June 1, 2007
A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and
understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

The Soul of Man

By A. Disciple

I have lost my soul.

It is a fact, because what I thought to be my soul never existed.  Therefore I have lost it, and it is a good loss

How so?

It was standing in the way of the Light.

Nevertheless, I was able to get to the Truth by working through it, but the Truth was never so clear as now. Furthermore, you may also lose your soul if you continue reading here.

You ask, "Doesn't the Bible speak of the soul?"

Oh, yes, in many places.  The King James Version records it no less than 134 times in the Psalms alone!  It even has the Lord Jesus speaking of the soul, as does the Revised Standard Version and, to my knowledge, all commercially published English versions.  Look at this:

Mk.12:30 (KJV) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

Mk.12:30 (RSV): and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

But now see this from the Faithful New Testament:

Mk.12:30 (FNT) and you will agape-love your God from all your heart, and all your psyche-life, and all your mind, and all your strength.

The Faithful New Testament renders psyche-life rather than soul.  It does that because this word, in the Greek New Testament, is psyche (ψυχὴ) and means but one of three kinds of life, there and in the Septuagint. Because it is a complex word with diverse definitions in the Greek, the Faithful New Testament preserves the original Greek (psyche) and the general definition (life) and leaves it to the reader to decide what is meant by psyche-life.  The Faithful New Testament site also provides an excellent summary of the significance of psyche in the New Testament.  I am doing something different here, but complimentary, by narrowing the focus from the New Testament to the Gospels and, more specifically, to the utterances of Jesus of Nazareth.

Our question now is not "What does psyche mean in the New Testament and the Septuagint?"  Rather, it is "What  does psyche mean to the Lord?"  What does he intend that we understand when he utters it? We examine here his utilization of psyche to draw out its meaning in the Word.

I. It is One of Only Two Elements of the Human Individual

The two are soma and psyche -- body and life.  They are the body and the life that is in the body.

The Lord mentions these together as indicating the totality of our elementary components.  In the following texts from the Faithful New Testament, psyche-life is soul in the widely read English versions.

Matt. 10:28 -- And do not fear those killing the body but unable to kill the psyche-life, but fear rather the [one] able to destroy both body and psyche-life in Gehenna.

Matt. 6:25 Because of this I say to you, be not concerning yourself about your psyche-life: what you shall eat, nor with what you will clothe your body. Is not your psyche-life more than food and your body [more] than clothing?

Psyche also appears independently with no reference to the body:

Mt.16:25 For whoever wishes to save his psyche-life will lose it, and whoever loses his psyche-life because of me will find it. 26 For how will [a] man be profited if he should gain the whole world and forfeit his own psyche-life? Or what will [a] man give in exchange for his psyche-life?

Mk.10:45 For even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his psyche-life [a] ransom for many.

We may readily infer from these utterances of the Lord that, to him, psyche refers to the life that is in the body, apart from which there is only a dead body.  This need not be a mystery because it is the very same "life" that each of us calls "my life."  Further, like the body, each psyche is that of an individual. The Word does not apply it to a corporate entity, such as a nation.

We also see that while the body without the psyche is dead and lifeless, the psyche without the body has its continuing existence.  One may kill the body -- literally destroy it  -- by taking away the psyche without destroying the latter (Matt. 10:28 above). So, these two, soma (body) and psyche (life), are the fundamental components of each human individual.  I suggest that, somewhat as hydrogen and oxygen are the two elemental components of water, so soma and psyche are the two elemental components of the individual human. There are no more elements in us.   Everything is included in one or the other as, for example, the lungs are included in the body (soma).  Or, to take a common name for corresponding components, each has its own heart.

II. Psyche is One of Two Varieties of Life/

Psyche is the life of the body, but each of us has the promise, on a certain condition, of inheriting another variety of life specified in the Greek Gospels and by the Lord as zoe.  These two varieties of life, psyche (ψυχη) and zoe (ζωη) are related as indicated by these utterances of the Lord:

Jn.12:25 The [one] philia-loving his psyche-life will lose it, and the [one] hating his psyche-life in this world will guard it to zoe-life eternal.

Mk.10:29 Jesus said: Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or mothers or fathers or wives or children or fields because of me and because of the good-news, 30 who does not receive hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields with persecutions, and in the coming age eternal zoe-life.

One does not possess psyche and zoe simultaneously.  After psyche leaves the body and under the condition stated, it rests in Hades until the Resurrection when it becomes zoe.  Otherwise, psyche perishes after abiding in Hades until the Judgment.  This is the destiny of psyche.

Mt.25:46 And these will go into eternal punishment, but the just into eternal zoe-life.

