Author: Esau Posted: 03/15 11:09 AM
Having tried scouring online dictionaries for definitively different etymologies or definitions of the two words and failed, I took comfort in reading that the same confusion occurred in the minds of the translators of the KJV (from this article by Frank R. Zindler in “The Probing Mind”): http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/mind.html
the Hebrew word neshamah (literally meaning 'breath') is translated as 'spirit' x2 as 'soul' x1
the Hebrew-Aramaic word ruach (literally meaning 'wind') is translated as 'spirit' x240 as 'mind' x6
the word nephesh (literally meaning 'breath') is translated as 'soul' x428 times as 'mind' x15 as 'ghost' x2 as 'life' x119
the Greek word pneuma (literally meaning 'breath') is translated as 'ghost' x91 (including the rendering 'Holy Ghost') as 'spirit' x292
the word psyche (literally meaning 'breath') is translated as 'soul' x58 as 'mind' x3 as life' x40
He argues that the etymolgies of both words ultimately lead back to ancient words for 'breath' or 'wind' or 'air', which is easy to see with “spirit” (from the Latin spirare, to breathe). This leads him to conclude that “the derived meanings were an outgrowth of the inability of primitive people to solve a basic biological puzzle, namely, what constitutes the difference between a live body and a dead one?” Their solution: living things breathe, dead things do not.
He adds later that Quote: When a man sneezed, his spirit was forcefully ejected from his body, and one had to say "God bless you" or make a magical gesture, such as the sign of the cross, very quickly, before evil spirits could come to take over the momentarily spiritually vacant carcass.
Like the translators of the Bible, I’m still not clear on the difference. I might say facetiously, as a Scot, that 'whisky' is a spirit and not a soul, although it may good for the soul. Or maybe not. But then there’s the etymological complication that the word 'whisky' is a Sassenach attempt at transliterating the Gaelic uisge beatha or 'water of life' and that’s another confusion; of 'spirit' with 'life'. *sigh* (source)