It is written:
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 10:28)
The English word “soul” in the New Testament is from the Greek psuche. It is used 105 times, and is translated in the King James Version as: soul (39 times); life (36 times); souls (19 times), lives (5), minds (2), doubt (1), heart (1), heartily (1), and 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).
Let’s notice some interesting things about the New Testament Greek word psuche (soul)
Psuche May Sometimes Refer To The Whole Person
Often in the New Testament, psuche can 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
It is not surprising that psuche can often 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
As in our opening passage noted above, psuche is often something which is contrasted with the body of man.
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 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.
The Book of Revelation especially highlights this distinction. In chapter 6, the Apostle describes the vision of the souls (psuche) he beheld under the altar:
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.
Notice that the psuche (souls) that John sees are clearly separate from their physical bodies. Indeed, they are pictured as being: conscious, aware of their surroundings, with clear memory of who they were on Earth and continue to be after death, prayerful, and aware to some degree of what was happening on the Earth.
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.
Please observe that the souls that John sees are clearly the persons who have lived on after their bodies have died. They are conscious and reigning with Christ in the Hadean world after death and before the Second Coming (Revelation 20:11ff).
“Soul” Is Sometimes Used Interchangeably With “Spirit”
While we will study the word “spirit” in our next couple of lessons, it is worthwhile to mention here that sometimes the words “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably in the Bible. While the soul and the spirit are not exactly synonymous, there are many levels of similarity between them.
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 grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.