Soul and Spirit

"Is your soul saved?"
"They've been soul mates since they were 10 years old."
"I had to do some soul-searching."

Often people reveal a poor understanding of what the word 'soul' means. What is soul? A type of food or music? Part of your shoe? Is it something for Yahweh to 'take if I should die before I wake'?

Most people seem to believe that:

According to my dictionary the definition of 'soul' is:
1. The animating and vital principle in humankind credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and conceived as forming an immaterial entity distinguished from but temporally [temporarily] coexistent with the body. 2. Theology The spiritual nature of man considered in relation to G-d, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.

This dictionary definition seems to be based on popular opinion rather than on truth from the Scriptures.

What is the real Scriptural definition of this word we hear so often?
What Scriptural truths have been distorted into this confused image of 'the immortal soul'?
Why have these distortions been put forth?

We shall see that when 'soul' is used correctly in the Scriptures it means the physical whole of a person. This includes feelings within his body [it means his being or his life]. We shall also learn some truths that seriously affect us now and forever.

The Hebrew word for soul, naphesh (Strong's #5315) comes from another word, naphash, which means to breathe. In the Old Testament, 'soul' simply means animal life, a breathing creature or animal.

In the New Testament the Greek word Psuche (#5590) is translated 'soul'. This word means animal life, breath, or by implication spirit or mind. Let's go to the best source. Let's see what the Scriptures reveal about the inner man. Yahweh wants us to understand.


Do you and I have something we should call an immortal soul?

In a word - no.

We don't have souls; we are souls. When the first man was created, Yahweh Elohim formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, Genesis 2:7.

This soul did not have immortal life in it. Just a few verses later Yahweh warns the man "in the day you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2:17. The same warning is repeated many times throughout the Scriptures;

Ezekiel 18:4, 20 The soul that sins, it shall die.

Mortal means that a living thing can and will die. Immortal means it can't die.

Yahshua the Messiah explained the difference between immortal spirit beings and mortal men. In John 3:1-8 Yahshua tells Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The fleshly body of a person simply does not have the same immortality, the characteristic of living forever, that a spirit being has. Yahshua then explained that there are also many other differences between a fleshly person and a spirit being. The spirit being has no physical body. It is as invisible as the wind. Like the wind we can see the effects of a spirit being and can sometimes hear one. Yahshua continues, "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the son of man." It is amazing that so many people who know John 3:16 by heart don't know these truths which are explained in the same chapter!


What about the places where the Scriptures talk about souls to be saved? You can find this in James 1:21: "Receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls." Look also at James 5:20 which says, "Let him know, that he who converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death . . ." and Hebrews 10:39, "We are not of them that shrink back to perdition; but of those who have faith to the saving of the soul." You may see similar thoughts also in 1 Peter 1:9 and 1:22 and Ezekiel 14:13,14. It certainly looks like there are souls to be saved, doesn't it? The answer to the apparent contradiction lies in the way the translators have rendered the Greek word Psuche. This word is translated 'soul' in 58 places and 'life' in 40 places. If the translators had rendered it 'life' or 'person' in these places we would have understood that a person's life is preserved when he commits himself to Yahweh. As we see in 1 Peter 4:19, "let them also that suffer according to the will of Yahweh commit their souls [lives] to a faithful Creator." The Messiah also, in Luke 14, urged people to commit themselves to Yahweh.

Did you know that Yahweh is described as having a soul? Look at Isaiah 1:14, 42:1, and Jeremiah 32:41 to see a few instances of this. Yahweh's soul is simply His being, His whole self.


There are several places where New Testament writers talk about body and soul in the same passage. Look at Matthew 10:28, 16:26, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Revelation 18:13 and 20:4. If the soul is the body then what are they talking about?

The problem lies in the same Greek word being translated into the two English words 'life' and 'soul'. We see the word of Yahweh dividing body and soul in Hebrews 4:12. How can this be? How can we understand such a scripture? The reason that 'soul' may not seem to be entirely clear is that we require another concept needed to understand it. Let's explore some scriptures that will show us another element of our makeup - the spirit in man.

