Bible Study: Research

"THE SOUL!" by Dr. J.W. Bernard

What is the soul?  Is it our very being? Will Hebrew "dichotomy" or Greek "trichotomy" explain the make-up of man?  Were the Philosophers right?  How does the Old Testament use the Hebrew word that is translated "soul?"  In this study, you will find every occurrence of the word, "soul."

The subject of the soul has been debated ever since Greek philosophy entered into recorded history and education.  Before Socrates death in 399 B.C.E., he, like Jesus, never wrote anything down for the records.  His main desire was to only ask questions to the Athenians and when they came up with answers, he would ask more questions.  The death of Socrates influenced Plato, one of his students, to preserve his teachings by writing down what he had heard and learned from Socrates.  

From the very beginning with Socrates and Plato, through Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein and many others, the question was continually asked, "What is it?"  "There is a thing and it changes."  The green leaf turns yellow.  The puffy white cloud turns dark.  The baby becomes an adult.  However, growing up and changing your clothes does not change who your are.  The question about identity is the search for the parts or elements in the thing which do play that very fundamental role, which are what it is to be that thing that does not change.  

The Greeks said that man is "trichotomy," made up of three parts, body, soul and spiritThey said that body changes.  However, their ostensible unreciprocated question was, "Does the soul very, flux or adjust?"  

Aristotelian philosophy said that no one can identify a person in life by the body, since matter is in continual flux.  It always changes.  So, a person must be determined by the identity of the rigid and unchanging soulIf the soul exits after death, it follows that the soul is immaterial and un-extended so that it is also by nature, durable and indestructible.  So at the resurrection, personal identity would go along with the same soul that had lived before.  

Now, Locke started from a different consideration, which is that immortality has to be personal immortality.  The whole point of immortality is, to put it bluntly, reward and punishment for the soul, after death.  But, unless the thing that is being punished in the after-life is conscious of the deeds that it has done in life on earth, then Locke thought that punishment has lost its whole point.  

This Greek philosophy has scandalized the orthodox view of the Biblical-Hebrew thought of what soul actually is.

My question is: What does the Bible teach about the soul? 

"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 SOUL."  (Genesis 2:7)

The English word, soul is the English translation for the Hebrew word, nephesh.  This original Hebrew word occurs 754 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.  In most translations it is rendered soul, about 472 times.  In the other 282 places, it is represented by 44 different words or phrases.  Throughout the Old Testament, with two exceptions (Job 30:15 & Isa. 57:16), the English word, soul always represents the Hebrew word, nephesh.  However, nephesh is not always translated soulThe usage of the word, nephesh by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures is the only safe guide to the true understanding of  THE SOUL.  Philosophy can only come so close.  However, the Bible is our best authority.

In these following verses, the word soul, in its theological sense, does not cover all the ground, or properly represent the Hebrew word, nephesh.  The word, soul is from the Latin solus = alone or sole, because it is the maintenance of living organisms.  The correct Latin word for the theological term soul (or nephesh) should be anima; and this is from the Greek word, anemos = air or breath, because it is this which keeps the whole in life and in being.  We get our word, "animal" from this Greek word, anemosNephesh could be translated "life breather."  However, the context may demand that "bird" would better translate the Hebrew word, nephesh.

The first occurrence of nephesh is in Genesis 1:20, "the moving creature that hath life."

For those who do not have the "Companion Bible" (that has Greek & Hebrew words that enhance the translation of every verse in the Bible)...here is the complete classifications of the Hebrew word, nephesh:

I.  Nephesh is used of the Lower Animals only, in 22 passages and is rendered by 9 different words.  It is used of the lower animals 4 times before it is used of man; and out of the first 13 times in Genesis, it is used 10 times of lower animals.

  1. "creature": Gen. 1:21,24; 2:19; 9:1-,12; Lev. 11:46,46.
  2. "thing": Lev. 11:10; Ezek. 47:9.
  3. "life": Gen. 1:20,30.
  4. "the life": Gen. 9:4; Deut. 12:23,23; Prov. 12:10.
  5. "beast": Lev. 24:18,18,18.
  6. "the soul": Job 12:10.
  7. "breath": Job 41:21.
  8. "fish": Isa. 19:10.
  9. "her": Jer. 2:24

II.  Nephesh is used of the Lower Animals and Man in 7 passages and is rendered in 3 different ways.

  1. "creature": Gen. 9:15,16.
  2. "the life": Lev. 17:11,14,14,14.
  3. "soul": Num. 31:28.

