The Lexicons define the Hebrew word Ruach to mean spirit and they define the Hebrew words Nephesh to mean: Breath, Soul, Spirit, Life, Mind etc. for these are its many uses in Hebrew. But the root meaning is breather. A soul is a breather literally.
Here are the pieces of the Jigsaw from God which define for us the meaning of the word 'soul':
44 It is sown a physical body
(literally in Greek - a soulical body), it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a
physical/soulical body, there is also a spiritual one.
45 It is even so written: The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15).
So there is a physical body and there is a spiritual body.
13 Everyone touching a corpse, the soul of whatever man may die, and who will not purify himself, has defiled Jehovah's tabernacle, and that soul must be cut off from Israel. Because the water for cleansing has not been sprinkled upon him, he continues unclean. His uncleanness is still upon him (Numbers 19).
11 And he should not come to any dead soul. For his father and his mother he may not defile himself (Leviticus 21).
A dead soul is a soul without the spirit. A dead soul is a body.
18 And the result was that as her soul was going out, because she died, she called his name Ben-on, but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18).
4 The soul that is sinning it itself will die (Ezekiel 18).
So a soul can die. In fact the soul dies when the human dies. When it dies it becomes a body. A human soul can eat also...
16 And on the first day there is to take place for you a holy convention, and on the seventh day a holy convention. No work is to be done on them. Only what every soul needs to eat, that alone may be done for you (Exodus 12:16).
Humans can kill human souls...
22 And in case men should struggle with each other and they really
hurt a pregnant woman and her children do come out but no fatal accident occurs, he is to have damages imposed upon him without fail
according to what the owner of the woman may lay upon him; and he must give it through the
23 But if a fatal accident should occur, then you must give soul for soul,
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 branding for branding, wound for wound, blow for blow (Exodus 21).
But God has a non human soul himself...
18 Look! My servant whom I chose, my beloved, whom my soul approved! I will put my spirit upon him, and what justice is he will make clear to the nations (Matthew 12).
1 Look! My servant, on whom I keep fast hold! My chosen
one, [whom] my soul has approved! I have put my spirit in him. Justice to the nations is what he will bring
forth (Isaiah 42).
So God has a spiritual soul, so a soul can be a spiritual body too. If you put all of this together we see that
Definition: A Body is a physical or spiritual vessel. In other words a human or angelic body.
Definition: A Soul, by which is meant a living soul, is one spirit, inside a self sustaining living physical or spiritual body.
Definition: A Dead Soul is a dead body
Definition: A Spirit is a person, a character, a personality. It is 'you'.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of spirits (Proverbs 16).
Your spirit is neither human nor angelic. It is your character and is in the image of God, who is a spirit.
24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth (John 4).
The Hebrew word for Soul is Nephesh [#pn]. The root meaning is to breath or respire (BDAHCL). So a soul is literally a breather, a living human body. In fact Nephesh can mean life or spirit as well. The Hebrew word for spirit is Ruach. Of course if a soul is said to be dead, then it is a dead body. But it is living 'breathing' unless otherwise stated. The human act of breathing is the physicalisation of an equivalent angelic act. In other words there is an angelic 'air'. To see what this might be let us consider a fascinating scripture...
1 Furthermore, [it is] you [God made alive] though you were dead in your trespasses and
2 in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of
the air, the spirit [of Satan, the ruler of the world] that now operates in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2).
So bad 'air' is the spiritual atmosphere. The authority of the air is the governments and ruling groups of this world, the ruler of the authority of the air, is actually Satan. He sets the overall scene in which we live. The angels on the other hand live under God's 'air' in the heavens. They must take in the various influences from their atmosphere and exhale these influences, passing them on to other angels.
Humans stay alive by breathing each other's air continually. We share the most important thing in our lives without question, whilst fighting over the least important things. The angels' very spiritual life depends upon their imbibing, digesting and regurgitating spiritual influences from their environment. So if an angel leaves the good atmosphere of God's administration in heaven in favour of Satan's breakaway group, he will suffocate very quickly.
So now we can understand what Jesus meant when he said...
28 And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Matthew 10).
It means this:
28 And do not become fearful of those who kill the [physical] body but cannot kill the [angelic] soul. But rather be in fear of him that can destroy [but not kill] both [angelic] soul and [physical] body in Gehenna (Matthew 10).
