SOUL AND SPIRIT

 

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I read many books and articles aimed at making me a better writer. Most of them say to me, “write about things you know.” But I recently came across a different suggestion: Write about things you don’t understand.

That sounds counterintuitive, but I was challenged, so I chose a topic I do not understand.

What is the difference between the soul and the spirit, as those terms are used in the Bible?

Why didn’t I choose to write about how the Internet works, another thing I don’t understand? It too is a very complex subject, but it is a benign topic. Most of my readers don’t care how the Internet works. They just care that it works.

But writing about the difference between one’s soul and one’s spirit (if there is a difference) is a spiritual issue. My readers do care about this topic.

I am no expert on this subject. But, like my readers, I am interested in it. Therefore, I have studied both what the Bible reveals about it and what Biblical scholars have written about it.

Since everyone agrees  that we have a mortal nature, the body, that topic will not be discussed.

INTRODUCTION: Some theologians believe humans have a three-part nature: body, soul and spirit. Other theologians believe we have only a two-part nature: body and soul/spirit, with the words soul and spirit being interchangeable words meaning the same thing.

According to my count on www.biblegateway.com, the words spirit and Spirit in all their forms appear in the NIV version of the Bible over 400 times. The words soul and Soul in all their forms appear just under 100 times in the NIV. Are those numbers significant?

Does this mean that soul and spirit are two different entities, and the Bible has much more to say about the spirit than it does about the soul? Or could the words be interchangeable, and whatever is said of the soul is also said of the spirit?

THE SOUL

In the Old Testament: The word soul first appears in Genesis 2:7: 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. (KJV)

In many of the Old Testament (NIV) verses that use the word soul, the word appears within this phrase: with all your heart and with all your soul.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the Hebrew word nephesh, which is often translated as soul, means: one who breathes. The word appears over 700 times in various English versions of the Old Testament and is not always translated soul.

 This word (nephesh/soul) is at times translated as life. Look at the following example.

1 Kings 17 records the account of Elijah raising to life the son of the widow of Zarephath. Verse 22 reads: The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life (nephesh/soul) returned to him, and he lived.

The same Hebrew word is sometimes translated as person(s), as in this example.

All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons (nepheshes/souls) (Genesis 46:26 KJV).

The King James Version uses over 20 different English words to represent the original Hebrew term. We have looked at only three of them.

In addition to soul, person and life, the word is sometimes used to represent the seat of the appetites, emotions and passions; and others.

To review, the Hebrew word nephesh means one who breathes. In English, the word is translated as soul, as life, as person(s), and as other words.

In the New Testament. The New Testament was written in Greek. The Hebrew word nephesh corresponds to the Greek words psuche or psyche.

The Greek word psyche or psuche is often translated as the English word, soul. It refers to a living, breathing, conscious body.

Like the Hebrew word, nephesh, the Greek word, psyche, is sometimes translated in the English language as breath, life and that which has life.

To recap, both the English Old Testament and English New Testament use words translated as soul to mean life, breath, and those having breath (people).

THE SPIRIT

The English word Spirit first appears in Scripture in Genesis 1:2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (KJV)

The Hebrew term rûach elohim is the basis of the words translated in English as Spirit of God.

Rûach is translated as wind, breath and spirit. Some believe it can also represent man’s intelligence and will.

The Greek word pneuma, meaning breath or wind, is often translated spirit and can also be used to refer to a person (1 John 4:1) and to life (Mark 3:4). It is said to represent man’s vital spirit or the soul.

CONCLUSION

For those few who are still reading, I will state two theories regarding soul and spirit.

Because the meanings of these two words are so similar, many theologians today believe they are interchangeable terms. They would say that a person is made up of only two parts: a body and a soul/spirit. This view is called dichotomy.

Other theologians disagree. They believe a person is made up of three parts: a body, a soul and a spirit.

Man’s soul includes his intellect, emotions and will. All people have souls, and all can choose whether to serve God or serve sin.

The spirit, they say, is the part of us that worships God and prays to Him. The spirit is a “higher faculty” and comes alive when a person becomes a Christian. This view is called trichotomy.

Those who subscribe to this theory use Hebrews 4:12 to support it. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Proponents of the dichotomy theory, however, believe this verse simply puts a fine point to how completely God’s Word penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life.

SPIRIT/SOUL

If you are thinking: This woman, who reads neither Hebrew nor Greek, has no business writing about this subject, I agree that I have no business writing about it as one with authority.

