1 Corinthians 15:44 – “soul body / spiritual body.”

This is an excerpt from the Revised English Version® Commentary.

The Greek phrase translated in the REV as “soul body” is sōma psuchikos (#4983 sōma σῶμα; and #5591 psuchikos ψυχικός), and the Greek phrase translated “spiritual body” is sōma pneumatikos (#4983 sōma σῶμα; and #4152 πνευματικός; in the Greek, the noun “body” comes before the adjective, while in English we put the adjective first). The adjective psuchikos comes from the noun psuchē (#5590 ψυχή; pronounced, soo-kay’), which is usually translated as “soul,” and the adjective pneumatikos comes from the noun pneuma (#4151 πνεῦμα), which is usually translated as “spirit.”

The adjective psuchikos means “of, belonging to, somehow relating to, the ‘soul’ (psuchē),” and the adjective pneumatikos means “of, belonging to, somehow relating to, the ‘spirit’ (pneuma).” In this case, from the context and scope of Scripture we can see that the verse is saying that today we have a body that is related to the soul and “soul-powered,” while in the future we will have a body that is related to spirit, and “spirit-powered.”

The human body is now animated by what the Bible calls “soul,” but when believers are raised from the dead or changed at the Rapture, their bodies we will no longer be animated by soul, but will be animated by spirit. So, for example, Ezekiel 37:5-14 says that God puts ruach, “spirit,” into people, making them come alive. “Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves…I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.” (Ezek. 37:12-14 NRSV abridged). Unfortunately, many English versions translate the Hebrew word ruach in Ezekiel 37 as “breath” and not “spirit,” but some versions, such as the Douay-Rheims, NAB, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, and YLT, say “spirit” in these verses. A study of the whole Bible on this subject shows that God will put spirit into people’s dead bodies, which will then come to life (see commentary on John 3:3 and John 3:6) .

The phrase “soul body” seems awkward, but “soul” is not easily made into an adjective in English. “Spirit” is much easier, and becomes “spiritual,” but it seems the best we can do with “soul” is “soul body.” It is tempting to use the translation, “soul powered body,” but the soul does more than just power the body. Partly because of the difficulty with “soul body,” many versions translate sōma psuchikos as “natural body,” but that is not really what the verse is saying. The verse is not saying that our body is “natural,” it is saying that our body is animated by “soul.” This verse is contrasting our current soul-powered body, which will die, with our future pneumatikos body, a spirit-powered and spirit-enabled body that will live forever. Marvin Vincent correctly states that the phrase sōma psuchikos (“soul body”) “signifies an organism animated by psuche, soul” (Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament). And just as our “soul body” is animated by soul, so in the future our “spiritual body” will be animated by “spirit,” and it will live forever.

It is important that we do not become confused and think that when 1 Corinthians 15:44 says a “spiritual body,” it means a non-corporeal body, like a ghost. The meaning of a sōma pneumatikos (“spiritual body”) is clear from the context. A “soul body” is a body animated by soul, and a “spiritual body” is a body animated by spirit, not a body that has no physical substance and is immaterial.

When we are raised from the dead or changed at the Rapture, we will have a body like Jesus Christ has now (1 Cor. 15:48, 49; Phil. 3:21). When Jesus first appeared to his followers who were inside a room with locked doors, “they were terrified and frightened, and thought they were seeing a spirit [pneuma]” (Luke 24:37 REV). Those disciples had never seen a resurrected body, and because Jesus came into the locked room where they were staying, they thought they were seeing some kind of ghost-like being with a non-corporeal body. Jesus quickly corrected their misconception and said, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me, and see, for a spirit [pneuma] does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39 REV). Even in his resurrected body Jesus has flesh and bones, and we will too. However, our new flesh and bone body will not be powered by the soul that we have today, it will be powered by, and relate to, spirit.