Body, soul, spirit?

During a conversation with my friend, he mentioned that we have BODIES, which we all understand, and he said we have SOULS and SPIRITS and he quoted
1 Thess 5:23

May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have heard of this Trichotomy (taken from here ):

This Pauline system, presented to a world already prepossessed in favour of a quasi-Platonic Dualism, occasioned one of the earliest widespread forms of error among Christian writers – the doctrine of the Trichotomy. According to this, man, perfect man (teleios) consists of three parts: body, soul, spirit (soma, psyche, pneuma). Body and soul come by natural generation; spirit is given to the regenerate Christian alone.

But this doesn’t help me explain it well, just that it is wrong to think this. Any help would be nice.

In most cases the term spirit and soul are interchangeable. Following is a reply from Catholic Answers:

A: The terms “soul” and “spirit” are used in different senses in the Bible (Catechism of the Catholic Church 363). Genesis 2:7 states that God formed man’s body from the ground, breathed into him the breath (spirit) of life, and so “man became a living soul” (literal translation). Here the term “soul” is used to refer to the whole man, composed of both body and spirit. The same use is found when we describe a shipwreck and say things like “70 souls were lost,” meaning 70 people died.

A different use is found in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4, where John sees the souls of those who have been slain for the gospel. Here “soul” obviously does not refer to the whole, embodied person, but to the immaterial part, the spirit, that survives death.

In two Bible verses (1 Thess. 5:23 and Heb. 4:12) “soul” and “spirit” seem to be used in distinct senses, but this does not prove the existence of two immaterial substances in man. The authors use Hebrew parallelism for poetic effect; they are not talking about constituent parts of man.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also sheds light on this issue: “Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit . . . The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. ‘Spirit’ signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can graciously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God” (CCC 367).

I now understand the interchangeable of soul and spirit.

Please shed some light into the followings:

A. Please correct my understandings:
We human beings have physical body and soul (spirit).
When we die, we give up our body, but we still have spirit (soul).
Our spirit is like the angel, which is pure spirit.
Our soul (spirit) can sin and thus our soul needs to grow spiritually when we are alive AND after death.

B. My questions:
Can our spirit sin after death?
Can our spirit grow after death?
Angel is pure spirit, having no body and soul.
But there are fallen angels. Thus, pure spirit will sin as well?

Thanks in advance and God bless!


When we die, we give up our body, but we still have spirit (soul).

The separation of our body from our soul is only temporary. At the resurrection, our soul will be reunited with our glorified body.

Our spirit is like the angel, which is pure spirit.

Our soul is similar to an angel’s in that it is immaterial - but the soul of an angel is different from the soul of a human.

Our soul (spirit) can sin and thus our soul needs to grow spiritually when we are alive AND after death.
(and your question - “Can our spirit grow after death?” )

It depends upon what you mean by “grow spiritually”. We will be cleansed of any remaining sin, and we will come to see God face to face, etc. But, we will be unable to merit greater rewards once we have died. The time for “meriting” is while we are alive on earth.

B. My questions:
Can our spirit sin after death?

Those souls who are saved cannot sin after death.

Concerning those souls who are damned - I believe they continue in their sin/sinning (eg. continue hating).

Angel is pure spirit, having no body and soul.

Yes, they are pure spirit.
I don’t know if it’s philosophically or theologically correct to ever use the term “soul” in connection with angels (angelic soul) or not . The soul is the principle of life [thus vegetative (plant) souls, animal souls, and human souls]. Angels are also living. But I don’t know if the term only is applicable to the principle of life in material living things. Angels of course are not material beings. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable in philosophy and theology can answer this question for us.

But there are fallen angels. Thus, pure spirit will sin as well?

Yes, angels were also able to sin. They were created with a free will and subjected to a test. Some rebelled, others chose to remain faithful to God.


see this short thread about SOUL & SPIRIT

The following is from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott:
( )

Again **incompatible with Church dogma is the trichotomism **taught by Plato, the gnostics, manichaeans, apollinarians, and in recent times also by GUnther, **according to which man is composed of three essential component parts, the body, an animal soul, and a spiritual soul **(aap~, rfroxtJ, 1TvdJ/La).

~ 14. The Essential Constituent Parts of Human Nature

The 8th General Council of Constantinople (869-870) rejected the doctrine of the two souls, and laid down the Catholic dogma that man possesses only one single spiritual soul: unam animam rationabilem et intellectualem habere hominem. D 338. The spiritual soul is the principle of the spiritual mental life, and at the same time, the principle of the corporeal (vegetative and sensitive) life. D 1655•

According to the teaching of Holy Scripture, man is composed of two essential component parts, and will again be resolved into two parts. Gn. 2, 7: “And the Lord God formed man out of the slime of the earth, and breathed in his face the breath of life (spiraculum vitae=life principle, soul), and man became a living souL” Pro. 12, 7: “Think of thy Creator … , before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the Spirit of God who sent it.” C£ Mt. 10,28; I Cor. 5, 3; 7,34•

The Fathers defend dichotomism notably against the Christologically false teaching of Apo!linaris of Laodicea founded on trichotomism. The locution “Spirit and Soul” serves on occasion as a designation of the higher and the lower soul-life, without involving the distinction between two principles. In Holy Writ the distinction between spirit and soul arises sometimes through the parallelism of Hebraic poetry, for example, Luke I, 46, et seq.

does that mean that a Catholic ***has ***to believe in dichotomism…or? H

Yes, it is considered “De fide” (dogma) that man consists of two essential parts; a material body and a spiritual soul.

