What is the spirit of man?

Paul the apostle in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 makes an interesting statement about the human makeup that appears to be more pagan Greek than biblical Hebraic in nature.

And the very Elohim of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray Elohim your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. (emphasis added)

In the highlighted phrase above, each of the words body, soul and spirit are separated by the word  and. This same grammatical construction exists in the biblical Greek as well: “spirit and [Gr. kai] soul and [Gr. kai] body.” This shows the deliberate separateness of these three components of a person’s makeup. In Paul’s mind, the soul and spirit of man were two separate entities. While the ancient Greek philosophers had a clear understanding of this, the Hebraic Bible writers seemed to have often conflated the idea of the soul and spirit of mans; that is to say, they didn’t clearly distinguish between the two. This doesn’t, however, mean that they didn’t understand the uniqueness of man’s spirit, as opposed to his soul, as we will soon see. What are we to make of this?

If we are to believe Paul, man is a tripartite being composed of a body, a soul and a spirit. In biblical Hebraic thought as presented in the Tanakh (Old Testament), the soul and spirit are virtually indistinguishable and the terms nephesh (soul) and ruach (spirit) are sometimes even used interchangeably. Paul, however, in his letter to the saints at Thessalonica puts a finer  point on the differences between the soul (or the mind, will and emotions of a person, or their unique personality) and spirit of man (or that divine spark in each person that, when spiritually energized by the Spirit of Elohim, is what connects a person to Elohim, who is a Spirit) by differentiating between the two. Additionally, the separateness of man’s soul and spirit is specifically referred to in Hebrew 4:12 where we read,

For the word of Elohim is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (emphasis added)

The fact that  Paul mentions the spirit first in 1 Thess 5:23 seems to suggest that YHVH created the spirit of man first, then his soul, and then placed both of them in a physical body.

Bible Scriptures That Speak of the Personal Spirit of Man

While ostensibly the writers in the Tanakh may not have made as clear a delineation between the soul and spirit of man as the Greek philosophers or as Paul and the Continue reading


Is Your Personal Spirit Defiled or Clean?

2 Corinthians 7:1, Cleanse…the…spirit. The personal spirit of each person can be defiled by the sinfulness of the flesh, and thus needs cleansing. See notes at Heb. 9:13–14 and Exod 29:13, 17.

Hebrews 9:13–14, Purifying the flesh…cleansing your conscience. The Levitical sacrificial system was never able to atone for sin in the full sense. These sacrifices were effective only temporarily in that they had to be continually repeated. These sacrifices never mitigated YHVH’s judgment against sin. The Levitical sacrifices simply covered over sin, so that the sinner could stand before Elohim without being consumed by his righteous judgments. Only Yeshua’s death could satisfy Elohim’s judgment against sin. Only his atoning sacrifice could thoroughly wash away our sins, remove the death penalty, which is the wages or penalty of sin, and cleanse the sinner of the guilty conscience which resides in his personal spirit, so that one could “serve the living Elohim” with a clean slate. Sin can contaminate the spirit of man, which houses the conscience of man (2 Cor 7:1; see notes at Col 3:10). Only the blood of Yeshua can miraculously cleanse our flesh and spirit and bring us to perfect holiness in the fear of Elohim (ibid.) This Yeshua did in a spiritual sense in the spiritual temple in heaven, which is greater than the physical temple on earth, which was a mere copy or shadow of the one in heaven (Heb 8:3–6). The cleansing the temple system offered was physical and external, while the one Yeshua offers through the heavenly temple gives internal cleansing.

Exodus 29:13, 17, Entrails/inwards…legs. In the process of cleansing the animal to be sacrificed, there are two lessons here for us. First, Yeshua was perfect, totally clean and spotless Lamb of Elohim sacrificed for the sins of man. Second, the saints are to become living sacrifices (Rom 12:1–2). This means we are to be like Yeshua—totally clean on both the inside and outside. Yeshua rebuked the religious hypocrites of his day for being like whited sepulchres and for being like cups that were clean on the outside but dirty on the inside (Matt 23:26–27). As the sacrifice was laid on the alter (Exod 29:18), and as Yeshua went to the altar of the cross, so we must lay our lives down as a living sacrifice as well.