A Study of the Body, Soul and Spirit
Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” God formed the physical body of man (Adam) but that body had no life in it. It was in essence just like a dead body, it was lifeless.
James 2:26 tells us that, “..The body without the spirit is dead..” But then God, “..breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life, and man BECAME a living soul.” The body became a soul, when the spirit was added to it. As we’ll see later, the spirit was already a soul, because the spirit is a living being in itself. The very definition of a “soul”, is.. “a living being”. You and I are living human beings, while our spirits dwell in our human bodies. But when our spirits leaves our bodies at death, then we will be purely spiritual beings. But in either case, we are still a “soul”, because a soul is simply a living being. Whether our spirit lives in the physical body, or out of the physical body, our spirit is a living being, which is a soul. When our spirit leaves our body at death, then the body ceases to be a soul, because there is no longer any life associated with it. And since the body is not living at that point, it ceases to be a soul.
So then I hope that you understand, that while the body and spirit are the two parts that make up a human being, the soul is not a “part” of us, but rather, the soul is the “whole” of us. Our soul is our very “being”, our soul is who we are.
What Is A Spirit?
The body that God had made when He created Adam, was brought to life, by the “breath of life”. The exact Hebrew word translated “breath” here, is found three more times in the bible. One of those times it refers to the “breath” of God, and one time it refers to the “breath” of man, and once it refers to the “spirit” of man. Genesis 7:22, speaks of “..the breath of the spirit” , meaning the “life” of the spirit. So then, the “breath of life” that God breathed into man, is man’s spirit. But man’s spirit is somewhat difficult to fully understand, because it’s not something that we can “identify” with our physical senses. Therefore we have to do our best to understand what the spirit is, based on what the bible tells us about it.
Every living animal, whether it be a human or a beast, has a spirit. This is evidenced from Ecclesiastes 3:21, which says.. “Who knows that the breath (spirit) of man ascends upward, and the breath (spirit) of the beast descends downward to the earth.” Again, the “breath” is the spirit. But we see that there’s a difference between the breath of man and the breath of the beast. Man’s breath ascends upward when his body dies, and the breath of the beast descends downward, to the earth, when it’s body dies. In other words, the breath of the beast, ceases to exist when the body dies. It “descends to the earth” so to speak, just like the body, which returns to the earth as it decays.
We gain a little more understanding, when we learn that the word translated “breath”, in Ecclesiastes 3:21 is NOT the same, as the word translated “breath”, in Genesis 2:7. The word “breath” in Ecclesiastes 3:21, is a word referring to “spirits” in general. And so both man and beast have a spirit within them. But the word “breath” in Genesis, is a word referring to a special type of spirit, which is only given to humans. You might need proof of that, so we’ll go to the bible dictionary and see the definitions of those two words.
(This may seem tedious, but please follow along)
First, the word from Ecclesiastes.. Looking at Strong’s Concordance of Old Testament words as our dictionary; Word #7307, “ruach”, pronounced Roo’-akh. It means.. “spirit, or breath, or wind”. The word is translated “spirit”, 203 times in the NASB version. And the word is translated “breath”, 31 times, and it’s translated “wind”, 98 times. It’s a very general term, and that’s why it can be applied to the breath of humans or animals, or even simply to the wind.
Now the word from Genesis.. Again from Strong’s concordance; Word #5397, “neshamah”, pronounced nesh-aw-maw’. It means.. “breath, or that which breathes, inspiration, or spirit.” But here’s what makes it so different from the other word translated “breath, or spirit”. This word also carries with it the meaning of “divine inspiration”, or “divine breath”. So, we can see that man received a special kind of “breath” from God. Man received a “divine breath”, which made man “in the likeness of God”.
Our spirit is like God’s Spirit, in many ways. For example, we can feel love, and compassion, and sympathy, and we have a sense of justice, and we can understand and reason, to a far greater extent than animals can understand and reason. Those things and many more, are what makes our spirits different than the other animals of the earth. But maybe the most important difference is the fact that our spirit will never cease to exist. The spirit that God breathes into man, will remain eternally. And that is precisely why the scripture says; “the breath of man ascends upward, and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth.”
