Bible Q&A: What’s The Difference Between The Spirit And The Soul?

What’s the difference between the spirit and the soul?

“Soul” comes from the Hebrew word nephesh in the Old Testament and the Greek term psuchee in the New Testament.  Depending on the context, it has to do with one’s life, one’s physical existence, the entire person (a living being), or what one feels (the heart), and the immortal nature of man.

“Spirit” comes from the Greek term pneuma in the New Testament and the Hebrew word ruwach in the Old Testament.  Depending on the context, it’s used to describe one’s breath, wind as in air or gases, emotions such as courage, anger, or patience (he had a patient/courageous spirit), or one’s life/physical existence.

Jesus was said to have given his life (psuchee, soul) for a ransom (Matt. 20:28), but he said he gave his spirit (pneuma) to God (Lk. 23:46).  Because of usages like this, most generally tend to use the terms “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably in a figurative sense to refer to the immortal nature of man which leaves the body at death.  Yet, depending on the specific passage one reads in the Bible, a deeper study of the meanings of the words might be necessary to determine if that specific case requires that interchangeable usage.

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