December 22, 2009
Brown, F, Driver, S and Briggs, C, 1979, ‘nephesh’ in The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrikson, Peabody, MA, 659 – 661
Cooper, JW, 1989, Body, Soul and Life Everlasting, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI
Koehler, L and Baumgartner, W. 2001, ‘nephesh’ in The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, revised by Baumgartner, W and Stamm, JJ, translated by Richardson, MEJ, Study ed., vol. 1, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands, 711 – 713
Liddle, HG and Scott, R, 1968, ‘psuche’ in A Greek – English Lexicon, with a supplement, revised by Jones, HS, Clarendon, Oxford, 2026, 2027
Louw, PJ and Nida, EA, eds., 1988, ‘psuche’ in Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, United Bible Societies, New York NY, vol. 1, multiple pp and vol. 2, Index to vol. 1, 266
Schweizer, E, 1974, ‘psuche, psuchikos, anapsuxis, anapsucho, dipsuchos, oligopsuchos’ in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament ed. Kittel, G, translated by Bromiley, GW, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, IX, 608 – 666
Seebass, H, 1998, ‘nephesh’ in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament eds. Botterweck, GJ, Ringgren, H and Fabry, H-J, translated by Green, DE, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, IX, 497 – 519
Wolff, HW, 1996, ‘nephesh – Needy Man’ in Anthropology of the Old Testament, Sigler Press, Mifflintown, PA, 10 – 25
Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives
If nephesh and psuche as they relate to human beings refer chiefly to their personhood then they do not automatically present themselves as objects for special scientific scrutiny or objection. That psuche does, and nephesh in one or two instances might, relate to the existence of persons after death is more of a philosophical problem than a scientific one. Some might consider life after death a subject for scientific enquiry but that is not a common perspective. Philosophical issues certainly pertain to such however – the question of how identity might be maintained, being one of the most problematic. That is a subject for another paper however though one in which the Biblical material does not seem to have an interest.
What is of Biblical interest is such as, the here and now of “loving God with all of one’s soul”, that is, “with all of one’s being”, “with all of one’s person”!
December 20, 2009
Translating the human being nephesh and psuche by other than “soul”
It is a tenet of this paper that the English word “soul” need never be used and if it were never used some of the confusion that exists could probably be avoided. Alternatives would include: omission of any word altogether, or using words such as “person”, “life”, “creature”, “self” (reflexively), “being” and “desire”. There has been a growing trend since the KJV of 1611, to replace “soul” with such words, though the NRSV and the ESV have somewhat reverted to earlier times. See Table 4 below.
The information from the Table suggests that whenever English readers encounter the word “soul” in modern translations, they will not realise that nephesh and psuche will have been translated in the majority of cases without using the word, “soul”. Additionally, almost certainly, regardless of the translations, they will be unaware of the wide semantic domains for nephesh and psuche. Consequently when they do read the word, “soul” they will be inclined to treat it in a way that may not be justified.
Year of Publication
The frequency of nephesh/psuche being translated “soul” in certain English translations
December 18, 2009
The Semantic Relationship between nephesh/psuche and “heart” and “spirit”
When similar analyses, yet to be posted, of the Hebrew and Greek words commonly translated “heart” and “spirit” are carried out and examined, it will be clear that “heart” and “spirit” have semantic domains that overlap with that for nephesh/psuche. None the less the overall focus in each case is different. When related to human beings, the words for “heart” centre on mental states and mental operations, the words for “spirit”, though very diverse in application, centre on the non-physical, non-tangible life of the person, while nephesh and psuche focus on the existence and functioning of the person.
December 17, 2009
The human psuche and its existence after death
Unlike the situation with nephesh, there are a few clear instances where psuche corresponds to some entity having existence after death. There are four: “You will not leave my psuche in Sheol” (quoting Ps 16:10); “Fear those who are able to kill the body bot not the psuche” (Matt 10:28); “You fool this night I will require of you your psuche” (Lu 12:20); “I saw under the altar the psuche of those that had been slain” (Rev 6:9). There are two instances that are less clear: “His psuche is still in him” (Acts 20:10) – a possible reference to his breath, and “I pray that your body, psuche and spirit will be preserved spotless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23). In this latter text the idea of both body and psuche being preserved is in contrast with the Matthew text cited above where the body can be slain but not the psuche. The reference in 1 Cor 15: 44, 45 to “It is sown a psuche type body, it is raised a spiritual type body” and “the first man Adam became a living psuche; the last Adam a life giving spirit” indicates how the body can be preserved and yet not be the same as the body before death.
Though no tight picture emerges for the usage of psuche in association with death, there is a psuche beyond death which has an identity with the psuche before death. However, this is not the same as saying that psuche refers to an entity within a being that leaves after death. A person, a being has an ongoing existence identifiable with the person, the being who existed before death. This understanding is consistent with the general usage of psuche as indicated in Table 3.
