What is the difference between soul and spirit?

In this article I will try to answer to a question of a visitor about soul and spirit, the question is below:

I really appreciate each article and every answer to the question. This portal is very helpful and there are already more than two years since I receive direction, encouragement, answer to questions and motivation on this site! Thank you very much. My question is about soul and spirit, what is the biblical difference between these two?

soul and spiritIt is not easy to answer this question. Theologians are divided into two opinions. Some argue that soul and spirit is the same, and others that they are different. Why? The words “spirit” and “soul” are used in very similar ways and difference can be hardly seen only depending on the context. The word “soul” is the Hebrew nefesh and is met 780 times in the Old Testament and is translated into English as soul, breathing, living creatures, life, etc. In the New Testament the Greek word psuche is used 103 times, which again is translated into English as soul, life, etc. The word “spirit” is in the Hebrew Ruah in the Old Testament and it means moving air, breath, wind. In the New Testament “spirit” is the Greek word pneuma and has the same meaning as breath or wind.

What makes us believe that the spirit and soul are different?

In the New Testament there are two texts which present the spirit separate from soul.The first one found in Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)(NASB)

And the second is in the Epistle to the Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)(NASB)

A major difference

According to the Scripture both people and animals have souls.The text of Genesis 1:20-24 the word “creature” is the Hebrew “nefesh” which means soul.

Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures (nefesh), and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature (nefesh) that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures (nefesh) after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:20-24)(NASB)

So, both humans and animals have souls and the soul of man or animal is life.

I did not find in the Bible the spirit in animals, but only in people especially when it takes the human relationship with God.Here’s an example:

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:16)(NASB)

According to this verse, the spirit of man is one who works with the Holy Spirit received from God when we were born again, that means when we were born of the Spirit.

Translated by Felicia Rotaru