Questions and Answers




            I am assuming that when this kind of question comes up that one is pertaining to 1 Thess. 5:23 where we read, "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."  Sometimes there seems to be a difference between the two and sometimes there does not.  The basic meaning of the word soul is "life."  Sometimes it refers to the immortal aspect of man just like the word spirit does (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27, Matthew 16:26; Hebrews 6:19).  Sometimes it refers to a person's body (Leviticus 5:2, 4).  Sometimes it refers to an individual person and their life (Romans 13:1).

            So, is there a difference between soul and spirit?  Hebrews 4:12 says that there is a difference but that it is a fine distinction.  The difference is one of description.  The word "spirit" refers to something that is animated, whether it is animated only for a temporary time (such as a beast) or if it is animated forever (such as our immortal spirit).  The word "soul" refers to the idea of "life."  Here too, sometimes life can be limited to THIS life.  But sometimes it refers to eternal life as well.

            So, do these ideas refer to two different entities that exist separately within the individual person?  I don't think so.  I don't think that the individual person has both a soul and a spirit where each of those things refer to an entity that is specifically different within man.  In this sense, the word spirit and soul are synonymous.  However, there is a way to understand that we have both a spirit and a soul.  We have a spirit, something animated and eternal that will live on forever.  This idea looks at us objectively from the outside.  We also have a soul, a life that is eternal, our consciousness.  This idea looks at us subjectively from the inside.  Therefore, the spirit refers to man's eternal spirit in an objective sense, and the soul refers to man's spirit in a more subjective sense, but spirit and soul seem to refer to the same thing when being used to describe man's eternal nature.

Robert Notgrass

Back to Questions