I am not writing as one with authority. I am writing as a Christian woman who wanted to know more about the terms spirit and soul in the Bible. I studied the terms and am recapping for you my findings.

This much I know without question. There is a part of me that is destined for the grave. But there is also a part of me that death cannot touch.

For that part of me, be it spirit or soul/spirit, I hold to the promise found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 

 

 

 

AAH, NOW I GET IT!

When I was a child, my parents bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia and Childcraft, the 1964 edition. We had the information of the world at our fingertips.

Today, owning a set of reference books seems archaic. We have Google.

I Googled a few questions this week and will share my newfound knowledge for your benefit.

QUESTION: Why are actors and actresses filmed “drinking” from cups that are obviously empty?

  

Why do they do that? I wondered. If they can cut off Lieutenant Dan’s legs (Gary Sinese in Forrest Gump) and show him swinging legless on the ropes of a shrimp boat, surely, they can put coffee and tea in cups on a film set.

ANSWER: Spilled liquids can stain costumes or create messes that must be cleaned up, slowing filming. Plus, many scenes require several takes. If an actress begins drinking a glass of iced tea that is three-fourths full on the first take, someone must make certain the same amount of tea is in the glass on the second, third, fourth and seventeenth takes.

This empty cup question is asked often. TV critic, Myles McNutt, made a study of “fake drinking” scenes and created his now long-running  #EmptyCupAwards.

But I still say, if they can cut off Lieutenant Dan’s legs, putting liquids in cups and glasses surely isn’t an insurmountable obstacle.

 

QUESTION: Do humans have age-indicators like the growth rings on trees?

With age, our skin begins to sag, wrinkles and laugh lines form and our hair turns gray. But it’s hard to determine whether some people are in their late forties or early sixties. I wanted to know if an absolute method exists for determining age.

ANSWER: Just as the number of growth rings in a tree increase with time, revealing its age, degenerative changes in human bone also accumulate as an individual grows older. Trained doctors can measure these changes by observing hand radiographs. Using a scoring system referred to as an Osseographic Scoring System (OSS), they can determine an individual’s biological age. (www.marcusinstituteforaging.org)

 

QUESTION. How can a spider move through the air and create a web from one tree branch to another?

I understand Spiderman’s web slinging techniques, but I wanted to know how spiders do it.

ANSWER: A spider transforms liquid silk in its glands into solid thread. It then pulls the thread through spinnerets and lifts its spinnerets into the breeze. Even the slightest wind can catch the lightweight thread and carry it onto another branch or even another tree. The spider can then “tightrope” walk across the web, usually hanging to the underside of the thread, to its new location.

 

QUESTION: What is the difference between epithet and epitaph?

This question is important to a word nerd like me.

ANSWER:

An epithet is a nickname, often a negative one.

An epitaph is an inscription on a tombstone.

www.alabamapioneers.com

SAMPLE SENTENCE: One’s epithet may be included in his epitaph.

 CAUTION: Do not confuse either of these words with epaulet.

 

 QUESTION: What are the most commonly asked questions on Google?

ANSWER: The most commonly asked question on Google is What is my ip? Runners-up include: What time is it? How can I register to vote? and How do I tie a tie?

YOU’RE WELCOME!

HOW, EXACTLY?

I read many “how to” books for writers: How to Start a Blog that People Will Read (Mike Omar), Effective Magazine Writing (Roger Palms), Devoted to Writing (Nancy Robinson Masters), Pray, Write, Grow (Ed Cyzewski), Unleash the Writer Within (Cecil Murphy), and many others.

Amazon was happy to help me amass my impressive libraries, the one on my bookshelf and the one on my Kindle.

Every author offers worthwhile advice.

I discovered one of the most helpful pieces of advice while reading Crafting the Personal Essay by Dinty W. Moore. (I know. I also thought immediately of beef stew.)

On page 151 Moore writes:

Most writers–beginning and accomplished–are just too hard on themselves. Be hard on your sentences, be hard on your paragraphs, be ceaseless and unrelenting in your revisions, but stop questioning your ability to be a writer. If you put pen to paper, or put electronic words on the page, you are a writer. Let go of that worry and focus on how good a writer you can become.

Many of us, both writers and nonwriters, are too hard on ourselves.

At some point around the age of 16, most of us said, “I’ll never learn to drive a car!” When we became adults, we used more self-defeating language. “I’ll never beat the smoking habit!” “I’ll never get this bedroom painted!”