Spirit is translated from two different words. The Hebrew word ruach #7307 means spirit of a rational being, or wind, or breath. The Greek word pneuma #4151 means a current of air, breeze, or by analogy a spirit, (Holy) spirit, breath, or wind. You can recognize the English word 'pneumatic' as referring to something with air in it. It comes from the same Greek word.

The spirit of a man is not the Holy Spirit. That is the same thing except that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the particular individual whose name is Yahweh. Above, we discussed the soul of Yahweh. Now we see that Yahweh also has a spirit in Him. It gets a little confusing because the same English word is used for spirit that describes what Yahweh is made of, and the spirit of Yahweh which is His character or mind which can communicate with believers. Yahweh is a spirit and Yahweh has a spirit. The Scriptures tell us that this Spirit of Yahweh is the part of Him that contains His character; the part of Yahweh that contains His great love, faith, and His concern for people. Yahweh's spirit is a part of Him which draws to Him those who should be saved. Yahweh's spirit also compels and helps His servants to tell others about Yahweh and His righteous ways. The spirit in a man is similar in that it is the part of the person that contains the 'human characteristics' of that particular person; the creativity, foresight, love, anger, patience, temper, humility, pride, generosity, meanness, etc.

The spirit in man is not the Holy Spirit of Yahweh in a person; it is the person's own spirit. Everyone has one. It was formed within us by Yahweh (Zechariah 12:1). It's not a spirit being, like the angels. As the Messiah explained in Luke 24:29, "a spirit [being] does not have flesh and bones . . . " It's also not an unclean or other spirit dwelling in the person; it's just his own spirit. It refers to the spiritual part of our personality, stronger in some than in others; the part of us that can be touched by the emotions of another person. It can communicate with other believers and with the Holy Spirit of Yahweh. It's the part of us we call our heart (emotionally) or mind. It is an entity preserved by Yahweh for believers until the resurrection (Luke 23:46, Acts 7:59 and 1 Corinthians 5:5); BUT the spirit in man is not alive during the time after we die while we wait for the resurrection. Psalm 115:17 tells us the dead do not praise Yahweh and Ecclesiastes 9:5 says the dead do not know anything. The information about our spirit remains with Yahweh, preserved in His care until the resurrection. He then brings to life a being made of spirit, born of the spirit into His family of spirit beings, with the important parts of the personality, the faith, hope and love of the person who was the believer (1 Corinthians 13:13). This miracle is the mystery spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:51, "Behold I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed." After the person dies he knows nothing, does nothing and learns nothing until the resurrection when he is brought to life as a spirit being - a child in Yahweh's family. Yahshua tells us in John 6:63 that "it is the spirit that gives life," it's the important part of a person. See also James 2:26 and 4:5. The apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 that the spirit of the man is the aware part of him.

Scriptures explain that it is our spirit that communicates with Yahweh's Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-14 and Romans 8:16) and with other believers (1 Corinthians 5:3-4, Philippians 2:1, Colossians 2:5)! In discussing the communication between believers, Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 14:10-19 that the most valuable communication is through the mouth, ears, and brain with clear understanding from spirit to spirit.


We see stirred up spirits throughout the scriptures. They appear in Haggai 1:14(Enthusiastic), Matthew 26:41 (willing), Acts 17:16 (provoked), Luke 1:47 (rejoicing), 2 Corinthians 7:13 (refreshed) and 2 Corinthians 7:1 (cleansed). We see the spirits of just men made perfect in Hebrews 12:22-23 and in Romans 12:11 Paul tells us to be fervent in spirit! He would not have given us this command if he didn't know that each of us had the ability to obey. Therefore, WE CAN do it!

We see a holy spirit (not the Holy Spirit of Yahweh) in 1 Corinthians 7:34 and a spirit of faith in 2 Corinthians 4:13. We remember that Yahweh, through the laying on of hands, gives a gift of a spirit of power, love and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

An excellent spirit is mentioned in Daniel 5:12, 6:3, Luke 1:80 and 2:40. It means an intelligent or gifted person. Yahshua talks about the poor in spirit in Matthew 5:3. He did not mean those who didn't have much of the Holy Spirit - He just meant those who had a spirit of meekness within them - those who are humble. He was talking about the kind of people who are worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Worshiping in spirit is an example of the communication between our spirit, other believers' spirits and Yahweh's Holy Spirit.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, "To us Yahweh revealed through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of Yahweh. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so none know the things of Yahweh, except the Spirit of Yahweh. But we did not receive the spirit of the world but the spirit which is from Yahweh; that we might know the things that were freely given to us by Yahweh. Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; combining things of the spirit with things of the spirit." In other words, each individual has their own personal, private spirit. So does Yahweh. To explain about Yahweh we must use the spirit He has given us to understand and explain Him.