III. Nephesh is used of Man, as an individual person, in 53 passages and is rendered by 6 different words.

  1. "soul": Gen. 2:7; 12:5; 46:15,18,22,25,26,26,27,27; Ex. 1:5,5; 12:4; Lev. 22:11; Ps. 25:20; Prov. 10:3; 11:25,30; 14:25; 19:15; 22:23; 25:25; 27:7,7; Jer. 38:16; Lam. 3:25; Ezek. 13:18,18,20,20,20; 18:4,4,4.
  2. "person": Gen. 14:21; 36:6; Ex. 16:16; Lev. 27:2; Num. 31:40,40,46; Deut. 10:22; Jer. 43:6; 52:29,30,30; Ezek. 16:5; 27:13.
  3. "persons": Num. 31:35.
  4. "any": Deut. 24:7.
  5. "man": 2 Kings 12:4.
  6. "men": 1 Chron. 5:21.
  7. Not rendered in Numbers 31:35.

IV. Nephesh is used of Man, as exercising certain powers, or performing certain acts in 96 passages, with 11 different words or renderings.

  1. "soul": Gen. 27:4,19,25,31; Lev. 4:2; 5:1,2,4,15,17; 6:2; 7:18,20,21,27; 16:29,31; 17:12,15; 20:6,25; 22:6; 23:27,30,32; Num. 15:27,28,30; 19:22; 29:7; 30:2,4,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13; Deut. 13:6; Judg. 5:21; 1 Sam. 1:26; 17:55; 18:3; 20:3,17; 25:26; 2 Sam. 11:11; 14:19; 2 Kings 2:2,4,6; 4:30; Job 16:4,4; 31:30; Ps. 35:13; 120:6; Prov. 6:32; 8:36; 11:17; 13:2; 15:32; 16:17; 19:8,16; 20:2; 21:23; 22:5; 29:24; Ex.. 4:8; 6:2; Isa. 51:23; 58:3,5; Jer. 4:19; Ezek. 4:14; Mic. 6:7.
  2. "man": Ex. 12:16.
  3. "any": Lev. 2:1.
  4. "one": Lev. 4:27.
  5. "yourselves": Lev. 11:43,44; Jer. 17:21.
  6. "person": Num. 5:6.
  7. "themselves": Est. 9:31; Isa. 46:2.
  8. "himself": Job 18:4 (R.V. "thyself"); 32:2.
  9. "he": Ps. 105:18.
  10. "herself": Jer. 3:11.
  11. "Himself": Jer. 51:14; Amos 6:8 (of Jehovah).

V. Nephesh is used of Man, as possessing animal appetites and desires, in 22 passages, rendered in 5 different ways.

  1. "soul": Num. 11:6 (dried away); Deut. 12:15 (lusteth), 20 (longeth to eat flesh), 20 (lusteth after), 21 (lusteth); 14:26 (lusteth), 26 (desireth); Num. 21:5 (loatheth; 1 Sam. 2:16 (desireth); Job 6:7 (refused); 33:20 (abhorreth); Ps. 107:18 (abhorreth); Prov. 6:30 (hunger); 13:25 (satisfying); Isa. 29:8 (empty), 8 (hath appetite); Mic. 7:1 (desired...figs).
  2. "pleasure": Deut. 23:24.
  3. "lust": Ps. 78:18.
  4. "appetite": Prov. 23:2; Ecc. 6:7.
  5. "greedy": Isa. 56:11.

VI. Nephesh is used of Man, as exercising mental faculties, and manifesting certain feelings and affections and passions, in 231 passages, and rendered in 20 different ways.

