Barry Newman's Blog

December 8, 2009

The Soul (part III)

Filed under: nephesh,The Soul,Uncategorized — barrynewman @ 8:30 am

With reference to Table 1, the most highly populated category is that associated with death – generally referring to the cessation of life.  Taking all instances together, the human being nephesh is the person, the being, the self who dies, lives, is hungry, is filled, is wicked or righteous, hates or loves, desires, speaks, is grieved or happy and thinks etc.  The usage of nephesh stresses the existence and functioning and thus the significance of a being.  That nephesh can be spoken of with reference to God and the animals, supports this last understanding.

The following semantic connections involving all instances of nephesh are hypothesized.  The neck/throat is associated with breathing, the intake of food and the utterance of speech.  Breath, speech and food are associated with life and death.  Finally, life involves various characteristics of the person including mental states and activities.

The human nephesh and its existence after death

Of the 694 instances of nephesh that relate to human beings, there are only about five texts where it is arguable that nephesh refers to a “soul” that at death leaves the body or at life after death re-enters the body:  “In the going out of her nephesh Rachel died.” (Gen 35:18); “Let the nephesh of the boy return to him.” (1 Kin 17:21); “The nephesh of the boy returned to him.” (1 Kin 17:22); “She has breathed out her nephesh.” (Jer 15:9) and “You will not abandon my nephesh in/to Sheol.” (Ps 16:10).  However, in the first four instances the reference could be to breath.  The fifth could either relate to the person’s existence beyond death or simply the person’s not dying.  There is no compelling argument from these texts that the “soul” is an entity that inhabits the living body and leaves at death.

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