I am a soul. But I need a soul too. How can that be?

The word “soul” in Scripture is confusing, not in the original language but certainly in English, because it has at least two quite different meanings. And the only way to differentiate between those two meanings is to look at the word in its original language, and in its context.

In Matthew 10:28, for instance, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” The word for “soul” in that verse, according to my Greek Lexicon, is “an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death.” Jesus is making a very clear point here, that death has the power to kill our physical body, but death does not have the power to kill or “dissolve” the soul. The soul in that verse, in both its original language and in its context, is immortal. It cannot die. There is such a thing, then, as an immortal soul.

But then there’s 1 Thessalonians 5:23, where Paul writes: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word for “soul” in that verse¬†comes from the Greek word meaning “breath” or “breath of life,” which my Greek Lexicon defines as “the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing.”

The soul in this verse, then, means something quite different to the soul in Matthew 10:28. Here it means the power that makes our physical bodies alive. And every human has it. We are all living souls, meaning we all have this vital force within us that makes us living, breathing creatures.

It is not, however, immortal, because this vital force depends on our breathing, so when we stop breathing at death this vital force and its power to animate life in us comes to an end. A person could, therefore, kill the soul by simply stopping us breathing.

Jesus, however, talked about an essence which differs from the body, that cannot be killed by stopping someone breathing. If someone, therefore, managed to kill my soul by cutting off my breath, that need not be the end of me, because Jesus talked of a soul that can survive death and continue to live beyond it. And that’s the soul our soul needs. Our physical breathing soul needs the undying essence soul. Our soul needs to be given a soul.

It’s a pity that just one word “soul” describes both types of soul, because how can a soul be given to a soul? – but in the original language it makes total sense. Our physical soul can be given an immortal soul, so that death isn’t the end of us.

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