2 Corinthians 7:1 (DRB):

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting sactification in the fear of God.

It is accepted that "Flesh" and "Soul=Psych" have defilement (filthiness), but "Spirit" has defilement!, This looks somehow strange.

How does the Spirit have defilement?

What are defilements of the Spirit?

The Greek text is clear, the word mentioned is: pneumatos (πνεύματος), not (ψυχή) psuche. There's clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is soulish

2 Corinthians 7:1 (GNT):

  1. ταύτας οὖν ἔχοντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας, ἀγαπητοί, καθαρίσωμεν ἑαυτοὺς ἀπὸ παντὸς μολυσμοῦ σαρκὸς καὶ πνεύματος, ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην ἐν φόβῳ Θεοῦ.

Thus, there are Spirit, Soul and Body (Flesh). And there are distinction between these three terms. Look 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ASV):

  1. And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 1
    Some associations in the flesh can be defiling (for example fornication). Some associations in a spiritual way can be defiling (for example idolatry). The exhortation is to be clean from all kinds of defilement, both natural (physical and material) and spiritual. I am surprised this is not clear.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 1, 2020 at 20:41
  • @NigelJ there are clear distinction between what is spiritual and what is soulish.
    – salah
    Apr 1, 2020 at 21:27
  • The text reads σαρκος και πνευματος, sarkos and pneumatos. Which words mean 'flesh' and 'spirit'. Psuche is the word usually translated 'soul'. Spiritual matters are to do with the soul. Fleshly matters are to do with the body.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 1, 2020 at 21:29
  • Please stop adding the hermeneutical-approaches tags to questions which do not explicitly discuss any hermeneutical approaches.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 2, 2020 at 0:22

3 Answers 3


The question contains an implicit assumption that the word "spirit" (pneuma) is the Holy Spirit. This assumption is untrue and there are numerous cases where this is obvious such as:

  • Rom 8:16, The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
  • 1 Cor 4:21, Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
  • Gal 6:1, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
  • Eph 4:23, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
  • 1 Peter 3:4, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

BDAG lists this meaning of "spirit" (pneuma), 3c, as, "a part of the human personality … spiritual state, state of mind, disposition". This meaning is equivalent to the English expression such as "the child displayed a very selfish spirit".

Thus the use of "spirit" in 2 Cor 7:1, to cleanse us from defilement of the spirit, is the same as saying we should rid ourselves of all bad and sinful attitudes. There is no suggestion here that the Holy Spirit is defiled because the text is discussing OUR spirit rather than God's Spirit or the Holy Spirit.

The rest of this text is Paul's plea to be pure in both body ("flesh") and mind ("spirit").

  • (+1) especially for quoting such helpful texts regarding spirit/Spirit.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 2, 2020 at 8:08

The word for "spirit" is πνεῦμα (pneuma). πνεύματος is the genitive case ("defilement of ...").

Paul does not always distinguish clearly between πνεῦμα and ψυχή (psyche) in his writings. This is explained at some length in Protopresbyter Michael Pomazanski's Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

The spiritual principle in man which is opposed to the body is designated in Sacred Scripture by two terms which are almost equal in significance: “spirit” and “soul.” The use of the word “spirit” in place of “soul,” or both terms used in exactly the same meaning, is encountered especially in the Apostle Paul. This is made evident, for example, by placing the following texts side by side: Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (I Cor. 6:20); Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (II Cor. 7:1); and, We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul (Heb. 10:39)1,2

On other occasions, however, he makes a distinction between "spirit" as the highest faculty of the "soul":

In addition, there are two passages in the writings of this Apostle where soul and spirit are mentioned side by side, and this gives occasion to ask the question: Is the Apostle not indicating that, besides the soul, there is also a “spirit” that is an essential part of human nature? Likewise, in the writings of certain Holy Fathers, particularly in the ascetic writings, a distinction is made between soul and spirit. The first passage in the Apostle Paul is in the Epistle to the Hebrews: The word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than any two-edged 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 (Heb. 4:12). Another passage from the same Apostle is in the Epistle to the Thessalonians: Your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thes. 5:23). It is not difficult, however, to see that in the first passage the spirit is to be understood not as a substance that is separate and independent from the soul, but only as the inward and most hidden side of the soul. Here the relation of soul and spirit is made parallel to the relationship between the members of the body and the brain; and just as the brain is the inward part of the same bodily nature — or is a content as compared to its container — so also the spirit is evidently considered by the Apostle as the hidden part of the soul of a man.

