Glossary of Terms


(Strong's Hebrew #5315, Strong's Greek #5590)


"SOUL: a personal self? or the divine I AM? - a biblical view"

by Robert Nguyen Cramer,


      1. Soul defined from its Hebrew word nephesh
      2. Two accounts of the creation of man -- man as dust (Gen 2:7) versus man as the image of God (Gen 1:26,27)
      3. Two types of man -- earthly, physical man of the dust versus spiritual, heavenly man (1Co 15:45-47)

Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

soul. What today would be called the self; not a separate part of a person. Deut. 6:5; 1 Sam. 18:1; Mark 12:30; Acts 2:43; 1 Peter 2:25.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

soul, a word in the Hebrew Bible with a wide range of meanings. God ‘breathed the breath of life’ into Adam and he became a ‘living soul’ (Gen. 2:7); Adam is living clay, as opposed to ordinary clay (Gen. 3:19). This life principle can ebb and flow; one may fear for one’s soul (Ezek. 32:10), risk one’s soul (Judg. 5:18), or take one’s soul (1 Kings 19:4). ‘Soul’ may refer to an individual person: Leah bore sixteen ‘souls’ (children) to Jacob (Gen. 46:18). For a Hebrew, ‘soul’ indicated the unity of a human person; Hebrews were living bodies, they did not have bodies. This Hebrew field of meaning is breached in the Wisdom of Solomon by explicit introduction of Greek ideas of soul. A dualism of soul and body is present: ‘a perishable body weighs down the soul’ (9:15). This perishable body is opposed by an immortal soul (3:1-3). Such dualism might imply that soul is superior to body.

In the nt, ‘soul’ retains its basic Hebrew field of meaning. Soul refers to one’s life: Herod sought Jesus’ soul (Matt. 2:20); one might save a soul or take it (Mark 3:4). Death occurs when God ‘requires your soul’ (Luke 12:20). ‘Soul’ may refer to the whole person, the self: ‘three thousand souls’ were converted in Acts 2:41 (see Acts 3:23). Although the Greek idea of an immortal soul different in kind from the mortal body is not evident, ‘soul’ denotes the existence of a person after death (see Luke 9:25; 12:4; 21:19); yet Greek influence may be found in 1 Peter’s remark about ‘the salvation of souls’ (1:9). A moderate dualism exists in the contrast of spirit with body and even soul, where ‘soul’ means life that is not yet caught up in grace.

New Century Bible: Psalms, Volume 1

by A.A. Anderson (Greenwood, SC: Attic Press, 1972, page 266)

[Hebrew: nepes or nephesh (Strong's Hebrew #05315)]

The Hebrew nepes [Strong's Hebrew #05315] occurs some 755 times in the OT, and its usage is roughly divided into three main groups. It can denote the life principle in man, the essential vitality, life itself (c.f. 107:5) or it can be used in a psychical sense, and various emotional states can be attributed to it. In some 200 instances it is employed (together with the respective pronominal suffixes) as a periphrasis, or even as an emotional substitute for the personal pronouns (e.g. in 78:50, 120:2). Some of the less common uses of nepes include such meanings as 'throat' or 'neck' (69:1 (M.T. 2), 105:18, 106:15; Isa. 5:14; Jon. 1:5 (M.T. 6)), 'greed' (17:9, 27:12, 41:2 (M.T. 3)), 'appetite' (78:18), 'desire' (35:26), 'courage' (107:26), 'slave, person, individual' (Gen. 14:21; Lev. 22:11), and even 'corpse' (Lev. 19:28, 21:1; Num. 6:6).

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume

Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add this book to your library. It is available at Border's Books at or Christian Book Distributors at

[Greek: psuche (Strong's Greek #5590)]

A. The Greek World.

1. Homer. In Homer soma is the dead body, words like melea are used for the living organism, and psuche is the vital force that resides in the members and finds expression in the breath. Hazarded in battle, the psuche leaves a person at death, goes to the underworld, leads a shadowy existence there, and may appear in dreams. The real self becomes food for beasts or in a few cases goes to the gods. The psuche has nothing to do with mental or spiritual functions. Terms like noos, kardia, or thymos are used to denote such functions. Bodily parts are their agents. But the noos, which one bears in the breast or which a god has put there, becomes a permanent and integral part of the person. A varied psychological vocabulary develops, but there is no master concept of soul.

