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Spiritual Souls: Nephesh and Psuche

  • Most Christians believe that people have spiritual souls within their flesh bodies.
  • Others disagree, saying that the bible doesn't support the concept of a spiritual soul.
  • Does the bible confirm that people have spiritual souls, or do we only exist in the flesh?
  • By studying the Hebrew and Greek words for "soul" and "spirit", we find support for the concept of spiritual souls.

The Hebrew "nephesh", is an important word for understanding the nature of souls in the Old Testament.

A commonly held belief among Christians is the existence of a human soul. That dwelling within us, and forming the core of our entity, is an immaterial and invisible spirit. This spirit or ghost enters our flesh in the womb, exits our flesh at death, and acts as the hub of our consciousness and thought process. It is the fundamental constituent and essence of who we are, making us ourselves, and not someone else.

As widespread as the belief in human souls is among both Christians and non-Christians, it has not gone unchallenged on scriptural grounds. In fact, some of the truly misinformed argue that the idea of a soul is a peculiarly New Testament invention, borrowed from Greek thinking, and lacking any foundation in the Old Testament. We should not ignore these criticisms, nor should we take our own ideas for granted, but rather we should confront the challenges being posed by looking deeper into the Word, trusting that the truth will prevail.

The critics have one thing going for them, and that is that there are no Hebrew or even Greek words that perfectly equate with the traditional concept of a soul. So then where does the idea of a human soul come from? Instead there are various words that are similar to soul, and it is through the study of these words in their different contexts and usages that evidence for the existence of a human soul is brought forth.

Starting in the Old Testament, we have the Hebrew word nephesh, which is generally translated as soul or life. Although nephesh is often translated as soul, it doesn't mean soul in the way we think of it. Nephesh only means soul in the sense of self, individual, person, a life, or being. While nephesh is not spiritual soul, it is significant because it can give us insight into what according to the scriptures constitutes an individual or human being. If nephesh is used to refer exclusively to a person's flesh body, then that would imply that a human being is only flesh. However, if it is sometimes used to refer to an individual apart from their flesh, then that would imply that an individual doesn't subsist in flesh alone.

Probably the most common usage of nephesh is to refer to an individual or being in the physical sense, "save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: Lest he tear my soul [nephesh] like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver" (Psalm 7.1-2 KJV bible), "And they smote all the souls [nephesh] that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them" (Joshua 11.11 KJV bible). Another common usage of nephesh is to refer to the internal thought process, and emotional center of an individual, "Let her alone; for her soul [nephesh] is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me" (2nd Kings 4.27 KJV bible), "Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul [nephesh] lothed them, and their soul [nephesh] also abhorred me" (Zechariah 11.8 KJV bible). So nephesh can be used to refer to an individual in either the physical or emotional sense.

We normally perceive a person's heart and mind as being internal to them, because we can't see their thoughts and feelings. However, even if thoughts and emotions are internal or private, they aren't necessarily spiritual. One could argue that they are produced in the flesh brain without any spiritual input. Therefore, we need to look deeper into the scriptures to establish that there is more to nephesh than simply a flesh body.

In several verses, nephesh is used in such a way that it is implicitly different from flesh, For example, "And shall consume the glory of his forest (the king of Assyria), and of his fruitful field, both soul [nephesh] and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth" (Isaiah 10.18 KJV bible), "shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul [nephesh]?" (Micah 6.7 KJV bible). If we assume that the entire individual is flesh, both mind and body, then it wouldn't be consistent to speak of nephesh as being distinct or different from flesh, as these verses do.

There are also many passages that use nephesh in a fully spiritual context. Isaiah, for example, describes the truth as being necessary for the sustenance of the soul, "hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul [nephesh] delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul [nephesh] shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55.2-3 KJV bible). Generally speaking, a person's physical self does not derive sustenance from what they think, but Isaiah is speaking of one's spiritual self being sustained by the truth. Another spiritual usage is in the book of Jeremiah, where the prophet describes a dying woman as giving up her nephesh, "She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost [nephesh]; her sun is gone down while it was yet day" (Jeremiah 15.9 KJV bible). It would be impossible for her to give up her soul or nephesh, if the word is only referring to her physical body.

Job 27.8 uses nephesh in a spiritual context, because it says that God takes away (or draws out) the souls of the wicked, "For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away [Hebrew: shalah, to remove or draw out] his soul [nephesh]?" (Job 27.8 KJV bible). Another example is in the Psalms, when David speaks of his soul being redeemed from Sheol, in an unique act of grace, "and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul [nephesh] from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me" (Psalm 49.14-15 KJV bible). Now if we know that David died in the flesh and was buried as everyone else (see Acts 2.29), then we can conclude that he was speaking about his spiritual soul or ghost being received by God (see also ch.4 Souls in Heaven).

Another considerable passage in the usage of nephesh is in 1st Kings. When a boy dies, Elijah prays for his soul or nephesh to return to him, "O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul [nephesh] come into him again [or return to his midst]. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul [nephesh] of the child came into him again [or returned to his midst], and he revived" (1st Kings 17.21-22 KJV bible). A similar verse refers to Rachel's departing, "And it came to pass, as her soul [nephesh] was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni" (Genesis 35.18 KJV bible). How can someone depart from and then return to themselves, unless they have both a spiritual and physical self?

