By Phillip Varady
From the most ancient of times there is evidence that our ancestors believed that there was life after death. It has been speculated that priests or rulers invented the concept of punishment after death as a means of keeping their worshippers/subjects subordinate to their doctrines or ordinances in order to maintain their position in a peaceful society. As we look back at recorded history we see that the concept is fully established in all societies.
Our oldest written source is from ancient Egypt where it was believed that everyone had a ba and a ka. The ba was unique to the people in whom it resided, even though it wasn’t a physical part of them. After death the ba would roam the earth during daylight while its creator, Ra, the god of the sun, ruled the heavens. At night it had to go to the underworld where Ra was transiting until the next sunrise. The ka was like the ba in that everyone had one but it was not unique. It was the life force that all shared and entered the body at birth. Like the ba, the ka wasn’t a physical part of the body, but unlike most other societies the importance of the body as a temporary home was the impetus behind mummification. Ka means life-source or food. Egyptians believed that the same life force that caused crops to grow could benefit the dead and therefore offered food to the departed.
The ancient Babylonians believed in an underworld called Irkalla or the Great Below to which a part of them went after death. It differed from the Egyptians concept which was partial to kings and Pharaohs, in that irrespective of social rank or the deeds performed during life, all had the same status. Keeping our immediate focus on these two cultures which had, or might have had, an influence on the religion of ancient Israel and subsequently on Christianity, (the Canaanites, Greeks and Romans will be discussed later) we turn to the oldest biblical record concerning the source of life – the Book of Job.
Job 33:4 The Spirit [ruach] of God hath made me, and the breath [neshamah] of the Almighty hath given me life [will cause me to live - chayah].
This does not seem to conflict with much older beliefs; the only differences are perhaps the method of giving life and the name of the god who is credited as the giver of it. Many biblical scholars believe that the writer of Job was Moses and that it was written before Genesis. If so, then Genesis confirms what was first declared in Job.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath [neshamah] of life [chay]; and man became a living soul [nephesh chay].
It is absolutely critical at this point to emphasize one of the most important points in this paper. From the biblical record it is clear that God did not give a soul to Adam or to anyone else. The breath of life is the life giving source through which man became a living soul. After he was formed and before the breath of life was in him he was a non-living nephesh who became a living one.
Job 34:14-15 If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit [ruach] and his breath [neshamah]; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.
It should be clear then that the soul is not the life source that keeps our mortal bodies alive.
Psalm 104:29 Thou dost hide Thy face, they are dismayed; Thou dost take away their spirit [ruach], they expire, And return to their dust. NAS
This spirit [ruach] of God in man before salvation is not to be confused with the spirit of God in Christ in us who have believed unto salvation, which is eternal life. The ruach only sustains life in a mortal body for a finite time. To define ruach and neshamah or to differentiate one from the other is difficult but perhaps this will be of some help:
Rhyming and meter don’t seem to have been widespread in Biblical poetry. Rather . . . poetry in the Bible seems often to have been built around parallel lines; “saying the same thing twice,” we might call it.
By way of example . . . Numbers 24:5 “How fair are your tents, O Jacob
Your encampments, O Israel.
Translators vary widely in the way they render “fair” and “encampments,” but regardless of the nuances of those two words, the verse demonstrates the most common form of Biblical poetry.
The line is poetic because of the parallel structure between “tents” and “encampments” and between “Jacob” and “Israel.”
This form of poetry is in fact so common that scholars are careful to distinguish two varieties of it: Simple parallel structure, in which two ideas are repeated in the same order, and chiasmus, in which the order is reversed.
More than the order of the words, though, in the Bible it’s the choice of synonyms, near synonyms, or other words that create the poetic effect.
And God Said, Dr Joel M. Hoffman
Isaiah 57:16 For I will not accuse forever, /nor always be angry;
For without me their spirit [ruach] fails, /the life breath [neshamah] that I have given. NAB
In the second line ‘spirit’ and ‘breath’ appear to be synonymous. And again:
Isa 42:5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, /and stretched them out;
he that spread forth the earth, /and that which cometh out of it;
he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, /and spirit to them that walk therein:
The first two lines are an example of chiasmus – created/stretched – spread/cometh out; and the last line is simple parallelism, and ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ here appear to be near synonyms. God chooses to use two words even if the nuances are beyond our discernment. However, there is no ambiguity concerning what happens at death.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruach] shall return unto God who gave it.
There is no mention of an afterlife in the bible; it is a pagan concept that has permeated all societies and religions, even Christianity. Its origin is in the first lie ever told. God warned Adam concerning the forbidden fruit:
Gen 2:17 . . . for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. [Hebrew - dying thou shalt die] and the serpent contradicted God and said thou shalt not surely die. [Hebrew - dying thou shalt not die]. If in dying we shall not really die, then what part of us shall continue to live? Satan has been perfecting his plan for millennia. It is, in effect, a religion. It did not start with ba and ka; it may have been formalized in the Egyptian religion but it had been pervasive in all earlier cultures. In later Israelite culture the part of man that supposedly survived death became the nephesh; in Greece it was psuche; in Rome it was anima and in Anglo-Saxon England it was soul.
To the native English speaker the word ‘soul’ has a legacy going back at least 15 centuries to the first language that could truly be called English, although the similarities between that tongue and ours are slim indeed. That language is now called Old English but in reality was a combination of dialects spoken by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, and perhaps Frisians and Franks. Anglo-Saxon is the term used by historians to designate the language spoken by these Germanic tribes who invaded and settled in Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, who created the English nation which lasted until the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD.