The 'soul' here means the angelic soul, which is the angelic body plus the spirit in combination, and 'body' means physical body, the human body. Men can kill the human body, but they cannot touch an angelic soul. God can destroy the human body and he can destroy the angelic soul, which is the angelic body and spirit in combination. He destroys the angelic sole by removing the spirit. But God cannot actually 'kill' any soul. He cannot kill any body together with its spirit, because he is prevented by everlasting love for all of his sons. For nowhere in the bible, neither in Matthew 10 nor anywhere else, do we read the God will kill your spirit. As regards the spirit, we read...
12 For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper
than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow, and [is] able to
discern thoughts and intentions of [the] heart (Hebrews 4).
So the soul and the spirit are two different things and the difference between them is explained in the bible.
4 His spirit [Hebrew ruach] goes out, he goes back to his ground. In that day his thoughts do perish (Psalms 146).
14 How much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to [the] living God? (Hebrews 9).
Nowhere in the bible is a spirit said to die. The everlasting spirit of Jesus Christ was him. Jesus' spirit is his character, his personality. Jesus said of his father...
24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with
spirit and truth (John 4).
11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2).
By experience, we know that no man can read the mind or heart of another with any great accuracy. Paul is saying this. But by qualifying this blindness with the phrase 'among men', he is also saying that the angels can read both our hearts and our minds. We must be some education to them! So the spirit of Jesus is his character, and our spirit, our character, is inside us and even God himself is a spirit, having a character like his sons, and especially like his firstborn son.
The soul is therefore the life carrying vehicle. Now the life, your life, you, is the spirit. We are spirits, our characters are spirits. The soul (human or angelic) is the vehicle for the spirit.
The spirit is your character, it is 'you'. Things get confusing when one realises that an angelic body is a spirit body and an angel is a spirit creature, sometimes referred to as a 'spirit'. But to spell things out unequivocally:
All living creatures are souls which are spirits within
A living human is a spirit within a physical body
A living angel is a spirit within a spiritual body.
Spirit + Body = Soul (human)
Spirit + Body = Soul (angelic)
10 But Paul went downstairs, threw himself upon him and embraced him and said: Stop raising a clamor, for his soul is in him (Acts 20).
Paul is saying that his spirit and his physical body is in 'him'. In other words his body is alive and his spirit is in it. It would have been far simpler for Paul to say: his spirit is in him. But his body being 'in him' just means he is physically alive.
1 A pronouncement: The word of Jehovah concerning
Israel, is the utterance of Jehovah, the One who is stretching out [the] heavens and laying the
foundation of [the] earth and forming the spirit of man inside him
For when Jesus resurrected Jarius' daughter, her spirit returned to her...
53 At this they began to laugh at him scornfully, because they knew
she had died.
54 But he took her by the hand and called, saying: "Girl, get up!"
55 And her spirit returned, and she rose instantly, and he ordered something to be given her to eat (Luke 8).
So a body without a spirit is a car without a driver. It is just a dead vehicle. The driver is the spirit, the car is the body and the car with a driver is the soul. The whole deal is summed up in Genesis 2 where Moses says...
7 And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground [he made the body] and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life [he put a spirit in the body], and the man came to be a living soul [body + spirit = soul] (Genesis 2).
We have recently discovered (in August 2011) that Hebrew uses the word nostrils, which is in the dual number to mean - double! For example...
5 And to Hannah he giveth one double [literally nostrils] portion, for he hath loved Hannah, and Jehovah hath shut her womb (1Samuel1 Young's Literal).
So now we can understand Rachel's last words in Genesis 35...
Gen 35:18 KJV, ASV, NWT, GLT, YLT
it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called
his name Benoni [son of calamity, sorrow]:
but his father called him Benjamin [son of my
And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.
And the result was that as her soul was going out because she died she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
And it happened, when her soul was going forth (for she died) even she called his name Benoni. But his father called him Benjamin.
And it cometh to pass in the going out of her soul (for she died), that she calleth his name Ben-Oni; and his father called him Benjamin.
So her soul, meaning here the spirit part of it, departed from the corporate
part. The spirit did not terminate or cease functioning. It departed from the
body. It went into a departure lounge. It went actually into a sleeping angel.