December 16, 2009
A comparison of Tables 1 and 3 reveals that almost all major categories for nephesh and psuche are held in common. Additionally, the most populated category for both nephesh and psuche is that associated with death – generally referring to the cessation of life. Given the relatively small number of instances of psuche, attempts at more detailed comparisons are unwarranted. The usage of psuche, as with nephesh, stresses the existence and functioning and so the significance of the being. Again, as with nephesh, that there are references to both God’s psuche and that of animals increases the plausibility of this understanding.
The same type of semantic linkages that were made for nephesh, can be made for psuche, except for the absence of clear references to the neck/throat and breath. However it is possible that Paul in Rom 16:4 is making a connection between neck and psuche in referring to people risking their necks for his psuche, and there might be a reference to breath in Acts 20: 10 where it is said that the nephesh of Eutychus might still be in him.
December 14, 2009
Psuche in the Greek New Testament
As a further check on psuche of the New Testament being similar to nephesh of the Old Testament, an examination was made of the five quotations in the New Testament of an Old Testament text where nephesh occurred. In every case psuche was used in both the New Testament and the LXX.
There are 103 instances of psuche in the New Testament. To these were added nine other instances involving the three related forms: psuchikos, dipsuchos and oligopsuchos.
Of the 112 occurrences, two refer to the psuche of God and two to the psuche of animals. As with the usage of nephesh in the Old Testament, that psuche is associated with animals should make one wary of the idea that “a soul” is something associated with human beings alone and furthermore, the association of psuche with God not only reinforces this point but should again make one wary of the idea that “a soul” resides within a being.
The Human Being Psuche
There are 108 instances of psuche (P) relating to human beings. In applying the same categorization system that was used for nephesh, there were six duplications. Table 3 indicates how the occurrences were categorized. The first and second percentages are based on totals of 114 and 108 respectively.
|Category||Sub-Category||Number of Occurrences||Percentages|
|The P in association with death||40||35; 37|
|The P type body yet to die||3|
|The P that has died||3|
|The P whose life will be removed||8|
|The P whose life will be removed spiritually||5|
|The P under threat of death||7|
|The P under threat of “death”||4|
|The P delivered from death||4|
|The P delivered from death spiritually||6|
|The P in association with life||3||3; 3|
|The P in association with food||5||4; 5|
|The P as the person||8||7; 7|
|An explicit number of P||4|
|An indefinite number of P||4|
|The P as the self||21||18; 19|
|The improper P||13||11; 12|
|The P of self interest||6|
|The upright P||8||7; 7|
|Obeying/seeking God with all the P||3|
|The P not of self-interest||3|
|The emotional P||5||4; 5|
|The P that desires||1||1; 1|
|The vocal P||1||1; 1|
|The P that blesses/praises||1|
|The P and its mental state or activity||10||9; 9|
|The P that is spoken to||2|
|The P having a disposition||2|
|The P to be established||2|
December 11, 2009
Now to return to our investigation of “Soul”.
Psuche in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) of the Old Testament
Table 2 indicates to what extent the LXX uses psuche as a replacement for nephesh. The first percentage is based on a total of 754 and the second on a total of 737. The latter total takes into account the seventeen occurrences where the Hebrew text is absent from the Greek text.
|Matter in the Greek text in the place of nephesh of the Hebrew text||Number of Occurrences||% of all instances in the Hebrew (% of instances present in the Greek)|
|Textual material absent from the Greek text||17||2.3 (not applicable)|
|No Greek word but meaning similar||29||3.8 (3.9)|
|Other Greek words and meaning similar||20||2.7 (2.7)|
|Texts contain different understandings||13||1.7 (1.8)|
Of the twenty instances where an alternative to psuche was used, one word was used five times, another four, with all other alternatives being used only once or twice. Psuche in the LXX is the main word that replaces nephesh in the Hebrew text and therefore the most likely word one should examine in the Greek text of the New Testament.
The frequency with which the textual material containing nephesh is absent from the LXX (17 x) together with the extent to which the LXX has a different understanding to the Massoretic text (13 x) could be considered a crude measure of the degree to which the LXX and the Massoretic text differ. The total of 30 instances constitues 4% of the 754 instances of nephesh in the Massoretic text, that is, giving the crude measure of a 4% difference between the two texts. It will be interesting to see to what extent this type of difference is evident in the examination of “heart” and spirit” in later work.
December 10, 2009
At this point it is important to reflect on what “loving God with all your soul” would seem to mean. It is a thoroughly comprehensive all embracing demand. To love God with all one’s soul is to love him with every aspect of one’s being, one’s person, one’s life. It knows of no part of being a person, of being alive ,of simply being, that can be considered as exempt from consideration with respect to the command to love God. There is no notion in this command of there being an entity within one’s being that has to so love. There is no sense of there being an inner person or an inner identity that has to so love. There is a simple command wholly to love God with all of one’s being.
There is no room allowed whatsoever for self aggrandisement, the independent spirit and the self-seeking life. This commandment is all about God as the supreme focus in the plans we have for our lives and the way we live them.
And there is no point in protesting that to love God in this way is an impossibility. God knows of no half measures when it comes to what our relationship with him should be. We can only thank God for the Lord Jesus who did so love his Father and who died for sinners who fail to love him as we should.