Soulbook: Further Analysis of the Spirit and Soul
The word “ruach”, like “nephesh”, has a wide range of meanings. First, it seems originally to have referred to the wind, which was viewed as being invisible and immaterial, (Gen. 8:1). Additionally, since God is invisible and immaterial like the wind, He is described as “spirit”, (Isa. 63:10). Since the angels of God are invisible and immaterial, they are called “spirits”, (Ps. 104:4, KJV; cf. Heb. 1:14). The life principle which animates man and animals is invisible and immaterial and is also called “spirit”, (Gen. 7:22). In this sense, it was viewed as the “breath” of life which departs at death. Congruently, since man has an invisible and immaterial self or soul which transcends the life principle by its self-consciousness, man’s “mind” or “heart” is called his “spirit”, (Ps. 77:6; Prov. 29:11, KJV). The invisible side of man which is called “spirit” cannot be reduced to a simple idea of physical life or the breath of the body because man’s transcendent self is contrasted to those things in such places as Isa. 42:5. Also, man’s self-awareness as a cognitive ego overcomes the life concept which operates in animals. At death, this ego or mind is called a “spirit” or a “ghost”, (Job 4:15). This is parallel to “rephaim”, or disembodied spirit, (Job 26:5). Thus, at death, while the breath of life ceases to exist in man or animals, the higher self or spirit of man ascends at death to be with God, (Ps. 31:5; Eccles. 12:7). Also, since attitudes and dispositions such as pride, humility, joy, or sorrow are invisible and immaterial, they are described as being someone’s “spirit”, (Prov. 11:13; 16:18). The Holy Spirit is described as the “sevenfold Spirit” in the sense that He gives people the disposition, attitude, or spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear, and holiness, (Isa. 11:2; cf. Rom. 1:4; Rev. 3:1). Altogether, spirit (“ruach”, in the Old Testament) encompasses many areas of existence. However, the one area most applicable to us as image-bearers of God is the one that puts us most closely in relationship with Him. The spirit that is our inner life or inner being is that part that goes on and truly makes us something more than just animals who survive on instinct and only do things because it offers a better chance of maintaining that survival. We are God-breathed, and that makes us something outside of nature; supernatural.
The word “pneuma” is found 406 times in the New Testament. First, the New Testament writers use the Greek words for wind, such as “animas”, instead of “pneuma”. The only instance where “pneuma” definitely refers to the wind is in John 3:8, where there is a poetic play upon the sovereign movement of the divine Spirit and the wind. Also, “pneuma” refers to the life principle, which gives the body life. This is actually a term rarely used in the New Testament. For instance, the false prophet who accompanied the Antichrist in the last days will make an idol “alive”, (Rev. 13:15). “Pneuma” is also used to describe the immaterial nature of God and angels, (John 4:24; Heb. 1:14). Christ defined a “spirit” or “ghost” as an immaterial being, (Luke 24:39). Additionally, “pneuma” refers to the disposition which characterizes a person, such as pride, humility, fear, etc. (1 Pet. 3:4). It’s also used to describe the disincarnate spirit or soul of man after death, (Matt. 27:50; Luke 24:37, 39; John 19:30; Acts 7:59; Heb. 12:23; 1 Pet. 3:19). Man’s transcendent self, or ego, is also called “pneuma” because of its immaterial and invisible nature, (1 Cor. 2:11). It is described as the center of man’s emotions, intellect, and will, (Mark 8:12; Mark 2:8; Matt. 26:41). Since man’s pneuma transcends his physical life, it is frequently contrasted to his body, or flesh, (Matt. 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 24:39; John 3:6; 6:63; 1 Cor. 5:5; 7:34; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:17; 6:8,9; James 2:26). It is man’s pneuma who is with God after death, (Acts 7:59). Our spirits are like the spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit in many amazing ways. With our spirits, we discern many things we cannot necessarily understand with our senses, (I Corinthians 14:15). With our spirits, we can communicate to God in ways we can’t utter with our mouths. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words”, (Romans 8:26). These “groanings” are feelings from deep inside us that we cannot communicate with our lips. Our spirits communicate these feelings to God through the Spirit of God Himself. It’s not just a way of communication we cannot fully comprehend, but a picture of the communication we will have forever with Him in eternity!