Soul is the modern form of an Old English word sáwol, spoken by the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century. Their concept of that word, although modified over time, has changed but little. It was the custom of these people to bind their dead to prevent the soul from returning as a ghost. The word sáwol is thought to derive from the verb ‘to bind.’ Alongside the deceased were placed his weapon and food. In some cases his wife or another female, possibly a slave, was decapitated and buried with him so as to accompany him on his journey to Neorxnawang, the heavenly meadow; so strong was their belief in the afterlife. The Anglo-Saxons were known to wear amulets to ward off evil, and there are many cases where the dead were buried wearing them. It is difficult in this age to determine if this was only a superstition or if it was meant to protect the dead on their journey. It may reflect Paul’s usage of ‘superstitious’ [Gk. deisidaimonia] in Acts 17:22 indicating fear or respect of the demons –and in an odd way reverence.
Wælheale was the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Norse Valhalla where the souls of warriors slain in battle go after death to continue to train every day for a future battle and are served beer and mead by the Valkyries. There was also an afterlife paradise called heofon, from which is derived our word ‘heaven’ which was the abode of the gods and there was also a place of punishment called hel, described as being dreary and dark and inhabited by venomous serpents. One thing was unwavering in this religion – the evil that men did in their lifetime would be punished in the afterlife and the most evil risked eternal damnation.
Beginning at the dawn of the 7th century, Christian missionaries began to convert the entire nation, which they did in about 100 years. It was considered a blessing by the Anglo-Saxons that instead of eternal punishment for evil acts, that their new religion offered the concept of purgatory and the possibility of an early exit from that place to go to the Christian heaven. What their former religion lacked was a means of forgiveness by their gods. The fate of the soul as taught by these Latin speaking missionaries was not substantially different from what the Norse-Germanic tribes had been practicing. The teaching that the soul went to another place at death, (whether a place of rewards, or punishment or redemption), although not biblical, was a very common and popular belief that pre-dated written history. Three centuries after the Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity the poem Beowulf was written, with this excerpt that perpetuated the lie:
Him of hreðre gewat sáwol secean soðfæstra dom in fenfreoðo feorh alegde, hæþene sáwle- þær him hel onfeng.
From his bosom fled his soul to seek the saints' reward laid forlorn his life adown, his heathen soul,-and hell received it. Beowulf
What the Latin speaking missionaries called anima had the same meaning as the Greek psuche, and it seemed a good translation of the Anglo-Saxon concept of sáwol. It was the groundbreaking work of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) Peri Psuche, “About the Soul” that greatly influenced Hellenistic as well as later Roman thought about the nature of the soul. Contemporary Greek philosophers made no distinction between ‘mind’ and ‘soul’, using them interchangeably but it was Aristotle who proposed that the psuche was the primary reason for the existence and functioning of the body. He also believed that it was the ultimate link with the divine and that it could exist independently of the body. The mind (Gk. nous) was a function of the psuche.
Roman religion had some common origins with that of the Etruscans who were the dominant power in central Italy until Rome conquered them in the 3rd century BC. Both were heavily influenced by Greek culture and Rome consciously adapted its religion to resemble that of the Greeks. This resulted in the shared belief of Hades as the destination of departed souls where they would be judged and assigned to different regions depending on whether they had been righteous, evil or indifferent; respectively the Elysian Fields, Tartarus and the Plain of Asphodel. Curiously and suspiciously, the NAB bible in 2Peter 2:4 correctly translates the accepted Greek text dealing with angels that sinned “condemned them to the chains of Tartarus.” The mention in the Greek text of a place out of pagan mythology is so foreign to biblical usage, one must suspect a forgery or gross mistranslation; the Aramaic text reads ‘chains of darkness’ which most English versions follow. Euripides and other Greek writers called Tartarus ‘abussa chasmata’, the bottomless chasm. Abussos, [abyss] by itself appears seven times in the book of Revelation and is translated as ‘bottomless pit’. This is the place where some devil spirits are still confined - but not mankind. Abussos is also called the deep; where the devil spirits called Legion petitioned Jesus Christ not to send them. For those evil Greeks and Romans whose souls were consigned to Tartarus there was hope. After sufficient torture by the Furies the debt for their misdeeds was deemed to have been paid and they were released to the Plain of Asphodel.
When the English bible uses the word hell in the Old Testament (hereafter called OT) it is the translation of the Hebrew word Sheol. Finding a verse using Sheol in the OT that is quoted in the NT, allows a comparison be made; and through a totally inaccurate understanding there seems to be an equivalency.
Psalm 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul (nephesh) in hell (Sheol); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul (psuche) in hell (Hades), neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
The Hebrew word nephesh is mistakenly thought to be the same as the Greek psuche. The differences will be shown shortly. There may have been some popular philosophical thought that led to the justification for this equivalency but not for Sheol/Hades. Not only is the biblical description of Sheol far from the Anglo-Saxon concept of Hel, even Hades with its elaborate geography and hierarchy does not come close in comparison. In a massive and disastrous error of translation, Sheol and Hades are made to be the same place. As we have seen above, the Greco-Roman Hades is swarming with activity as is the Anglo-Saxon Hel. Turning our attention to the Hebrew Sheol we discover that of the 65 occurrences of the word in KJV, 31 are translated ‘hell’, 31 are ‘grave’ and 3 are ‘pit.’ The first example shows the burial of a heathen in the same fashion that the Anglo-Saxons used a millennium later; preparing the deceased for the afterlife.
Ezekiel 32:27 And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell (Sheol) with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
And then there was this account of the fate of certain Israelites who rebelled against God in the wilderness. The Earth opened beneath their feet while they were still alive. Were they then alive in hell until the earth closed upon them?