Once again, God said in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..” Then V-27 says, “And God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him, both male and female.”
And we’re told in Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils, the divine inspiration of life, and man became a living soul.”
Understanding the Word “Soul”
Now let’s focus on the word “soul”. Man was not “given” a soul, but rather, the scripture says, “..and man BECAME a living soul.” Man’s body was formed “of the dust from the ground”, but until God joined a living spirit to that body, the body was inanimate, it wasn’t alive. The spirit gave the body life. Sometimes in the scriptures, the word for “soul” is translated “life”.
Let’s look at that word translated “soul” and “life”. Back to Strong’s Concordance of words. Word #5315, “lanepes”, pronounced la-ne-pes’. It means “a soul, or a being”. It’s also translated as “life”, and sometimes as “a human person”. Let me show you a couple verses where it’s used so you can see the meaning.
Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him; To the soul (or person) who seeks Him.”
Numbers 35:31, “You shall not take ransom for the life (or soul) of a murderer who is guilty of death..” In other words; You shall not allow someone who is guilty of murder, to LIVE.
And then there’s our original verse, Genesis 2:7, “..and man became a living soul.” Man’s body came to life!
“The body without the spirit is dead” says James 2:26. Why is the body dead, without the spirit? Because it’s the spirit that gives the life.
Here’ another verse.. John 6:63, “It is the Spirit giving life, the flesh profits nothing”. When the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground, the body that God formed, was of no profit at all, by itself. The flesh profits NOTHING! It was the spirit that God breathed into his nostrils that gave the life to the body. “..And man became a living soul”. Even though the immediate context of John 6:63 refers to the Spirit of God, giving eternal life to our very “being”, (in other words, to our “soul”) these words still declare a “law of God”, that “it is the Spirit giving life”. And we have the illustration of that actually happening, in Genesis 2:7, which serves to prove that “law”, that it is the spirit that gives the life.
By it’s very definition, the word “soul” means “life”. And it’s the spirit that gives that life. The only logical conclusion is that the spirit itself, IS a soul! That’s exactly why man BECAME a soul, when the spirit entered into him. Not because some “new thing” was created when the body and the spirit came together, but because the spirit is already a living soul in itself. Therefore when the spirit entered the body of man, that body BECAME a living soul.
God’s Word Should End All Debate
There is a debate as to whether a human being is made up of two or three parts. Some people believe that a human being is made up of three parts, the body, the spirit, and the soul. But as we’ve seen from the scriptures, a human being is made up of only two parts; A physical body, and a life-giving spirit.
The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor 4:16, “The outward man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day.” Paul is indicating that there are two parts to a man, the outward part, and the inner part. These two parts are named as “the flesh” and “the spirit”, in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh sets it’s desire against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. for these are in opposition to one another..”
So then a human being is actually a “dual-natured” being. Man has a physical nature, and he has a spiritual nature. Those two natures are described in Romans 7:22 & 23 as “waging war” with one another. Here’s what it says in those verses; “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. (in his spiritual nature) But I see a different law in my members (in his fleshly nature) waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”
The scriptures are as clear as they can be. There is a spiritual side to man, and there is a physical side to man. Two “natures”, two “parts”; One living being, one “soul”.
But some people will ask; “What about 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ? That verse teaches that there are three parts to a man, namely, body soul and spirit.”
Well, let’s examine the verse and see if that’s true. Here’s what the verse says; “Now, may the God of peace Himself, sanctify you completely, and your spirit and soul and body be preserved entirely blameless, at the coming of the Lord of us, Jesus Christ.”
Many people read that verse, and they assume that the spirit, and the soul, and the body, are three separate parts, which make up the whole of us. But that conclusion is the result of not understanding the meaning of the word “soul”. Remember that the word “soul” can refer to either your “life”, or to your entire “being”. A soul is a living being.
