The partial verse in question is this:

  • James 2:26a: "For just as the body without the spirit is dead" (emphasis added).

It seems very noteworthy that both Christ and Stephen used the word "spirit" rather than "soul" at the point of death (Lk. 23:46, Acts 7:59). Late in the Gospel of Luke we read:

  • Luke 23:46: "And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.' Having said this, He breathed His last" (cf. Psa. 31:5, emphasis added, caps in the original).

As well, from the Book of Acts:

  • Acts 7:59: "[The Jews] went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!'"

Why do James, Christ, and Stephen all refer to the word "spirit" rather than "soul"? (It may be remembered that both Christ and Stephen were filled with the Holy Spirit, cf. Matt. 3:16, Acts 7:55).

[NOTE: This question has nothing to do with Christ (or Stephen) receiving their spirit as James (2:26 above) makes clear: if we are alive, we have a spirit.]

  • In scripture, soul usually refers to the living being. Spirit, hence respiration, is the breath or element of life.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


Note the large variation of meanings for πνεῦμα. It is also the word for breath. Thus, we can translate this "the body without breath is dead," or "a body that isn't breathing is dead."

Figure 1. Senses of πνεῦμα in the New Testament (generated with Logos Bible Software)

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However, the point James made is, just as you can tell that a person is alive because they are breathing, you can tell faith is alive/genuine (a saving faith that results in eternal life) by a person's actions.

  • Very good answer - uncomplicated.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 22:41

This is how I understand the concept of a soul, King James Bible Genesis 2:

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The physical body (dust) is infused with the spirit (breath). At this intersection, the soul is formed. The soul consists of the volition, mind (intellect), and emotion components. Once this soul is formed, this breath-spirit is identified with this particular soul and is distinct and separate from the Holy Spirit. This personal spirit is the power box for the animation of the person.

The reverse process is described in James 2:

26a: For just as the body without the spirit is dead

Disconnected from the personal spirit-power box, the physical body is dead and his soul is deactivated without power. In terms of robot technology, the personal spirit is analogous to the battery that is specific for a given personal soul; the soul is analogous to the software; the body is analogous to the hardware. All three are personalized.

Why do James, Christ, and Stephen all refer to the word "spirit" rather than "soul"?

That's being more precise if you accept the definitions of spirit and soul here.


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