The Bible word “soul” as we have it in English, is a translation of three Hebrew words and one Greek word. The most common words are nephesh in the Hebrew and psuche in the Greek. Nephesh occurs 754 times and psuche 106 times.
Nephesh is translated as “soul”, but is also translated as “creature”, “life”, “persons”, “beast”, and “body.” It is also described as being dead, destined to die, or in danger of dying. It can also be delivered from death.
“Psuche,” the word for “soul” in the New Testament, is similarly also translated as “life”, “heart”, and “mind”. In the Septuagint version of the Scriptures (a translation into Greek of the Old Testament), it is used everywhere as a translation for the Hebrew word “nephesh.”
A Bible concept that is thought to be related to a “soul” is the concept of a person having a “spirit.” This is indeed another Bible word. It is the Hebrew word “ruach”, or the Greek word “pneuma.” This latter word has to do with “air” and it comes into play in English in such references as to a “pneumatic” drill or a “pneumatic” tire. The Bible understands “spirit” to be the life-force which a body has. It is associated with blowing, or breathing, or a current of air.
It may be surprising to some that neither the word “nephesh” nor “psuche” are described as conscious entities which live on, in a physically aware state, after death. Indeed, this concept is not stated anywhere in the Bible. It certainly uses the word “soul”, as we have seen, and the word “immortal” and associated words like “everlasting,” “eternal,” and “immortality” many times, but never once in association with each other. It does state that “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12 verse 7), but this returned spirit is then never described as having a conscious awareness of anything, as a free-living form, outside of the body. It therefore does not have an independent existence at any time. On the contrary, we are told that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18 verses 4 and 20).
Another word that the Bible uses in relation to man is “neshawmaw.” This means basically a “puff” or “wind” or “breath.”
It is evident, then, that what animals and humans in all of creation is a living force which is given to all by God, and when it is withdrawn, simply vanishes and leaves the former living creature in a state of unconscious death. The true hope of everyone, then, is for the life-force to be restored by God back to the body, and the body then restored to its former state, then granted immortality. This indeed is the destiny of all disciples of God, and will be achieved in the process we know of as resurrection. What a happy day that will be when Jesus returns as the Bible prophesies, and initiates that for all of us.