In later writings of the Greek Church Fathers, this higher faculty would be referred to as νοῦς (nous). "The soul does not have the nous as something distinct from itself," wrote John of Damascus (676-749), "but as its purest part, for as the eye is to the body, so is the nous to the soul (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, II.12). A note in the above reference comments:

The Patristic consensus on this subject is that man is composed of body and soul, and the spirit (nous) is the highest and purest part of the soul. The spirit (nous) of man is created, and must never be confused with the Holy Spirit, Who is uncreated. At Baptism, however, the Uncreated Grace of God, which man lost at the fall, is once again united with the nous. Thus, St. Diadochus of Photike (400-500) writes: "The Grace of God dwells in the very depths of the soul - that is to say, in the nous (On Spiritual Knowledge, No. 79).3

1. Tr. from Russian; 3rd ed., St. Herman Press, 2005; p.135
2. The author follows the Patristic convention here and attributes the Epistle to the Hebrews to Paul
3. On Spiritual Knowledge is translated from Greek in The Philokalia, Vol. 1 (Faber and Faber, 1979), p.280

  • to say that Paul doesn't clearly distinguish between spirit and soul is to say that the Bible is not infallible. Of course Paul means what he says.
    – salah
    Apr 2, 2020 at 10:49

Our human spirit, soul, and body are distinct, but not separate, except in the case of death where spirit and soul are separate from the body. At least, the 'first death.' Paul, as well as the entire Old and New Testaments, are consistent, as they should be, with this 'anthropology.' Although sometimes in common parlance, as well as some Christians' outright teaching, 'spirit' and 'soul' are made synonyms out of soulishness and ignorance (1 Cor 2--3; Heb 4:12). Further eating of the word of God can save us from that.

Jehovah God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Gen 2:7. Jehovah God formed man from the dust of the ground [body] and breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life, and man became a living soul [soul, person].

The burden of the word of Jehovah concerning Israel. Thus declares Jehovah, who stretches forth the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth and forms the spirit of man within him. Zech 12:1. Our body contacts the physical world and houses our person, our soul. We're created in the image of God, with soul [mind, emotion, will--which can be shown Scripturally], and likeness of God--somehow even in our appearance. But our human spirit is for God's purpose. Although angels are 'spirits' in terms of immateriality, neither they nor other creations except us have a human spirit. To contact...God. Directly. This can also be seen in the difference between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. One can [think] one knows about God, or knows about good and evil; but salvation, and God's eternal purpose, comes by receiving and experiencing God personally. Which is done by and with and in the spirit (lower-case 's'). Of course our heart, our soul is involved, and needs to 'repent,' to be opened and turned to Christ. But in our spirit we contact...The Spirit (upper-case 'S,' in English). The Triune God, embodied in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected to both accomplish redemption as well as become a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45). Now the Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17). Then, he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor 6:17). This eternal forgiveness, redemption, and salvation, is made possible by the shed blood of Jesus. Blessed are those who wash their robes that they may have right to the tree of life and may enter by the gates into the city (Rv 22:14).

Anyway, Salah, How does the Spirit have defilement? What are defilements of the Spirit? The divine Spirit (God) has no defilement or defilements. Nor can He. In the fall of man, when Adam (and Eve) sinned by eating something sinful--namely the nature of Satan, their body became sinful 'flesh,' their soul became enemy and rival of God, and their spirit became dormant, deadened. Defilements of the flesh are what our flesh does and receives. Defilement of our spirit is defilement to our spirit, namely sin which deadens it or keeps it dormant. But for someone like you, who I believe has yet to receive Christ, you need to be convicted of your own sinfulness and death so as to open to, turn to, and receive Christ as your Lamb from God (Jn 1:29, 34)! and be saved (2 Cor 6:2)! In an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is the well-acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

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