In the Bible, the word “spirit” is translated from the Hebrew word ru′ach and the Greek word pneu′ma. Most often, those words refer to God’s active force, or holy spirit. (Genesis 1:2)
“The notion of the soul surviving after death is not readily discernible in the Bible.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia.
“Only in the post-biblical period did a clear and firm belief in the immortality of the soul take hold . . . and become one of the cornerstones of the Jewish and Christian faiths.” —Encyclopaedia Judaica.
“The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation . . . and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture.”—The Jewish Encyclopedia.
(Heb., ne′phesh [נֶפֶשׁ]; Gr., psy·khe′ [ψυχή])
What is the origin of the teaching that the human soul is invisible and immortal?
The difficulty lies in the fact that the meanings popularly attached to the English word “soul” stem primarily, not from the Hebrew or Christian Greek Scriptures, but from ancient Greek philosophy, actually pagan religious thought. Greek philosopher Plato, for example, quotes Socrates as saying: “The soul, . . . if it departs pure, dragging with it nothing of the body, . . . goes away into that which is like itself, into the invisible, divine, immortal, and wise, and when it arrives there it is happy, freed from error and folly and fear . . . and all the other human ills, and . . . lives in truth through all after time with the gods.”—Phaedo, 80, D, E; 81, A.
In direct contrast with the Greek teaching of the psy·khe′ (soul) as being immaterial, intangible, invisible, and immortal, the Scriptures show that both psy·khe′ and ne′phesh, as used with reference to earthly creatures, refer to that which is material, tangible, visible, and mortal.
WHEN you hear the terms “soul” and “spirit,” what comes to your mind? Many believe that these words mean something invisible and immortal that exists inside us. They think that at death this invisible part of a human leaves the body and lives on. Since this belief is so widespread, many are surprised to learn that it is not at all what the Bible teaches. What, then, is the soul, and what is the spirit, according to God’s Word?