Num 16:33 They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit (Sheol), and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
The following occurrences are all translated ‘grave’ in KJV and describe not a place of afterlife but of death. It is dark, Job 17:13; there is no praise of God nor remembrance of Him, Psalm 6:5; no one speaks, Psalm 31:17; there is no work, reasoning, knowledge or wisdom there, Ecc 9:10; but there are maggots and worms:
Isaiah 14:11 Down to Sheol your pomp is brought, the sound of your harps. Maggots are the couch beneath you, worms your blanket." NAB
This does not appear to be a desirable place to spend the afterlife for either Greek or Roman or Anglo-Saxon. This is why these cultures, through their own genius, invented or inherited an afterlife that suited them. For Israel there was no afterlife for the nephesh, as we have so far seen it, and there is very little in the Old Testament concerning any life after death and what there is, is the result of a resurrection. This follows the account of the dry bones:
Ezekiel 37:12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves (qeber burial plot, all 4 occurrences.), and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
13And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
14 And shall put my spirit [ruach] in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
It is the spirit of God that gives life, not soul.
Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
The euphemism using sleep for death is common throughout the bible. It expresses the thought that in sleep there is no consciousness of time passing neither is there any awareness of any mental functions.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing,
There are very few additional verses in the OT concerning the resurrection of the dead and absolutely nothing concerning the afterlife of the soul. The compatibility of the Anglo-Saxon concept of soul with both Greek and Roman thought has perpetuated a flawed doctrine, even to the present. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary offers this definition of soul:
1: the immaterial essence, animating principle or actuating cause of an individual life 2a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe 3: a person’s total self, etc.
This definition accurately reflects how English speakers use the word soul but it is no guarantee that this usage is correct. Seeing that it is a spiritual concept we must allow the bible to define the word nephesh. In the verses that follow I have purposely left the Hebrew nephesh untranslated so as not to prejudice your definition.
Genesis 1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath nephesh, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
Genesis 1:21 And God created great whales, and every living nephesh that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living nephesh after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
Genesis 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is nephesh [Heb. nephesh chay a living nephesh] I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. [KJV failed to translate the word nephesh from the Hebrew text in this verse resulting in ‘there is life’.]
From these four verses the only things we may ascribe to nephesh is that it has the ability to move and reproduce, and anything that is a living nephesh can eat. This next verse is the most critical verse on this subject and I repeat it here for emphasis.
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 living nephesh.
Note well – Adam was not given a living nephesh – he became one! The word ‘became’ is the Hebrew verb hayah which is no mere copula but always an emphatic word. What can we add to our knowledge of the meaning of nephesh? We now know that Adam was one. In Genesis 1verses 21, 24 and 30 we see ‘living nephesh’ as though it needed to be qualified to differentiate it from another kind of nephesh, perhaps a non-living nephesh.
Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all nepheshes are mine; as the nephesh of the father, so also the nephesh of the son is mine: the nephesh that sinneth, it shall die.
God gave instruction concerning Nazarites, those who dedicated themselves to God with a vow. One of their prohibitions was to refrain from touching a corpse.
Numbers 6:6 All the days that he (the Nazarite) separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead nephesh. 7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
Therefore anything from a crawling thing to a great whale can be a nephesh whether alive or dead.
Leviticus 17:11 For the nephesh of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your nepheshes: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the nephesh.
In this verse the first use of nephesh is translated ‘life’ by KJV but not the other two. The translators correctly understood that the use of nephesh here was the figure of speech metonymy where the whole is put for a part. The being of the flesh, its existence, depends on the blood (and equally on its breath.) A living being requires a body, blood and breath. If a soldier bleeds to death on the battlefield and his blood runs into the earth, is his nephesh then in the soil? As we have just seen in Numbers 6:6 a dead soldier would still be a nephesh, although a dead one. Does a blood transfusion necessitate the transfer of a part of the nephesh of the donor to the donee? There are some who believe so. It must be remembered that it was through the ‘breath of life’ and the presence of the spirit of God that man became a living nephesh and not because God filled Adam’s veins with blood.
Deuteronomy 12:23 Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the nephesh; and thou mayest not eat the nephesh with the flesh.
There is a contradiction: Leviticus states that the nephesh is in the blood and Deuteronomy states it is the blood. God doesn’t make contradictions – scribes do. It becomes totally unexplainable if nephesh is translated as soul. Again, KJV translated nephesh as ‘life’ because of the same figure of speech, metonymy. The blood is absolutely not the ‘life’ because a dead nephesh, a dead person, can still have his blood in him. A living soul, a nephesh chay must have a body, blood and breath. When Adam became a living nephesh did God suddenly fill his veins with blood? Even harder to explain would be how one could eat a nephesh if it meant life or soul. Going from the inexplicable to the ridiculous – if a nephesh is eaten, what is its fate? What are the consequences for the eater other than the consequences of disobedience? Christians are not bound by this commandment and suffer no spiritual or physical consequences. It is obvious that there is a strong dissimilitude between the pagan concept of soul and the biblical. A thorough examination of scripture concerning nephesh is required.
The pre-Hellenistic concept of psuche as a life force with all the attributes of a living being was necessary for the Greek belief in an afterlife in which some part of man continued after death. Their religion consigned the psuche to Hades where they could spend eternity as a functioning entity, with thoughts and feelings. They knew that the body did not survive therefore they put all their hope in the psuche.