The Greek "psuche", is equivalent to the Hebrew "nephesh".

The New Testament equivalent of nephesh is the Greek word psuche (pronounced psoo-khay). The linguistic connection between these two words is locked in by the New Testament. Whenever quoting passages from the Old Testament that contain the word "nephesh", the New Testament always translates it as "psuche". For example, when Genesis 2.7 is quoted in 1st Corinthians 15.45, nephesh is translated as psuche, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul [psuche]; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1st Corinthians 15.45 KJV bible), (see also Mark 12.30, Acts 2.27, and Romans 11.3). This assures us that the New Testament writers both understood and intended for psuche to have the same meaning as nephesh.

The New Testament uses psuche in a broad range of contexts and usages that perfectly parallel its Old Testament equivalent. Psuche can mean a soul, an individual, a life, or a being, in either a physical sense, emotional sense, or fully spiritual sense.

There are many instances where psuche is used in a physical context, "But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life [psuche], or to destroy it? And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other" (Luke 6.8-10 KJV bible), (see also Mark 3.4, Matthew 6.25, Luke 12.22, Romans 16.4, and 1st Peter 3.20). By restoring the man's hand, Jesus heals his life or psuche in a physical sense.

Psuche can also be used in reference to ones mind or emotional center, "And saith unto them, My soul [psuche] is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him" (Mark 14.34-35 KJV bible), (see also Matthew 10.18, 12.18 and Luke 12.19). This passage uses psuche as the place where one might feel sorrow, referring to a person's mind or emotional center.

Lastly, there are many instances where psuche is used in a clearly spiritual context, "and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls [psuche]" (James 1.21 KJV bible), "Trouble not yourselves; for his life [psuche] is in him" (Acts 20.10 KJV bible), (see also Acts 2.31, James 5.20, 1st Peter 1.9, and 1st Peter 2.11). In Revelation, psuche is even used to describe the dead in heaven, "I saw under the altar the souls [psuche] of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (Revelation 6.9 KJV bible), "and I saw the souls [psuche] of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus" (Revelation 20.4 KJV bible). This particular usage of psuche is analogous to our modern concept of soul or ghost.

Nephesh and psuche are often translated as "life".

One of the most common ways to translate both nephesh and psuche is "life", but an important distinction needs to be made regarding this translation, to avoid confusion. Nephesh and psuche both mean "life" in the sense of an individual, or the life experiences of an individual. However, they do not refer to "life", in the sense of the vitality or life force within someone or something.

First, we need to consider that our word "life" can be used in different ways, and mean many different things. For example, life can refer to an individual, person, or being in a non-specific way, as in "save a life" or "the war cost many lives". Both nephesh and psuche can certainly mean life in this context. Life can also mean the collection or summation of ones experiences in the world, either looking backwards into the past, or forward into the future, as in "he led a wild life", or "have a nice life". Both nephesh and psuche can also mean life in this way as well. Another important meaning of the word "life" is to refer to strength, vitality, or vigor of something, in either a physical or spiritual sense. For example, you could say that something "came to life", or is "full of life", or that "Jesus is the bread of life". Nephesh and psuche are never used in this way, but rather the Hebrew chaya and the Greek zoe are generally the only words used to refer to life in this context.

So when the scripture speaks of a person giving up or releasing their nephesh or psuche, it cannot be properly understood to be saying that they gave up or released their strength, vitality, or life force, because nephesh and psuche have no such meaning. It can only be understood to mean that they gave up or released themselves, in the sense of their centers of consciousness or souls. A careful analysis of the different biblical usages of nephesh and psuche bears this out.

"Ruach" is the Hebrew word for spirit.

Another critical and interesting word is the Hebrew word ruach. Ruach literally refers to wind or a current of air, but in scripture we understand it to mean something much more. Namely, ruach refers to spirits, or things of a spiritual nature.

To recognize this connection, we must look at the basic meaning of the word, which is wind. Wind is not something that can be seen or grasped, but it can definitely be felt. When the wind blows you might feel a chill in your body or see the leaves on the trees rustle, and therefore you know that its there through its effect on you, and the world around you. The same is true of spiritual things. When a certain spirit is present a person with discernment can feel its presence and observe its affect, though it's not physically manifest. So the word "ruach" implies to us something that is ethereal and diffuse, not corporal or material. In this way, ruach is used to refer to the supernatural forces and also beings that operate in the world, both internally and externally of man.

So is there any evidence in the Old Testament of man having an invisible spirit or ruach that is fundamental to him, in other words, a spiritual soul? There are some interesting verses that at least point in that direction.

The book of Numbers refers to God as being ruler over the spirits of all flesh, "Let the LORD, the God of the spirits [ruach] of all flesh, set a man over the congregation" (Numbers 27.16 KJV bible), (see also Numbers 16.22). We learn in Ecclesiastes that these individual spirits or souls continue on after death of the flesh, implying that they are supernatural, "Who knoweth the spirit [ruach] of man that goeth upward, and the spirit [ruach] of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3.21 KJV bible). King David describes commending his spirit into God's hand, in a redemptive sense, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit [ruach]: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth" (Psalm 31.5 KJV bible). Also, Daniel curiously describes his spirit as being grieved in the midst of its sheath or body, "I Daniel was grieved in my spirit [ruach] in the midst of my body [Chaldean: nidneh - sheath], and the visions of my head troubled me" (Daniel 7.15 KJV bible). Another persuasive verse comes from the book of Zechariah, where he describes God as forming or fashioning the spirit of man, "saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit [ruach] of man within him" (Zechariah 12.1 KJV bible). Zechariah describes the Lord forming the spirit within man, as an act of creation.

