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Key passages:

Genesis 2:7
Matthew 10:28
1 Thessalonians 5:23

Like a Swiss pocket knife with attachments for different jobs, a lot of words are versatile enough to be used to convey quite different meanings in different settings. This is true for words used by the writers of the Bible as well. Sometimes only the context of the sentence can help a translator to know which meaning was intended by the original Bible writer. Take Genesis 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 nephesh.” So, what is a “nephesh?” This Hebrew word was used to mean “life,” as well as “person,” and even as “appetite.” The King James Version translators in 1611 chose to translate “nephesh” in Genesis 2:7 as “living soul.” This could be a misleading translation if we unthinkingly assume the “soul” to be some sort of immortal entity that exists apart from the body or that survives death. Other Hebrew and Greek words commonly translated as “spirit,” “flesh” and “heart” are equally versatile and capable of being misunderstood by modern readers of the Bible. What we need is a comprehensive understanding of the Bibleís view of human nature.

Key Questions:

  1. What is the basic Biblical understanding about human beings? What about Paulís prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?” According to the Bible, are humans composed of three parts or two parts, one mortal and the other immortal. Or, are humans a unified whole monistic?
  2. From a biblical point of view, is there such a thing as a human “soul” apart from a human “body.” Is it possible to think without or outside of a brain?
  3. At what point in human development is it appropriate to speak of “the person?”
  4. What about so-called multiple personalities? Can two different persons inhabit the same body?
  5. What do we know about the development of the sense of self-consciousness?
  6. Where do people go when they die? What is left after a person dies?
  7. Is the body good or bad, from a Christian point of view?

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