In Greek mythology a man named Aeneas visits his dead father in Hades, in the Elysian Fields, the place where those who had led a good life while living, dwelt in the afterlife. When he is ready to return to the world of the living, Anchises, his father, shows him the souls of those who are about to be reincarnated. They must first take ‘a draught of long oblivion’ from the River of Forgetfulness so that they have no memory of what in former lives or the afterlife they had experienced and suffered. In Greek the name of the river is Lethe. It takes its name from a very old Greek verb that is translated: to forget, to escape notice, to remain concealed. It is the word letho. There is a device used in Greek grammar that is called a privative that allows a word to be turned into its antonym. This is done by adding an alpha, our a, to the word. It exists in English also in such words as amoral, asymmetrical, etc. The resulting antonym for the noun form is aleethee, which is translated: unconcealed, manifest, being in reality what it appears to be. It is the root of aletheia, the Greek for truth. So, for one to return to the living one must forget the truth and thereby not be able to give testimony of the afterlife. How convenient! Does this place bear any resemblance to Sheol?
It was at the start of the Hellenistic period that Jews that still could read Hebrew translated the OT into Koiné Greek. As the Greek concept of psuche narrowed after Aristotle, making it more mental by attempting to disassociate it from the functions of life, the decision that made psuche the equivalent of nephesh proved to be a bad one. Conversely, a Greek who could read the Hebrew OT would be well aware that psuche was not the same as nephesh but rather very much like lebab, heart, which we shall examine shortly.
From comparatively humble Homeric beginnings, the word ‘psuche’ undergoes quite remarkable semantic expansion in sixth and fifth century usage. By the end of the fifth century — the time of Socrates' death — psuche is standardly thought and spoken of, for instance, as the distinguishing mark of living things, as something that is the subject of emotional states and that is responsible for planning and practical thinking, and also as the bearer of such virtues as courage and justice. Coming to philosophical theory, we first trace a development towards comprehensive articulation of a very broad conception of psuche, according to which the psuche is not only responsible for mental or psychological functions like thought, perception and desire, and is the bearer of moral qualities, but in some way or other accounts for all the vital functions that any living organism performs. This broad conception, which is clearly in close contact with ordinary Greek usage by that time, finds its fullest articulation in Aristotle's theory. The theories of the Hellenistic period, by contrast, are interested more narrowly in the psuche as something that is responsible specifically for mental or psychological functions. They either de-emphasize or sever the ordinary-language connection between psuche and life in all its functions and aspects.
Ancient Theories of Soul (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The Hellenistic Jews wanted a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures and set about, with utmost care, we are told, to perform this task in Ptolemaic Egypt about the year 285 B.C. The result was the Septuagint, hereafter referred to as LXX because, as legend has it, 70 Hebrew scholars, six from every tribe, (I know – that would be seventy-two, also disregarding the fact that ten of those tribes no longer existed) working independently of one another, came up with the exact same translation. Really? Not being versed in Greek religion or philosophy they equated nephesh with psuche and through their blundering and naiveté that error has stood to this day.
From the time that the first books of the OT were written to the time of the 12th chapter of Judges was about 340 years. During that time the twelve tribes settled in different areas, had different foreign neighbors and may or may not have had Canaanite peoples living among them. After so many years they developed different dialects and accents to such an extent that it was impossible for some to mimic the speech of another tribe even if their life depended on it. Judges 12 recounts the confrontation of the Ephraimites and the Gileadites and the test of identity by the ability to pronounce shibboleth. If they mispronounced the word they were killed. Another 150 years passed before the hope of a unified nation began to be realized when Saul was anointed its first king. It was achieved when David conquered Jerusalem.
The highly centralized regime demanded a unified language. The administration needed a written and spoken language which could be understood without hindrance in all parts of the kingdom, and which every civil servant was able to learn quickly, and which on the other hand was sufficiently rich and adaptable to express efficiently the mass of new concepts connected with the involved administration, the corvée, the Temple cult, and the rapidly growing foreign trade described in I Kings 10. It seems probable that this language was at first created in the capital through contacts between men from different tribes, especially at court, and that owing to its prestige as language of the capital and the court; it spread, carried by the officials sent out from Jerusalem. Once this new common language began to be used in official documents, it became a matter of course also to be employed by authors of the royal chronicles, and no doubt the Books of Kings, which were in part based on extracts from such chronicles, also reflect their language. This language form, due to the unification of the nation under David and Solomon (ca. 998-926 B.C.E.) is the Classic Hebrew of the First Temple period.
Classical Hebrew was used for 400 years, until the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. It would be impossible that during this long time the spoken language should not have changed, even in the city of Jerusalem. But the written language remained the same in grammar and all the essentials of vocabulary, only the style changed. This means that classical Hebrew was a literary language, acquired through education, which mainly served the social elite, even if it was understood by the people. A contributory factor to the conservatism of the language was the custom of that time, that letters and books were not actually written down by their authors, but writing was done by professional scribes who had learnt the language of writing together with the script. These scribes had a professional interest in maintaining the language standards as rigidly as possible, for the bigger the gap between the spoken and written language, the greater the standing of those that could handle the latter correctly.
When Nebuchadnezar destroyed Jerusalem, he transferred to Babylon the priests, scribes and craftsmen, and left in Judaea only “vintners and ploughmen” (II Kings 25:12), i.e. villagers. There was thus no one left in Judaea to continue to foster the Classic literary language. The Exile lasted 70 years, which means that people born in the foreign country might already have had grandchildren. During this period, the exiles learnt to speak the language of their surroundings. The spoken language in Babylonia at that time was Aramaic . . .
Chaim Rabin, Professor of Hebrew Language
The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
The language of the Israelites that returned home in the year 516 B.C. was irrevocably Aramaic. Add to that another 231 years of speaking that language as their native tongue to get to the year 285 B.C. when the LXX was translated. Alexander the Great had conquered Egypt only 46 years earlier and subsequently Greek became the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean area displacing Aramaic to some extent. The need arose among the Israelite population in Egypt for a translation into Greek of their scriptures, seeing that few of them could read the Hebrew text. Seventy ‘scholars’ set about to translate a text written twelve centuries previous, which was modified and codified 500 years later into Classical Hebrew, and which none of their ancestors had spoken as a native tongue for 300 years. In addition, they abandoned seeking Aramaic/Egyptian bilingualism for the Aramaic/Greek. They were masters neither of Hebrew nor Greek.
