By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
(Note: Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Quotation For Consideration
“Understand how that there is within you that entity that is called the soul. By it, the eye sees; by it, the ear hears; by it, the mouth speaks. Understand how it makes use of the whole body. Understand how, whenever He pleases to remove the soul from the body, the body falls to decay and perishes. Melito (c. 170, E), 8.754.”
Throughout Job’s teaching on the Afterlife, we see that the “soul” of man is the part which will enter into this “world of the dead” or “Sheol.”
Job 33:22-Yes, his soul draws near the Pit, And his life to the executioners.
Job 33:28-He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, And his life shall see the light.
Job 33:29-30-29 “Behold, God works all these things, Twice, in fact, three times with a man,
30 To bring back his soul from the Pit, That he may be enlightened with the light of life.
Yet what exactly does the word “soul” mean?
Some believe that the word “soul” simply means “person.”
Others teach that it means “life.”
Still others advocate that the word “soul” has reference to the spirit of man.
What are the facts?
“Soul” In The Old Testament (Nephesh)
The Hebrew word nephesh is translated with several different words in the King James Version of the Old Testament.
Soul (416), Life (100), Souls (58), Lives (18),Persons (16), Person (14), Heart (12), Mind (11), Himself (10), Body (9), Creature (9), Dead (8), Yourselves (8), Desire (5), Man (4), Minds (4), Pleasure (4), Will (4), Any (3), Beast (3), Themselves (3), Appetite (2), Ghost (2), Hearts (2), Lust (2), Thing (2), Angry(1), Breath (1), Angry (1), Deadly (1), Discontented (1), Fish (1), Greedy (1) , Heart’s (1), Hearty (1), Herself (1), Men (1), Mortally (1), Myself (1) , One (1), Own (1), Slay (1) , Slayeth (1), Soul’s (1), Tablets (1), Thyself (1), Would (1)
As you can see, the Old Testament word nephesh has a rich etymology.
To understand how the specific word should be rendered, translators must carefully examine the context of the passage where nephesh is used.
Interesting Facts About Nephesh
Let’s notice some important facts about the word “soul” as used in the Old Testament, and that are especially relevant to our study on the Book of Job.
Humans And Animals Have Nephesh
Genesis 1:20-Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”
Genesis 1:30-Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.
Genesis 2:7-And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 6:17-17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.
Genesis 7:15-And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.
Genesis 7:21-23-21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man.
22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.
23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.
“”Am I suggesting animals have souls? Certainly they do not have human souls. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense. Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non- human souls. I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psyche, often translated “soul” when referring to humans. (Nephesh is translated psyche in the Septuagint.). The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls. That’s what most Christians in the past believed. In their book Beyond Death, Gary Habermas and J. P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment . . . that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”” (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 7114-7223 (Kindle Edition); Carol Stream, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.)
“Nephesh” Sometimes Meant “Body”
Leviticus 21:11-nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother;
Numbers 6:6-All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body.
Numbers 19:13-Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.
Haggai 2:13-And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?” So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
“Nephesh” Is Often Distinguished From The “Body
Isaiah 10:18-And it will consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field, Both soul and body; And they will be as when a sick man wastes away.
Deuteronomy 12:23-Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat.
Job 14:22-But his flesh will be in pain over it, And his soul will mourn over it.”
Psalm 63:1-O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
Psalm 43:5-Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
“Nephesh” Often Refers To The Spiritual (Non-Physical) Element
Genesis 23:8-And he spoke with them, saying, “If it is your wish that I bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and meet with Ephron the son of Zohar for me,
Genesis 42:21-Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.”
Leviticus 26:16-I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.
Leviticus 26;43-The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them; they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.
Numbers 21:5-And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
Deuteronomy 21:14-And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.
1 Samuel 2:33-But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age.
1 Kings 17:21-22-21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.”
22 Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.