There was a time, as a Christian, when I exhorted others to believe in Jesus for the salvation of their souls, thinking that this refers to a mysterious, eternal, spiritual entity that is the essence of the individual person. The Lord Jesus does not speak of such an individual essence but, when uttering psyche, he speaks of the life that is the life of each individual's body.  Every living, breathing creature has it's psyche -- that which enlivens it's physical body.  You may need to ponder it a bit, but you can imagine this insight as greatly simplifying theology and evangelism.  I have, at this point in my existence, only my body and my life -- my psyche and my soma.  If I meet the conditions stated by the Lord and established by the Father, I will not save my body (soma) but I will save my life (psyche).  I will keep it for life eternal (zoe).  Again, as stated in John 12:25 (above):

. . . the [one] hating his psyche-life in this world will guard it to zoe-life eternal.

Certain utterances of the Lord, taken in isolation, seem to state that one receives zoe while yet in this life, in possession of psyche.  For example:

Jn.5:24 Truly truly I say to you that the [one] hearing my word and believing the [one] having sent me has eternal zoe-life, and does not come into judgment, but is moved out of death into zoe-life.

This, standing alone, suggests that one may receive zoe as soon as hearing and believing the Word.  But continue to this:
Jn.5:28 Be not marveling at this, that [the] hour comes in which all those in the graves will hear his voice, 29 and those having done good will come out to [the] resurrection of zoe-life, [but] those having done [as a practice] worthless [things] will come out to [the] resurrection of judgment.

When we get the complete Word, uncontaminated with false doctrine, we see that the conversion of psyche to zoe through believing the Word depends on keeping the faith until the end of soma.  This concept is further elaborated in the Parable of the Sower, where the seed (the Word, logos) springs to life in the believer, yet dies away when the believer falls away.  A life that appears and subsequently dies cannot be eternal; therefore this attribution of zoe to the believer is conditional on perseverance, such that the actual possession of zoe does not come to pass until the judgment.

Go to this site for a listing of the biblical uses of psyche.

III. What is the Origin of Psyche?

I am not asking about the origin of soul, which has no origin.  As a false conception, the soul has been twisted and mangled since the first glimmerings of religion.  It goes back beyond the church, beyond Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Zoroaster, the ancient Egyptians and on into the depth of human origins.  No, we ask only about the origin of psyche.

If you go to the Old Testament, to Genesis, and if you examine the Hebrew, you will discover that the man (Adam) has the same description as all things that breathe -- and that after having received the breath of the Creator.  The Hebrew identifys all breathing creatures as chai nephesh.  So, in Gen. 1:24 (cattle, creeping things, beasts of the earth) and in Gen. 2:7 (Adam, man) -- all are chai nephesh. The Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament that was the Greek scripture of Jesus and the Apostles, has psyche zosan (psyche-zoe) for both man and beast. Genesis has the creator giving special attention to Adam to make him a breather, but it also posits the existence of other living creatures as breathers without explaining how they became such -- except as the result of the creator having said, Let the earth bring forth . . .(Gen.1:24). The apparent sole distinction is that the Creator, in inbreathing Adam, put his pneuma (spirit) into the man, whereas other breathing life forms just breathe without explanation and without pneuma.  But we know that the animals and other breathers partake of the same air (pneuma) as do we. There being no distinction in what all breathers breathe, there need be no distinction in their origins or in the origin of psyche, whether in man or beast.  One cannot find a satisfactory explanation in Genesis for the origin of psyche beyond let the earth bring forth.  

If you look to Jesus to learn details of the origin of psyche, again you will be disappointed.  His only reference to the creation of man is to state the origin of the sexes (Gen. 1:27, Mt.19:4, Mk.10:6).  He assumes the existence of psyche without explanation.  Instead, I suggest that we look to evolutionary science where one can find a rational explanation that makes sense in every way.  It being the same breath -- whether in man or beast -- indicates that there is a common origin for both, though Genesis strives, contrary to the facts of nature and to its own record, to provide a unique origin of psyche in man. Furthermore, Genesis is consistent with evolution when we read, Let the waters bring forth . . (Gen. 1:20) and Let the earth bring forth (Gen. 1:24).  

I conclude from these observations that the Bible does not supply the origin of psyche.  Instead, we must look to evolution to explain the psyche that is in us, which in essence is the very same that is in all air breathing creatures. Again, it is the life that enlivens the body of both man and beast without which there is only a dead body.  I do not imply that psyche is simple.  No man has yet understood it or created it in his laboratory.

The destiny of the human psyche is unique. It has the same origin as the psyche of all breathing creatures, but we determine the destiny of the psyche that enlivens each of our bodies.  Here man and beast are distinct.  

