The Division of the Soul

Who knew that the soul could be divided? The Hebrews’ author gets very existential in this text, perhaps saying more than he knew. We know that joints and marrow are distinctive tissues. We can actually see this in anatomy. Marrow exists within the bone, while joints connect bone to bone. They connected by extremely tough tissue called tendons. So the ability to separate these tissues must be with equipment that’s extremely sharp. So we might surmise that the connection between soul and spirit must be equally difficult to separate. This stands to reason, as we often see the two as synonyms, rather than distinctive elements. Is there support for this?

We are all born with souls. It is the very stuff of who we are. Without souls we are considered dead. It is the soul that gives life. In Greek it is the word used is psuche, which we often transliterate as psyche.

The spirit is a word we employ to describe the ethereal and intangible essence of bodiless entities. We employ this to describe ghosts, the Holy Spirit, and even high-alcohol content beverages. (I might put forward here that I believe the association between consuming “spirits” as alcoholic beverages gives the same warm feeling in the body as the presence of the Holy Spirit, hence, do not become drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.) the Greek term for spirit is pneuma. It is the same word used for “wind”.

With some basic information, we might see that the two words do describe two different things. A psyche is something we never see, but see the effects of, like behavior, presence of life and so forth. A pneuma is something we might have a concept of apart from the body, like a mist or vapor. But we always see the spirit as the more powerful of the two, since psyche is always associated with a human being while the spirit is not. That the two have such a strong connection in this verse might be new information for us. But let me show you why this connection exists.

When we are baptized into Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that presence of God introduced into our lives is intended to grow us spiritually into disciples. It is supposed to be a strong connection, as we work to discipline our lives, thoughts and intentions to be more Christ-like. But here comes the intent if this verse.

The Word of God (the Scripture given by the Holy Spirit) is living and active. Important to remember this. Since the word given by the Spirit separates soul from spirit, what is the nature of this separation? Simply? It is the separation of the will of the soul from the will of the spirit. The word of God makes that separation very stark. When we read the word of God, we find what He wants, and how that is often different from what we want. The word of God isn’t old and dead, like many religions of long ago. It is living and active, even to reach into your soul right now and make it plain to you what God wants. God isn’t an old god from an old faith. He is present. He is near, and He is speaking into you through His word. It is a powerful thing to be considered worthy of hearing the will and word of our Creator.

Help me Lord to listen to you today. I know that my will js not Your will, but help me each day to make it more so. I love you Lord, more than anything. Let my soul cleave into Thy Spirit that we may not be separated again. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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