  1. "soul": Gen.34:3 (clave), 8 (longeth); 42:21 (anguish); 49:6 (come not); Lev. 26:11 (not abhor), 15 (abhor), 30 (abhor), 43 (abhor); Num. 21:4 (discouraged); Deut. 4:9 (keep), 29 (seek); 6:5 (love); 10:12 (serve); 11:13 (love), 18 (lay up in); 13:3 (love); 26:16 (keep); 30:2 (return), 6 (love), 10 (turn); Josh. 22:5 (serve); 23:14 (know); Judg. 10:16 (grieved); 16:16 (vexed); 1 Sam. 1:10 (bitterness of), 15 (poured out); 18:1 (knit with), 1 (loved as); 20:4 (desireth); 23:20 (desire); 30:6 (grieved); 2 Sam. 5:8 (hated); 1 Kings 2:4 (walk); 8:48 (return); 11:37 (desired); 2 Kings 4:27 (vexed); 23:3 (keep), 25 (turned); 1 Chron. 22:19 (seek); 2 Chron. 6:38 (return); 15:12 (seek); 34:31 (keep); Job 3:20 (bitter); 7:11 (bitterness); 9:21 (know); 10:1 (weary), 1 (bitterness); 14:22 (mourn); 19:2 (vex); 21:25 (bitterness); 23:13 (desireth); 24:12 (wounded); 27:2 (vexed); 30:16 (poured out), 25 (grieved); Ps. 6:3 (sore vexed); 11:5 (hateth); 13:2 (take counsel); 19:7 (converting); 24:4 (not lifted up); 25:1 (lifted up), 13 (dwell at ease); 13:7 (in adversities), 9 (consumed with grief); 33:20 (waiteth); 34:2 (boast); 35:9 (be joyful); 42:1 (panteth), 2 (thirsteth), 4 (pour out), 5 (cast down), 6 (cast down), 11 (cast down); 43:5 (cast down); 44:25 (bowed down); 49:18 (blessed); 57:1 (trusteth), 6 (bowed down); 62:1 (waiteth), 5 (wait); 63:1 (thirsteth), 5 (satisfied), 8 (followeth hard); 69:10 (chastened); 77:2 (refused comfort); 84:2 (longeth); 86:4 (rejoiced), 4 (lift up); 88:3 (full of troubles); 94:19 (delight); 103:1,2,22; 104:1,35 (bless); 107:5 (fainted), 9 (satisfied), 9 (filled with goodness), 26 (melted); 116:7 (return to rest); 119:20 (longing), 25 (cleaveth unto the dust), 28 (melteth for heaviness), 81 (fainteth), 129 (keep), 167 (kept); 123:4 (filled with scorning); 130:5 (wait), 6 (waiteth); 131:2 (quieted); 138:3 (strengthened); 139:14 (knoweth); 143:6 (thirsteth), 8 (lifted up), 11 (bring out of trouble), 12 (afflict); 146:1 (praise); Prov. 2:10 (knowledge pleasant); 3:22 (be life to); 13:4 (desireth), 4 (made fat), 19; 16:24 (sweet to); 19:2 (without knowledge), 18 (spare or heart); 21:10 (desireth); 22:25 (get a snare to); 24:14 (wisdom unto); 25:13 (refresheth); 29:17 (give delight); Ecc. 2:24 (enjoy good); 6:3 (not filled); 7:28 (seeketh); Song `:7; 3:1,2,3,4 (loveth); 5:6 (failed); 6:12 (made me like chariots); Isa. 1:14 (hateth); 26:8 (desire), 9 (desire); 32:6 (made empty); 38:15 (bitterness of); 42:1; 55:2: (delight); 58:10 (drawn out), 10 (afflicted), 11 (satisfied); 61:10 (joyful); 66:3 (delighteth); Jer. 4:31 (wearied); 5:9, 29 (avenged); 6:8 (depart), 16 (find rest); 9:9 (avenged); 12:7 (dearly beloved of); 13:17 (shall weep); 14:19 (loathed); 31:12 (watered), 14, 25 (satiated), 25 (sorrowful); 32:41 (whole); 50:19 (satisfied; Lam. 3:17 (removed), 20 (humbled), 24 (saith), Ezek. 7:19 (satisfied); 24:21 (pitieth); Jonah 2:7 (fainted); Hab. 2:4 (not upright); Zech. 11:8 (loathed), 8 (abhorred)
  2. "mind": Gen. 23:8 (your); Deut: 18:6 (desire); 28:65 (sorrow); 1 Sam. 2:35; 2 Sam. 17:8 (chafed); 2 Kings 9:15; 1 Chron. 28:9 (willing); Jer. 15:1; Ezek. 23:17 (soul), 18 (soul), 22 (soul), 28 (soul) (alienated); 24:25 (heart) (set); 36:5 (soul) (despiteful)
  3. "heart": Ex. 23:9; Lev. 26:16; Deut. 24:15; 1 Sam. 2:33 (grieve); 2 Sam. 3:21 (desireth); Ps. 10:3 (desire). Prov. 23:7 (himself); 28:25 (proud heart or greedy spirit); 31:6 (heavy heart or bitter soul); Jer. 42:20 (dissembled or souls); Lam. 3:51 (affected or soul); Ezek. 25:6 (rejoiced or soul), 15 (despiteful or soul); 27:31 (bitterness; Hos. 4:8 (set).
  4. "hearty": Prov. 27:9 (counsel).
  5. "will": Deut. 21:14 (she will); Ps. 27:12; 41:2; Ezek. 16:27.
  6. "desire": Ecc. 6:9; Jer. 22:27; 44:14; Mic. 7:3; Hab. 2:5.
  7. "pleasure":  Ps. 105:22; Jer. 34:16.
  8. "lust": Ex. 15:9.
  9. "angry": Judg. 18:25.
  10. "discontented": 1 Sam. 22:2.
  11. "thyself": Est. 4:13.
  12. "myself": Ps. 131:2.
  13. "he": Prov. 16:26 (appetite)
  14. "his own": Prov. 14:10 (its own).
  15. "Him": Prov. 6:16 (used of God).
  16. "himself": Jonah 4:8.
  17. "herself": Isa. 5:14 (her desire).
  18. "yourselves": Jer. 37:9.
  19. "man": Isa. 49:7.
  20. "so would we have it": Ps.35:25