Let's look at Hebrews 4:12 again in the light of the scriptures we have now considered. The word of Yahweh is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, [body and spirit] of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. When the word of Yahweh acts upon us, it separates our spirit from the fleshly pulls we had formerly been subject to. Yahweh's word is a guide to us. It can help us tell the difference between the thoughts of our brain and the intents of our heart. It can help us tell the difference between our soul (physical body) and our spirit (the part of us that communicates with Elohim). It helps us keep them apart so that the body doesn't end up pulling the spirit into fleshly lusts. The spirit in man is subject to fleshly lusts and sins. It is our spirit that carries the responsibility for sin! The decision to sin or not to sin is a spiritual decision. We must learn to make such decisions with our spirit in communication with Yahweh rather than with our brain influenced by our body and by communication with the world.

We can now see that some of the things people believe about the soul are actually characteristics of the spirit in man. Using the wrong word for the concept of the spirit in man would not be a serious problem. The big problem is that the truth has been slightly twisted in important ways. This is a series of wrong ideas, actually a system of lies started and perpetuated by someone - some being. What is the purpose of this deception? What does it accomplish? The effect of this deception is the same as that of all religious lies - it keeps people from doing the things needed to be saved! It makes people believe they already have eternal life. The oldest lie told to man is the one the serpent lied in the garden, "You shall not surely die." Besides restating this same lie, the idea of an immortal soul also hides the truth of our spiritual nature as human beings. It masks the responsibility of believers to develop their spirit. It attempts to hide the fact that we can change our own spirits and that making the appropriate changes is vitally important!


Paul makes clear what Yahweh requires of us in the spiritual part of our lives. Carefully read Ephesians 4:17-32;
This therefore I say, and testify in Yahweh, that you no longer walk as the gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind [spirit], being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of Elohim, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; Who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you did not so learn the Messiah; if so be that you heard Him, and were taught in Him, even as truth is in Yahshua: that you put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, corrupted by the lusts of deceit; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man that, after Yahweh [that is, like Yahweh's spirit], has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth [no falsehood can be with Yahweh].
Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak you truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members, one of another [our spirits communicating with each other]. Be angry, but do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath: neither give place to the devil [by letting your spirit be false]. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have things to give to him who has a need. Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth [out of the heart, the spirit, the mouth speaks], but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of Yahweh, in which you were sealed to the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as Yahweh also in the Messiah forgave you.

This passage gives us a large order to fill. It is a great spiritual task. Paul is saying we should work with Yahweh's help to get our spirit, our mind, to be as close to Yahweh's Holy Spirit as a person can. We must be close in the way of being near to Him and also close in the way of becoming LIKE Him. We must take on the nature of Yahweh. It's a full- time job for the rest of our lives. You might want to commit some of this passage to memory. This is what the Messiah meant in the second and third chapters of His Revelation when He talked about those who overcome. Overcoming our human nature and taking on Yahweh's nature in our spirit is very important. It affects whether we can be part of the first resurrection or not. It affects our eternal life. As Yahweh says through Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19 - Choose life! Choose to build the faith, hope and love into your spirit that you will need as a spirit being in Yahweh's family. Make the decision to yield to the Holy Spirit of Yahweh. Make the decision to leave the fleshly, carnal nature and the pulls of 'human nature'. If you dedicate yourself to this task Yahweh will help you through His Holy Spirit.


Besides the very serious directive he gave, Paul also gives us blessings for our spirit. As true believers we should be truly thankful for these much needed blessings! In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 he says:
"May your spirit, soul and body be completely preserved, without blame at the coming of our Sovereign Yahshua the Messiah."
And he says in Galatians 6:18:
"The grace of our Sovereign Yahshua the Messiah be with your spirit, brethren. Ahmen."

Br Tom Schattke

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