Soul and Related Biblical Terms

Old Testament

Soul (nephesh, neh'-fesh, נפש) Strong's Number 5315 from 5314; properly, a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental).1

the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (nephesh). Genesis 2:7 (NIV)

In his hand is the life (nephesh) of every creature and the breath (ruwach) of all mankind. Job 12:10 (NIV)

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. Psalms 35:9 (NIV)

Spirit (ruwach, roo'-akh, רוּחַ) Strong's Number 7307 from 7306; wind; by resemblance breath, i.e. a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively, life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension, a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions).1

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2 (NIV)

Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" Ecclesiastes 3:21 (NIV)

and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NIV)

New Testament

Flesh (sarx, sarx, σαρξ) Strong's Number 4561 probably from the base of 4563; flesh (as stripped of the skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extension) the body (as opposed to the soul [or spirit], or as the symbol of what is external, or as the means of kindred), or (by implication) human nature (with its frailties [physically or morally] and passions), or (specifically) a human being (as such)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)

Body (soma, so'-mah, σωμα) Strong's Number 4983 from 4982; the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively.1 The biblical definition of death is found in James 2:26 where it says that death is the separation of the spirit from the body.

As the body (soma) without the spirit (pneumatos) is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26 (NIV)

Soul (psyche, psoo-khay', ψυχη) Strong's Number 5590 from 5594; breath, i.e. (by implication) spirit, abstractly or concretely (the animal sentient principle only; thus distinguished on the one hand from 4151, which is the rational and immortal soul; and on the other from 2222, which is mere vitality, even of plants: these terms thus exactly correspond respectively to the Hebrew 5315, 7307 and 2416).1

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:35-37 (NIV)

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11 (NIV)

Spirit (pneuma, pnyoo'-mah, πνευμα) Strong's Number 4151 from 4154; a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit.1

God is spirit (pneuma), and his worshipers must worship in spirit (pneumati) and in truth." John 4:24 (NIV)

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

Mind (nous, nooce,

1 Strong, James, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., Nashville, TN, pp. 1340, Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, pp. 127, Dictionary of the Greek Testament, pp. 79.

2 Kittel Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich (Editors), Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament Collected Dialogues Of Plato Including The Letters, Abridged and translated in one volume by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1985 (Reprinted 1992), ISBN: 0-8028-2404-8, p. 1342-1353.

Ted J McDonald