A gracEmail subscriber asks: “What is your understanding of man as body, soul and spirit?”
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The New Testament uses the words “soul” and “spirit” in more nuanced ways but it never contradicts what we have seen already in Genesis. The New Testament generally uses “soul” (Greek: psyche for a “person” or “self.” This word speaks of a person as a unified, whole being with emphasis on life or vitality. To “save” or “lose” one’s soul is to save or lose oneself (Mark 8:35). This repeats what we found in Genesis 2:7 earlier.
Sometimes “soul” (psyche) stands in contrast with “body” (soma), in which case it refers to the inner and invisible aspect of the person instead of the outer and visible aspect (but not to an invisible part — which some have referred to as “the ghost in the machine.”) On the other hand, the “natural” or “unspiritual” person in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 is literally a “soulish” (psychikos) — almost “animal-like” — individual, as contrasted with the “spiritual” (pneumatikos) individual who is enlightened by the Spirit of God.
Paul speaks of “body, soul and spirit” in writing the Thessalonians (5:23), not to focus on distinctions but rather to underscore a person’s entirety and wholeness which God can sanctify. This text reminds us of Deuteronomy 6:5 where every Israelite is commanded to love God with all the “heart,” “soul” and “mind.” That simply means undivided, uncompromised love. Similarly, Hebrews 4:12 does not suggest a clearly-defined difference between “soul” and “spirit,” for God alone is able cleanly to divide between those two aspects of our totality.