Speaking of this use of the word, Ron Rhodes has written:
“It is true that in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for soul (nephesh) can be used in reference to a living being.20 Genesis 2:7 is clearly an example of this. But because the word can be used in this sense does not mean that it is limited to this sense, or that man does not have an immaterial nature….Besides referring to “living beings,” the word nephesh is also used in the Old Testament to speak of the seat of the emotions and experiences. Man’s nephesh can be sad (Deuteronomy 28:65), grieved (Job 30:25), in pain (Psalm 13:2), distressed (Genesis 42:21), bitter (Job 3:20), troubled (Psalm 6:3), and cheered (Psalm 86:4). Clearly, man’s soul can experience a wide range of emotional ups and downs. In this sense, nephesh seems to refer to the “inner man” within the human being. This is consistent with verses like 2 Kings 4:27, where we read, “The man of God said, ‘Let her alone, for her soul is troubled within her’” (NASB). Likewise, Psalm 42:6 says, “My soul is cast down within me,” and Psalm 43:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning From The Scriptures With The Jehovah’s Witnesses, 308-309 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House publishers)
“Soul” In The New Testament (Psuche)
The word “soul” in the New Testament is from the Greek psuche.
It is used 105 times, and is translated in the following ways: Soul (39), Life (36), Souls (19), Lives (5), Minds (2), Doubt (1), Heart (1), Heartily (1), Mind (1).
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon provides the following helpful definition:
breath; 1a) the breath of life; 1a1) the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing; 1a1a) of animals; 1a1b) of men; 1b) life; 1c) that in which there is life; 1c1) a living being, a living soul; 2) the soul; 2a) the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.); 2b) the (human) soul in so far as it is constituted that by the right use of the aids offered it by God it can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness, the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life; 2c) the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body)” (Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 677).
Interesting Facts About Psuche
Like with the Old Testament nephew, the word psuche has some very interesting lessons for us. Let’s notice several.
Psuche May Refer To The Whole Person
Acts 2:41-Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Acts 7:14-Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people.
Romans 13:1-Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
1 Peter 3:20-who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
Psuche May Refer To Life Itself
Luke 14;26-If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
John 13:38-Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.
Acts 20:24-But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Romans 11:3-“LORD, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS AND TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY SEEK MY LIFE”?
Psuche Is Often Distinguished From The Physical Body
Matthew 6:25-Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Matthew 10:28-And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 11:29-Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Acts 2:27-FOR YOU WILL NOT LEAVE MY SOUL IN HADES, NOR WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO SEE CORRUPTION.
Revelation 6:9-11-9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
Revelation 20:4-4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Notice especially these last two references in Revelation. The phrase “the souls of” is very interesting.
Maurice Barnett has pointed out:
“TOON ESPHAGMENOON-the term here is genitive case of a perfect passive participle. This demands the meaning SOULS OF THE ONES SLAIN. If the meaning was intended to be the PERSONS that had been slain the above particple would have been in the accusative case to agree with PSUCHAS, souls.” (Maurice Barnett, Jehovah’s Witnesses: Volume Two, 9; Cullman, Alabama; Printing Service)
“Soul” Is Often Used interchangably With “Spirit”
While the next lesson will focus exclusively on the definition of the word “spirit,” it is worthwhile to notice here that often in the Bible, “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably.
Job 7:11-Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Isaiah 26:9-With my soul I have desired You in the night, Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; For when Your judgments are in the earth, The inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
The word “soul” as used in the Bible often had reference to the spiritual nature or essence of a person, especially as distinguished from the physical body.
It is the soul which enters into Sheol at the point of death.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
What are some renderings for the word “soul” in the King James Version of the Bible? ________________________________________________________________________________________________
List some passages which show that the word “soul” in the New Testament was different from the body. _______________________________________________________________________________
What evidence from the Bible shows that animals have souls? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What are some of the different emotions related to the word “soul” in the Bible? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
List two passages which show that the word “soul” could be used interchangeably with the word “spirit.”
For Prayer Partners
1. Discuss the fact that the Bible teaches animas have “souls.” How are animals souls like human souls? How are they different? What happens to animal souls when the animal dies? Will animals be in Heaven? Support your answers with Scripture.