Body, Soul and Spirit

Dear Ken,

I have been studying in the book of Hebrews on Wednesday evening and came across an interesting passage. My question is on Hebrews 4:8-13; in particular verse 12. In verse 12 it speaks of the division of soul and spirit. Before reading this passage I had been under the impression that the soul and spirit were one in the same, but this has me a bit stumpted. Would you like to take a shot and offer commentary on this passage (Hebrews 4:8-13)? In the past I have found your comments most helpful and your site an encouragement. Once again, I thank you.


Several words speak of the "inner man" including soul (life), spirit, mind or heart. Spirit and Mind are almost always used interchangeably. Or they are connected so that we understand that the phrase "Spirit of the Mind." God is pure or Holy Spirit: that means WHOLLY SPIRIT. Otherwise, the Spirit OF God is the mental disposition of God. As we will see the Holy Spirit is to God what our spirit is to us. As we look at First Corinthians chapter two we will see the punch line: WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST.

The Book of Romans has many parallels between MIND and SPIRIT and it is a fact that Paul nevr speaks of the Holy Spirit as a separated being from Father or Son. He speaks of the Spirit OF God or the Spirit OF Christ or he speaks of OUR spirit in contrast to OUR flesh. Look here for Romans and Look Here for many more Spirit-Mind parallels. The Romans link will lead you to many chapters.

Well, Jonathan, here are some comments off the top of the head. First, let's quote the verse. Paul said that:

For the word of God is quick (zao alive), and powerful (energized or effective), and sharper (decisive at a single blow) than any twoedged (This is symbolic of thesuperior mouth of Jesus Rev 1:16) sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The usual formulation is of a three-fold or "triune" nature of mankind who is made in the nature of the One God Who is not a simple puff of wind (spirit) but fulfills a complex task:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Soul is from the Greek:

Psuche (g5590) psoo-khay'; from 5594; breath, i.e. (by impl.) spirit, abstr. or concr.

(the animal sentient principle only;

thus distinguished on the one hand from

4151 (Spirit), which is the rational and immortal soul;

and on the other from 2222 (Zao or Zoe), which is mere vitality, even of plants: these terms thus exactly correspond respectively to the Heb. [5315, 7306 and 2416]): - heart (/ -ily), life, mind, soul, / us, / you.

However, it seems to me that this "life principle" is something which survives death:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Mt.10:28

We might conclude that the body is the "machinery" much like that of animals. However, the soul is also used of a form of life at a higher level. The life is that which includes the brain and propels the body and gives it power to move and do the bidding of the mind.

The Hebrew for soul is:

Nephesh (h5315) neh'-fesh; from 5314; prop. a breathing creature, i. e. animal or (abstr.) vitality; used very widely in a lit., accommodated or fig. sense (bodily or mental): - any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, * dead (-ly), desire, * [dis-] contented, * fish, ghost, / greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, * jeopardy of) life (* in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortally, one, own, person, pleasure, (her- , him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, / slay, soul, / tablet, they, thing, (* she) will, * would have it.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath (intellect) of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

This means that man is like an animal but more than an animal.

Spirit, however, also seems to say something about the soul:

Pneuma (g4151) pnyoo'-mah; from 4154; a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy. or fig. a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by impl.) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, doemon, or (divine) God, Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit: - ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind. Comp. 5590.

You will notice that Strong compares Pneuma to Psuche showing the connection. My own feeling is that we have a body. A lot of our body is regulated by automatic control with "brain-like" control locally regulating it.

That body is "intellectually powered" by a brain (still physical machinery) and this is the soul or life principle which survives death as the body goes back to the dust. On the other hand, the "third member of the trinity" of man made in God's image is spirit or the mental disposition of the soul. An animal has body and some form of "life" but we have no evidence that it has the "spirit" or mental disposition to identify with God. A carnal person has a body and a soul but their spirit is not disposed toward God and His Word.

The Hebrew for "spirit" or "Spirit" is:

Ruwach (h7307) roo'-akh, roo'-akh; from 7306; wind; by resemblance breath, i. e. a sensible (or even violent exhalation; fig. life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extens. a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (includ. its expression and functions): - air, anger, blast, breath, * cool, courage, mind, * quarter, * side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, * vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).

I believe that the first time "spirit" is used of mankind is in connection with Joseph and it meant that he had the wisdom to save the Egyptians and Hebrews from a seven-year famine.

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? Ge.41:38

This does not mean (I think) that Joseph had a third member of the Godhead living inside of him. It meant that he had been given something more than human intelligence in order to solve the famine problem. He was normal body, normal soul and more than normal spirit enlightened by God Who is Holy or pure Spirit.

The men who had God's "spirit" to help build the tabernacle simply had a super supply of know-how to perform all of the tasks in the wilderness which might have been commonplace in a developed city with a foundary.

I think that Paul was comparing soul and spirit to joints and marrow because you can't have one without the other. Joints and bones are the mechanical things which allow us to move and obey the brain. These can be replaced with metal. However, the marrow is the "life giving" part of the bones which supply blood to keep the "human" parts of us alive.

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

I know that these terms tend to overlap and you cannot always "cut them apart" but it is encouraging that both our God-given spirit which He put into us, as well as the soul or the life-consciousness will survive if we are faithful but can be destroyed if we are not.

