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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What is the Difference Between Soul and Spirit?


In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew word ne'phesh occurs 754 times. The first occurrence is at Genesis 1:20. The use of this word in many different contexts helps us to understand the basic idea as it is used in the Bible: 

1. It is a person or individual, (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 36:6; Deuteronomy 10:22; 1 Samuel 22:22; Proverbs 11:25; 16:24; Jeremiah 43:6; Acts 2:41,43; 1 Peter 3:30) 

2. or a lower creature or animal, (Genesis 1:20,24; Leviticus 24:18; Revelation 16:3)

3. or the life that they enjoy as such. (Genesis 35:18; Joshua 9:24; Judges 9:17; Proverbs 1:18; Matthew 6:25; 10:39; Acts 20:10; Philippians 2:30; James 1:21; 1 John 3:16) 

The Greek word for soul, psy-khe', occurs by itself 102 times, with the first use at Matthew 2:20. This is the equivalent of ne'phesh.

With this in mind, the Bible says that souls in fact, die:

Ezek. 18:4: "Look! All the souls—to me they belong. As the soul of the father so likewise the soul of the son—to me they belong. The soul that is sinning—it itself will die." (Some translations say "the man" or "the person.") - See also Matt. 10:28 and Acts 3:23.


The Greek pneu´ma (spirit) and the Hebrew ru´ach (spirit) are believed to come from a root having the same meaning. These words basically mean "breath" but have extended meanings beyond that basic sense.

They can also mean wind; the vital force in living creatures; one's spirit; spirit persons, including God and his angelic creatures; and God's active force, or holy spirit.

The Bible speaks of the spirit, or life-force. This also is referred to in the Bible as being in humans *and* in animals. (Gen. 6:17; 7:15, 22) 

Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 shows that men and animals die in the same way: "they all have but one spirit, so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast,". In other words, they both have the same spirit, or life-force.

This indicates that the spirit that is mentioned that is associated with the soul is NOT some disembodied consciousness of a newly desceased person. Rather the scriptures indicate that it is impersonal.

"Although the Hebrew word nefesh [in the Hebrew Scriptures] is frequently translated as `soul,' it would be inaccurate to read into it a Greek meaning. Nefesh . . . is never conceived of as operating separately from the body. In the New Testament the Greek word psyche is often translated as `soul' but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means `life,' or `vitality,' or, at times, `the self.'"—The Encyclopedia Americana (1977), Vol. 25, p. 236.

Recommended Related Article:

“Soul” and “Spirit”—What Do These Terms Really Mean? (bh p. 208-p. 211; Watchtower Online Library)

Also see:

Soul - Links to Information (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)

Spirit - Links to Information (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)


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