2. Older and Classical Usage. psuche becomes a master concept in the sixth century B.C. The idea of retribution helps to bring this about. The psuche in the underworld assures continuity between this world and the next. The psuche, then, is the epitome of the individual. The soma (body) comes to be seen as the sema (tomb) of the soul. Transmigration of the soul also finds supporters (Pythagoras). After 500 B.C. the psuche represents the essential core embracing thought, will, and emotion and not sharing the body’s dissolution. The soul is not limited by space. It has a self-expanding logos. Communication between souls is possible. The soul’s autonomy and higher worth are taken for granted. Moral instruction is a training of the soul for virtue. Medicine accepts the division of body and soul; the psuche is the self, or the seat of moral and spiritual qualities.

3. Plato.
a. Plato starts with the position of Socrates that we are to be judged by the state of the soul. But there may be conflict between resolve based on insight and spontaneous impulses that also originate in the soul.
b. Different parts of the soul have different ontological value. The aim is to insure for logistikon its due control over other parts. Moral struggle is a flight from the world of sense and an approximation to intelligible being.
c. In its dominant part the soul is preexistent and immortal; it belongs to transcendent being.
d. The state is a larger model of the soul. So, too, is the cosmos. As life means movement, movement is proper to the soul as it is to the living organism of the cosmos.

4. Post-Platonic Philosophy.
a. Constitution of the Soul. For the Peripatetics the immaterial soul is the principle of the form, life, and activity of the total organism. For the Epicureans and Stoics the soul is made of finer matter. The individual soul is a broken off part of the world soul and will be reunited with it at death.
b. Division of the Soul. Plato’s trichotomy is the starting point of later views. A common division is into rational, irrational, and vegetative spheres. The power of thought has the highest worth; the understanding should control the alogical domain. For Middle Platonism the soul derives from noos but has powers that enable it to work on matter; the noos affects the psuche, and the psuche the soma. On this view the noos is the innermost core. Demons are psychai without bodies, not purely noetic beings. Neo-Pythagoreans see two souls. They equate the logical soul with the noos, while the alogical soul is the garment that it puts on in its descent through the spheres. In sum, the psuche, in distinction from the noos, undergoes a certain devaluation, since it cannot denote pure spirituality. Medicine is interested in the organic relation of intellectual functions but differs as to the corporeality of the soul, arguing both for and against it from the fact that a corpse seems to be heavier than a living body.

5. Popular Ideas. In popular thinking the psuche is the impalpable essential core of a person, the agent of thought, will, and emotion, the quintessence of human life. The soul embraces the conscience. The book of dreams presupposes that souls can go abroad during sleep and that they go to bliss or punishment after death. Freedom is freedom of soul; astrology promises such freedom. In various expressions psuche can denote “life,” e.g., to hazard one’s psuche, and the phrase pasa psuche means “everyone.”

B. OT Anthropology.

1. nepes
a. Breath. The Hebrew term which psuche renders is a fluid and dynamic one which it is hard both to define and to translate. The root means “to breathe” in a physical sense. Breathing is a decisive mark of the living creature; its cessation means the end of life. The root thus comes to denote “life” or “living creature.” In a localization, the meaning may be “neck” or “throat.” Departure of the breath is a metaphor for death. The alternation of breathing (cf. the use of the verb in Ex. 23:12; 31:17) corresponds to the fluid nature of the terms life and death in the OT. Life and death are two worlds that do not admit of sharp differentiation. Sickness and anxiety, which constrict the breath, are manifestations of the world of death.
b. Blood. Basic to both breath and blood is the idea of the living organism. Every form of life disappears when these leave the body. Gen. 9:4 finds the life in the blood, and Lev. 17:11 sees in blood the seat of the life (cf. also Dt. 12:23). There is no concept here of a blood-soul; the obvious thought is that of vital force.
c. Person. nepes denotes the total person, what he or she is. Gen. 2:7 expresses this truth, although more in relation to the external aspect than to the modalities of life. What is meant is the person comprised in corporeal identity. Yet the total personality, the ego, is also involved. The noun can thus become a synonym of the personal pronoun (Gen. 27:25; Jer. 3:11).
d. Corpse and Tomb. The accent on the person leads to the use for a lifeless corpse (cf. Num. 6:6; 19:13; Lev. 19:28). The reference is to the dead person prior to final dissolution. Outside the Bible a use for “tomb” develops on the basis that the individual is in some sense present after death. In the Bible, however, the nepes never exists independently of the individual, and the word is never used for an inhabitant of the underworld.
e. Will. The term expresses movement as well as form. The orientation may be to such elemental realities as hunger and thirst or to yearning for God. It embraces various parts of the organism, which can thus be used as synonyms for nepes. It arises in relation to sex in Gen. 34:3, hatred in Ps. 27:12, pain and sorrow in 1 Sam. 1:10, the will in Gen. 23:8, and striving for God in Is. 26:9; Ps. 63:1, etc. The vocative in Ps. 42:5 etc. is a kind of question to the self, which rises to its full intensity before God, and relaxes when the goal is reached (Ps. 131:2).

