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 17, 2009

The Soul (part VIII)

Filed under: psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 10:48 pm

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

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 14, 2009

The Soul (part VI)

Filed under: psuche,The Soul — barrynewman @ 1:28 am

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
  Actual    4  
  Metaphorical     1  
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
  Wicked    7  
  The P of self interest    6  
The upright P      8   7; 7
  The righteous/noble    2  
  Obeying/seeking God with all the P    3  
  The P not of self-interest    3  
The emotional P      5   4; 5
  Pain/distress/despondency    3  
  Grief    1  
  Faint-heartedness    1  
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  
  Others    4  

                                                                                   Table 3

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 10, 2009

The Soul (part IV)

Filed under: Loving God,The Soul — barrynewman @ 12:07 am

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.

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