In examining the version itself, it bears manifest proof that it was not executed by Jews of Palestine, but by those of Egypt: -there are words and expressions which plainly denote its Alexandrian origin. It may also be doubted whether in the year 285 B.C. there were Jews in Palestine who had sufficient intercourse with Greeks to have executed a translation into that language; for it must be borne in mind how recently they had become the subjects of Greek monarchs, and how differently they were situated from the Alexandrians as to the influx of Greek settlers.
Introduction to the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament (Zondervan)
In addition to the difficulties involved with translating one non-native language into a second non-native language, was the cultural differences that the religion of the Israelites adopted through syncretism. The Canaanite religion was greatly influenced by its imperial neighbor, Egypt, but to a greater extent by Babylon, because of the similarities in language.
The Canaanites were agriculturists whose fate depended on the fertility of the soil and abundant rainfall. It is not surprising that their chief deities were Baal, the god of weather and Athart (Astarte) a fertility goddess. Their religion was characterized by ritual prostitution, both male and female, child sacrifice and licentious worship as the normal expressions of religious devotion. Their unrestrained lifestyle was their attempt to realize the greatest pleasure in this life, in stark contrast with what awaited them at death when their npš (the Canaanite equivalent of nephesh) entered the afterlife in the land of Mot, the god of death. It is described as damp and dismal and lacking sufficient nourishment, which prompted living relatives to make food and drink offerings. They were buried with grave goods so that they would not bother the living. Dead relatives were venerated and sometimes asked for help. None of this was native to the Israelite culture although their forefathers had seen similar practices in Egypt.
When the Israelites came into the land of Canaan they were told by God to totally destroy the people who occupied the land or drive them out but they did neither and allowed a remnant to dwell among them. The strong ethic and faith of the Israelites weakened under the influence of the sexual attraction of the Canaanite religion. Even the Philistines, who were not native to this area, succumbed to the lure of the Canaanite religion. In direct disobedience of God’s instruction, the Israelites intermarried with the Canaanites.
Judges 3:6 And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
Israel began to absorb some of the concepts and practices of their tributary neighbors even to the point of naming their children after the names of their gods. Gideon, for example, was also called Jerub-baal and King Saul named one of his sons Esh-baal. This same Saul consulted with a Canaanite woman at Endor to bring up from Sheol the nephesh of the dead prophet Samuel; a practice which Saul himself outlawed on pain of death. It was not because God did not want the living to talk to the dead but rather that the living would be talking to devil spirits because the dead were dead. After centuries of Israel disregarding God’s instructions concerning ‘strange women’, King Solomon set up altars for his foreign wives and worshipped there and served their strange gods. Things only got worse after that to the point that God showed Ezekiel what was going on in the temple. The full account begins in chapter eight; the more you read the worse it gets.
Ezekiel 8:17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch (a phallic symbol) to my (sic) nose.
The priesthood had become altogether corrupt in doctrine and in practice. It is not surprising then that wrong doctrine and wrong practice became acceptable; that the Israelite culture slowly adopted pagan beliefs and customs.
Here then are some of the attributes of nephesh that are absent from psuche.
Ezekiel 4:14 Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my nephesh hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.
Food can pollute a nephesh.
1 Kings 17:22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the nephesh of the child came into him again, and he revived.
This cannot be flesh or blood but only breath.
Joshua 20:3 That the slayer that killeth any nephesh unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
A nephesh can be killed.
Jeremiah 52:29 In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty and two nepheshes:
Clearly this indicates people.
Proverbs 6:30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his nephesh when he is hungry;
A nephesh gets hungry.
It is difficult to arrive at a precise definition of nephesh but obviously it pertains to the whole body, the blood and the breath of a person; what in humans we could call being, whether human or animal. These are the elements of life; absent any one of them there is no life. These are the elements of physical life which can be observed by the senses, far from the Anglo-Saxon concept of sáwol and the Greek concept of psuche. There are many verses that plainly use the figures of speech synecdoche and metonymy where the word ‘soul’ is put for the person or where it could be replaced with a personal pronoun.
Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul [me] from the power of the grave [Sheol]: for he shall receive me. Selah.
And this poetic verse where ‘I’ and ‘nephesh’ are synonymous.
Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
my nephesh [I] shall be joyful in my God;
Or this bit of poetry using parallelism:
Psalm 63:1b . . . my nephesh thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee
And then there are verses that claim that God has a nephesh, which are not true to fact and fall into the same category of figures as above.
Proverbs 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him, [Heb. his soul – nephesh.] KJV was aware that God did not have a mortal soul and saw the figure of speech, correctly supplying ‘him’ for ‘his soul.’
The overwhelming evidence is that when the soul is said to be doing anything, (dying, hungering, rejoicing, sorrowing, etc) if it is not factual it is a figure of speech and it indicates an earthly being and not a spiritual entity.
Deuteronomy 6:5 And thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thine heart (lebab), and with all thy soul (nephesh), and with all thy might (me’od).
If it is God’s intent to instruct the reader to love Him with the whole being, it must be that whatever is not physical, (that which is represented by nephesh) must be represented by heart and might. Numerous examples of the emotions being expressed are to be found throughout the scriptures and there is no question that the heart is the source of them, therefore we will not examine those here but there is more going on in the heart than only feelings.
Proverbs 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine lebab:
Ecclesiastes 5:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine lebab be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
Zechariah 7:10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine (think) evil against his brother in your lebab.