"Pneuma" is the Greek word for spirit.

The New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew word "ruach", is the Greek word pneuma, (see Acts 2.17-18). Like ruach, the word "pneuma" literally means a wind or current of air. Also like ruach, pneuma is understood in the scripture to mean a spirit, either as a spiritual entity or a supernatural force. Several times in the New Testament, man is also described as having a fundamental and personal pneuma, or spirit.

Starting in 1st Corinthians, Paul speaks of the destruction of a certain individual's flesh, in order to bring about the future deliverance of his spirit, "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit [pneuma] may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1st Corinthians 5.5 KJV bible). This implies that a person both has a spirit that exists apart from their flesh, and that this spirit continues on after they die, even to the Day of the Lord. Paul further identifies God as the owner and proprietor of this personal spirit, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit [pneuma], which are God's" (1st Corinthians 6.20 KJV bible), "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits [pneuma], and live?" (Hebrews 12.9 KJV bible). The book of Hebrews mentions the spirits of just men made perfect, who are the children of the new covenant, "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits [pneuma] of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12.23 KJV bible). And lastly, John's first epistle describes false prophets as deceitful spirits, and instructs us to be weary of them, "Beloved, believe not every spirit [pneuma], but try the spirits [pneuma] whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1st John 4.1 KJV bible).


sandra      06 May 2009, 13:47

A question was asked in our Bible Study, what happens to our souls (those who die in Christ according to scripture are judged),after being judged where does our souls go?

Doug Buckley      08 May 2009, 04:38

Hi Sandra,
When a person passes on, their soul is either brought into Paradise (if they in Christ), or descends into Hades. However, this should not be confused with judgment or Judgment Day, because it is more of an automatic process.

Those who are not redeemed are pulled down by the power of death, which has authority over them through sin. However, death and Hades has no authority or power over believers, and so being in Christ, they are delivered into Paradise. Chapters 4 and 6 deal a bit more with this subject.

David      23 Jul 2011, 23:50

I think the scriptures reveal that our body of flesh is not really part of our true self, but rather just a temporary tabernacle in which we dwell in on the earth. Also, the soul simply refers to the being or the self (Matt 12:18, Heb 10:38, Mark 12:29, John 10:17, Gen 2:7), and one's soul simply refers to oneself (Gen 46:27, Acts 7:14, Exo 31:14, Acts 3:23, Lev 5:1-17, Rom 2:9, Num 35:30, Mark 3:4, Psa 6:4, Psa 146:1, Psa 119:129, 139:14). Therefore God did not create us with three parts but, as Gen 2:7 says, "and YHWH Elohim formed Adam’s body from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be [a] living soul [(being)]". Likewise, Eccl 12:7 says that when man dies, the dust [(body)] returns to the earth as it was and the spirit returns to the elohim who gave it. The soul does not remain upon death, but God will raise all the dead in the last day, in which we will again be conscious beings, not with a fleshly body but with a spiritual body.

I noticed that the article itself is nearly consistent with my view, because it is the spirit that YHWH formed within man (Gen 2:7, Zech 12:1) that makes us living souls. Animals also "have souls of life" (Gen 1:30, Rev 16:3), which simply means that animals "are living beings", but of course not in the same way as man, whom God breathed the breath of life into.

Doug Buckley      24 Jul 2011, 18:51

Hi David, yes its true that the word soul does not mean spiritual soul like we think of it. However the bible still tells us that we have spiritual souls that continue on after we die (see ch.10, and also 11,12,13 relate somewhat). I believe that the flesh body is a dwelling place of this soul. However there is also a spirit of life from God that we have in addition to a spritual soul. I don't see spiitual souls and a spirit of life as being mutually exclusive. Looking at your other comments I know where you're coming from; one resurrection, hades = grave, and so on.

Shibu George      10 Aug 2011, 17:15

this should answer it- Malachi 4:5 - Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the comming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

David      11 Aug 2011, 06:25

Dear Shibu George,

Not quite. Notice that according to the old testament, Elijah did not die. Besides him, it appears that the only other person that did not die is Enoch. Anyway, that they are the exception in the scriptures means that we should set our heart on serving YHWH while we are alive, even as it has been written, the dead cannot praise you (Psa 30:9, Psa 88:10-12, Isa 38:18), and again, let my soul live, and it will praise you (Psa 30:3,12, Psa 119:175, Isa 38:19. And we should trust in YHWH, who will raise the dead, the righteous to age-enduring life and the unrighteous to shame, to age-enduring contempt (Dan 12:2).

Grace be with you,

Doug Buckley      12 Aug 2011, 17:13

Hi David, You'll notice that Moses appears with Elijah on the Mt and yet he did die in the flesh, which indicates they both went to heaven as spirits or souls. Also it seems that Abraham's spirit is in heaven, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8.56 KJV bible). Also we have Samuel appearing as a spirit or even ghost to Saul in 1st Samuel 28. So I take the sleep of the dead in a more figurative way, however, I do think they are degraded and less aware than we are.