The Council of Constantinople in 869-870 AD condemned trichotomism. Here is a quote from the Council Canons (as recorded in Denzinger’s “The Sources of Catholic Dogma”:
Although the Old and New Testaments teach that man has one rational and intellectual soul, and all the Fathers speaking the word of God and all the teachers of the Church declare the same opinion, certain persons giving attention to the inventors of evil, have reached such a degree of impiety that they impudently declare that man has two souls, and by certain irrational attempts “through wisdom which has been made foolish” (I Cor. 1:20), they try to strengthen their own heresy. … this holy and universal Synod with a loud voice declares anathema all inventors and perpetrators of such impiety and those believing things similar to these, and it defines and promulgates that no one have or keep in any way the statutes of the authors of this impiety. If, however, anyone should presume to act contrary to this holy and great Synod, let him be anathema, and let him be separated from the faith and worship of Christians.
They didn’t mince words back in those days!

The Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council taught the positive doctrine that man is composed of both body and spirit; the Council of Constantinople defends the same teaching by condemning a heresy (man composed of three parts – a body and two souls) that had arisen.

If it helps, consider how we often speak of the body and blood of Our Lord - where the blood is not some totally separate constituent part of a human person. Rather, it is included in the body. (That is, when we say man is composed of body and soul ---- the blood is included in the constituent part termed “body” it is part of the body.) When it comes to the soul, we can consider it as having spiritual powers and powers conveying physical life to the body. Both are included in the soul.

Hope this helps.


:eek: you said it.

I don’t (yet) know anything about gnostiscm and its relation to tri/dichotism.

going to check out this Apollinaris character…
thanks H

Let us know what you find, especially considering the “higher” and “lower” parts of the soul as that appears to be the subtle crux of his error.

Also, as you linked to my comments from earlier – if you come across anything which talks about the soul of sperm (the seed) … :wink: Being as I have seen very little on that point – myself…

Pax Christi.

Actually, the “let him be anathema” phrase, often used in dogmatic decrees to refute heresy, comes straight from Scripture - where St. Paul warns about heretical teachings. St. Paul wasn’t one to mince words either.
Gal 1:8-9 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
(The Greek word translated above as “accursed” is translated as “anathema” in some Bibles.)


I must have run across a similar discussion in these forums a few days ago.

I think there was a post with a quote from C.S.Lewis, to the effect that we are spirits that possess bodies. That would be easily attributable to the previous quote from Genesis.

Hi Nita!!

Yes, and though I know not the whole of the word’s origin –
the two parts are ana (again) thema (theme) – to re-theme or theme again; My memory links it to non Israelites who “re-decorated” the temple in honor of their gods. (could be wrong, tho).

Levit 27:28 παν δε αναθεμα ο εαν αναθη ανθρωπος τω κυριω απο παντων οσα αυτω εστιν απο ανθρωπου εως κτηνου

but all anathema – if the “man-forfeit” to the Lord – from all …

Using the RKB:
Levit 27:28 – What is forfeit to the Lord, whether man or beast or piece of ground, can neither be sold nor be redeemed; death is the only way.

Or again, in another sense;
Mark 14:71 – what Peter does to himself…

Or again, My favorites, in Luke 21:5
και τινων λεγοντων περι του ιερου οτι λιθοις καλοις και αναθημασιν κεκοσμηται ειπεν

There were some who spoke to him of the temple, of the noble masonry, and the offerings which adorned it.

I wonder what the theme of those offerings was…

(The Greek word translated above as “accursed” is translated as “anathema” in some Bibles.)

According to my Strong’s dictionary, the Greek word (G331) translated as “accursed,” is “anathema” (ἀνάθεμα), and means “excommunicated” (among other things).

Caveat: I’m no Greek expert, far from it. Take this for what it’s worth - about 2 cents!

God bless us all,


I came across the following Words:

(Heb 4:12) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

It seems to me that soul and spirit are different.
Please shed some light into it.

God bless!

Both are part of the soul just as both “joints and marrow” are part of the body.

I think, (but not positive), in connection with the higher and lower aspects of soul-life (see Post #6, underlined segment), “soul” is sometimes used to refer to the soul’s power to give physical life (to our bodies) and “spirit” would refer to the soul’s power of intellect and will.

Please can you link me to the page where CA said all this?

Spirit, I think, is a more general term. Soul is the spiritual energy that is our own particular unique awareness. That’s how I conceptualize it, anyway.


er. 23. Spirit, and soul. The former marks the understanding, the latter the will: hence these two terms give the two principal faculties of the soul. (Bible de Vence) end quote

This stems from the “HOW” of Gen 1:26-27 compared to John 4: 23-24

Gen.1: 26 to 27
[26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them"

John.4 Verses 23 to 24
[23] But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. [24**] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."






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