Soul & Spirit Often Used Interchangeably

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Soul & Spirit

“Soul” and “spirit” are oftentimes used interchangeably for the “inward man” in contrast with the “outward man” of a humanindividual (which will from now on be our focus), is expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:16. For example in Matthew 10:28 psuche is contrasted with the “body” or “outward man,” with Jesus saying, “Be not afraid of them that kill the, body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” And, in James 2:26 we read that “the bodyapart from the spirit is dead.”

The latter passage calls to mind Genesis 35:18, which speaks of Jacob’s wife Rachel, who died giving birth to her second child, of whom it is said: “And it came to pass as her soul was in departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.” We give the quotation because death is attributed to departing of the soul from the body, just as by James it is said that the body apart from the spirit is dead.

Two especially pertinent observations are in order at this point:

a. It becomes apparent that the body is dependent on the spirit or soul for its life and faculties, not vice versa. Jesus declared, “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). When the soul (spirit) leaves the body, the eye does not see, the ear does not hear, the tongue does not taste or speak, the nose does not smell, and no part of the body has any sense of touch. The spirit made its contact with the outside world by means of these organs. But the spirit apart from the body is not without such faculties. (Compare Jesus’ account of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31.)

b. The scriptures likewise indicate the soul or spirit is continuing to be a living entity after the death of the body. It was with that fact that Jesus put the Sadducees to silence in their argument against the belief of the Pharisees, in the resurrection of the dead recorded in Matthew 22:23-33. “For, the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection neither angel on spirit” (Acts 23:8). Yet they did claim to believe the first five books of the Old Testament, written mostly by Moses. So Jesus said, “Ye do err not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God…. But of touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob [Exodus, 3:6]? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

The comment of McGarvey in this connection is apropos: “here the term dead is used in the sense attached to it by the Sadducees. … But to the Sadducees a dead man was non est — he had ceased to exist, he was nothing; and to say, in their sense of the term, that God is the God of the dead, is to say he is the God of nothing. It would be nonsense. But God did say, hundreds of years after the death of the three patriarchs, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (Ex.3:6). The conclusion follows that the patriarchs were not dead in the Sadducean sense of the term; and, as the conclusion applies only to their spirits, it proves that spirits continue to be alive after the bodies which they inhabited are dead.” (J. W. McGarvey, on Matthew 22:31-32, in Commentary on Matthew and Mark, 1875.)

Jesus was saying there was a sense in which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still living, though dead so far as their bodies were concerned, else God would not have spoken as he did. And, so far as the philosophy of the Sadducees was concerned, if any part of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived after their bodies were dead, they could not logically deny the possibility of a resurrection for them — and, if for them then for mankind as a whole. Hence, they were put to silence by what our Lord had to say (Matthew 22:34; cf. Mark 12: 18-27; Luke 20:27-40).

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