David      14 Aug 2011, 07:55

Dear Doug,

It is true that the old testament records that Moses died, but it also says that God buried him. It is not surprising then if God also raised him so that he might appear on the mountain with Elijah. Moreover John 8:56 simply means that Christ had been revealed to Abraham, and not that Abraham literally did see Christ on the earth. Samuel is another exception, which apparently God allowed just that once, so that he might prophesy one last time to Saul, and Samuel himself did say to Saul, why have you disturbed me? when Samuel did this sin of attempting to communicate with the dead. Of course "sleep" cannot be absolutely literal, but I think it there is no evidence that believers in general do not sleep in their death just as unbelievers do, until the last day in which all will be raised to stand before God. Anyway I don't really want to carry on this discussion so I will stop here. =)

Grace be with you,

Doug Buckley      14 Aug 2011, 13:18

Hi David, we might not be that far apart, and I can certainly see the other side with this one. Some of the later chapters that have to do with the resurrection and millennium help explain where I am coming from. - God bless.

natalee loney      10 Sep 2011, 19:59

ok confused does it mean we are 3 parts rather than 2 and and is zoe God's breath and when Jesus breathes upon the disciples what did he breathe zoe ? and what can be saved spirit or the soul?

Doug Buckley      12 Sep 2011, 05:04

Hi Natalee, there's disagreement about what the bible teaches about whether or not we have souls. A good way to help figure out what the bible teaches on this is to look at the Greek and Hebrew words that are translated as soul and spirit and also life.
Its really the soul that is saved, since the flesh dies, but theres no original word that means human soul or ghost in the bible. Zoe means life. The breath of God brings life, but Zoe doesn't always mean the breath of God. There is a spiritual breath of God in us in addition to a soul (see ch.11).

Doug Buckley      12 Sep 2011, 14:57

btw, this is probably the hardest chapter of the book, so try not to get hung up on it.

vinny      11 Feb 2012, 15:55

I was a bit confused on your overall belief, are you a dichotomous or trichotomous? or do you see soul and spirit used interchangeably?

Doug Buckley      11 Feb 2012, 23:28

Hi Vinny, good question. The biblical words used for soul and spirit do mean different things. Spirit is similar to our word spirit, but soul doesn't mean the same thing as our concept of a soul. It means more like a person. However, sometimes the way the word is used suggests that a person does have a spiritual soul (if you can follow that).

You could say that we are trichotomous. We have a spiritual part that is a soul (call it a spirit or soul), we also have the flesh. There is also a spirit of life from God that plays a role in our being alive (see ch.11 on right). However, its not unique and personal like a soul. I can't say i understand the spirit of life, but it might be why we can't bring back to life dead people and animals through technology.

Dr. Bill Hixon      18 Feb 2012, 04:42

thought this might be interesting to you. I'm over due for coffee and some hugs.

with warmest admiration and affection with brotherly love,


623 414 8911

Josh      11 Mar 2012, 05:09

So...does this mean animals too have a soul (nephesh), breath of God (zoe), and a spirit (ruach)?

Doug Buckley      12 Mar 2012, 01:46

Hi Josh, we all have a soul, which is like a spirit (ruach) that is unique and personal to us. We also have the spirit of life (zoe) that is from God. The bible says that animals have the spirit of life (Psalm 104.29), and I believe they have souls as well (as explained in the bible question on whether animals go to heaven).

Josh      12 Mar 2012, 04:43

Thanks Doug!
So, in other words, they (animals) have the same things we (humans) have: body, soul (zoe or nephesh) and spirit (ruach).
Is that correct? Or am I way off or something?

Doug Buckley      13 Mar 2012, 17:49

Hi Josh, yes, imo animals have bodies, souls, and the spirit of life. Zoe means life not soul, but yer basic point is right imo. Good to hear from you.

Josh      16 Mar 2012, 01:26

Ok. Thank you Doug.
And thank you. Good to hear from you too.

So, let me get this straight: the difference between soul and spirit is that soul is the physical life of a person (or a person's physical life force) and spirit is the spiritual life of a person (the part of him that continues on and goes to the afterlife).

Is this correct? Or is this a misreading from the article?

Also, the scriptures do support the idea that a person (animal also) lives on after death:
In Daniel, it says "for the multitude that sleeps in the dust shall awaken; some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting shame and contempt".

Doug Buckley      17 Mar 2012, 19:52

Hi Josh, its a bit confusing, but nephesh and psuche just mean a person or life, in a vague sense. The words ruach and pneuma mean an invisible spirit, such as a soul or an evil spirit, or the spirit of life. I also believe that humans and animals have spirits that continue on after they die.

Josh      18 Mar 2012, 23:11

Ah ok. Thank you Doug!

Also, about what you believe that both humans AND animals have a soul and spirit that lives on after death, I wish some (if not most) Christians would believe this also. But, sadly, most Christians say animals don't have souls. (in fact, according to one website, it says that the idea of animals having souls was even questioned during the humanist enlightenment era)

Also, unsurprisingly, during the Middle Ages, they even questioned if women have souls (ironic).

Doug Buckley      21 Mar 2012, 03:56

Hey Josh, I didn't know that. Christians should be open to animals having souls. The bible certainly doesn't say they don't have souls.

