WHAT IS THE HUMAN SPIRIT?

The Lord God Breathed the 'Breath of Life' into Adam (Gen. 2:7), Job Confirms that there is a 'Spirit in Man,' (Job 32:8) and Ecclesiastes Tells us that This Spirit Returns to God When We Die (Ecc. 12:7)

But What Is This 'Spirit' (or, 'Soul') And What Difference Does It Make?

ARTICLE QUOTE: 'It appears that this true essence of the Holy Spirit joins Himself to our own human spirit in some wondrous way which we cannot hope to understand while still in the human flesh. Of course, we do not become perfect and we will still make many mistakes but, perhaps, the fogs and mists caused by human depravity start to clear even while we ourselves remain partly subject to that depravity in our physical bodies and lives.'

'Souls' in the New Testament

Whereas most instances of 'soul' in the Old Testament are simply from the Hebrew 'nephesh,' meaning 'life' and do not necessarily tell us much about the spirit essence which God placed in his human creation, in the New Testament (especially as translated in the KJV and NKJV), all instances of soul are from the Greek 'psuche.' This word accounts for the 57 occasions that 'soul' and 'souls' occur in the New Testament, and on almost all of these occasions, it is indeed man's 'spirit essence' which is being referred to. Matthew 10:28 is a good example,

'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' (Matthew 10:28, NIV).

Also,

'And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour."' (Luke 1:46-47, NIV).

'But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.' (Hebrews 10:39, NKJV).

In Revelation, the souls of departed true believers are pictured in heaven:

'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. 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?"' (Revelation 6:9-10, NKJV).

Some other verses worthy of note include Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36-37; Luke 21:19; Acts 2:27,31,41; 14:22; 15:24; Hebrews 13:17; James 1:21; 5:20; 1 Peter 1:9; 2:25; 1 Peter 2:11; 3 John 2:2; Revelation 20:24.

So the Christian tendency to describe man's inner spirit, which returns to God when we die, as 'soul' comes from the New Testament usage of 'soul.'
Robin A. Brace, 2007.


I n our consideration of this topic we should point out that our consideration will be from the pespective of Christian theology. There is one sort of view which speaks of 'the triumph of the human spirit over adversity' - I think we have all heard that type of comment; that is a general and populist approach to the topic of "the human spirit." But today we are not concerned with that particular view (a view which is even held by some who do not believe in God but who use the term purely metaphorically).



Neither will we be primarily concerned - here and now - with the subject of the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Holy Trinity who is so concerned with Creation and with human Christian activity in the present world. This article will indeed conclude with some comments about the Holy Spirit of God, but that is not our main topic today.

But the Bible also speaks of 'spirit' purely in conjunction with Man. Job spells it out and explains what it imparts:

'But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.' (Job 32:8).


So, according to the Word of God, human beings are not only flesh and blood but also have this spiritual component, or 'spirit essence.' Job also confirms for us that this was imparted with 'the breath of the Almighty.' This 'spirit' appears to be responsible for that particular mental/emotional aspect of human being and existence which is wholly immaterial: that is, this 'spirit' can never be 'counted,' 'added' or 'weighed up.' The origin of 'spirit' in the Latin, Hebrew and Greek languages always denotes: wind, breath, or, blowing. The Latin noun 'spiritus' can describe vigour, breath, courage, as well as 'soul' or life. 'Soul', by the way, is a little more tricky; biblically it can refer to life or existence, as well as referring to Man's spirit essence; even so, 'soul' has generally been the preferred term among Christians for what we describe. But in the Old Testament, 'soul' is most often translated from 'nephesh,' meaning 'life,' and does not necessarily tell us anything about the 'human spirit.' (It is essential to also check out the insert article 'Souls in the New Testament').

So 'spirit' essentially refers to the human properties of inner consciousness, intellect, emotion, motivation, thinking, planning, longing, and it empowers all such intellectual/mental/spiritual properties; We could do none of these things and have none of this inner mental/spiritual life but for that spirit of life (translated as 'nasham' and 'ruach' in the Hebrew, pneuma in the Greek), which the Lord breathed into the nostrils of the First Man (Genesis 2:7). That 'breath' which the Lord gave to the first couple comes from 'Nashamah' meaning strong wind, blast, or inspiration. The Lord God had made Man differently to the animals because He had designed us to function 'in the image of God' so we have this divine spark, if you will, breathed into us by the Lord Himself. Animals just have 'life,' (Hebrew: 'nephesh' first used of animals in Genesis 1:20), yes that too is important and God-willed and grants every animal an independent living existence. It is not quite accurate to say (as some do) that animals cannot make choices. My cat (every single time) would prefer to lie on our bed and go to sleep rather than to go out if it is rainy outside. Oh yes, he is quite adept at making that particular decision! Yet he cannot plan for the future or enjoy listening to Bruckner's 8th symphony, or Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet playing as I do. Instinct is largely the order of the day, rather than intellect.

So the spiritual area of human life (and even the poets have comprehended this) is that area concerned with feelings, emotions, anger, intellect, inner passion, enthusiasm, fear, turmoil and inspiration. None of this could ever be weighed up or counted - it is nothing to do with human flesh! So - it might be said - that something which those who believe in God (and to a lesser degree, even poets!), have always understood, is only now beginning to be unravelled and explained by scientists. Oh yes, even Aristotle and much later, Descartes knew that the human mind was immaterial, but science has largely been undecided!

Yet the Old Testament never tells us too much about this 'spirit' essence which resides in every human being, and when it does, it often prefers to speak of the 'human heart.' This has always been seen purely poetically until - just literally - the last few years, when scientists have started to discover a very close relationship between the heart, mind and brain. Again, new knowledge to science - even when the Hebrews obviously already knew about this thousands of years before Christ! (See Yes, the Heart Really Can "Think"...)


But the New Testament starts to reveal to us that our 'human spirit' - vital though it is, is not enough. Every man woman and child ever born into this world has had this spirit. The need is to receive the gift of God's Holy Spirit which is available for truly meek God-believers who come to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. So just as the human spirit is 'divinely breathed' into the first humans in Genesis 2:7, the Holy Spirit is 'divinely breathed' into the first disciples in John 20:22 revealing that true believers are really part of a New Creation. It appears that this true essence of the Holy Spirit joins Himself to our own human spirit in some wondrous way which we cannot hope to understand while still in the human flesh. Of course, we do not become perfect and we will still make many mistakes but, perhaps, the fogs and mists caused by human depravity start to clear even while we ourselves remain partly subject to that depravity in our physical bodies and lives. The Holy Spirit starts to impart a small portion of the very mind of God into these true believers. From small beginnings, such people can, increasingly, then start to look at the problems of this world and see the true divine solution - yes, not only see it but become fully convinced that the divine solution is the only true solution and realise that - one day - a promised New Heavens and New Earth will make the divine standard the only standard in the entire universe.


It is really quite strange how the unconverted and carnal mind (recipient of the 'human spirit' alone), looks at this world and sees millions of problems and wonders how they could ever be solved, but once that mind receives the Spirit of God, he or she immediately perceives that this world does not have millions of problems at all, but just one: sinful rebellion against God! When that issue becomes resolved, all human problems will vanish.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.

It is probably also essential to read:
EVIDENCE GROWS THAT THE MIND AND BRAIN ARE SEPARATE!
(Intriguing reading!)


UK APOLOGETICS