The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Biblical Meanings of "Soul"


I have stated on this forum that I do not believe in the existence of “souls” in the sense of a spiritual conscious entity that can exist apart from one’s body. Yet in the King James Version, the word “soul” is found 36 times in the New Testament, and 396 times in the Old Testament. If the usual current understanding of “soul” is incorrect, then what DOES the word mean?


In both New and Old Testaments, I find that there are basically four meanings of the word translated as “soul” (that is, the Greek word ψυχη (“psyche”) and the Hebrew word “nephesh.” Here are a few examples:

New Testament


Mark 8:35
For whoever would save his soul will lose it; and whoever loses his soul for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.


Matt 20:27,28
and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his soul as a means of liberation in place of many.

Matt 26:38
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” ."


Matt 6:25
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your soul, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not the soul more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Luke 12:19
And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’

Matt 12:18
(Quoting Isaiah)
"Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

Luke 14:26
"If any one comes to me and does not discount his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.

Sometimes there is a fine line, or perhaps even no line, between the meaning “being” and the meaning “self.”


Acts 3:23
[Quoting Moses]:
And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.

Acts 2:41
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Old Testament


Gen 2:7
then the Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Gen 1:20
swarms of creatures that have soul.

Leviticus 17:11 ‘For the soul of the flesh is in the blood …


Genesis 27:4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die."

Leviticus 19:28 You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the soul or tattoo any marks upon you: I am Yahweh.


Leviticus 21:1 Yahweh said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: No one shall defile himself for a dead soul among his relatives.


I think the existence of souls is that of the spirit, the spirit God gave to us. And yes I believe that spirit can and does transcend when we pass on from this fleshly life to the next… But I also realize that I go against many on this forum. So go figure.