romans 1:18-23). But any “vision” from the Lord will not contradict His written word.

    For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. ~2 Peter 1:16-21

    Does that make sense?

  4. Hi Michelle! I saw your comment to mine on Mandy’s post (“Why?” ) and then a couple others on Tam’s site, and I thought, “Hm, this girl is like minded!” 🙂 There’s not many who enjoy delving into the nitty-gritty of understanding God. I do! I’m excited you do too. I think I’ll have to add you to my blogroll.

    As to this post – WOW. You did do research. I’m wondering if you typed all that, or if it was mostly copied. Words I can type all day long. Scripture references? They take SOOOOO much longer. Anyway. So I did do a lot of skimming as you suggested. The answer you seem to have arrived at makes a lot of sense – that the soul and spirit are not identical but closely connected and hard to separate in concept. (Wow. It took me 2 minutes to figure out which word I meant there (concept). My mind blanked out at the ‘c’. Anyway.) Considering, though, that the Word does say (as you quoted) that Scripture is able to divide soul and spirit … it does seem to indicate it is possible at least, even though difficult.

    Your response to Sam is good too. Knowing God is the predicate for everything. Literally. Reading the Word (with the intent of knowing Him through what is written) is one of the best ways of knowing Him. Why would anyone argue against it?

    I will say to that argument too – on the issue of the Nicean counsel and what was accepted as Scripture – Sam, all Scripture came through men. If you accept that any portion of Scripture was written by God, and came directly from Him, than you acknowledge that He worked through fallible man to get this accomplished. The acceptance of any Scripture as being from God hinges on this acceptance through faith. If you do indeed believe that Scripture (are there certain books you accept as God-breathed?) is God-breathed, than why is it difficult to stretch this faith to those fallible men at Nicea? God has always demonstrated that He is capable and intelligent enough to use mankind, in all of its flaws, to do His perfect will. I think this is no different than what happened at Nicea. It is faith – not logic, reasoning, or science – that tells us that the Bible can be trusted. And this from a very logical person!

    Great meeting you all! I’ll be seeing you again …

  5. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17”

    I believe that that God’s intent in the inspiration of those words was not just for Paul’s time, but was forward looking through the canonization of scripture.

    If men wrote as they were ‘carried along by the Spirit’ (inspired by God) to accurately reflect what God wanted to say to us thrugh the written word, then He is also fully capable to bring to pass an accurate canonization of that scripture, as Annie has already stated.

    One of the greatest tricks of the ‘eneme’ is cause us to doubt that and rather rely on that which he can counterfeited – emotions, feelings, even what we think is the Holy Spirit. It is a bit more difficult for him to counterfeit the inspired and accurately translated written word, although he does gain ground in our ‘misusings’ of it.

    Everything must be tested by the written word, as the wise believers in Berea did, with the wholehearted approval of the Apostle Paul. I would emphazie that need for those intangibles, like sensings, feelings, etc. Many a heresy has been birthed because of the enemy ‘speaking’ to men and having him think it was God. Ot might be safe to assume that every heresy began in that fashion.

    There is a post here that has a summary of what the Bible says about itself that might be interesting for the inquisitive:

  6. Ok–now you will have me digging too!
    Thanks for all the food to chew on. Two of my sons are ‘liberal 20-somethings’, and we get into debates now and then. This will give me some thoughts to share. (They question the Bible being the only true word. They say it depends on where you were born, and what your parents teach you. —pray for wisdom here!)

  7. Hi Michelle! Got your comments – your idea of multiplication is AWESOME! So true! I’ve never seen it that way before (also a math nut). But it does perfectly explain it. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hey, Annie! It’s so good to make your acquaintance. Thanks for all the validation in your comment, like minds, indeed. 😉

    I did cut and paste the passage from Vine’s Expository Dictionary online. It makes it much easier, references are a bear! I also use – it’s up most of the day for easy reference, I find it more accessible than

    Please, come back often, love your input!

    Good morning, Dan! You said: Many a heresy has been birthed because of the enemy ’speaking’ to men and having him think it was God.

    I find this to be the scariest thing, and it is the ultimate sin of pride, in my mind. We have been told we are to hide His word in our heart so we will NOT sin against Him. His word is a light for our path, living contrary to it will take us down a divergent road. I don’t want to diverge from the truth so I will dig.

    Hello, Foto! I’m glad it’s given you some help in talking with your sons. I know the struggle you are enduring, the pride of youth and the rationalization of “higher criticism.” We truly do put ourselves above God in so many ways when His word is to be our plumbline for life, everything measured against it.

    I will be praying with you for them. Will you do the same for me, please? Three teenagers can surely try my patience! 😉

  9. Wow, you impress me!!! 🙂 Thank you for taking time to do such extensive research on this. God is so faithful in revealing Himself to His people.

    “Can we know God apart from His word?” I think I understand what you are asking here..and I don’t think we can. I think He speaks to us and reveals Himself to us through others and other means, but to truly know Him, is knowing Him through His word.

    Love you!!! I’m getting excited about September! ANd again, thank you for all of your effort in putting this together

  10. I love you too, Debs!! The research wasn’t too hard…I copied and pasted from Vine’s. It is good to have such great resources for those of us who want to know, but are NOT scholars!!

    September gets closer every day! 😉

  11. I noticed the blogroll! Thanks! I’m honored! My challenge is posting with any frequency, but I suppose for those with 80some blogs to read, maybe that’s not a bad thing. 😉 Great to make your acquaintance as well!

    PS: my lifetime best friend’s name is Michelle also. She’s been my best friend since the 3rd grade. 🙂 So … you’ve got a great name too. 🙂

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