Home About Us Apostolic Free Library Questions & Answers Guestbook Order Online Search The Network

What is the difference between a soul and a spirit?

Submitted: 2/18/2007
Post a comment or
ask a follow-up question
Question: Praise the Lord. Please explain the difference between soul and spirit. When our Lord said, 'Into thy hands I commend my Spirit' (while on the cross), isn't this similiar to God making Adam in Genesis.( Adam became a living soul after God breathed life into his nostrols) Please explain the difference between a soul and a spirit. Thank you and God speed.

Answer: It is difficult to give a short answer to this question. At times the Bible seems to use the terms 'soul' and 'spirit' interchangably. Other times they are differentiated. The Hebrew word translated 'soul' is 'nephesh' and the Greek word is 'psuche.' These words do not have any English words which correspond to them exactly. In general, the word 'soul' refers to a breathing, living creature. Man was made of dust, but he did not become a living soul until he began to breathe. In Hebrew usage the term 'my soul' simply means 'me.' We should not say that man has a soul, but rather that man is a soul.

On the other hand, sometimes the word 'soul' is used to describe the inward spiritual aspect of man, particularly when it is being contrasted with that which is outward and physical. For example, Jesus spoke of the 'body and soul.' When used in this way it means something similar to 'spirit.' The Hebrew word translated 'spirit' is 'ruach' and the Greek word is 'pneuma.' These words have to do with breathing or the movement of air, such as the wind. Like the wind, spirit has substance and power yet cannot be seen. Jesus connected spirit with the wind in John 3:8.

When Jesus said that He was commending His Spirit into the the Father's hands, He was simply saying that He was placing His life and destiny into the hands of God. This is a wise thing for all of us to do. In other words, He knew that He was about to die, for immediately after this we read that He gave up the ghost (spirit; pneuma); that is, He stopped breathing.

There is much more that could be said on this topic. Perhaps if you have additional questions you could post them here as follow-up questions.