Barry Newman's Blog

November 30, 2009

The Soul – by way of introduction

Filed under: The Soul — barrynewman @ 5:59 am

Recently I was lent a book entitled “Summons to Life: the Search for Identity through the Spiritual”, written by a Martin Israel (1927 – 2007).  He was a medical practitioner and lecturer who entered the Anglican ministry in 1974 at around the same time that the book was published.  From that date until 1996 he was a priest at Holy Trinity, Kensington, U.K.  It seems that throughout much of his life he was not a well or happy man.  Perhaps this partly explains the content of the book and some of his other works.

It is a mixture of highly selective Christian texts and thought and various aspects of Eastern religious belief, especially Buddhism.  He is fairly certain that reincarnation occurs, but only human to human.  He also believes it is possible for some to hear from those who have died.  Mysticism and meditation are subjects generally dealt with in a favourable light.  One of the focal concepts  of the book is with what he terms “the soul” and from time to time he refers to “the spirit of the soul”.  He has a belief in the idea of souls coming into a type of union and that can ultimately unite to form a cosmic entity.  I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone  though it is clear that at its heart is a concern for the genuine love of one’s neighbour.  One of the overriding questions that should be asked by those who do read it is, “Why would you believe any of this; in what is this belief system grounded?”  One of the responses to this question that suggests itself is that  it gave Israel, some hope, hope that was aligned with his view about how things ought to be.

Ideas about “the soul” have been around and influential in Christian thinking for centuries.  In this series I hope to make clear what the Old and New Testaments have to say about this subject.  In later series I would like to do the same with the notions of “the heart” and “the spirit”.  Finally it would be worth while having a fresh look at the foremost commandment, “Hear , O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12: 30).



  1. Thanks Barry,

    your last series on the supper of the Lord was terrific. I’m looking forward to this one.

    What a chilling contrast to Jesus’ command is the rich fool:

    “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Luke 12:19)

    Comment by Gordon Cheng — November 30, 2009 @ 7:06 pm | Reply

    • Gordon,

      It’ll take me some time to get to the great Commandment but I’m hoping it will be helpful. I am certainly learning as I go.

      Comment by barrynewman — December 1, 2009 @ 1:07 am | Reply

  2. I have just finished reading a book by Dr. Joel M. Hoffman entitled “And God Said”.. To quote him: “The Hebrew words for ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ the words in Deuteronomy 6:5 that Jesus quotes are levav and nefesh, respectively. And they are severely mistranslated. In fact, the translations miss the point entirely.” He presents a compelling argument but from a Jewish point of view. I would like to expand on his work and include kardia and psuche and present a more rounded position. Your statistics will help my research greatly.

    Comment by Phillip Varady — December 1, 2011 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

    • Hi Phillip,

      Glad that the statistics are of some help. Thanks for the mention of Joel Hoffman’s book. I must get around to reading it



      Comment by barrynewman — December 1, 2011 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

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