Many of us have gone on to accomplish things we swore we would never master. Good for us!

But we didn’t accomplish those things by spending our time and energy beating ourselves up and predicting certain failure. We took a driving course; we found experts to help us quit smoking; we kept working on those bedroom walls, taking pleasure in each successful step toward completion.

Sometimes we convince ourselves we have failed at achieving a goal when we never set a goal in the first place.

When I decided I wanted to be a writer, I needed to nail down my own definition of a successful writer.

If I don’t know where I’m going, how will I know when I get there?

This is the way I defined success as a writer.

A successful writer takes pleasure in working with words. She enjoys developing ideas, writing about them, and revising her writing until it meets her standards.

 A successful writer finds outlets so others can read what she writes.

 A successful writer has an audience of readers who enjoy reading what she writes.

 By that definition, I am a successful writer.

Beating myself up and repeatedly telling myself I would never write anything worth reading did nothing toward helping me become a successful writer.

I became a successful writer by:

  • Sitting for many hours in a chair in front of my computer and writing, rewriting, revising, editing, proofreading, and rewriting more.
  • Doing what was necessary to start a blog and learn how to use it.
  • Listening to and observing people to learn what they want to read.

Alternatively, I could choose this definition of “a successful writer.”

A successful writer earns enough money from her work to support her family.

 A successful writer’s work is sought after by reputable publishers. 

 A successful writer gains renown and is recognized wherever she goes.

By that definition, I am not a successful writer.

I must decide which definition, or blending of definitions, satisfies my desire to succeed. No one else can define “success” for me.

If I am satisfied with the first definition, at which I am already successful, I will continue doing what I have been doing, always trying to become better at it.

If I am not satisfied with the first definition of success and want to work toward the second definition, I will need to do research, spend more hours at my computer, enroll in writing classes, hire a writing coach, and give up activities in which I now participate so I can devote that time and energy to writing.

What are you, my reader, telling yourself you will never accomplish? What does success  look like to you?

Be specific and reasonable. Don’t set a nebulous goal like, “I want to travel.” Ask yourself, “Where do I want to go? When do I want to go there? Whom would I like to take with me? How long do I want to stay? How will I pay for the trip?”

Make a written list of steps you must take in order to reach that goal. Then begin working through those steps.

Plan your work and work your plan.

As you make progress, you may need to tweak your goal. Maybe the person you want to go with you does not want to go. Invite someone else to go with you.

If I had set as a goal, “I want to be a successful writer,” but had not defined for myself what “being a successful writer” meant to me, if I had taken no steps toward reaching that goal, and if I had continually told myself I would never become a writer, you would not be reading this blog post today.

Much truth lies in this famous quote by Henry Ford: Whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.

 

IN DEFENSE OF PRETENSE

I want people to like and respect me. To that end, I employ a bit of  pretense. I profess to endorse habits I don’t practice.

For example, I claim I can’t tolerate driving or riding in messy vehicles. This is a lie. I ride in nothing but messy vehicles.

 

I tell people their bad grammar doesn’t bother me. It drives me insane. That doesn’t mean I don’t like people who say things like “just between you and I.” I like some of these people quite a bit, and even love a few of them.

 

I claim I like growing geraniums. I don’t. Growing geraniums is messy and requires work. But I do like having pretty geraniums on my patio each summer.

 

I say I want to learn to play the piano and to create artful flower arrangements. It’s true that I want to play the piano and arrange flowers. I just don’t want to learn to do either one of them.

 

I tell people I exercise regularly. In truth, I walk outside or on a track once or twice a week.

 

I also claim to be five feet, six inches tall when I am five feet, five inches tall, so my weight and height are more proportionate. I say I don’t know how much I weigh because my scale is broken (and I hope to goodness it is).

 

I tell people I don’t watch much TV. This is true only if you don’t count mini series like Downton Abbey, The Crown, Victoria, Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders, Sherlock, Death in Paradise and Dr. Blake Mysteries;  or true crime shows like Dateline, 48 Hours and 20/20.

 

I claim I don’t like candy corn, jelly beans, sour balls or gummy worms. This claim is true. I don’t like these treats unless they are the only sugary items in the house. Then I like them well enough to eat them.

 

I have managed to attain some goals legitimately, without pretense. I am an involved grandmother; I keep a reasonably clean house, read good books, practice rigid oral hygiene, and change the bed sheets once a week.

