A personal self ? (Gen 2:7) or the divine I AM ? (Exo 3:14)
(A personal identity? or "The only I, or Us?" - S&H 591:16)
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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Nephesh, the Old Testament Hebrew word nephesh and New Testament Greek word psuche translated in the Bible as soul are also translated as self; life, and person. In common versions of the Old Testament, the phrases, "my soul" and "our soul," really means -- and modern translations often translate them as -- I, me, we, or us.
Though neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament directly states that nephesh or psuche is God, in Exo 3:14 God identifies himself as the "I AM," who declares, "I AM THAT I AM" or "I AM WHO I AM." The Greek Septuagint, the early Christians' Greek Old Testament, read, Ego eimi ho on, translatable into English as, "I am the Being."
The phrase, Ego eimi or I AM, has great significance in the Gospel of John. Rather than Christ Jesus being just another personal self, independent of God, Christ was/is the image of God, the I AM, his/the divine Soul, the true basis for Christ Jesus' selfhood. When Christ Jesus spoke or acted, he did so because God, spoke or acted. That Christ Jesus recognized God as his/the divine Soul, the I AM, is arguably the significance of Jesus' "I am" sayings in the Gospel of John.
1.a. Soul defined from its Hebrew word nephesh [return to table of contents]
The Hebrew word translatable as soul is "nephesh" <Strong's #05315>, but as Vine's Dictionary of Bible Words points out, it includes all of the following meanings: soul; self; life; person; heart. Vine's goes on to say,
The Hebrew contrasts two other concepts which are not found in the Greek and Latin tradition: 'the inner self' and 'the outer appearance' as opposed to 'what one appears to be to one's observers.' The inner person is nephesh, while the outer person, or reputation, is shem, most commonly translated 'name.' In narrative or historical passages of the Old Testament, nephesh can be translated as 'life' or 'self,' as in Lev. 17:11. It is often translated as the common pronoun 'I' or 'me.' (W.E. Vine, Vine's Dictionary of Bible Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, page 651)
The Bible frequently uses "my soul" or "our soul" as an identification of the first person, I, me, we, or us. (See also S&H 591:16) For example, in the Old Testament we read:
KJV Say <0559> (08798), I pray thee <04994>, thou art my sister <0269>: that <04616> it may be well <03190> (08799) with me for thy sake; and my soul <05315> shall live <02421> (08804) because of thee <01558>.
NRSV Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life <05315> may be spared on your account."
TEV Tell them that you are my sister; then because of you they will let me <05315> live and treat me well.
KJV My soul <05315> is weary <05354> (08804) of my life <02416>; I will leave <05800> (08799) my complaint <07879> upon myself; I will speak <01696> (08762) in the bitterness <04751> of my soul <05315>.
NRSV I <05315> loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
TEV I <05315> am tired of living. Listen to my bitter complaint.
KJV Return <07725> (08798), O LORD <03068>, deliver <02502> (08761) my soul <05315>: oh save <03467> (08685) me for thy mercies' <02617> sake.
NRSV Turn, O LORD, save my life <05315>; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
TEV Come and save me <05315>, Lord; in your mercy rescue me from death.
KJV Our soul <05315> waiteth <02442> (08765) for the LORD <03068>: he is our help <05828> and our shield <04043>.
NRSV Our soul <05315> waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield.
TEV We <05315> put our hope in the Lord; he is our protector and our help.
KJV Then <0233> they had swallowed us up <01104> (08804) quick <02416>, when their wrath <0639> was kindled <02734> (08800) against us: Then <0233> the waters <04325> had overwhelmed <07857> (08804) us, the stream <05158> had gone over <05674> (08804) our soul <05315>:
NRS then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us <05315>;
TEV then they would have swallowed us alive in their furious anger against us; then the flood would have carried us away, the water would have covered us <05315>,
This provides some interesting food for thought, because in the Fourth Gospel when Jesus use the term I, he had a very different basis for that I. When he used I AM, there is a clear reference to Exo 3:14, which identifies God as the "I AM," who declares "I AM THAT I AM" or "I AM WHO I AM." (The Greek Septuagint, the early Christians' Greek Old Testament, read, Ego eimi ho on, translatable into English as, "I am the Being." The phrase, Ego eimi or I AM, has great significance in the Gospel of John.
Rather than Christ Jesus being just another personal self, independent of God, Christ was/is the image of God, the I AM, his/the divine Soul, the true basis for Christ Jesus' selfhood. When Christ Jesus spoke or acted, he did so because God, spoke or acted. That Christ Jesus recognized God as his/the divine Soul, the I AM, is arguably the significance of Jesus' "I am" sayings in the Gospel of John. For more details regarding Jesus' "I am" sayings, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/terms/i-am.htm.
For an additional definition of the Hebrew word, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/glossary/soul.htm#nepes.
1.b. Soul defined from its Greek word psuche [return to table of contents]
For a definition of the Greek word, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/glossary/soul.htm#psuche.
