Pneuma: The generative power in the temple of the body / Transformed in humility
Rather than focusing on a dualism between the material and immaterial, Paul has a tendency to focus on the opposition between the spirit (pneuma) and the flesh (sarx). Paul uses the words pneumatikos (spiritual) and psuchikos (soul-ish) to describe these two states in the soul.
The world pneuma means breath or wind, much like the Hebrew word for spirit, ruach.[i] When Paul uses this word, he is often talking about the Holy Spirit which dwells in the body. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he said, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.”
The pneuma is always generative, allowing for new life, growth, and transformation. Sometimes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is called a quickening. This word is only used in one other instance: the first moment that a mother feels a new life within her womb. The pneuma is its own new, life-giving force in the body. It thrives under the conditions of humility and partnership between the soul and God. The presence of pneuma displays in us the best of humanity: supernatural self-sacrificing love, a capacity for creativity, growth, and relationship through grace.
Death brings about a kind of separation between the soma and its immaterial aspects. Hope that the immortal soul will be embodied once more after the resurrection of the dead comes through the generative work of the pneuma, which transforms the embodied soul from a fleshly, transient being to a glorified, eternal soul.
[i] Pneuma primarily denotes “the wind”; also “breath”; then, especially “the spirit,” which like the wind, is invisible, immaterial, and powerful. Vine, W.E., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, (Thomas Nelson, 1996), 593.