The words of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, are a “wish” or you could say, a “prayer”, expressed by the apostle Paul, that the Christians he was writing to, would be “sanctified completely”, (to be sanctified is to be purified and set apart.. made holy) and that they would be “preserved entirely blameless” at the coming of Christ. The idea of completely and entirely, is emphasized. And that “completeness” is described as “your spirit, and life, and body”. Or you could say; “your spirit, your being, and your body.” Or you could say; “your spirit, and soul, and body.”
Whichever way you say it, there is no contradiction with the rest of the scriptures. The fact is, your soul is your entire “being”. Your soul is your “life”. It is not a part of you, but it is the “whole” of you.
The apostle Paul is praying, or “wishing” that Christians should be completely sanctified, and preserved entirely blameless. And that includes their spirit, and their body, and their very “being”, which is their very “life”.
Verses Which Illustrate What We’ve Learned
Here’s a couple more verses that also totally agree with what we’ve seen, and which illustrate it perfectly..
A man named Jacob, who’s name God changed to Israel, had a wife named Rachel. And Rachel died while in child birth, delivering the son named Benjamin, one of the twelve sons of Israel. Genesis 35:18 says, “And it came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Benoni, but his father called his name Benjamin.” (The name Benoni means.. “the son of my sorrow”.)
When Rachel died, her “life” departed from her. In other words, her “soul” departed. We’re told 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.” When the spirit leaves the body, the life leaves also. Why? Because it’s the spirit that gives the life. It’s a “law of God”, that the body returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. When Rachel died, her spirit returned to God, that’s “the law”! And when her spirit left, “her soul departed”. Her “life” departed, because her spirit was gone. Isn’t that perfectly easy to understand? That’s God’s Law.
When Jesus was about to breath His last breath, as He hung on the cross, He said, “Father, into thy hands, I commit My Spirit.” Luke 23:46. And when His Spirit went to the Father who gave it, His life left His body. Remember.. “The body without the spirit is dead”.
In the book of Acts, chapter 6, we have the story of a faithful Christian named Stephen. Stephen was stoned to death by virtually the same angry mob who insisted that Jesus be put to death. And as Stephen was about to die, he said, in Acts 6:59, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice; Lord, do not hold this sin against them! And having said this, he fell asleep.” (He died) As Stephen died, his spirit returned to God who gave it. And at the same time, his “life” left his body. Just like Rachel, whose “soul was departing, for she died”
All these many verses of scripture that we’ve looked at, are all in agreement. When the spirit enters a body, that body comes to life, and becomes a living soul. And when the spirit leaves the body, the body dies. And when the spirit leaves, the soul also leaves, because the spirit IS the “life”, it is the “soul”.
This statement is made concerning the soul of Jesus.. Acts 2:27, “.. Thou will not abandon My soul to hades. Nor will Thou allow Thy Holy One, to see corruption.” The body of Jesus was dead, His spirit had returned to God who gave it. But Jesus wasn’t dead. Just like Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob aren’t dead. God is, “not the God of the dead, but of the living”. Mark 12:27.
So Jesus Himself, not His body, but Jesus Himself, was alive, after His body had died. And Acts 2:27 says that He was “alive”, in hades. His SOUL was in hades, and the soul was His “being. It was His “life”! But what creates the life? It’s the spirit that gives the life. The spirit IS life. The body that God created, BECAME a soul, when? It became a soul, when the SPIRIT gave it life. The spirit brought life to the body without any other addition. Therefore the spirit must have had life in itself, or the body could NOT have became a living being! There would BE no life, if it weren’t for the presence of the spirit. There would be no SOUL without the presence of the spirit! The “life” is contained within the spirit. The spirit is a soul, in and of itself.
