Bible Questions and Answers

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

  • Body = dust formed into a physical arrangement of flesh and bones, nerves and sinews etc.
  • Breath = breath.
  • Soul (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’) = creature or being.

The same word is used of animals - Genesis 1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’) after his kind...

Soul can be alive or dead. - Numbers 19:11 He that toucheth the dead body (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’) of any man shall be unclean seven days.

Ezekiel 18:4... the soul (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’) that sinneth, it shall die.

In general usage the soul is understood to be alive. Genesis 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’) that they had gotten in Haran...

The word is sometimes used as a synonym of life. Genesis 19:17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’)...

We use it in this way in the Maritime distress signal SOS - Save our Souls.  It is used in the same way in the New Testament.

1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls (Greek ‘psuche’) were saved by water.

Matthew 2:20... for they are dead which sought the young child’s life (Greek ‘psuche’ or "soul").

Matthew 22:37 is readily understood to mean with ‘every part of your being’  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul (Greek ‘psuche’), and with all thy mind.

Mark 10:45 is readily understood to mean his ‘life’.  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life (Greek ‘psuche’) a ransom for many.

‘Nephesh’ and ‘psuche’ come together as equivalents when Peter quotes David. Psalms 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul (Hebrew ‘Nephesh’) in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul (Greek ‘psuche’) in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Peter explains what it means - Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul (Greek ‘psuche’) was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

Hell (Hebrew ‘sheol’ – Greek ‘hades’) is the grave; the tomb in which Christ was laid after his crucifixion.His body was not allowed to corrupt and his soul was restored to life.

The soul in the Bible is not immortal. The soul is our whole being; when we die our whole being dies; we have no conscious existence after death.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing...

Death is spoken of as sleep; resurrection is the awaking out of the sleep of death. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.... 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

The hope of the gospel is resurrection from the dead.


In the Old Testament the word translated Spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) is used of the Spirit of God.

Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The Spirit of God was the power used in creation.

Job 33:4 The Spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.

The word of God and the Spirit of God become synonymous. God speaks and it is done.

Psalms 33:6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath (Hebrew ‘ruach’) of his mouth.

The spirit of God acting upon men empowers them in different ways as God requires.

Exodus 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

The word is also translated as ‘breath’, ‘mind’ and ‘wind’.

Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath (Hebrew ‘ruach’) of life.

Genesis 26:35 Which were a grief of mind (Hebrew ‘ruach’) unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Exodus 10:13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind (Hebrew ‘ruach’) upon the land...

It is also used to denote a man’s character or way of thinking.

Numbers 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) with him, and hath followed me fully...

Psalms 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) there is no guile.

Proverbs 16:19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit (Hebrew ‘ruach’) with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

In the New Testament the word translated Spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’) is used of the Spirit of God.

As in the Old Testament the word is synonymous with the power of God.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost (Greek ‘pneuma’).

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost (Greek ‘pneuma’) shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

As in the Old Testament, the Spirit of God acting upon men empowers them in different ways as God requires.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost (Greek ‘pneuma’) is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

As in the Old Testament, it is also used to denote a man’s character or way of thinking.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’): for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’) ye are of.

It is also associated with the mind.

Ephesians 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’) of your mind;

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually (Greek ‘pneuma’) minded is life and peace.

It is in the sense of mind that we are told that man has a spirit which in its natural state finds the things of God unintelligible.

1 Corinthians 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’) of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’) of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’), perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

We have to change the way we think naturally to the way God thinks. The Bible gives us the information on how God requires us to live. It is up to each of us to make the effort to subordinate our will to the will of God.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

The scriptures were written by inspiration for this purpose.

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

This is what Christ means by being born of the spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

In this way we form within us a character or spirit acceptable to God.It was his character (sinless), not his breath, which Christ commended to his father.

Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’): and having said thus, he gave up the ghost (Greek ekpneo – expired).

Stephen’s request also was that his character might be acceptable.

Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Greek ‘pneuma’).

In conclusion I hope that I have shown that whereas Body is fairly consistent in meaning, both Soul and Spirit are dependent upon context for definition.If we are aware of this a lot of misunderstandings are removed.Perhaps a simple illustration would be that of synonyms

Soul synonyms - being, creature, essence, heart, intellect, life.

Spirit synonyms - animation, apparition, ardour, attitude, audacity, being, boldness, bravery, character, complexion, courage, daring, dash, disposition, dynamism, energy, enterprise, enthusiasm, essence, feel, feeling, flavor, frame of mind, ghost, gist, go, grit, gumption, guts, heart, humour, intent, intention, life, life force, liveliness, look, meaning, mettle, mind, mood, nature, nerve, phantom, pluck, purport, quintessence, sense, shade, shadow, smell, soul, spectre, spirit, spirits, sprightliness, spunk, substance, temper, tenor, tone, valiancy, valor, valour, verve, vigor, vigour, vital force, vitality, vivacity, zeal.

From this we see the variety of equivalent meanings in English for the words Soul and Spirit.

If you want to come to grips with what the Bible really teaches, why not take the free Bible study course on The course may be completed either online or by regular mail.

This course will give you a background in the major themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

As with everything we offer, there is no cost to you other than your time and effort. You will also have a personal tutor to whom you may pose questions either from the course itself or those questions which come to you as you read the Bible.

I hope this helps.
Glenn Smith