But my real pursuit in life is to be liked and respected because I am a woman who drives a clean car and who is tolerant of people who dangle modifiers; a woman who enjoys growing geraniums and likes the challenge of learning new things; a woman who exercises regularly, and whose height and weight are proportionate; one who doesn’t watch much television and who is selective and uses moderation when she occasionally eats junk food.

How am I doing?

Conversations Between Two Old Fogies

(THIS MORNING, AT HOME)

Debbie:          Dan, I’m washing a load of whites with bleach.

Dan:               Okay.

Debbie:          Do you have anything you want to toss in?

(Dan tosses in a white t-shirt.)

Dan:               I thought you said you were washing whites.

Debbie:          I am.

Dan:               Whites with bleach.

Debbie:          I am.

Dan:               Then why is a brown towel in the washer?

Debbie:          The bleach won’t hurt it.

Dan:               But why is a brown towel in the washer with the whites?

Debbie:          Because it’s dirty??

Dan:               Will you please just answer my question?

Debbie:          I did answer your question.

Dan:               No, you didn’t.

Debbie:          The brown towel is dirty. The bleach won’t hurt it.

Dan:               But why are you washing it in bleach water with whites?

Debbie:          I wash all our towels in bleach water with whites.

Dan:               Okay. Thank you. Geesh.

————————————————————————————

(LAST WEEK, IN GATLINBURG)

Dan:               Why didn’t you bring your other shoes to Gatlinburg?

Debbie:          What other shoes?

Dan:               The ones you bought before we went to Alaska.

Debbie:          Oh, I just brought these instead.

Dan:               I know. Why?

Debbie:          Because the ones I bought to wear in Alaska are clunky.

Dan:               You bought them to wear in Alaska if we hiked.

Debbie:          I know.

Dan:               Didn’t you think we might hike in Gatlinburg?

Debbie:          Not on icy tundra.

Dan:               They’re good hiking shoes for anywhere.

Debbie:          Maybe so, but they’re still clunky.

Dan:               They’re waterproof and have gripping soles.

Debbie:          That’s what I said. They’re clunky.

Dan:               Perfect shoes for Gatlinburg.

Debbie:          I brought these instead.

THERE. THAT’S THE DEFINITION OF RETIREMENT.

Well?

Many people are sick. They are fighting cancer, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, mental illnesses and more. My heart breaks for these people who are suffering some of the worst kinds of Satan’s curses.

Even healthy people suffer occasional bouts of flu or other temporary ailments.

I know people who are not sick but behave as if they are. They milk minor headaches, stomach issues, and pains for all the sympathy they can get.

These people are the adult equivalents of kids who create ways to miss school.

Like truant students, these people pretend to be sick or exaggerate the severity of their ailments to gain something they want: an excuse to miss work or to get out of washing dishes or to shirk their responsibility in a group project. They are deceivers.

No, I am not  qualified to assess people’s health. But I know what I know. I have observed obvious attempts to gain release from fulfilling responsibilities by feigning sickness. I won’t say I have never done it. Shame on me.

Something is not right if I can go for a mani-pedi, shop for clothes or show up for my bowling league, but I am too impaired to go to work, to church, to the school event I agreed to supervise or to the kitchen to bake the pan of lasagna I agreed to provide for the deacons’ luncheon.

God did not call me to manipulate people or situations for my benefit.

Good health is a wonderful blessing, but it comes with obligations.  Healthy people perform the jobs assigned to them.  They get up, dress up and show up every time.

In chapter five of John, Jesus asked an infirm man if he wanted to be well. That seemed at first to be a silly question. But maybe it wasn’t.

Photo by  elizabeth lies on Unsplash 

Photo by  Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

 

WHO SAID THAT?

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF CLASSIC CHRISTMAS MOVIES AND TELEVISION SPECIALS. CAN YOU NAME THAT SHOW?

“Is there a thermometer around here?”

“Aaah! “Fra-GEE-leh!” It must be Italian!”

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps… means a little bit more!”

“Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?

“This fog’s as thick as peanut butter!”

“And may all your Christmases be white. Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!”

“Yes! Yes I do! I like Christmas! I love Christmas!”

“The four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.”

“And we’re gonna to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas!”

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

“This is extremely important. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys. Nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And if he has time, my Uncle Frank. Okay?”

Would you please tell her that you’re not really Santa Claus, that actually is no such person?

For friends who share common interests with me and enjoy reading lighthearted, inspirational, and entertaining articles, many with spiritual applications.