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Soul

SOUL

sol (nephesh; psuche; Latin anima):

1. Shades of Meaning in the Old Testament:

(1) Soul, like spirit, has various shades of meaning in the Old Testament, which may be summarized as follows:

"Soul," "living being," "life," "self," "person," "desire," "appetite," "emotion" and "passion" (BDB under the word). In the first instance it meant that which breathes, and as such is distinguished from basar, "flesh" (Isaiah 10:18; Deuteronomy 12:23); from she'er, "the inner flesh," next the bones (Proverbs 11:17, "his own flesh"); from beTen, "belly" (Psalms 31:10, "My soul and my belly are consumed with grief"), etc.

(2) As the life-breath, it departs at death (Genesis 35:18; Jeremiah 15:2). Hence, the desire among Old Testament saints to be delivered from Sheol (Psalms 16:10, "Thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol") and from shachath, "the pit" (Job 33:18, "He keepeth back his soul from the pit"; Isaiah 38:17, "Thou hast .... delivered it (my soul) from the pit of corruption").

(3) By an easy transition the word comes to stand for the individual, personal life, the person, with two distinct shades of meaning which might best be indicated by the Latin anima and animus. As anima, "soul," the life inherent in the body, the animating principle in the blood is denoted (compare Deuteronomy 12:23,24, `Only be sure that thou eat not the blood:

for the blood is the soul; and thou shalt not eat the soul with the flesh'). As animus, "mind," the center of our mental activities and passivities is indicated. Thus we read of `a hungry soul' (Psalms 107:9), `a weary soul' (Jeremiah 31:25), `a loathing soul' (Leviticus 26:11), `a thirsty soul' (Psalms 42:2), `a grieved soul' (Job 30:25), `a loving soul' (Song of Solomon 1:7), and many kindred expressions. Cremer has characterized this use of the word in a sentence: "Nephesh (soul) in man is the subject of personal life, whereof pneuma or ruach (spirit) is the principle" (Lexicon, under the word, 795).

(4) This individuality of man, however, may be denoted by pneuma as well, but with a distinction. Nephesh or "soul" can only denote the individual life with a material organization or body. Pneuma or "spirit" is not so restricted. Scripture speaks of "spirits of just men made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23), where there can be no thought of a material or physical or corporeal organization. They are "spiritual beings freed from the assaults and defilements of the flesh" (Delitzsch, in the place cited.). For an exceptional use of psuche in the same sense see Revelation 6:9; 20:4, and (irrespective of the meaning of Psalms 16:10) Acts 2:27.

2. New Testament Distinctions:

(1) In the New Testament psuche appears under more or less similar conditions as in the Old Testament. The contrast here is as carefully maintained as there. It is used where pneuma would be out of place; and yet it seems at times to be employed where pneuma might have been substituted. Thus in John 19:30 we read:

"Jesus gave up his pneuma" to the Father, and, in the same Gospel (John 10:15), Jesus gave up His "psuche for the sheep," and in Matthew 20:28 He gave His psuche (not His pneuma) as a ransom--a difference which is characteristic. For the pneuma stands in quite a different relation to God from the psuche. The "spirit" (pneuma) is the outbreathing of God into the creature, the life-principle derived from God. The "sour" (psuche) is man's individual possession, that which distinguishes one man from another and from inanimate nature. The pneuma of Christ was surrendered to the Father in death; His psuche was surrendered, His individual life was given "a ransom for many." His life "was given for the sheep"

(2) This explains those expressions in the New Testament which bear on the salvation of the soul and its preservation in the regions of the dead. "Thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades" (the world of shades) (Acts 2:27); "Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil" (Romans 2:9); "We are .... of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul" (Hebrews 10:39); "Receive ..... the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).

The same or similar expressions may be met with in the Old Testament in reference to the soul. Thus in Psalms 49:8, the King James Version "The redemption of their soul is precious" and again:

"God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol" (Psalms 49:15). Perhaps this may explain--at least this is Wendt's explanation--why even a corpse is called nephesh or soul in the Old Testament, because, in the region of the dead, the individuality is retained and, in a measure, separated from God (compare Haggai 2:13; Leviticus 21:11).

3. Oehler on Soul and Spirit:

The distinction between psuche and pneuma, or nephesh and ruach, to which reference has been made, may best be described in the words of Oehler (Old Testament Theology, I, 217):

"Man is not spirit, but has it: he is soul. .... In the soul, which sprang from the spirit, and exists continually through it, lies the individuality--in the case of man, his personality, his self, his ego." He draws attention to the words of Elihu in Job (33:4): `God's spirit made me,' the soul called into being; `and the breath of the Almighty animates me,' the soul kept in energy and strength, in continued existence, by the Almighty, into whose hands the inbreathed spirit is surrendered, when the soul departs or is taken from us (1 Kings 19:4). Hence, according to Oehler the phrases naphshi ("my soul"), naphshekha ("thy soul") may be rendered in Latin egomet, tu ipse; but not ruchi ("my spirit"), ruchakha ("thy spirit")--soul standing for the whole person, as in Genesis 12:5; 17:14; Ezekiel 18:4, etc.

See PSYCHOLOGY.

J. I. Marais


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SOUL'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.