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Mind, Body and Spirit

How are we Mind, Body and Spirit?

While we're talking about bodily functions, now is a good time to think about one of the most confusing things of all - what exactly is the relationship between the mind, body, soul and spirit? The reason it is confusing is that the Church has always tried to explain it by marrying together Biblical concepts with Greek understanding. The result is a plethora of views and definitions. The alternative is to look at it from a totally Biblical viewpoint, the Jewish way. So what's the problem?

Greek duality insists that we start with the position that the body is bad and the mind, soul and spirit are good. On death, both parts separate and the "mortal" body is discarded and the "immortal" mind / soul / spirit, that is the real you, moves on. The Greek understanding is that only by the shedding of the "evil" body can we be with God, as immortal spiritual beings in heaven. This view may seem acceptable to you, it may even be what you have been taught, but it is not Biblical.

Biblically, human beings are whole beings, body and soul together. We need our bodies, which is why, when we die, we eventually have a bodily resurrection, body and soul returning together and living on Earth! It's a strange concept, alien to how we've been taught, but it's as Biblical as the virgin birth and the feeding of the 5,000, also strange concepts to our carnal logical minds. If you still don't believe me, read the very end of the Bible, Revelation Chapters 21 and 22. Here's a spoiler.

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:2-3)

This is the end of the End. God is living on Earth with His people. Just picture that!

So, Hebraically (and Biblically) speaking, what is the difference between body, soul and spirit? Our problem is that Greek thinking has compartmentalised all of these aspects of a human being, but drawn very fuzzy lines between them. How many of us can really tell the difference between the soul and the spirit? And what about the mind, the heart and the emotions, where do they fit in?

On the face of it, this is no easy task. In the Bible, the Hebrew word, nephesh, is translated as "soul" around 470 times, but is also translated as "life", "mind", "person", "heart" as well as over twenty other possibilities. The Hebrew word, ruach, is translated as "spirit" around 240 times, but is also translated as "breath", "wind" and about ten other possibilities. As we will learn in a later article, the Hebrew language is very evocative and helps us to understand difficult concepts by getting a grasp of all possible meanings of a word.

So, we can now look at the word for "soul" and, by looking at the other possible translations - "life", "mind", "person" and "heart" - we can get the impression, Hebraically, that the soul is what makes you, "you". It refers to the whole person, body included. The soul does not exist apart from the body, so the concept of ghosts as "lost souls" floating around without bodies and scaring you witless, is a complete nonsense!

When we consider our "spirit", we are looking at something that is "breathed" into man. So man is a soul, but is not a spirit, though he has a spirit.

"Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!" (Hebrews 12:9)

The spirit is from God and we all have it, though in most of us it is dead. Let me explain. God breathed His spirit into the first man, Adam. When Adam sinned, his spirit died and ever since then men and women are spiritually dead. That is, until they allow the Holy Spirit to connect up and quicken their spirits through a new birth in Jesus Christ.

"But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:10-11)

As far as the emotions are concerned, there are numerous Scriptures that place these either with the soul or the spirit. There are no clear cut lines of demarcation here.

This is a HUGE subject, with volumes of Scripture to illustrate many of the points made. There is simply no room here to say much more, otherwise the thrust of my argument will be lost, but just keep in mind the fact that, whereas Greek thinking ties you up in a constant state of over-analysis, the Hebrew mindset is more forgiving but asks you to hold on to the basic truth that the body and soul together make up a human being and the spirit is what connects us to God.

Steve Maltz
June 2012

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again )

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