IV. We Find Psyche in The Great Commandment

One man asked the Lord what was the great commandment of the law.  He responded by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4.  I have shown this in the first column below, and each of the synoptic versions of his answer in the other columns.  Luke has him responding to a different question, but his response is essentially the same.
Deut.6:4:(RSV) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; Mt.22:37 (FNT) So he said to him: Mk.12:29  (FNT) Jesus answered that: Here is the first: Be hearing, Israel, [the] Lord your God is one Lord, Lk.10:27 (FNT) So answering he said:
5: and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,* and with all your might. You will agape-love the Lord your God in all your heart and in all your psyche-life and in all your mind. 30 and you will agape-love your God from all your heart, and all your psyche-life, and all your mind, and all your strength. You will agape-love the Lord your God in your whole heart and in your whole psyche-life and in your whole strength and in your whole mind, . . ..
* From the Hebrew, nephesh, rendered psyche by the Septuagint 28 So he said to him: You have answered correctly. Do this and you will zoe-live.

All of the above NT texts (shown from the Faithful New Testament only) render psyche as soul in many if not all of the most widely read English versions.  Now if we go to the English dictionary to define soul so as to pinpoint what all these version are saying to us, we find:

1: the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life

But we have already defined psyche in the Word, above, as the individual life.  The common dictionary definition has to mean something other than the individual life -- the immaterial essence, or the animating principle, or the actuating cause of that life.  This runs head on into the Lord's use of the Greek word and is wholly misleading. Psyche is the individual life!  That is it, plain and simple.  Go to this footnote (#10) in the Faithful New Testament to read a more precise and accurate definition of both psyche (ψυχη) and zoe (ζωη).  

The above comparisons of the Synoptic renderings of the Great Commandment with its earlier statement in Deuteronomy show many differences, which would make an interesting study.  However, our purpose here is not to focus on the differences but on what they hold in common -- and every one of them (as also the Septuagint) carefully preserves psyche from the Greek as Deuteronomy preserves its equivalent, nephesh, in the Hebrew.  The most commonly utilized English versions of the scriptures, beginning with the earliest ones and in particular the King James Version, have grossly misled the English speaking world by rendering psyche as that ancient nonentity called the soul.  They have also encouraged the fallacious conviction that there is in us some immaterial essence, or animating principle or actuating cause of our individual lives.  This needs to be saved, they believe, so the whole of Christendom rushes about preaching their gospel of soul salvation, concerning a nonentity!

V. There Are Other Human Features

We find three of these in the Great Commandment. They are the heart, the mind, and the strength.  These are not elemental components as are the body (soma) and the life (psyche).  They are features of the two that develop out of the actions and interactions of life and body in the course of exposure to the world. The individual, as a result of awareness of the surrounding world and its contents, develops other features with or without conscious effort. They are not the products of the body (soma) alone, or of the life (psyche) alone, but of the two operating together and interacting with the world. We can list yet other such features, including volition, conscience, and emotion, but these all find their residence in one of the two elemental ones.

The life and the body are given in the womb and produce the individual self. Elementary! What we do with them produces the heart, the mind and the strength that we each now possess.  For this reason the individual bears responsibility for the character of the three.  Let us look at each individually so as to support this statement.

First, consider the heart.  By this we now indicate the heart of the psyche, not the heart of the soma (there is no reference to this in the Word). The NT Greek is kardia (καρδία) and, to understand our responsibility and accountability for its development, we need only refer to relevant utterances of the Lord.  We hear these plain words addressed to his disciples:

Mk7:20 But he was saying to them that: What comes out of man, this defiles the man. 21 For from inside the heart of men proceed out evil reasonings, fornications, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, avarices, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, [an] evil eye, slander, arrogance, 23 all these wicked [things] from inside proceed out and defile the man.

Lk.1614 Now the Pharisees being philia-lovers of money heard all these [things], and were ridiculing him. 15 And he said to them: You are those justifying yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts, for the [thing] exalted among men is [an] abomination before God.

Lk.24:25 And he said to them: O unintelligent and slow in heart to be believing in all that the prophets spoke.

These words are plain enough, but then we have this:

Mt.5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they will see God.

Mt.11:28 29 Come to me all [you who are] exhausted and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your psyche-lives . 30 For my yoke is kind and my burden is light.

Each is responsible to the Father for what we admit into our hearts.  Is the heart defiled, or is it pure?  Are we gentle and humble in heart as was our Lord Jesus?  Each is the doorkeeper of the heart and wholly accountable for its contents.

