Churches Of Christ/Soul and spirit


Hello Ernie,

What is the difference between soul and spirit?

When God breathed into the nostrils of adam did he get a soul or a spirit?

When I sin which of these dies?

In Christ,

Hey Praywin,

This is a fairly common question that a lot of people find difficult to answer.  The reason for that is sometimes the Bible uses the terms interchangeably while sometimes making a real distinction.  Part of the reason is that the distinction is so fine that the two concepts are almost the same.

We need to keep in mind that the word "spirit" (pneuma) can be used to refer to things other than humans: wind, breath, the Holy Spirit, a mindset, an identity or attitude.  What I will focus on is the spirit of a human that is akin to the soul.

Heb. 4:12 - "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit , and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. "

Here a sharp distinction is made explicitly.  Let me break down for you those distinctions.

soul (nephesh, psyche) - this word is actually translated as "life" a number of times in scripture (e.g. Matt. 2:20; Matt. 6:25; Matt. 10:28).  This word is associated with the individual identity of a person or even animal.

spirit (ruwach, pneuma) - this word can be translated as "wind", "breath", or "spirit" and it is often associated with the animating essence of something.  It is more general and collective in its nature.

Here are some examples of the spirit -

Genesis 6:17 - And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath (ruwach - spirit) of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

Genesis 7:15 - And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath (ruwach - spirit) of life.

Note here that animals are being referred to as well.  Spirit is an animating force in all living things.  However, in man alone is our spirit the same as God's spirit in type if not extent (Genesis 1:26) making us superior to all the rest of creation and the point of it.

When we die, our spirit (life giving essence) returns to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7) for God is life and from Him all life springs.  It is not necessarily so with our soul.

The soul is that which sins and is separated from God, that bears the guilt and suffers "spiritual death", that can be redeemed by the blood of Christ.

Genesis 2:7 indicates that when God breathed spirit into man, he became a living soul (an individual).

Ezekiel 18:4 - Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

James 5:19-20 - Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul (psyche) from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Our souls go to Hades when we die (Psa. 16:10; Acts 2:27, 31) and is the part of us that goes to Gehenna for eternal punishment (Matt. 10:28).  It is the soul that can be added to the church (Acts 2:41) by purifying it by the word (James 1:21; 1 Pet. 1:22).

So in essence, the soul is our individual self, the part that sins and is separated from God, redeemable, and eternal.  Spirit is a more generalized term for the animating or vitalizing force.

Hope that answers your question satisfactorily.  If you have more specific questions related to this, please ask. :)

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Ernie Laurence, Jr.


I am capable of answering any questions concerning doctrines of the church of Christ. I specialize in Creation vs. Evolution topics, the book of Revelation and other Biblical prophecies, and other apologetics related topics such as distinctions from denominational doctrines.


My experience in this area includes: having been raised by members of the church of Christ from infancy, having been immersed into the church of Christ at age ten, having taken an active role in worship/service leadership (song leading, teaching, preaching, youth ministry) since age fourteen through the present, and participating in numerous formal debates, research projects, and online discussions.

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I hold a bachelor's degree in computer information systems (CIS) from Tarleton State University which focuses on business communication and management. This provided training for how to deal professionally with individuals and organizations if not direct training in the field of religion. See experience section for informal education experience.

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