Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nephesh

Bible translation is messy. Life is messy. My dog died. So did Kurk's.

Here is Genesis 2:7 and 17.
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.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
You know by now that the "man" is the earthling, the human being, a creature of the dust. But did you know that the "living soul" and the "living creature" are exactly the same phrase in Hebrew? Identical. נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה nephesh chayah.

The human, and the animal, are described by exactly the same term. Who will make a doctrine out of this? Not me. I don't make doctrine out of dust. We are Janus - on the one hand, we can lie down and hug the earth, belong to the dirt. But also we lie stretched out to the sun, or angels in the snow. We need to remember what we are created out of. Enough of the word, the text, the argument - breath and dust is all I know today.

7 comments:

Muff Potter said...

I am much happier since I jettisoned the idea of having an immortal soul. I no longer believe in that Hellenistic claptrap. My reality is now comprised of body and soul as an integral unit, no bifurcation based on the writings of Plato and Aristotle.

Shawna R. B. Atteberry said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I have a cat, and I know how important pets are.

I'll never forget translating Gen. 2 and realizing that the same two words were used for both human beings and animals. It makes sense. What would the new earth be without animals?

J. K. Gayle said...

As if against Aristotle and his limiting Greek,

the first translators of Genesis render the first anthropos, the first adam, and the first beasts, and the first birds, each one and all, ψυχὴν ζῶσαν, a soul alive. In Mt 2:20, the angel values the child Jesus as one who has a living soul (ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν).

In Mt. 12:18, the writer translates/ quotes Isaiah speaking for God, speaking of "My Soul," God's own soul, (ἡ ψυχή μου psyche, נפש nephesh). It's a prophecy, God telling of his own soul, about to give his spirit, to this beloved one of his. What connections and connectednesses.

EricW said...

My admittedly lay-level (with a little bit of Hebrew ability) examination of the creation accounts led me to conclude that the difference between the creation of humans and (other) animals was that humans were made in the image and likeness of אלהים and the (other) animals were not.

Kristen said...

I'm so sorry about your dog, Suzanne. To quote George MacDonald:

"Surely, amidst other and greater mercies, I will see my dog again."

And the Scripture says, "If God did not spare His only Son, but freely gave Him for us all, how will He not together with Him, freely give us all things?"

believer333 said...

Yes, we share a nephesh chayah likeness to the animals. This does not diminish the fact that we are also created in the image of God. Although, no one has ever perfectly nailed down what that means. But we do have a special relationship with God that the other created creatures do not share.

In the meantime, there can be a very unique relationships between humans and animals. They can become dear devoted companions. I have had some wonderful dog friends. Some animals rival human abilities or willingness to forgive, to be faithful, or to emotionally attach and protect.

I miss my dog also. I always wondered what things he saw in his spirit that he couldn't tell me. Being human I want to know everything. :)

Bob MacDonald said...

Suzanne - there is a comment of mine on BLT in spam - how you can fix it