VII. Nephesh is used of Man, (a) as being "cut off" by God; (b) and as being slain or killed by man, in 54 passages and is rendered in 8 different ways.

        (a) The soul is cut off by God, in 22 passages and rendered "soul"

  • Gen. 17:14; 
  • Ex. 12:15,19; 31:14; 
  • Lev. 7:20,21,25,27; 17:10; 18:29; 19:8; 20:6; 22:3; 23:29,30; 
  • Num. 9:13; 15:30,31; 19:13,20; 
  • Ezek. 18:4,20.

        (b) The soul is slain or killed by man, in 32 passages and rendered in 8 different ways. - 

  1. "soul": Josh. 10:28,30,32,35,37,37,39; 11:11; Jer. 2:34; Ezek. 13:19; 22:25,27.
  2. "person": Deut. 27:25; Josh. 20:3,9; 1 Sam. 22:22; Prov. 28:17; Ezek. 17:17.
  3. "any": Lev. 24:17.
  4. "any person": Num. 31:19; 35:11,15,30,30; Ezek. 33:6.
  5. "him": Gen. 37:21; Deut. 19:6; 22:26.
  6. "mortally": Deut. 19:11.
  7. "life": 2 Sam. 14:7.
  8. "thee": Jer. 40:14,15.

VIII. Nephesh is used of Man as being mortal, subject to death of various kinds, from which it can be saved and delivered and life prolonged, in 243 passages, rendered in eleven different ways.

  1. "soul": Gen. 12:13; 19:20; Ex. 30:12,15,16; Lev. 17:11,11; Num. 16:38; 31:50; 1 Sam. 24:11; 25:29,29,29; 26:21 (life); 2 Sam. 4:9; 1 Kings 1:29; 17:21,22; Job 7:15; 27:8; Ps. 3:2; 6:4; 7:2,5; 11:1; 17:13; 22:20,29; 23:3: 25:20; 26:9; 33:19; 34:22; 35:3,4,12,17; 40:14; 41:4; 49:8,15; 54:3,4; 55:18; 56:6,13; 57:4; 59:3; 63:9; 66:9,16; 69:1,18; 70:2; 71:10,13,23; 72:13,14; 74:19; 78:50; 86:2,14; 88:14; 94:21; 97:10; 106:15; 109:20,31; 116:4,8; 119:109,175; 120:2; 121:7; 124:4,5,7; 141:8; 142:4,7; 143:3; Prov. 18:7; 24:12;29:10; Isa. 3:9; 10:18; 44:20; 53:10,11,12; 55:3; Jer. 4:10; 20:13; 26:19; 38:17,20; 44:7: 51:6 (life), 45 (yourselves); Lam. 1:11,16,19; 2:12; 3:58; Ezek. 3:19,21; 13:18,19; 14:14,20; 18:27; 33:5,9; Hos. 9:4 (appetite); Jonah 2:5; Hab. 2:10. 
  2. "life, lives": Gen. 9:5,5; 19:17,19; 32:30; 35:18; 44:30,30; Ex. 4:19; 21:23,23,30; Num. 35:31; Deut. 19:21,21; 24:6; Josh. 2:13,14; 9:24; Judg. 5:18; 9:17; 12:3; 18:25,25; Ruth 4:15; 1 Sam. 19:5,11; 20:1; 22:23,23; 23:15; 26:24,24; 28:9,21; 2 Sam. 1:9; 4:8; 16:11; 18:13; 19:5,5,5,5; 23:17; 1 Kings 1:12,12; 2:23; 3:11; 19:2,2,3,4,10,14; 20:31,39,39,42,42; 2 Kings 1:13,13,14; 7:7; 10:24,24; 1 Chron. 11:19,19; 2 Chron. 1:11; Est. 7:3,7; 8:11; 9:16; Job 2:4,6; 6:11 (be patient); 13:14; 31:39; Ps. 31:13; 38:12; Prov. 1:18,19; 6:26; 7:23; 13:3,8; Isa. 15:4 (soul); 43:4; Jer. 4:30; 11:21; 19:7,9; 21:7,9; 22:25; 34:20,21; 38:2,16; 39:18; 44:30,30; 45:5; 46:26; 48:6; 49:37; Lam. 2:19; 5:9; Ezek. 32:10; Johan 1:14; 4:3.
  3. "ghost": Job 11:20; Jer. 15:9.
  4. "person": 2 Sam. 14:14 (life)
  5. "tablets": Isa. 3:20 (perfume boxes); Heb. "houses of the soul"
  6. "deadly": Ps. 17:9 (enemies against my nephesh)
  7. "himself": 1 Kings 19:4; Amos 2:14,15.
  8. "me": Num. 23:10; Judg. 16:30; 1 Kings 20:32.
  9. "they": Job 36:14.
  10. "themselves": Isa. 47:14.
  11. "yourselves": Deut. 4:15; Josh.23:11.