Second, consider the mind.  The NT Greek is διάνοιας (dianoia, dianoias).  Now, please hear this factual statement: the only time Jesus uttered this word in the NT Greek is in quoting the Great Commandment, Mark 12:30 and parallels.  He did not introduce it into his teaching, and so did not need it to express the Word of God. But if you will examine the activity that grows out of the heart in Mk. 7:20 above, you will see immediately that these are expressions of what we would call our minds. The "evil reasonings" of which he speaks are products of the mind.  If one examines the others, you will probably agree that they are also products of the mind.  All require thinking.  The Lord did not need to mention the mind because the mind and everything mental is all wrapped up in the heart.

Third, we go to the to the term rendered in English as might, strength, power, etc in the Great Commandment.  The Greek is ischus (ἰσχύς), a substantive that speaks of the extent of one's resolve. You may wish to check, as I have done, to learn that this word, ἰσχύς (ischus) does not occur at any other place in the Word.  Like dianoia (mind) the Lord quotes it in the Great Commandment but never mentions it again.  I have concluded that this also reflects a state of the heart, and is not a separate entity.  The Great Commandment is commanding us to love the Father wholeheartedly!  With all our determination, our strength, power, might, all of which reflects a state of the heart.  

Everything pertains to our hearts. We are given bodies (soma) and lives (psyche) and what develops from that is the heart and everything in it, for which we are responsible. We are responsible for the mind and the strength of resolve. We are responsible for the will --  or volition -- indeed, everything.  

There is body (soma), there is life (psyche) and from these come the heart, the repository of all other features.  There is no soul.  

VI. Belief in the Soul Obscures the Great Principle

Please go to our Great Principle page for the appearances of this fundamental principle in the Word. The first thing to note is how belief in the soul as a real entity has influenced the translations of the Bible.  I am going to focus on the King James Version that has had more influence through four hundred years than the more recent ones, though one can find the same failing in many of them.  The Orthodox Church also recommends the KJV. One also finds the same thing in the Catholic Douay Version.  We begin here with the Great Principle from the KJV:

Mt.16:24: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

You see the underscored words, life  and soul?  It is the same word in the Greek.  Look for confirmation from the Faithful New Testament, where you find that I have again underscored the corresponding words.

Mt.16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples: Whoever wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his psyche-life will lose it, and whoever loses his psyche-life because of me will find it. 26 For how will [a] man be profited if he should gain the whole world and forfeit his own psyche-life? Or what will [a] man give in exchange for his psyche-life?  

It is the very same word, psyche, in all four instances!  Now by carefully examine the FNT version and, knowing the word is the same, you discover that the context dictates that the same English word should hold in each case.  What does one lose on a cross?  One loses one's life (psyche).  Why does one not take up his cross?  Because he loves his life (psyche) and does not want to lose it!  So, it is life (psyche), life (psyche), life (psyche) and life (psyche) in every instance!

This being the case, why do the translators make a difference, and serve up "soul" in vs. 26 and not in vs. 25?  Well, just look at the implication of soul in vs. 25 and you should easily see why they do not serve up soul there.

25: For whosoever will save his soul shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his soul for my sake shall find it.

That simply would not do for a Christian -- Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox!  They want everyone to save his/her soul!  The "salvation of the soul" is their great calling, the ultimate goal of their gospel!  The only lexical alternative in the Greek is life, and so life it must be in vs. 25.  Not comprehending the Great Principle, they stumble over life in vs. 25 also, but it becomes palatable to them when they read the entire context with their understanding and translation that focuses on the soul.  Here it is again (KJV):

Mt.16:24: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Do you see that the presence of soul in vs. 26 obscures the significance of the entire utterance?  It appears that we are not speaking of life at all, but of the soul that the Christian surely does not want to lose, though he gain the whole world.  The Greek serves up the same word, psyche, in each case, but this switch to soul conceals the significance of the entire utterance.


The soul, as an idea, has existed in the minds of men since very ancient times.  Perhaps since they first began to conceive of a continuation of life after death.  It appears in classical Greek literature and philosophy, and seems so natural and necessary to eternal life as to have easily entered into Christian doctrine at a very early time. It is present in Irenaeus, Clement and Augustine.  When we listen to the Word as spoken by the Lord Jesus, we learn otherwise.  Soul is so powerfully impressed on the mind in Christendom that it takes a while for the Truth to get through, if a all.  For me it was more than fifty years of discipleship before I dared question its real existence.

Yet all Christendom dedicates itself to the salvation of the soul!  This fact is the confirmation of the gross deception that rules in Christendom.  The soul of man is, in Truth and reality, a nonentity -- it does not exist. Therefore, all Christendom is much ado about nothing!

Yes, I have lost my soul, which is to lose nothing more than a false perception inherited from the ancients. It is a good loss.