2. Flesh and Body.
a. Flesh. The term “flesh” stands in some antithesis to nepes and may also denote the whole person. It often has a very material sense for flesh that is eaten. “All flesh” is a phrase for all living things. Used later with blood, it denotes what is human as distinct from divine. It can denote the male organ (e.g., Ezek. 23:20; Ex. 28:42). But when used for the whole person it may also be synonymous with nepes (Pss. 84:2; 119:120). In itself, however, it relates to human weakness and transitoriness (Gen. 6:3). Trust in the flesh is no help (Jer. 17:5). The flesh finally becomes the evil principle that opposes God, but this is never so in the OT, in which, as an organism that receives its life from the spirit, it may be connected with praise of God and longing for him. One should not corrupt the way of the flesh on earth (Gen. 6:12). Flesh becomes the antithesis of soul and spirit only in Wis. 8:19; 9:15.
b. Bones. Flesh undergoes total destruction at death. The bones endure longest, hence they receive special care (2 Kgs. 13:20), they are connected with the hope of rising again (Ezek. 37), they may be said to be joyful in God (Ps. 35:9-10), their breaking expresses the violence of an assault (Is. 38:7), and they can also denote true being or innermost substance (Ex. 24:10; Gen. 7:13; Ezek. 24:2).

3. Parts of the Body as the Seat of Life.
a. The Head. In the OT the totality may be concentrated in a part as life is seen in its manifestation or movement. Thus the head may be the focus, e.g., when hands are laid on it in blessing (Gen. 48:14), or punishment is called down on it (Josh. 2:19), or it is entrusted to someone (1 Sam. 28:2), or its white hairs go down to Sheol (Gen. 42:38), or it is the seat of knowledge (Dan. 2:28).
b. The Face. The face acts as a focus as it expresses various emotions or as its features denote envy (the eyes), arrogance (the forehead), pride (the neck), or anger (the nose).
c. The Hand. The hand (or palm or finger) is that which takes up a matter and executes it. It expresses the will and the means to carry it out. To give power is to “strengthen the hands” (Judg. 9:24).
d. The Foot. The foot also expresses strength (cf. standing on one’s feet or planting the foot on an enemy’s neck). But the foot may also slip or stumble or be caught in a net (Ps. 94:18; Job 12:5; 9:15).
e. Inner Organs. As emotions like grief and joy affect the liver, heart, etc., these inner organs come to be viewed as their seat (cf. Pss. 44:26; 64:6; 16:7; Gen. 35:11,; Job 31:20; Lam. 2:11).

4. The Heart. The heart holds a special place as the most common anthropological term (850 instances). Although localized exactly, it denotes the totality in its inner worth. Like breathing, it has an ebb and flow. But its cessation does not mean death (1 Sam. 25), since it has more than a physical sense. It is the point where impressions meet (1 Sam. 1:8; Ps. 13:2). It comes close to conscience (1 Sam. 25:31). It directs the ways of life as the place where God’s statutes are written. The insane have no heart (cf. Gen. 31:20), and wine and harlotry take the heart away (Hos. 4:11). The heart differentiates humans from animals, whose hearts are purely physical (Dan. 4:13). It forms plans that produce action. By nature it is not pure (Ps. 101:4) but inclines to falsehood and pride (Pss. 12:2; 131:1). It may become fat or hard (Is. 6:10; Ezek. 11:19). God tests it (Ps. 17:3), knows it (Ps. 33:15), purifies it, and unites it with himself (1 Kgs. 8:61). A new creation begins in it (Lev. 26:41; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26).