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their lebab, and convert, and be healed.
Genesis 20:6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy lebab; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
1 Samuel 27:1 And David said in his lebab, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul:
2 Samuel 7:27 For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his lebab to pray this prayer unto thee.
1 Kings 10:24 And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his lebab.
Esther 7:5 Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his lebab to do so?
Psalm 31:12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of lebab: I am like a broken vessel.
Deuteronomy 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to lebab among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
The KJV uses the word ‘mind’ in these last two verses as the translation of lebab. The word ‘mind’ appears 92 times in the OT of the KJV but not once is it said to be a function of the organ in our heads. Isaiah 26:3 seems to disagree but the Hebrew word used for ‘mind,’ yester, means purpose or frame.
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind (purpose) is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
And the source of that purpose:
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his lebab that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat,
It appears, then, that the Hebrew concept of ‘heart’ includes every function that we attribute to the mind/brain. The separation between heart and mind in the English idiom does not exist in Hebrew. It is we ourselves, through the evolution of the English language and our culture, which have chosen to think with our minds and feel with our hearts. The commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 compels the love for God with all one’s physical being through the nephesh, and all one’s mental and emotional faculties through the lebab.
This raises the question of redundancy in Matthew where a Pharisee asked a question of Jesus Christ concerning the great commandment. He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and although the underlying text in KJV is Greek (and well worth noting that it was not the LXX) it is inconceivable that the dialogue was not in Aramaic. An anecdotal quote from a Pharisee was that it would be better to feed one’s child meat from swine before allowing them to learn Greek. If anyone knew how to correctly translate Hebrew to Aramaic it was Jesus and yet the subsequent rendering to Greek was not from the Hebrew of Deuteronomy nor from the Greek of the LXX. It also does not match the Aramaic of the Peshitta text. Almost all Syriac scholars agree that the Peshitta gospels are translations of the Greek originals. A minority viewpoint is that the Peshitta represent the original New Testament and the Greek is a translation of it.
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him: Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, and with all your mind. Lamsa Bible (Peshitta)
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. KJV
The discrepancy brings up another important point – if we accept the Greek text underlying this verse in the KJV as the original, why does the same verse, as it appears in Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27 add the word might/strength (Gk. ischus) as it appears in the Aramaic text of the Peshitta? It is important to note that the original Hebrew in Deuteronomy read ‘heart, soul, might’, lebab, nephesh, me’od, which none of the translations in the gospels reflect. Matthew changes might to mind while Mark and Luke retain might (as strength) but also add mind. Another change may be noted here – the LXX translated me’od to the Greek dunamis, inherent power or capability, while ischus deals more with physical strength and abilities. This may possibly be explained by the evolution of language. Even if the spelling did not change in 1200 years (from Moses to the LXX) the meaning of the word most certainly will have changed. Consider Psalm 23:1 – I shall not want – today that would mean that we should not ask anything of God. The word ‘want’ had the meaning of ‘lack’ 400 years ago. Likewise me’od had the meaning of ‘vehemence’ when it was used in Deuteronomy 6:5 but of the 288 usages of that word only one other time did it mean that. Every other usage was an adverb and was translated as greatly, exceeding, very, sore and others. This is what George Lamsa, the Aramaic scholar and translator of the Peshitta bible to English says about that text and the LXX.
The Septuagint is based on early Hebrew manuscripts and not on the later ones known as the Massoretic, which were made in the 6th to the 9th centuries. In other words, there are many similarities between the Septuagint and the Peshitta text but the former contains inevitable mistranslations which were due to difficulties in transmitting Hebrew or Aramaic thought and mannerisms of speech into a totally alien tongue like Greek. But as it has been said, such was not the case between Biblical Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew which are of the same origin. Josephus used Aramaic and Hebrew words indiscriminately. Thus the term “translating” from Hebrew into Aramaic or vice versa is incorrect. It would be like one stating as having translated the United States Constitution from the Pennsylvania language into the English language or from lower German to higher German. Even before the first captivity, 721 B.C., Jewish kings, scribes, and learned men understood Aramaic, 2 Kings 18:26
The Israelites never wrote their sacred literature in any language but Aramaic and Hebrew, which are sister languages. The Septuagint was made in the 3rd century, B.C. for the Alexandrian Jews. This version was never officially read by the Jews in Palestine who spoke Aramaic and read Hebrew. Instead the Jewish authorities condemned the work and declared a period of mourning because of the defects in the version. Evidently Jesus and his disciples used a text which came from an older Hebrew original. This is apparent because Jesus’ quotations from the Old Testament agree with the Peshitta text but do not agree with the Greek text. Jesus and his disciples not only could not converse in Greek but they never heard it spoken.
Everything was written at the time it was revealed. This is also true of the Gospels. They were written a few years after the resurrection and some of the portions were written by Matthew while Jesus was preaching. They were not handed down orally and then written after the Pauline Epistles, as some western scholars say; they were written many years before the Epistles.
Introduction to the Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text, George M. Lamsa
One of the greatest mistranslations was due to the Canaanite influence concerning the afterlife. Their ‘Land of Mot’ was a damp and dismal place and could be equated with the cold dark damp of the grave. It matters not that there is not one line of scripture to support the idea of the nephesh living on after death in any place, the idea was adopted by the Israelites then, just as it was by some Christians later. When the LXX translators had to find a word to represent Sheol they chose Hades. As Christianity spread among the Greek speaking population of the eastern Mediterranean, the LXX was the only source of the Old Testament that was available to them until the Pharisees produced their own version in the 2nd century AD but by then the LXX was well entrenched among the gentile Christians. The newer version was read mostly by Jewish converts. The Greek psuche had become the life force that nephesh never was and the grave (Sheol,) where the dust that once was the body returned to the dust of the earth, was replaced by Hades where the psuche continued to exist after death.
When Jerome was commissioned in 382 AD, to produce a newer version of the OT in Latin, he rejected the older Latin version as a starting point because it was based on the LXX and he also rejected the LXX itself and instead returned to the best Hebrew texts that were then available. These were not the texts that Jesus Christ quoted. The Vulgate, as it was later called, became the standard text for Western Christianity for centuries. It is very similar to the Massoretic text to which George Lamsa referred above.
The use of the word ‘hell’ by KJV was a disservice to the English speaking world for it brought centuries of tradition and myth along with it at the expense of truth. If those translators had shaken off this false concept and did as Lamsa had done by using ‘grave’ as the only English word for the translation of Sheol or by leaving it in the Hebrew as they did with other Hebrew and Aramaic words, we would not have today a whole industry that survives by preying on misinformed and uninformed clients who want to communicate with the dead. Or have millions of Christians who ask dead relatives for counsel or stand at gravesites and talk to them or offer prayers and money so that their souls might be consigned to a better place.
The truth that we must see from this biblical evidence is that the nephesh is the physical being which became alive when the spirit of God breathed into it the breath of life and which remains alive as long as blood flows through its veins and it has breath. The heart is the source of everything we think or feel. When we die and return to dust, we are in the grave, not a place of torment or punishment. Nothing of us remains – no body, no soul, no heart, no memory, and no thought – except in God’s book of life.
Some collateral subjects that should be covered.
Was the original language of the Gospels Aramaic?
If George Lamsa is correct about the early date of the Gospels it would make sense for them to have been written in Aramaic. Seeing that the mystery of the make-up of the church was not revealed until 30 years after the resurrection, it would have been logical to believe that the only people who would read them would be Aramaic speaking Jews. There is some internal evidence to support this view in Matthew and Mark where some words that Jesus used are still in Aramaic. The opposing viewpoint is that the writers of those Gospels did not know how to translate those words to Greek and so left them in the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke. This is a weak argument because they managed to translate everything else he said. Were they so unfamiliar with Aramaic that they did not know that ‘Abba’ meant father and ‘talitha’ meant young lady? Furthermore, if unbeknownst to bible scholars, Matthew, Mark and John understood Greek and the inspired word of God was given to them in that language, why would God put Hades for grave? However, if the Gospels were originally in Aramaic, then that would have been the inspired word of God and not the Greek translations. Where the word ‘psuche’ appears in Greek, it would have been nephesh in Aramaic, the same as in Hebrew and the later translation to psuche would have been ‘private interpretation.’ The Gospel of John, likewise, would have been written in Aramaic for the same reason as stated above. If Luke, as was supposed, spoke Greek, he could have written his Gospel in Greek and also the Book of Acts. The mystery of the make-up of the church was revealed in the Epistle to the Ephesians which was written from Rome while Paul was a prisoner. This imprisonment is recorded in the last chapter of Acts and it seems unlikely that Luke would have re-written the whole book in Greek because it was now known that the Gentiles were to be joint heirs with Christ. It is likely that he too wrote in Aramaic. Until there is manuscript evidence to support this view, the Greek Gospels must be considered to be the inspired word of God.
When hell did not refer to Sheol.
Matt. 5:22, 29, 30, Matt. 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33 Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6
In all the above verses the underlying word in the Greek is gehenna. It refers to an earthly place near Jerusalem where garbage and unclean animals were burned. It is a figure of the future Lake of Fire where those incapable of salvation will be destroyed. Only one verse is controversial.
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body [soma], but are not able to kill the soul [psuche]: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna].
Many have been killed without jeopardy of being forgotten of God; He will remember them in the last days. God remembers every nephesh into which He has breathed the breath of life; this, man cannot kill or destroy.
Malachi 3:16-17 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. 17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
The concept existed in ancient Egypt and Babylon although only the elites were deemed worthy of it. The first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the Pharisees believed in reincarnation but there is little evidence of it. This is based on one verse in which a disciple asked Jesus a question about a man who was born blind.
John 9:2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
If the man had sinned before he was born, it necessarily demands a previous existence. The Pharisees supposedly believed the souls of evil men would be punished after death and the souls of good men are "removed into other bodies" and they will "have power to revive and live again." This is based loosely on one phrase that often appears in the OT.
Micah 4:5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
The words ‘for ever and ever’ are l’olam wa’ed and are said to refer to olam ha’ba the world to come. This would necessitate an interim place, a way station where the dead would be required to wait until their new body was ready to be occupied. It was never a major tenet of Judaism and only received importance centuries later when the Kabbalah became popular. This school of thought divided the whole man into three parts. A common way of explaining the three parts is as follows:
Nephesh: the lower or ‘animal’ part, is the soul. It is linked to instincts and bodily cravings.
Ruach: the middle part is the "spirit". It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
Neshamah: the higher or ‘super’ part. This separates man from all other life-forms. It is related to the intellect and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. This higher part is provided at birth and allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God.
None of this has any basis in scripture.
All thy mind and all thy strength.
The Greek word for the organ of mental perception is nous. The word used for ‘mind’ in Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27 is dianoia which is defined:
a thinking through, mature thought; activity of thinking, then, the faculty of thought; the reflective exercise of the heart, consciousness called into exercise by the moral affections.
A Critical Lexicon and Concordance (Bullinger)
This is what we call the intellect. Bullinger also defines strength or might when the Greek word is ischus as it appears in the above verses:
Strength, as an endowment; physical strength
Looking again at heart, soul, strength and mind we may understand what God requires from us.
That our nephesh, our physical being should reflect God’s handiwork:
Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul [nephesh] knoweth right well.