IX. Nephesh is used of Man, as actually dead, in 13 passages, and is rendered in 3 different ways.

  1. "the dead": Lev. 19:28; 21:1; 22:4; Num. 5:2; 6:11.
  2. "dead body": Num. 9:6,7,10.
  3. "body": Lev. 21:11; Num. 6:6; 19:11,13; Hag. 2:13.

X. Nephesh, in 13 passages (all rendered "soul") is spoken of as going to a place described by 4 different words, rendered as shown below:

A.  "sheol" = THE grave (as distinct from keber, A grave), gravedom or the dominion of death, in 5 passages, rendered in this connection in 2 different ways:

  1. "grave": Ps. 30:3; 89:48; Ps. 49:15. 
  2. "hell": Ps. 16:10; 86:13; Prov. 23:14.

B.  "shachath" = A pit (for taking wild beasts); hence, a grave.  The Septuagint and New Testament take it in the sense of corruption; but, if so, not implying putridity, but destruction.  Occurs in 6 passages and is rendered in 2 different ways.

  1. "pit": Job 33:18,28,30; Ps. 35:7; Isa. 38:17.
  2. "grave": Job 33:22 (pit).

C.  "shuchah" = a deep pit (cp. all the occurrences, Prov: 22:14; 23:27; Jer. 2:6; 18:20,22.  And "pit" in one passage only:

  1. "pit": Jer. 18:20.

D.  "dumah" = silence. Ps. 94:17.

The teaching from the Greek influenced "trichotomy" will have the parts that make up who Jesus is, going to three different places after the "death of the cross."  It emphasizes that: 

  • His body goes into the tomb (Matthew 27:59,60).  
  • His spirit goes back to God (Luke 23:46).  
  • His soul goes into hell (! Peter 3:19,20; Psalm 16:10).

However, on the other hand, the Hebrews believed that man was "dichotomy."  This perception teaches that at death:

  • the body returns to the dust, from whence it came; 
  • at death, the spirit returns back to God, from whence it came; and 
  • at death, the soul is dead (because it is a name of the formula, body + spirit =), awaiting the moment when spirit and body are united once again in resurrection life.

 

  • "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,         (body) 

  • and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;                      + (spirit)

  • and man became a living SOUL." (Genesis 2:7)                      = (soul)

Whereas the Greek Philosophers said that man is make up of three things, body, soul and spirit..... the Hebrews said that man is made up of two things, body and spirit... and is called soul (nephesh) when these two parts are bound together.  

The beginning of a "soul" is the combination of two very necessary items, "body" and "spirit."  The body comes from the ground and returns to the ground at death.  The spirit comes from God and returns to God at death.  When these two come together there is NepheshThe soul is the combination of the body and spirit.  

Soul is the name of the formula, body + spirit.  An example of this is: (h2o) Water is the name of the formula of hydrogen 2 + oxygen.  This is the teaching of Hebrew thought in the Old Testament.  All Greek philosophers and their supporters missed this.  Those men who translated the Scriptures from the Greek language were influenced by Greek thought.  They should have been more aware of Hebrew thought in their translation.  We would have a better idea of what the soul actually is.   

If you have a question that was generated from these Bible Studies, email Jerry at... BibleStudy@JerryBernard.Com

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