There’s a rational conclusion to make here concerning Jesus.. Since the soul, or the “life” of Jesus was in hades, and since it is the spirit that gives the life, there is therefore NO other conclusion, than the fact that the Spirit of Jesus was also in hades. And this isn’t difficult to understand. When the spirit returns to God who gave it, it is then in a condition that the bible calls “hades”
Hades is the unseen condition, or “realm of departed spirits”. (the word hades means, “unseen”) And in that “realm”, there is a presence of God. We’re told in Psalm 139:8, “If I make my bed in sheol, behold, Thou art there.” “Sheol” is the old testament Hebrew word, which is the equivalent of hades. When we’re told that “the spirit returns to God who gave it”, it’s perfectly understandable that those spirits have to dwell somewhere, and the bible tells us that “hades”, is that “dwelling place”. Another way of looking at it, is that hades, is the “condition” of the soul, after it leaves the body. It is the “unseen” condition of the spirit, between death and the resurrection.
The word hades is only used 10 times in the new testament, so we don’t know a whole lot about it. We do know that by definition, that hades means.. “unseen”. But it may be wiser to view hades as a “condition” rather than a “place”. Hades is the state of the soul, or the condition of the soul, after it leaves the body.
Let me say this just one more time.. As I said before; The spirit is a soul. It is a living being. That’s why Adam became a living soul, when the spirit was introduced. And the spirit is eternal. It will never cease to exist. The soul is our whole being, our entire being When the spirit occupies the fleshly body, the soul consists of body and spirit. When the spirit leaves the body, the soul then consists of only spirit. When the spirit is resurrected on the last day, and is joined to a spiritual body, it will again consist of body and spirit. That’s what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 5:4, “For indeed while we are in this tent, (in this physical body) we groan, being burdened. Because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal, may be swallowed up by life.”
There will be a time when we will be “unclothed”. We will not have a body of any kind. But our soul will always remain alive, even without a body. Our soul will consist of a spirit, without a body of any kind. It could well be, that this is the reason why the spirit “sleeps” during this period of time, between the death of our physical body, and the resurrection of the spirit, when we will be given our new spiritual body. I’m just guessing here, but maybe the spirit requires some kind of body for it to be active. Just a thought.
One more scripture.. This one shows the words “soul” and “spirit”, being used interchangeably.
The virgin Mary exclaimed in Luke 1:46, “My soul exalts the Lord, My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” We might call this a “parallelism”, where the same thing is said in two different ways.
However I can still see a slight difference in the words, even here. Mary is exclaiming; My “entire being” exalts the Lord, the “spirit within me” has rejoiced in God my Savior!
The Soul and Spirit can be Separated! (The life can be taken from the spirit)
Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God uses a metaphor here, of the word of God, as “cutting through” joints and marrow, and soul and spirit. But what God is saying with this metaphor, is that His word is capable of penetrating to the very deepest parts of man; to the physical joints and marrow, to the spiritual soul and spirit, and even to the very thoughts and intents of man’s mind. But even though this statement is metaphorical, this verse DOES indicate a difference between soul and spirit! Evidently, the soul, or in other words “the life”, can be separated from the spirit.
How and when could the “life” (the soul) be separated from the spirit?
I think that it’s completely in harmony with the scriptures, to think of the “life”, as being taken from the spirit, when the spirit is “cast into outer darkness” (Mathew 22:13). “Outer darkness” is total separation from the presence of God, it is what the bible calls “hell”.
We know that death is a “separation”. Physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit, and spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. Therefore, when a spirit suffers separation from God, by being cast into outer darkness, the spirit suffers “death”. The “life” of that spirit has been taken away, and the result is.. a separation of soul and spirit.
These are all the words of the bible my friends. The bible says that man was created from the dust of the ground, and then a “God-breathed” spirit was joined to that man. And man BECAME living soul. When the spirit joins the body, the body comes to life. When the spirit leaves the body, the body is lifeless, it is dead. When the spirit is separated from God, it will also be “lifeless”.
But faithful believers, who obey the words of our God, will enjoy eternal LIFE with our Savior. Eternal life, not death, but life for our spirits, in the eternal condition of heaven. May God bless you all.