Barry Newman's Blog

December 20, 2009

The Soul (part X)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 1:08 am

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

  Total Occurrences 1611 1885 (1901)(ASB)1963 1952 1978 1989 2001
Nephesh 754 469 450 255 188 107 138 232
%   62 60 34 25 14 18 31
Psuche 103 55 51 47 43 19 33 41
%   53 50 46 43 18 32 40

The frequency of nephesh/psuche being translated “soul” in certain English translations

                                                                                             Table 4


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