Josh      21 Mar 2012, 16:02

Yep. Also, I would give you the link to the website to where it says they questioned about animals having souls during the humanist enlightentment era, but, according to the rules, I can't give you the link. Sorry!

Doug Buckley      22 Mar 2012, 14:24

The comment box doesn't activate links, but you can still post it if you want.

Don Long      23 Mar 2012, 11:56

Hi Doug,
At a purely natural level, it doesn't seem hard for people to draw a distinction between the physical body -and the "person" - whether you call the "person" soul or spirit.
However, Paul indicates (Heb 4:12) that it takes the sharpness and power of the Word of God to be able to draw the division between soul (psuche) and spirit(pneuma). Paul seems to be indicating that quite apart from the physcial body (our earthly tabernacle in which we temporarily live), it would be beneficial to understand the difference between soul and spirit. It may be that when Christians don't understand that division that there is confusion over "following after the spirit" (ie, was that "me" or was the "the spirit" in me).
Thus it seems that Paul identified the battle within (the good I want to do verses what I actually do) as a war inside between the flesh (psuche?) and the spirit (pneuma?)

Shalom - Don

Doug Buckley      27 Mar 2012, 05:13

Hi Don, I saw your comment earlier. Hebrews 4.12 is a difficult passage because both psuche and pneuma can mean different things depending on context. Your explanation that he means that the Word can divide between ourselves of the flesh, and our spiritual selves, seems right to me.

Elden      21 Apr 2012, 23:42

We humans must be of three parts, just like the triune Godhead (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit). We are made in God's image, hence the scripture:
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th 5:23 KJV"
We humans are a Soul with a body and an animating spirit. Animals are only a body and an animating spirit, as Psalm 104:29 teaches.
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2Co 5:1 KJV"
We know that the earthly house is our observable human body. The tabernacle of God, or the soul, houses God when we are filled with His Spirit (not the charismatic movement of unknown tongues, but the divine possession of God that gives us power to be and stay free from sin in this present world), as Titus 2:11 teaches.
The proof of true christianity is that of a changed life; living soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. True Christians are pure and holy and rule their human spirit successfully to the end. We will be tempted through our human spirit and our minds (the gateway to the soul) until we die.
But as Christ said:
"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Mat 24:13 KJV"
And in the End, when we are called to the Judgement Throne of God to give account of our lives, we will be given a new body that will live forever either in Heaven or the Lake of Fire.

Josh      23 Apr 2012, 00:37

Hey Doug, Sorry if I'm late, but here's the link I was talking about: n.htm

Michael Meszaros      16 May 2012, 13:47

Sorry, after more thought, I would like to refine questions.

...if everyone at birth has a body, chaya/zoe to give the body life, a nephesh/psuche, and a ruach/pneuma,

1. are you saying that ruach/pneuma is the same as (another description of) nephesh/psuche, or are you saying that they are different parts of the same person?

E.g., "love the Lord with all your heart (kardia), soul (psychē), mind (synesis), and strength (ischys)". Is one's "heart" the same as one's ruach/pneuma, which is a separate entity from one's soul (nephesh/psuche)?

2. since God is a ruach/pneuma (John 4:24) and He has a nephesh/psuche too (Zech 11:8), is it correct to say that Jesus had a body, chaya/zoe, a nephesh/psuche, and a ruach/pneuma (i.e., at least 2 different eternal parts to Himself)?

3. when one is "born of the spirit" (John 3:6) and comes "alive spiritually" (Mt. 8:22), is this a description of the spirit of God dwelling inside someone (however, compare Gen.41:38, a believer, to Num.24:4, a non-believer I think), or is it that, by God dwelling inside someone, is there also a "coming alive" of one's own ruach/pneuma?

From the non-born-again side, when someone who is dead is still fully functioning physically (e.g., Mt.8:22 "let the dead bury their dead"), how can a non-Christian have a dead ruach/pneuma, or a dead nephesh/psuche, or is there another component that is dead?

Along the same thought is that if a dead child is saved, then whatever it is that is "alive in Christ" when we are born which continues up until we knowingly sin, then dies. Then one is "spiritually birthed for the first time" afterwards when one asks Christ in to be one's Lord and Saviour. So, how can one's "birthing by the Spirit" as an adult be their FIRST time (John 3:6) if one was already "born of the Spirit" or "alive in Christ" or "saved" at birth?

Thanks so much.

Josh      16 May 2012, 14:50

Hey Elden, animals have souls too!

Doug Buckley      18 May 2012, 02:43

Hi Michael. Good to hear from you. Some of the confusion about this comes from the fact that these words, especially "nephesh/psuche" don't directly translate into english. Nephesh simply means a person or being or soul in a non-descript way. It is the person whether body and/or soul. They don't have a nephesh/psuche per se. Chaya/zoe means "life" particularly in a spiritual sense, and people do have a spirit of life. Ruach and pneuma is a bit easier because it simply means spirit, and it can mean spiritual soul, but can also mean spirit in other ways.

So I really can't say "this equals that" because it all depends on the context. I can say that we have flesh bodies, spiritual souls, and also a spirit of life, and I would assume Jesus was the same, because he took on our likeness. His spiritual soul would be a part of God, not a created soul like we have.

With respect to your third question I believe that both are true, in that the Holy Spirit dwells within us because we are sanctified and cleaned to allow it. Being "alive" means we are alive to God in the sense that we are no longer estranged or lost from him in thought and soul. So we ourselves are spiritually alive.