2. Two accounts of the creation of man/woman [return to table of contents]
man/woman as originating from the dust/earth (Gen 2:7) versus man/woman as the image of God (Gen 1:26,27)
The distinction between soul as a personal self and Soul as the divine I AM is made clear by the two different descriptions of man/woman in the first two chapters of Genesis, in which two different biblical accounts of creation are presented.
(1) One man/woman is the one to which Genesis 2 and 3 refer. In this account "the Lord God" made this "man" out of the "dust" of the ground. (Gen 2:6)
man -- In Genesis 2 and 3 "man" is a translation of the Hebrew word adam. The Strong's number for this Hebrew word is #0120.
Lord God -- In Genesis 2 and 3 "Lord God" is a translation of the Hebrew words Yahweh Elohim. The Strong's numbers for these Hebrew words are #3068 and #0430. The English translation is "Jehovah Elohim."
dust -- In Genesis 2 and 3 "dust" is a translation of the Hebrew word aphar. The Strong's number for this Hebrew word is #06083. The English translation is "earth" or "dust."
(2) The other man/woman is the one to which Genesis 1 refers. In this account "in the beginning" God made this man/woman in God's "image," after God's "likeness," male and female (Gen 1:26, 27).
man -- In Genesis 1 "man" is again a translation of the Hebrew word adam. The Strong's number for this Hebrew word is #0120.
God -- In Genesis 1 "God" is a translation of the Hebrew words Elohim. The Strong's numbers for this Hebrew word is #0430. (Yahweh Elohim -- or Jehovah God -- does not appear in Genesis 1.)
Biblical scholars today have strong evidence that the creation story of Genesis 2 and 3 represents an earlier tradition than the creation account in Genesis 1. (For example, see The Old Testament Library: Genesis, by Gerhard von Rad, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972, pages 24-25. See also HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier and the Society of Biblical Literature, New York: HarperCollins, 1996, pages 210-211. See also Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, Boston: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1910, page 523:14-32.)
3. Two types of man/woman [return to table of contents]
earthly, physical man/woman of the dust versus spiritual, heavenly man/woman (1Co 15:45-47)
The discovery that the Genesis 2 and 3 ("Adam and Eve") account of creation likely was written several hundred years earlier than the Genesis 1 ("In the beginning...") account of creation fits well with the creation order that Paul describes in his letter to the church in Corinth, regardless of whether or not Paul was in any way aware of the historical sequence of the two creation accounts. Paul writes:
Thus it is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1Co 15:45-49, NRSV)
(See also Rom 8:28,29; 2Co 3:17,18; Col 1:12-16; Col 3:9-11; Heb 1:1-3.)
It is helpful to note that the word translated in 1Co 15:45 as a living "being" is translated from the Greek word psuche <Strong's #5590>, which in English means a "soul" or "breath-based, sensual, animal-like life." Here Paul is directly paraphrasing from Genesis 2:7. The word translated above as "physical" is translated from the related Greek adjective psuchikos <Strong's #5591>, which in English means "breath-based, sensual, animal-like."
The following table shows the origin of and the actual meaning of the theological term soul, which is used as a means of personally identifying each mortal man/woman.
|SOUL||King James Version||New Revised Standard Version|
|Gen 2:7||And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.||Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.|
|1Co 15:45||And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.||Thus it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.|
The "last Adam" or Christ as "a quickening spirit" is the epitome of the Genesis 1 "man," which is described as follows:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27, KJV, NASV, and others)
The man/woman of Genesis 1 is described as the "image" or "likeness" (Gen 1:26) of God, and God is later revealed as the I AM (Exodus 3:13) , the divine Soul. Christ is described in the New Testament as the "image" or the "reflection" of God and as being one with God.
2Co 4:4 ...The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [NRSV]
Col 1:12-16 - 12 ...The Father... enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. [NRSV]
Heb 1:1-3 - 1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. [NRSV]
Those "in Christ" are described as having a "new self" and as being transformed into "the image" of Christ -- and into "the image" of the "creator."
Rom 8:28,29 - 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. [NRSV]
1Co 15:48,49 - 45 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. [NRSV]
2Co 3:17,18 - 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. [NRSV]
Eph 4:21 - For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [NRSV]
Col 3:9-11 - 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! [NRSV]
[See also S&H 94:1, S&H 301:17, S&H 516:24-30, Man 15:6, Mis 97:20-5, Ret 64:1-8, Ret 70:20-25. The terms "image" and "likeness" are used over 200 times in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and over 200 times in Prose Works.]
These verses illustrate how and why the personal soul, the "old self" of mortal man/woman, differs greatly from the divine Soul, God, the I AM, which is Christ's basis of identity and authority. Christ, as "the image of ... God" (Col 2:15), is eternally one with God. The New Testament tells us that "the old self" (NAB, NASB, NRSV, et al) or "the old man" (KJV, NJB, et al) has to be stripped off, and we need to be transformed, in Christ and "clothed.. with the new self," in "the image" of God. And, stimulating further food for thought as to the nature of God, the "image of God" was created "male and female." (Gen 1:27) Thus, God is the Soul of "the new man/woman" in Christ -- the Soul of "the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:24)
For Bible dictionary definitions of soul, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/glossary/soul.htm .
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer