Barry Newman's Blog

September 16, 2010

The Essence of Spirit (XV)

Filed under: kardia,Leb and Lebab,nephesh,psuche,The Heart,The Soul — barrynewman @ 9:28 pm

Comparison of the Semantic Domains of Ruach and Pneuma with those for Leb/Lebab and Kardia, and Nephesh and Psuche

The domains of ruach and pneuma overlap with those of leb/lebab and kardia, and nephesh and psuche in a number of areas.  Sometimes they may refer to the same entity, for instances “breath” as is the case with nephesh and psuche, and ruach and pneuma.  The righteous leb/lebab or kardia can barely be distinguished from the righteous nephesh or psuche and the distressed of leb/lebab or kardia can barely be distinguished from the distressed in ruach or pneuma.  Overall, however, the three sets of words serve different purposes.  Taking the emotional aspects of mankind as an example, in general terms the differences are as follows.  Leb/lebab or kardia, in modern terms, the mind is the source of the emotions.  The nephesh or psuche, the person, portray emotional characteristics.  The ruach or pneuma of the person refers to that non-tangible inner being that possesses the emotional characteristics.  Though the three sets of words operate here and there within the same domains, in general terms they refer to different entities.

That the semantic domain of ruach is substantially different to those of leb/lebab and nephesh on the one hand and that the semantic domain of pneuma is substantially different to those of nephesh and psuche on the other is illustrated by comparing the frequency with which these words are used of God and of mankind.  See Table 14. In this table the frequency of occurrence is given as the ratio of the number of instances, where the word is used of God or mankind, to the total number of instances.  The ratio is then given as a percentage.

    Leb/lebab Nephesh Ruach Kardia Psuche Pneuma
Used of God Frequency% 27/8553 21/7543 104/385  27 1/1611 2./1122 230/372   62
Used of Mankind Frequency % 791/855   93 694/754  92 156/385 41 158/161 98 108/112 96 72/372    19

Table 14 – Comparison between Frequency of Usage with Reference to God or Mankind, of Leb/lebab, Nephesh and Ruach, and Kardia, Psuche and Pneuma

Whereas both the Hebrew words leb/lebab and nephesh are used relatively rarely of God, ruach is used somewhat frequently of God.  The former pair is used very commonly but ruach far less commonly, with reference to mankind.  Comparing the usage of the pair of Greek words kardia and psuche, with that for pneuma reveals a similar pattern.

Concluding Remarks

Except for the notion of wind, often evident in the use of ruach, the semantic domains of ruach in the Old Testament and pneuma in the New Testament are somewhat similar though the relative populations of the categories that inhabit those domains differ.  Taken together their semantic domain, as judged by a western mind, is however rather diffuse in character.  This is consistent with the general character of each of the words, as judged by the western mind, that is, the non-material, non-tangible though functional reality on which they focus – their essence.


December 22, 2009

The Soul (Full Series PDF)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 10:26 pm

Here is the full series

The Soul (part XII)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 9:58 pm

                                                                                                                                              A Bibliography

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

The Soul (part XI)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 5:23 am

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

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

December 18, 2009

The Soul (part IX)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,Spirit — barrynewman @ 10:14 pm

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 16, 2009

The Soul (part VII)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 5:25 am

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 11, 2009

The Soul (part V)

Filed under: nephesh,psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 10:45 pm

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)
Psuche 675  89.5 (91.6)
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)

                                                                                       Table 2

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 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.

December 5, 2009

The Soul (part II)

Filed under: nephesh,The Soul — barrynewman @ 3:54 am

Nephesh in the Massoretic text of the Old Testament

Of the 754 instances of nephesh in the Massoretic text, categorization involved 69 occupying two categories and two occupying three categories.  That is, it was decided that in a number of instances, the one occurrence belonged to two or even three categories. On ten occasions nephesh appeared related to a physical organ such as the neck, throat or breath.  Examples include: women having a nephesh container (hanging around the neck?); Sheol enlarging its nephesh to receive the dead; Leviathan’s nephesh kindling coals; a woman breathing out her nephesh as she dies.  Wolff believes that nephesh has its roots in the physical neck or throat (through which we receive food and drink and through which we breathe)and as such is associated with the idea of life. (See Wolff, HW, 1996, ‘nephesh – Needy Man’ in Anthropology of the Old Testament, Sigler Press: Mifflintown, PA, pp. 10 – 25)

There are 21 instances where reference is made to the nephesh of God.  Most commonly his nephesh is ill-disposed or well-disposed towards another.  In 27 instances, the nephesh of animals is mentioned, often in terms of their life or death. There is one occasion where the nephesh of idols is mentioned.  The association of nephesh with an idol may be an example of irony.  That nephesh is associated with animals should make one wary of the idea that “the soul” is something associated with human beings alone and its association with God not only reinforces this point but should make one wary of the idea that “a soul’ resides within a being. 

 The Human Being Nephesh

There are 694 occurrences of N (nephesh) that relate to human beings.  That is, human beings are the predominant beings associated with the idea of nephesh. In categorization, 56 were duplicated and two triplicated giving a total of 754 entries.  Table 1 indicates major categories, sub-categories, number of occurrences and percentages. The first and second percentages are based on 754 and 694 respectively.  The figures within parenthesis take account of nine duplications that occurred within major categories. Although nephesh in the singular is sometimes used holistically, as in the nephesh of Israel, its predominant usage is individualistic.  The categorization utilized made no distinction.  The holistic usage is not suggestive of something akin to individual souls uniting to form a “greater” soul, as though the individual souls then ceased to exist.

Major Category Sub-category Number ofOccurrences Percentages
The N in association with death    281  37; 40
  The dead N   11  
  The N that has died   35  
  The N to be excommunicated   18  
  The N whose life will be removed   22  
  The N under threat of death 102  
  The N delivered from death   39  
  A request for the N to be delivered from death   21  
  A request for the N to die     6  
  The N for whom death will not occur   25  
  The N that returns to give life     2  
The N in association with life     17  2; 2
The N in association with food     66  9; 9
  Actual   45  
  Metaphorical or use of simile   21  
The N as the person     61 8; 9
  An explicit number of N   27  
  An indefinite number of N   32  
The N as the self     63 8; 9
The improper N     47 6; 7
  Wicked   36  
  Defiled   11  
The upright N     50 7;7
  The righteous/noble     7  
  Obeying/seeking God with the N   25  
  Obeying/seeking God with all the N   18  
The N that loves other than God     15  2; 2
The emotional N     59 (57) 8; 8
  Pain/distress/despondency   31  
  Grief   12  
  Delight     8  
  Fright     6  
  Anger     2  
The N that desires     37 5; 5
  The N desires/wills/craves   25  
  The desire expressed as the N   12  
The vocal N     31 (24) 3; 3
  The N that blesses/praises   14  
  The N that speaks     3  
  The N that addresses itself   12  
  The N that is silent     2  
The N and its mental state or activity     37  5; 5
  The N that hates/scorns     9  
  The N that muses/thinks     4  
  The N that is watched over by oneself     4  
  The N that knows     3  
  The N that is spoken to     3  
  The N that is pleased     3  
  The N that remembers     2  
  The N that can deceive itself     2  
  Other     7  

                                                                                           Table 1

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