A nonbeliever is dead spiritually, because their soul is dead to God. It's their state with respect to God. As before, nephesh/psuche and ruach/pneuma don't literally translate to soul.

There is alot being said by Christ with respect to Adam being the man of the earth and Christ being the second man, or Son of Man, so that we must be born of him to have eternal life. We must be born spiritually of Christ. I don't believe that someone can be born of the Spirit at birth ie, or born saved. They must be of age and awareness to believe upon Christ to be born of the Spirit. Our nature is sinful, and the world is sinful and only Christ can overcome both. Good questions.

Bernice Swann      13 Sep 2012, 13:49

A nephesh is simply the body of an animal either human or beast. Ruach (a.k.a. pneuma) is the breath of life. A (nephesh) must possess ruach (pneuma) to be a living soul. When a nephesh no longer has ruach (pneuma), the nephesh is a dead soul. Therefore nephesh refers to soul whether alive or dead.

Bernice Swann      13 Sep 2012, 14:01

A nephesh is simply the body of an animal either human or beast. Ruach (a.k.a. pneuma) is the breath of life. A (nephesh) breathing ruach (pneuma) is a living soul. A nephesh that is no longer breathing
ruach (pneuma), is a dead soul. Therefore nephesh refers to soul whether alive or dead.

Doug Buckley      16 Sep 2012, 05:49

Nephesh is a Hebrew word that means a person, being, a life, soul, creature, in a wide variety of contexts. Alot of people have a hard time understanding this because nephesh doesn't translate well into english. Nephesh doesn't mean body, but the body can be part of the nephesh. Adam becomes a soul or nephesh only after God breathes into him, not before it.

Sometimes nephesh is used in a way that excludes the body, "She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost [nephesh]; her sun is gone down while it was yet day" (Jeremiah 15.9 KJV bible).

Ruach and Pneuma simply mean spirit or breath.

diane beloncik      10 Oct 2012, 22:45

Great article, interesting comments.

Lemuel Togonon      18 Oct 2012, 22:21

HI Shibu George and David regarding to your topic, right David, Elijah did not die but he resurrect. concerning to your question about Malachi 4:5, 1st of all there are five Elijah in the Bible, 1st Elijah is the Elijah the prophet in the days of mount carmel showdown, 2nd elijah is Elisha, when Elijah is resurrect he pass his anointing through Elisha the anointing of Elijah, 3rd Elijah was John the baptist in Luke 1:17 the forerunner of Christ, 4th Elijah was in the prophet of this last age the Laodicea Church Age read and search the life of Bro. William Marrion Branham the last forerunner like John the Baptist in Malachi 4:6 he will turn the hearts of the children to their fathers the "B" part of malachi 4:6 which means the apostolic faith, back to the apostolic faith. in Malachi 4:6 there are 2 Elijah, the first 1 is John the baptist the first forerunner of Jesus Christ at Luke 1 and the second is William Marrion Branham Revelation 10:7. and the last Elijah is at the time of tribulation the 2 olives which is the anointing of Elijah and Moises. God Bless all.

Lemuel Togonon      18 Oct 2012, 22:26

Hi Bro. Doug Buckley, if the animal has the spirit what kind of the spirit they have? it's almost the same with a man?

Lemuel Togonon      18 Oct 2012, 23:03

HI, did you know about the truine man being? there 3 being in a man, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole SPIRIT, SOUL, and BODY be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
the right position of these are
1. Spirit
2. Soul
3. Body
the spirit and the soul is spiritual and the body is natural.
in Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. you cannot separate the spirit and soul. the soul it is you and the body is flesh and the spirit of men is dead, and if the spirit of God dwells in you your spirit is not dead, you become a spiritual man by God.

Doug Buckley      21 Oct 2012, 14:44

hi Lemuel, regarding you first question about the spirit of animals, see the question about animals in the bible question section.

Regarding spirit, soul, and body, I do believe that people have these three. A spirit of life (not the Holy Spirit), a spiritual soul, and a body. Its true that the biblical word "soul" just means person, but it includes the soul and can also sometimes refer to a soul, especially when a person has died in the flesh. The word "soul" in the NT can mean alot of different things in different contexts, so it can be hard to understand what is always meant by spirit and soul in the bible.

Lemuel Togonon      21 Oct 2012, 22:46

Good morning,
Right! the animals have a spirit the same with the man, but the different is, the spirit of man is not the spirit of animals because we are higher than animals. we have also free will, man has a free will and animals has a free will also. when the Spirit of God dwells in the spirit man, the spirit of man shall live. now he is not a slave by his body but he is now a servant of God he is a new creation by God.

Senses of the three being
Body- see, smell, taste, hear, feel
Soul- faith & doubt
Spirit- imagination, conscience, memory reason affection

Body- The temple of God/ the house
Soul- Person
Spirit- Life

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Carlos Leon      31 Oct 2012, 22:11

Would it be right to consider that the word ruach which means wind or spirit might refer to the energy that moves our body and gives life and motion to ourselves and that it is just a tiny fraction of the energy of Our God who is the owner of all the energy of the Universe since he created everything with this energy?