5. The Spirit.
a. Origin of the Concept. Without ru(a)h there is no life, and the source of life is outside us. The word means “wind” or “breath.” Breath, being fleeting, can denote vanity (Job 16:3), but it is also life-giving (Gen. 8:1 etc.). As wind denotes the breath of God, it loses its physical aspect and signifies invisible power (cf. Is. 31:3).
b. Outworking in People. As divine power the Spirit comes on certain people and enables them to do mighty deeds (Judg. 13:25) or to prophesy (1 Sam. 10:6). The Messiah has the Spirit in special measure (Is. 11). There are also other spirits which God may use but which oppose him (1 Sam. 16:14). ruÆ(a)h\ is a condition of nepes and regulates its force (cf. Judg. 15:19; 1 Kgs. 10:5).
c. Creative Activity. In Ps. 104:29; Num. 16:22; 27:16 the Spirit is the creative power of life. In us it may thus express intensity of feeling (cf. 1 Sam. 1:15; Hos. 4:12; Num. 5:14). The phrase “to awaken the spirit” expresses its stimulative role (Hag. 1:14).
d. Relation to nepes and Heart. In spite of parallels, a distinction remains between “spirit” and both nepes and heart, although spirit and heart are virtually identical in Ezek. 11:5 and Jer. 3:17. Later one may discern a tendency to psychologize “spirit” (cf. Dt. 2:30). Yet there is no separate anthropology, nor do we find the concept of becoming a spirit when the body decays.
e. Flesh and Spirit. The OT sets these in antithesis in, e.g., Gen. 6:1ff.; Is. 31:3, but only in the sense of human weakness and divine strength. In view of creation, the two are not irreconcilable except when flesh trusts in self instead of God (Jer. 17:5ff.). The eschatological age will erase all tensions, yet not by replacing flesh with spirit. Although spirit finds a religious use in, e.g., Pss. 31:5; 34:18, etc., heart is more common in such contexts. OT anthropology views people less according to their nature and more in their relation to God.

6. Relational Character of OT Anthropology.
a. In principle OT anthropology differs little from that of surrounding nations. It is God who gives it its distinctive coherence. The one God as Creator and also as Lord of history gives a unity of structure and thrust to what is said about his human creatures. Before the living God, the individual is a responsible person.
b. This person is always seen in a totality that finds expression, not in the antithetical concepts of body and soul, but in the complementary ones of body and life.
c. The OT never views the person as an abstraction but always as a historical individual or the member of a historical people. The name expresses the personal being and history.
d. Life is not just the movement from birth to death but stands under constant threat and finds a counterthrust in contact with the source of life. Life is breathing which is dependent on the divine breath and in which both the manner of breathing and the quality of the air breathed are important. When God ceases to breathe into a person, life stops.
e. Life depends, then, on the relation of the human image to the divine original and the task that this implies. We are truly alive only in the situation of choice in which we fulfil what we are. [E. Jacob, IX, 608-31]

C. Judaism

I. Hellenistic Judaism.

1. LXX. In works with a Hebrew original psuche mostly translates nepes either as: vital force or as seat of the mind or spirit (cf. Num. 35:11; Dt. 11:18). The idea of the soul as an essential core, however, is alien to the OT, which posits no antithesis of body and soul. In Is. 10:18 the expression “soul and body” denotes the total person with no thought of antithesis. Ps. 16:10 means that God will keep the author alive; only the LXX suggests that the soul will spend some time in the underworld, but that God will not leave it there. When the LXX uses psuche for living people, however, this fits in well with Hebrew usage (cf. Ex. 16:16).

2. Apocalyptic and Pseudepigraphical Works. These works attest to the conceptual differentiation of body and soul, as in Greek thought. The soul may denote the person, as in Hebrew, but it is also the inner person, the moral or spiritual self, which parts from the body and lives on at death, either with God or in hell or the underworld. The soul is the sphere of human responsibility. Magicians can steal souls, which can leave the body for a time. At the resurrection, however, body and soul will be reunited.

3. LXX (Greek Works).
a. Greek thought dominates Wisdom. Soul and body are in antithesis, the body is a burden, well-being of soul is all-important, the soul lives on after death. On the other hand, the soul is not divine. The whole person is in God’s image, and the pneuma has to be imparted by God.
b. 4 Maccabees reproduces popular philosophical psychology. Platonic trichotomy appears in 3:2ff., in 14:6 the soul is the center of consciousness and feeling, and in 15:25 it is the organ of intellectual functions.

4. Aristeas and Josephus. The Epistle of Aristeas uses the expression “save the soul” for “save the life.” Elsewhere it ascribes purity, as a matter of the mind, to the soul rather than the body. Josephus uses a differentiated psychological terminology.

5. Philo. Philo knows the division of the soul into various parts. The divine pneuma is for him the noos or logismos of the soul which cures it of the passions. Only the highest part of the human soul has union with God. Yet all its parts share in the rise of sin. Angels and demons are psychai and the world has a psuche as a living organism governed by rational laws. [A. Dihle, IX, 632-35]

II. Palestinian Judaism.

1. nepes denotes the vital element, the breath, or the ego. In Qumran texts it is often equivalent to “life.” It is not the soul as a distinct part, but the whole person living in responsibility. In many references it simply means the self.

2. The rabbis continue the OT use for “life” but also, under Hellenistic influence, see some antithesis between body and soul. The soul dwells like a guest in the body and gives strength to keep the law, receiving power from heaven for this purpose. In some statements the soul is preexistent. Yet the rabbis do not disparage the body or abandon personal unity. If the soul leaves the body at death, the two come together at the resurrection, and both are responsible before God. [E. Lohse, IX, 635-37]

D. The NT.

I. The Gospels and Acts.

1. Natural and Physical Life.
a. General. In Acts 20:10 the psuche is the life, in 27:22 there will be no loss of life, in 27:10 no lives will be lost, and in Mt. 6:25 the life needs nourishment.
b. Giving of Life. When Jesus says that he gives his psuche as a ransom for many, what he means is the life bound up with flesh and blood, along with the individual ego (Mk. 10:45). Jn. 10:11ff. uses tithenai for giving the psuche; this word can mean “to risk” as well as “to give.” The disciples can sacrifice their lives too, but only Jesus can take his life again. In Acts 15:26 paradidomi suggests the hazarding of resources; it does not have to imply martyrdom. Rev. 12:11 refers to those who do not love their psuche unto death, and in Acts 20:24 Paul does not hold his life dear. In Lk. 14:26 psuche embraces everything that makes up the earthly life that one must hate for Jesus’ sake.
c. Seeking, Killing, and Saving Life. In Mt. 2:20 the child’s foes seek his life (psuche). In Lk. 12:20 God requires the life of the rich farmer. The decision in Mk. 3:4ff. is between saving life and taking it. The earthly life is taken so seriously that leaving it sick is tantamount to robbing it of all that makes it worthwhile. Life here is not just a formal concept but has content as the full life that God intends at creation. Yet this means finally a life that is lived in God’s service, so that the degree of physical health is a subsidiary matter. Thus in Lk. 9:55-56 the Son of Man has come to protect physical life, but more than this is plainly in view, as may be seen in Lk. 19:10, where seeking and saving go hand in hand with the summons to faith. The call to faith is a call to the true life that God intends; salvation is salvation from anything that hinders this, whether it be sickness or unbelief.

2. The Whole Person. If psuche means “physical life,” what is at issue is not the phenomenon as such, but the life manifested in individuals. Thus pasa psuche means “everybody” in Acts 2:43, but with an individualizing thrust (3:23). Mt. 11:29 promises rest to the souls of all who come to Jesus. The expression rests on Jer. 6:16 and carries the implication of the human self that lives before God and must give account to him. Hence the rest is not that of liberation from the body. It is attained in acts of physical obedience to God, for the physical life that God gives cannot be separated from the life with God that takes shape in prayer, praise, and doing God’s will.

3. The Place of Feeling.
a. The Influence of Others. Paul’s enemies poison the psychai of the Gentiles in Acts 14:2. The psychai of the brethren in Antioch are unsettled in 15:24. The psuche can thus be swayed by others. Jesus holds the psuche of the people in suspense in Jn. 10:24; it might tilt either to faith or to unbelief. On the positive side, Paul and Barnabas strengthen the psychai of the disciples in Acts 14:22.
b. Experiences of Joy, Sorrow, and Love. Active decision is at issue when God’s psuche takes pleasure in his servant in Mt. 12:18. The psuche of Lk. 12:19 hopes to enjoy physical and psychological pleasures on the basis of a radical decision. In Lk. 1:46 the psuche is the subject of praise of God; the presence of pneuma shows that this is God’s gift and work. The psuche may also be the locus of sorrow, as in Mk. 14:34 (cf. Ps. 42:5). Mk. 12:30 demands love with all the psuche; the word is close to strength of will in this context (cf. Mt. 22:37). Yet its omission in Mk. 12:33 shows that it is not supremely important or distinctive (cf. Acts 4:32). The sword of sorrow pierces the psuche in Lk. 2:35.
c. Heart. When the soul is said in OT fashion to praise and love God, the meaning is very close to that of heart. The question arises whether the praise and love of God are a response to the influence of God as other movements of the soul are responses to other influences.

4. True Life.
a. Jesus. In Mk. 8:35; Mt. 10:39; Lk. 17:33; Jn. 12:25 we have the saying that those who would save their psuche will lose it, and those who lose it will save it. The primary reference might be to physical life, but in the sense of the true and full life that the Creator intends, and therefore with a broader scope than that of life on earth. Since true life means the liberation of openness to God and neighbor, it differs from the stringent asceticism that the similar rabbinic saying commends.
b. Mark. In the context of Mk. 8:31ff. the saying stresses the fact that the giving of life is possible only by following him who gave his life for all. True life thus finds a new center, and it is more explicitly a life lived according to God’s purpose and therefore in his presence. God will preserve this life even if the loss of physical life is entailed. Death is not a frontier that makes the truth of God untrue. Resurrection finally actualizes the receiving of life as a gift from God. Only orientation to Jesus and the gospel can lead to this.
c. Matthew. In Mt. 10:39 the verb “find” suggests that the psuche is not given already but that one attains to it only when ready to lose it.
d. Luke. Lk. 17:33 seems to be using LXX expressions, but the eschatological context makes it likely that the original sense of psuche here is “eternal life,” which we lose if, like Lot’s wife, we cannot detach ourselves from the present life.
e. John. Jn. 12:25 relates primarily to Jesus himself (cf. v. 24), but with a glance at the disciples too (v. 26). The contrasting of “in this world” with “for eternal life” shows that the reference is to both earthly and eternal life, but not in sharp distinction. There is no magical change, for the believer already has psuche. Nor is the psuche an immortal soul; it is the life which God gives, and which by our attitude to God takes on a mortal or eternal character. Life is kept for eternity only by its sacrifice and in constant living by God’s gift.
f. Life That Survives Death. True life is life that is given by God and lived before him. It is the self lived in the body, yet not consisting of health or wealth, but as the gift of God that death cannot limit.

5. The Supreme Good. In Mk. 8:35-36 (cf. Ps. 49:7-8), the supreme good is the true life that is lived before God by following Jesus. To live life merely as a natural phenomenon is to miss it. psuche is physical life as that which expresses the self (cf. Lk. 9:25), but in the faithfulness of God it also applies beyond physical life (cf. v. 38). The coming of the Son of Man will show whether the orientation is to the cosmos or to God. The psuche is not a substance that survives death; it is life from God and in fellowship with God that comes to fulfilment through the judgment.

6. psuche in Contrast to the Body. Mt. 10:28 presents God as the one who can cast both body and psuche into Gehenna. The saying posits the unity of the two and negates the idea of the soul’s immortality. Persecutors cannot affect the true life by putting an end to physical life, which is threatened already by sickness and other hazards. God alone controls the psuche, and for those who have true life with him he prepares a new body, just as he destroys both the body and psuche of those who do not have true life with him.

7. The psuche after Death in Luke.
a. Lk. 12:4-5; 9:25; Acts 2:31. These sayings omit the references to the psuche in Gehenna or Hades. The emphasis is on the corporeality of the resurrection as distinct from the Hellenistic survival of the soul. The weighty role of judgment in the call to repentance demands the resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15).
b. Lk. 12:20. This statement simply means that the rich farmer will die, although there is perhaps a suggestion that the psuche is a loan that God now demands back from him.
c. Lk. 21:19. This might refer to the preservation of earthly life but after v. 16 true and authentic life is probably meant, i.e., eternal life, although not in the sense of an immortal soul after the Greek fashion.

II. Paul.

l. Natural Life and True Life. Paul makes sparing use of psuche. He speaks about the attempt on Elijah’s life in Rom. 11:3, refers to Epaphroditus hazarding his life in Phil. 2:30, and says that he and his helpers will give their lives (i.e., their time and energy as well as physical life) for the church in 1Th. 2:8 (cf. Rom. 16:4). In 2 Cor. 12:15 he is ready to spend and be spent for the psychai of his readers, i.e., that they might know the authentic life that comes from God and is lived responsibly before him.

2. Person. Paul has the individual person in mind in Rom. 2:9 and 13:1. In 2 Cor. 1:23 (cf. the pneuma of Rom. 1:9) he means the self that is aware of responsibility to God.

3. mia psuche. In Phil. 1:27, as a parallel to hen pneuma, this term lays more stress on the task that is to be achieved. pneuma may be parallel to psuche in the believer, but there is no thought of a soul regenerated by the Spirit and detached from the body. The psuche is physical life, or person, or the moral and spiritual person; Paul never assesses it negatively.

4. Colossians and Ephesians. psuche bears a neutral sense in Col. 3:23; Eph. 6:6. Even in opposition to the Colossian heresy Paul does not develop a doctrine of the soul. He conducts the debate in terms of Christology, not anthropology.

5. Secularity of Usage. Paul never uses psuche for the life that survives death. He sees eternal life wholly as a divine gift on the basis of a new creative act. It is future and heavenly. There is continuity with the earthly life, but this lies wholly with God, and is better denoted by pneuma than psuche.

III. Hebrews.

The psychai that grow weary in Heb. 12:3 are probably the normal forces of believers. The psychai of 13:17, however, are the members described with reference to their spiritual livesLeaders bear special responsibility for the psuche , for which they must give account at the judgment. What is meant is the whole person, or possibly the life before God. 10:39 has the latter in view; the preservation of this life means its attainment of the consummation through judgment and resurrection. Spiritual existence is also the point in 6:19. This stands under threat, but it has solid hope because Jesus has already entered the inner shrine behind the curtain. In 4:12 the word pierces both soul and spirit rather than dividing them. The verse does not teach trichotomy; it relates both soul and spirit to the inner person to which the word can penetrate.

IV. The Catholic Epistles.

1. John. 3 Jn. 2 distinguishes between general health and health of soul. psuche is the true life before God that can be sound even in physical ill-health. Body and soul are not set in express antithesis, for the hope is that the two will be in harmony.

2. James. In 1:21 salvation embraces eschatological salvation and thus the psuche is the life before God that comes to fulfilment in the resurrection. The same applies in 5:20, where thanatos may be either death or condemnation or both. The psuche is the true life before God that is saved through the judgment that threatens it with death.

3. 1 Peter. In 3:20 we simply have a number, although with a hint of preservation by and for God. In 1:19 the psuche is the individual life or person; its salvation is the eschatological goal of faith, but already on earth it is purified by obedience for love (v. 22). In 4:19 the psuche might be the physical life, but in context it seems to refer to the life which the Creator takes into his keeping hands through death and fashions anew. Christ in 2:25 shepherds the faith-life of believers. In 2:11 psuche is the life that is given by God and lived before him. Carnal desires war against it, so that we have here an antithesis of psuche and sarx (similar to Paul’s antithesis of pneuma and sarx). The psuche is not unconditionally good, nor is it summoned to asceticism, but it must so live in the earthly sphere as to be at home in the heavenly sphere.

4. 2 Peter In 2:8, 14 psuche is the person, living responsibly, distinguishing between good and evil, and hence exposed to temptation. In itself it is neutral; dikaia and asteriktos qualify it positively or negatively.

V. Revelation.

1. Physical Life. Rev. 16:3 uses pasa psuche with zoes for “every living creature” (i.e., in the sea; cf. 8:9). “Life” is the meaning in 12:11— the life that the martyrs loved not even unto death.

2. Person. As in the OT, psuche means “person” in 18:13. The addition anthropon shows that the use is not just numerical; the phrase expresses horror at the traffic in slaves, who are also human persons.

3. Life after Death. This sense is clearest in 6:9. The psychai here are those that await God’s righteous judgment prior to the resurrection. They are martyrs who enjoy self-awareness, may be seen in their white garments, but do not yet have the full life that comes with the new corporeality of the resurrection. In 20:4 the psychai have attained to the final state after the first resurrection, so that obviously psuche does not denote merely a provisional, noncorporeal state but embraces the whole person living in eschatological salvation.

VI. NT Usage in Distinction from pneuma.

1. psuche often denotes physical life. pneuma may be used for this too, but whereas the psuche can be persecuted and slain, one can only hand back the pneuma to God. Only psuche , then, can refer to the purely natural life that can reach an end (cf. the contrast in 1 Cor. 15:45).

2. psuche is always individual life, or the whole person, often as the locus of joy and sorrow or love and hate. In contrast pneuma for the human totality represents a special aspect, i.e., God’s gift, and never characterizes either unbelievers or ethically negative impulses. psuche can be the locus of faith, but as such it is interesting for Paul only inasmuch as God can use psychological faculties. Proclamation and edification take place through the pneuma.

3. psuche is authentic life only as God gives it and one receives it from him. Whereas the problem with pneuma is that it tends to be seen as the inner spiritual life that we are given, the problem with psuche is that it tends to be restricted to the physical sphere instead of embracing within this sphere the gift of God that transcends death.

4. As God’s faithfulness does not end with death (cf. Ps. 49), so psuche comes to signify a life that death does not extinguish. Later this is specifically the religious life that one must nurture as a gift, which implies responsibility. The continuity of the life of faith and the resurrection life does not reside in the divine indwelling but in the divine faithfulness. pneuma, too, can denote the departed believer, but in this context both terms refer, not to a surviving part, but to the total life given by God and lived out before him: a bodily but not a fleshly life. John develops psuche to express the continuity, but Paul prefers pneuma, which stresses the continuity of the divine activity.

5. The NT does not use psuche as a term for life in an intermediate state. Rev. 6:9 does not have this sense, nor does 2 Cor. 5:3, and at most Mt. 10:28 is debatable. Paul is wisely content to know that the dead are with Christ (Phil. 1:23). [E. Schweizer, IX, 637-56]

E. Gnosticism.

1. Gnostic texts vary considerably in teaching and usage. A common feature is the view that the human self is part of the transcendent world that is entangled in this cosmos. The revealer discloses its true origin and frees it for a return home. In some texts the self is called the soul, and we find the corresponding pairs light/darkness, good/evil, spirit/matter, and soul/body.

2. Gnostics who use psuche view it as the inner human core in a cosmos fashioned by pneumatic particles but sharply differentiated from the good world of light, to which only the pneuma belongs. The threefold structuring (pneuma, psuche, soma) follows the philosophical model, but the union of the soul with matter is not now an act of the self-unfolding noos but involves alienation of the pneumatic particle. Natural and moral laws enslave the pneumatic self and keep it from entering the pleroma. The psuche is the disputed area of redemption; it is good only insofar as it takes pneuma into itself.

3. The psychological terminology varies widely in detail. Valentinians refer to two souls. Others contrast psuche with noos, pneuma, or logos. Redemption applies strictly to the pneuma, but the psuche may be included. For Basilides the psuche is a bird, the pneuma its wings that enable it to soar. Popular Gnosticism uses the terms with no great exactitude.

4. a. Trichotomy. The Nag Hammadi texts give evidence of trichotomy, e.g., in speaking of the pneumatic, psychical, and earthly Adam, or the threefold resurrection of spirit, soul, and flesh.
b. Varied Use of psuche. Nag Hammadi texts also use psuche in different ways. A basic distinction is between the cosmic and supercosmic soul. The latter is the pneuma, which is redeemed by its bridegroom, the life-giving Spirit. Another distinction is between immortal and mortal souls. The psuche , however, is usually the cosmic soul, which stands between the spirit and the body and may incline one way or the other; negative evaluation of this soul is common, and it cannot be redeemed without the pneuma.

[K.W. Tröger, Volume IX, pages 656-60]


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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