That our lebab, our heart will be steadfast:
Psalm 119:80 Let my heart [lebab] be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.
That we trust not in our own strength:
Psalm 18:32 It is God that girdeth me with strength*, and maketh my way perfect.
* [chayil, the same word used in the Aramaic translation of the NT in the above verses]
That we may employ to the fullest the abilities which God has made available to us.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us
an understanding dianoia, that we may know† [gin?sk?] him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
From the original verse in Deuteronomy 6:5 God has added mind [dianoia] to heart, soul and strength because this understanding was not available to Israel.
† The English translation puts this phrase in the conditional tense ‘that we may know him.’ The best Greek texts use the subjunctive mood rather than the indicative ‘that we know him.’ The text uses the verb gin?sk? – that we may know him experientially rather than oida that we know about him. This is the real reason for giving us this dianoia, this ability to understand.
Ephesians 4:17-18 So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding [dianoia], alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, NAB
I firmly believe that the gospels were originally written in Aramaic and the false equivalencies of nephesh/psuche and Sheol/Hades were not part of that work. Seeing that it was God that gave the inspiration, it is inconceivable that such an error would override the truth. As the church grew and more and more of its members were Greek speakers, the need of a translation became imperative. But who would be able to accomplish this work? Certainly, there were more Judeans who spoke Greek than Greeks who spoke Aramaic. For the last hundred years before the gospel period Latin was the tongue of government in Judaea and the use of Greek declined; so also the number of Judeans who were fluent in that language. Yet it fell to these few, with their imperfect knowledge of that language, to do the work of translation with the result that the Greek text supplanted the original Aramaic. Without doubt the letters of Peter, James, Jude and John and the book of Hebrews were also originally written in Aramaic, and likewise suffered in translation.
Paul, who was born in the Greek city of Tarsus, was a Roman citizen who spoke Aramaic and Greek fluently. I believe that his epistles were originally written in Greek, seeing that his ministry was to the gentiles, but would not be surprised if Romans was written in Latin. The salutations in his letters to the various churches are predominately to Greeks and Romans, who in all likelihood did not understand Aramaic. In all his writings he used the word psuche only five times and not one usage refers to a part of man that continues after death. He never used the word Hell/Hades. The New American Bible (NAB) does an excellent job in avoiding a sense of equivalency between psuche/nephesh.
KJV Romans 2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
NAB Romans 2:9 Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.
KJV Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
NAB Romans 13:1 Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.
KJV 1Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
NAB 1Corinthians 15:45 So, too, it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living being," the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
KJV 2Corinthians 1:23 Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.
NAB 2Corinthians 1:23 But I call upon God as witness, on my life, that it is to spare you that I have not yet gone to Corinth.
KJV 1Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
BNT 1 Thessalonikeis 5:23 Autos de ho theos tees eireenees hagiasai1 humas holoteleis, kai holokleeron2 humon to pneuma kai3 hee psuchee kai3 to soma amemptos en tee parousia tou kurion heemon Ieesou Christos teereethein. 4 5
I did not include the NAB translation here. It made some improvements on the KJV text but also missed some important points.
1. The verb hagiasai, to sanctify, is in the optative mood, which expresses a desire. It is more properly translated with ‘may’ rather than KJV’s use of I pray God which is not in the text.
2. The adjective and the noun holoteleis kai holokleeron form the figure of speech called Homœopropheron indicating a link between the two words. KJV observes this by their use of wholly and whole; completely and complete would have worked too. The link stresses that the complete man – spirit, soul and body – is sanctified completely.
3. The multiple use of kai (and) indicates the figure of speech Polysyndeton which requires that each item mentioned be considered separately as well as in whole (spirit, soul, body.)
4. The verb teereethein is also in the optative mood (another may) and in the aorist tense. Bullinger gives this definition: ‘to keep an eye on, to guard, to keep in safety.’ It is used only one other time in the NT as preserved (elsewhere as keep) in Jude 1:1 in very similar words. Jude is addressed “to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ”
5. The subjects of this verb are pneuma, psuchee and soma and yet it is the singular. Vine’s Expository Dictionary offers this explanation:
The verb is in the singular number, as the threefold subject, “spirit and soul and body,” (it) is regarded as the unit, constituting the person. The aorist tense regards the continuous preservation of the believer as a single, complete act, without reference to the time occupied in its accomplishment.
According to usage -Thessalonians 5:23 And may the God of peace sanctify you completely; and may your complete spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unredeemed man consisted of a nephesh, a body, the soma, which was made alive by the spirit of God through the breath of life and a lebab, a heart, the psuche, with which he could think and feel and understand. He was incomplete, not whole and not saved. Now in the fullness of time, eternal life, which is by the ruach, the spirit of God in Christ, the pneuma, is made available so that man may be whole again.
We ought to redefine our conception of soul. It is not some ethereal leftover of our existence which survives death in a place that does not exist. Hell is the grave and nothing more; Hades is mythology. Aristotle was on the wrong track. It was the Hellenists who followed that pared the psuche down to mental and psychological functions, more nearly to what the lebab is. What they did not know was the truth, which only came by the Word of God.
Psalm 37:28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
All scripture quoted in this work is from the King James Version of the bible unless otherwise noted. Other texts used:
NAB The New American Bible (Revised edition 2011) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
NAS The New American Standard Bible (1977) The Lockman Foundation
BNT Bibleworks New Testament © BibleWorks, LLC
Peshitta - Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text, George M. Lamsa (1968) Harper & Row
To Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians Lamsa's work is viewed as an assault on the accuracy of their honored translations and sanctified "original Greek New Testament" or on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. In some circles Lamsa's commentaries are described as heretical while to Lamsa they were intended to be based on the underlying Semitic culture of the Hebrews and Christians.