As for the word nephesh as it is decribed in many passages of the Bible, if we use the word soul to describe it in the light of all we know now the feeling that I get when I find it in the Scriptures is that it could be interpreted as the genes of a being, it's individuality. In this snese it would be filling every space of the body and it would be contained in the blood as it is told also in the Bible. This would explain why it's said that when a person dies so dies it's soul and then there would be no contradiction in believing in that the soul can live forever because part of our genes are transferred to our offspring unless God cuts our souls off in case of transgression of the His laws.
It would also explain why it's said that evry living being is a soul. because even the tiniest beings have a genetic expression. These are feelings that I have had for a long time reading the Bible and studying some hebrew.
I hope my input can be appreciated.

robert the levi teacher      30 Dec 2012, 16:01

Hi it seams u all are so confused and dont understand this subject i see and read alot of ranting about nothing .
Albert Einstein once said if u cant explain it to a 6 year old child u dont understand it yourself

now this being said let me tell u what a soul and spirit is that anyone can understand

1. GOD = SPIRIT (jesus) is GOD in a soul/body

So in conclusion in a example
a car and u the car is the soul u in the car is the spirit u controll the soul u can kill the soul/ car but the spirit inside the car well live
hope this is easy to understand

robert the levi teacher       30 Dec 2012, 16:06

one last thing to consider
when jesus was on the cross and his body /soul waas made an ofering for our sins what where jesus last words he spoke

FATHER INTO YOUR HANDS I COMEND MY SPIRIT jesus never died 3 days and nights later jesus came back for his body but reading the scriptures of jesus he walks through walls in spirit form now with soul human body

Hollis      08 Jul 2013, 00:30

I just got into a argument over this with my mother.

I know a little bit of hebrew, so I understand the whole nephesh, ruach, and earth is. The thing that I look at the most is how God created us. The bible says God made us in the dust of the ground in the earth (body) then the breathed the ruach into us making a living nephesh.
The living nephesh is a indivual person, he is able to see, taste, and live life. The only three things that made us who we are is both the ruach, and earth. The earth is the ground, the ruach is the breath of God so it is our conscious, it is not a individual entity in us, but is us.

According to the bible it speaks of the dead coming back to life right? If we are dead then we should neither be in heaven nor Hell when we die. When we die their should be a intraval of time from our death to our resurrection that happens in a split second, no heaven nor Hell your at the judgment seat of Christ.
The dead rise some to everlasting life, others to everlasting shame.

Now if we look at the thief on the cross whom Christ told you shall be with me in paradise ( gan Eden) why would most people think this is referring to a heaven in the sky? And why do they conclude when we die we go to eaither heaven or Hell? I know that is huge amongst Christians but please explain that to me.

Gehenna, Sheol
Sheol is the place where the dead went to, it's nothing more than the ground. And Gehenna is nothing more than a dump outside of Jerusalem where their is a everlasting fire that had a strong stench.

Tying all three together:

I'm using Jesus as a example, when Jesus hung on the cross he told the thief next to him you shall be with me in paradise, and he died. When Jesus died his body was in the tomb (Sheol), but Jesus himself was outside of time, not bound by its limits in paradise. The bible speaks of New Jerusalem being the paradise in the future. Jesus on the third day resurrects. Comes back to life by the Ruach of God and ascends to the right hand of the father and says he goes to make a place for us and will return to bring it to us. Am I wrong for believing this?

Hollis      08 Jul 2013, 00:55

The problem with what happens when we die is people forget that when you die you are not limited to time anymore, the second you die, you resurrect (wake up) for judgment and that is not a pretty sight. Humans can only understand things in time, that's why when we go to funerals the people are still in the ground, they are not in heaven, they are not in Hell in our moments of time. When Christ comes back time ceases to exist because only a God can break time and space.

In my opinion you must look at the bible as segments of history and future. You can jump back and forth, God can jump back in forth in time if he wants to. Humans need to quit limiting him.

Lemuel Togonon      08 Jul 2013, 19:54

Good Morning Brethren,

Let me consider the book of 1 Thessalonians 5:23- And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The truine man being:

Doug Buckley      09 Jul 2013, 16:31

Hi Hollis. It's true in the bible that the word usually translated as soul is nephesh, and it doesn't literally mean spiritual soul. But there are some contexts where it refers to a soul, such as when Elijah prays and the dead boy's nephesh returns to him. The complete boy didn't return to the complete boy, but the soul or person returned to the body. There are even examples of souls existing without bodies in the bible (see chapter 10 on the right for more on this). Now there certainly is a spirit of life that we have from God, but this shouldn't rule out that we have souls (see ch.11).

As far as your other questions let me say your reasoning is perfectly fine and alot of people believe as you do. There's alot of issues that you raise and it's not possible for me to explain the whole book right here, which is why its spread out over a book, chapters 12 and 13 deal with some of what you're saying

I will say that in the years of studying this there are two main views. One is that the immortal soul is judged and goes to heaven or hell forever. The other is that we are completely dead until the resurrection. Both are wrong. There is a personal spirit or soul of some kind and it has an afterlife, but there is also an eternal afterlife. The resurrection is best understood as a passing from the immediate afterlife through Christ into the eternal afterlife, but this can't be fully explained here.

Tim Serebryanskiy      16 Jul 2013, 22:49

Grace to you all. Amazing topic, so wonderful to see people thinking and talking important things.

