The 2001 Translation Translator NotesNote

Soul

Different Bibles have translated the Greek word psyche (from which we get words like psychology) in many ways, including soul and life. However, psyche literally means something that breathes. It’s only used in the Bible to describe breathing animals and humans. It can also mean life or your inner person.

Does it mean an immortal soul that floats away when one dies? No, that is a later development. The consensus among scholars is that the teaching of an immortal soul is not found in the Old Testament canon. It was imported into Judaism and Christianity from Greek philosophy, especially from Plato. It only became established in Christianity by the 3rd century CE.

Therefore, when Bibles translate it as soul, it can insert in the mind of the reader something that was not meant by the original authors. In other words, sometimes soul can be a mistranslation. However, in English we do sometimes use the word soul poetically to describe an entire person, with no ‘immortal spirit’ implied, e.g. ‘poor old soul.’

In this Bible, we use a variety of phrases to translate psyche, including soul, but not when it may give a false impression to the reader. This is in accord with the Charter of this project, to use religiously neutral terms to free readers from centuries of religious baggage.

For a discussion of the immortal soul, please see the commentary, Does the Bible teach an immortal soul?

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