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Chris asked about the difference between “soul” and “spirit” in light of Hebrews 4:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23
A brief response might not be helpful but I’ll risk saying something. Many of us almost always use the word “soul” (psuche) and “spirit” (pneuma) as interchangeable and mean that part of a human that survives biological death. I think there is justification for speaking this way but it’s risky speech and the scriptures are much more complex than that.
The word usually rendered “soul” in the Hebrew or Greek scriptures has such a wide range. The only way to get something of a clear picture is to read some of the literature on it in a good theological dictionary. “Soul” can mean the whole person, some aspect of the person (his physical life as a person, his attitude to this or that, his inner nature or state as distinct from his body and what is physical, and so forth). “Spirit” is not just as wide ranging as “soul” but it too is complex in use.
We most often use it as the part of man that survives biological death. I think there’s justification for that but we mustn’t think that every time the word “spirit” occurs that we’re talking about an “inner man”. Sometimes it means a gift that’s non-physical in nature, sometimes it stands for an evil being or an anti-God and anti-Christ disposition or teaching. Sometimes it speaks of humans as being more than flesh.
So what’s the difference between “soul” and “spirit” in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 4:12? Well, it depends on which use of “soul” you go for in those passages. It’s clear they’re being distinguished but the writers don’t explicitly tell us what they have in mind. We read of people risking their “lives” for the Lord (the Greek has “souls”--see, for example, Acts 15:26). Let’s suppose we settled for that option in Thessalonians and Hebrews (soul=life). Then we could have something like (I’m hypothesizing), God present your body blameless (the body being vehicle through which the life we have is seen). God present your soul blameless (the life we presently experience through the body). God present your spirit blameless (the empowerment of the human without which the body is lifeless--the life (soul) is lost. See James 2:26.
The truth is, we create difficulties in distinguishing between “soul” and “spirit” only when we insist on using them always as meaning the same thing. They don’t! That is, if we allow each word to mean any one of a large number of possible meanings then there need be no conflict. If in Hebrews 4:12, for example, we said "soul" indicates "life" that humans share with the animals--an earthy existence, then we would be free to say that "spirit" in that text is what empowers the body and produces "life" (soul). The difficulty wouldn't then be about the words themselves but about which meaning (among many) we should go for. We'd then be more concerned with context than with lexical questions.
Let me over-simplify and risk distortion. In 1 Thessalonians 5 let's imagine that the spirit unites with the body and generates the existence of a third reality--"life" (soul). That would be one legitimate use of both words.