It might also help to understand that because we are created in the image of God (imaged in His mind before created) we have human "parts" of body, soul and Spirit. In explaining the nature of God we understand that the Word delivered through Lord Jesus Christ is the Spirit of God or the Mind of Christ. (John 6:63):

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?

even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God (which is in Him figuratively). 1 Corinthians 2:11

Christ said that his words were "Spirit and Life." Therefore, when He speaks or we read what He spoke we are given knowledge directly from God. In our creation all mankind has "spirit" directly from God and this is the human part which is, or can be, receptive to Spirit or Truth from Him:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 1 Corinthians 2:12

Which things also we speak, not in the words which mans wisdom (from his body and soul) teacheth,

but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:13

To deny that Christ can transfer "Spirit" in the form of knowledge into our "spirit" through the spoken or written Word is to deny that Christ is God.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually (figuratively) discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually (figuratively) is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Revelation 11:8

The natural man is:

Psuchikos (g5591) psoo-khee-kos'; from 5590; sensitive, i.e. animate (in distinction on the one hand from 4152, which is the higher or renovated nature; and on the other from 5446, which is the lower or bestial nature): - natural, sensual.

But he that is spiritual (non-human part of us) judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 1 Corinthians 2:15

Spiritual is:

Pneumatikos (g4152) pnyoo-mat-ik-os'; from 4151; non-carnal, i.e. (humanly) ethereal (as opposed to gross), or (daemoniacally) a spirit (concr.), or divinely supernatural, regenerate, religious: - spiritual. Comp. 5591.

A spiritual person "Judgeth all things." This is defined as:

Anakrino (g350) an-ak-ree'-no; from 303 and 2919; prop. to scrutinize, i.e. (by impl.) investigate, interrogate, determine: - ask, question, discern, examine, judge, search.

The Bereans were more "well born" or aristocratic than the Thessalonicans because they judged everything or questioned it:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

Paul then completes his definition of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord and the Spirit of Christ as the Mind of Christ:

For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

So, we have it: God reveals His Spirit through the Mind of Christ. For our part, if we have risen above just the animal level, are spiritually minded. And if we are spiritually minded then we are receptive to the Holy Spirit or the Mind of Christ; the proof of that nature is that we hunger and thirst for knowledge to "fill up" our spirit with God's Spirit.

While we believe that the Words of Christ say exactly what He wanted to say; and "the words mean what they say," that "spiritual" truth cannot be comprhended totally by the human "brain" but must be understood by the deep, supernatural part God put into every human being to develop or die. Because that spirit is invisible and incomprehensible to us, God's Spirit is revealed through the Mind of Christ. Jesus Christ speaks to us through parables or figurative language to hide the truth from the purely mind- or carnal-nature.

God lives in a Spirit dimension and we live in a secular or carnal dimension. A "freight train" from another dimension might now be rushing through my body but I couldn't know it. And God "is not far from us" but I cannot see, feel, taste, smell or hear Him. It is grotesque to try to "call God down to land on our dance team" or use musical worship teams to move the "worshippers into the presence of God."

God has already laid aside His "Spiritual" garments and put on the "body" of a human being. As a result He lives in both dimensions like a Gate, Door or Mediator.

Only by having the Mind of Christ and being "baptized into His body" is it possible for us to move our citizenship from the physical dimension into the spiritual dimension.

And only by looking into or through the Mind of Christ can we look through the narrow, tiny door into the Spirit world and think in Spiritual terms.

But how can I know when this happens? I believe that it happens when unspeakable disgust sweeps over you like a storm when you see people doing labor-intensive work trying to "ascend" to force Christ to come down or "descend" trying to bring Him alive again. Refusing to "go into all the world" by calling the non-seekers into a musical performance "made in their image" is a sign of laziness or lostness.

Like the Bereans, you become "aristocrats" in the kingdom of God when you test, question, examine and digest the Words of Christ like a hungry person consumes food and water.

Jesus said that He hid these "pearls of great price" in parables or figurative (spiritual) language "from the very beginning." He laid out two predestinated paths from the very beginning. If you reject the fun and games and search for Him He will be there and the end of the path is spiritual life. If we decide that "rituals" are necessary for us to manipulate God we reject His grace and the determined end is spiritual death.

At some time or event most of us make this fateful choice of whether we will live as a carnal being or a spiritual being devoted to the search for truth. From that decision God seems to decide how to speak to us:

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? Matthew 13:10

For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Matthew 13:12

He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Matthew 13:11

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. Matthew 13:13

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: Matthew 13:14

The clergy and those who put their trust in human teachers did not have the "machinery" to grasp spiritual truth and Jesus said that if they won't hear the pure gospel then you need to move fast and shake the dust from your feet because "the works of human hands" do not have the power to make a "silk purse out of a sow's ear."

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: Matthew 13:34

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. Matthew 13:35

To put the focus upon "body" worship means that we have decided not to follow Jesus and He sends us strong delusions (2 Thessalonians 2:11) and does not speak to us anymore. When we see the "body" in action trying to reach God or to call Him down we can know that this is not a "spiritual" band of people.

See the Address of Tatian to the Greeks on Two Spirits

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Kenneth Sublett