Human Being: Body, soul and spirit
One of the first hurdles to be overcome when reading the bible is our understanding of the true nature of the human being which is usually limited to its physical substance or flesh and blood. If we look closely at human nature we can distinguish three different human characteristics; body, soul and spirit. This means that we need to enter into unknown territory, or do we? If we think about ourselves and how we function in the world we could say that we are beings who think ideas, have feelings and emotions, and who act according to how we think and feel. It is these three essential human faculties that we should keep centrally in our mind at all times. They are tangible, we experience them every moment of each day.
So how do these three basic faculties relate to the human body, soul and spirit? And where do we find them in the bible? We find them in the Greek words soma, psuche and pneuma. Psuche is soul, from which we have the word psychology and pneuma is spirit. Psuche can be translated as heart, life, mind or soul and pneuma can be translated as breath, life, spirit or wind. Psuche, our soul nature, gives us a sense of our capacity to feel, while pneuma, our spiritual nature is suggestive of thoughts that can blow through our mind. While our body, which is the vehicle of the soul and spirit, in Greek is soma, the centre of human activity and mobility which we can identify with the human will.
This text from 1 Thessalonians mentions spirit, soul and body .
May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit (pneuma) and soul (psuche) and body (soma) be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Th 5:23
In 2 Corinthians we can see how these bodies are referred to in other ways. It is interesting to note that without our spiritual body we are naked which is a direct reference to events in the Garden of Eden.
“For we know that if the earthly tent [earthly body] we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God [spiritual body], a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed” 2 Cor 5:1-4