Anthropology

Basics of Christian Anthropology (part 1 of 2)

“O Soulo Mio”: The Term נפש (Nephesh) and Its Significance for the Doctrine of Man

The Hebrew word נפש (nephesh) is important for the Old Testament (and biblical) doctrine of man. The term appears over 750 times in the OT and is translated in the Authorized Version most frequently as “soul,” “life,” “person,” “creature,” or “-self.” It is found in all OT genres (narrative, poetry, prophecy, etc.) and may have either a literal or metaphorical sense.

Old Testament Usage

A nephesh can be living or dead. It can be counted as an individual entity or distinguished from other individual entities. A human being or an animal may be distinguished as a nephesh. When predicated of humans, a nephesh can think, feel, desire, act, and sin. One commonly finds a plea for the deliverance of one’s nephesh from danger or death in the Psalms. Keeping these observations regarding the syntactic and semotactic environment of nephesh in view is essential for establishing a proper semantic value for nephesh and for developing a proper OT anthropology.

The word nephesh is predicated of human beings in primarily two ways. Less commonly, the term refers to the animating principle of a physical entity, that is, “breath” (Gen. 35:19; 1 Kings 17:21; Job 41:13) or the existential quality or state of “life” (Gen. 9:4; 19:17; Lev. 17:11; Deut. 9:23; 1 Sam. 20:1).

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Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two? (Part 3)

Published as a single article in DBSJ 2 (Fall 1997): 81–103. Used by permission.

Part 2 concluded that speaking of the believer as having “two natures” is not contrary to Scripture, but that a defective theology exists that happens to also use two-nature terminology. Here, Part 3 aims to “look more carefully at the scriptural descriptions of the believer’s struggle with sin” as groundwork for examining that defective theology.

The Old Man/New Man

In Romans 6, Ephesians 4, and Colossians 3, Paul contrasts the old man with the new man, though, actually, Romans 6 speaks only of the old man. Whereas the KJV has “man” (ἄνθρωπος) in these passages, the NASB uses “self.”

Romans 6:6, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;

Ephesians 4:20–24, But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

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