When God created man from the dust of the earth there was the body, There also was ruach still within God. But one thing there was not until ruach was breathed into the body, that thing BECAME and it is a soul/ nephesh/psuche. it is that servant who gets the talant which he must use to gain more( fruit of the spirit, ruach.)

Body turns back into the ground, ruach never dies but binds with the soul of a SAVED, or born again. As a result this soul serves the spirit and bares the fruit of it and is able to enter the heavenly presence of God, the giver of ruach or posibly Ruach Himself in Heavenly realm.

Unsaved have no knowledge or understanding of ruach and serve their body, live according to what they want, they bind with their master the body and therefore rewarded with the corruption of it when they die and ruach stops sustaining them and returns to God.

Animals do have a ruach, body and psuche but their psuche is not like humans and needs no saving, their psuche is not eternal and is in their blood and stops its existance at the moment of death, sorry, it is also what we know to be the instinct. As to their body, to dust, but ruach always back to Almighty.

I thank God our Father for Jesus Christ for without His sacrifice none would ever be able to enter the presence of God in heaven and inherit His glory, no matter to what extend we could wrap our minds around Him while on the earth. It is all in the Bible, word of God
Blessings to you all.

stephen, Stephen      29 Jul 2013, 11:48

In my own view, this article is all about the body and spiritual soul are we now saying that man is made of only body and spiritaul soul?(according to the writer) What about the biblical teaching that man is made up of body soul and spirit? For instance 1 thesolonians 5:23 paul says, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and i pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" KJV. Hebrew 4:12 says,"For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing assunder of soul and spirit.........KJV, this spirit that seems to be the third part of man is not mentioned in this article, pls i need some explanations. Thanks.

Tim Serebrtanskiy      29 Jul 2013, 12:29

It seems that some people trully believe that soul and the spirit are one and the same thing. In my opinion there is no support to that theory in the Bible. They are never used interchangably in it. They both invisable they both iternal they both leave the body at the moment of death and that confuses many theologists. Our life itself, that very energy that science can not explain, that which began to pump our hearts in mothers womb, then formed our bones and all, thats the spirit, ruach in Hebrew. Our soul is our mind basicly, or spiritual things that are under our control. They way body, spirit and soul function within one human being is very different in saved and unsaved.

Doug Buckley      30 Jul 2013, 02:13

Hi Stephen, I believe that we do have a soul, a body, and a spirit of life. But its not as straightforward as every time the bible says "soul" it means spiritual soul and every time it says "spirit" it means a spirit of life. These words are used in a great variety of contexts and applications.
The words for spirit (ruach and pneuma) mean literally an air current, and for example in John 3.8 pneuma is translated as wind. Someone might have a certain spirit that's not a soul or spirit of life. If you look in a bible dictionary you'll see that many words have different meanings and usages like in English. I believe that the different usages of these words does support that we have souls. Also for more on the spirit of life see ch.7 on right.

Josiah      03 Nov 2013, 23:24

soul can be used in different ways. Nephesh means life of animals, living-breathing creatures, and can refer to humans, fish and other creatures. Is may also refer to emotion, the mind etc.

The word "soul" can be communicated in different ways. You need to understand the word in context of scripture.

According to Genesis 2:7, God did not make a man and then place a soul into it, but rather God created man from the dust of the ground, and by breathing the breath of life into his nostrils, the man "became a living soul."

Man was not created with an immortal soul. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 says that souls can die. It is appointed to all men once to die (Hebrews 9:7). The soul is not a separate being from the physical human body. When the body dies, so does the body. The dead will be resurrected to everlasting life, or to shame and contempt (Daniel 12:2).

Souls do not go to heaven. Everyone who is dead in Christ are awaiting the resurrection when Christ returns in glory, and they will meet the Lord in the air/clouds. Those who are alive in Christ at his coming will meet them and forever be with the Lord.

LAURENCIA DELEON      06 Feb 2014, 16:14

soul and spirit/nephesh........psuche

Juan Valdez      21 Jun 2014, 10:55

What about the etymology or interpretation of ruach in Genesis 1:2? Where the spirit (nuach) moves across the primeval waters to create life from the void?

"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

There is an implied cosmology here that stems from Babylonian creation myths? (Also Egyptian??) Note the widespread use of pneuma in Greek philosophy, esp Stoicism, to denote the active principle of life, i.e that which gives life to the body, i.e. soul (psuche).



Doug Buckley      22 Jun 2014, 12:39

Hi Juan, I'm not sure if you're asking me a question about ruach and psuche. I believe that Hebrew is part of the same family of semitic languages as the language of ancient Babylon (Akkadian?) and the New Testament was intentionally written in Greek. So there's going to be overlap in the use of certain words between various works and writings of the same language. Words by themselves don't imply an ideological connection.

Josiah      23 Jun 2014, 02:33

Subject study is good, and you must also read it in context :)

Juan Valdez      23 Jun 2014, 08:34

Hi Doug, thank you for your prompt response. I guess the question I am asking is regarding the derivation, linguistic and cosmological, of the Hebrew "ruach". Is this a term unique to the Semitic language family and Jewish tradition or is it found in any of the neighboring cultures - for example Akkadian/Babylonia - cosmologies and languages.



Doug Buckley      23 Jun 2014, 12:20

Hi Juan, ya I don't know the answer to that, some Hebrew dictionaries might go into this.
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