Donal has put up a post on the nature of man which is going to lead into a longer series. I was originally going to post this as a comment, but it became too long as I was writing it. Hence, I’m posting it here. I’m going to quibble with some of the definitions and conclusions, so I would suggest reading Donal’s post first.
The Hebrew and Greek have some parallel terms with each other which are important to consider.
The Spirit, the Soul, the Heart, and the Flesh
First, let’s start with a passage from Deuteronomy held up as the example to live by Jesus.
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
In this we can see that our existence here on earth is composed of a triunity of parts. I will get into how spirit fits into this as I discuss further.
- The word for Soul is the Hebrew Nephesh (H5315) which is synonymous with Greek Psuche (G5590). The synonymous term for soul that is translated as is also “life.”
- The word for Heart is the Hebrew Lebab (H3824) which is synonymous with Greek Kardia (2588). However, the Greeks make a distinction of the “Heart” into two categories namely “Heart” and “Mind.” Deut 6 + Matthew 22 (Hebrew audience – Love God with all your heart, soul, strength/might) versus Mark 12 and Luke 10 (Gentile audience – Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength/might). The “Heart” is traditionally the seat of both rationality and emotions. However, the Greek distinguishes it with the “mind” as rationality and the “heart” as emotions. As our culture is Greek influenced we properly understand “follow your heart” to mean “follow your emotions or feelings.”
- The physical Flesh or Body is the Hebrew Basar (H1320) and Greek Sarx (G4561). The flesh is the physical housing of the “Soul” and the “Heart.”
- The word for Spirit is Hebrew Ruach (H7307) which is synonymous with Greek Pneuma (4151). The Spirit is life… or properly the Breath of life.
In the garden of Eden, God breathed (“neshama” — H5397) life into Adam and he became a living (spirit) soul (nephesh). Neshama is the Hebrew word meaning Spirit and/or Soul. Hence, that which was inanimate formed by God from the earth — the heart and flesh — was made alive by God by breathing in soul and spirit to form a living soul.
From this we can deduct quite a few things.
First, The “Heart” provides intentions to action from both thoughts and feelings. For example, Jesus discusses out the heart come all manners of evil (Matt 15, Mark 4). This is why the flesh itself is not necessarily unclean because uncleanness originates from the heart leading to corruption of the flesh.
Second, the “Soul” or “life” interfaces the “Heart” and “Flesh” to give rise to actions in the physical world. Properly, the “soul” is probably best referred to as what we would call “consciousness” because it is immaterial although it resides in a material Flesh.
Psalm 84:2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
It’s quite a beautiful concept. God’s nature (“Spirit“) is reflected within us that we are made in His image: we are composed of a triunity of parts to make up one whole. Our living “spirit” is made in His image which is composed the triunity our “Soul,” “Heart,” and “Flesh.”
The “Flesh” physically houses both the “Soul” and the “Heart,” but it is the “Soul” or consciousness which is essential for the “Heart” and “Flesh” to operate. Similarly, without the “heart” or brain dead people the “soul” and “flesh” simply exist without the ability to interact with the world. They are all dependent on one another and cannot exist on their own.
Fourth, going back to the Deuteronomy passage we see some parallels that we didn’t see before which become more clear.
Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God (Elohim), the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Elohim (plural for the name of “God”) is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit but is one Lord. His nature as a triune God is reflected in our nature of Spirit composed of Soul, Heart, and Flesh. His image is our image. Loving God with all of our life — our spirit — through our heart, soul, and strength is exactly like the unity that we see in God.
Moving on to the fall…
Now, when we were cut off from the “Spirit” of God through sin at the fall, we were cut off from our source of “eternal life.”
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to [a]all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
The hole that every human longs to fill within them is from the severing of our “spirit” from communion with God’s “Spirit” in the garden of Eden — this is the symbolism of sacrament of Holy Communion. Hence, those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus will be sent the Holy Spirit which reunites our “spirit” with “His Spirit” and communes within us. We become literal temples of the Holy Spirit.
Specifically, we typically call the hole and longing for it to be filled as a “soul longing” or “soul yearning.” Yet, David shows us above in the Psalms that it is not only our “soul longing” but instead a “spiritual longing.” We tend to connect it as a soul longing because both the “Soul” and “God’s as Spirit” are immaterial, but this is false.
Thus, Holy Communion symbolizes the nature of the disconnect at the fall and the reconnection through Jesus Christ. Namely,
- His flesh (or body) is given for us as a sacrifice to represent the entire being contained within our physical body: the Soul, Heart, and Flesh. Jesus is the bread of life.
- His blood is given for us to represent the New Covenant for the forgiveness of sins. That is the blood represents the redemption of our spirit in Him. Thus, why the Holy Spirit lives within us as Christians.
Conceptually, the reason why blood is used to bind any covenant within the Scriptures is that blood represents the “Spirit” or the wholeness of our being. Our “Spirit” or the breath of life provides sustenance to the Soul, Heart, and Body. Physically, blood provides oxygen to the brain which houses the heart, the body, and obviously allows the “soul” or consciousness to exist within the body. Once the “Spirit” or the breath of life is extinguished the heart and body both die and the immaterial soul leaves its container.
What is referred to as “sinful nature” in the New Testament is reflective of the susceptibility and weakness of our overall being to engage in sin. The severing of God’s Spirit from our spirit result in a disconnect of our “Soul,” “Heart,” and “Flesh” from our Creator leading to systemic effects. This is reflected in the nature of the consequences of the fall:
- Our hearts became susceptible to temptation and choosing evil over good.
- Our flesh became mortal and we die a physical death. We have become weak and must toil the ground for a living.
- Our souls apart from God bear eternal consequences of sin.
Romans 1 provides a good summary of the effects of sin when our “spirit” was severed from God’s spirit affecting all of the soul, heart, and flesh.
Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [o]crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for [p]a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed [q]forever. Amen.
28 And just as they did not see fit [u]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [v]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Practice of wickedness results in both physical death of the heart and flesh and the second death of the soul.
Differences between how Paul describes the flesh
Now, it is important to understand the context by which Paul uses the term “sarx” within the New Testament as it can often lead to some confusion. There are times in which Paul uses the word sarx or flesh in reference to the “physical body,” and there are times when Paul uses the word sarx in reference to “sinful nature.”
For example, in Philippians 1 Paul refers to “Flesh” as existing within the “body” or in a physical sense.
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 [s]But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know [t]which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy [u]in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
However, the vast majority of time Paul discusses “flesh” particular in Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians — which is basically a shortened version of Romans — he uses “sarx” or “flesh” as a euphemism for sinful nature rather than actually referring to the physical body. The distinction he makes is that he will usually call it “desires of the flesh” or flesh and it’s passions or desires.”
Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh [g]sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you [h]please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who [k]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [l]walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
This is an extremely important distinction because knowing what we know from earlier we know that it is not actually the “flesh” that is tempted with it’s passions and desires it is actually the “heart.” The “body” naturally follows the desires and wickedness of the “heart” if turned away from God.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Matthew 15:16 [g]Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is [h]eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, [i]fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
Paul discusses how we are to renew ourselves within the faith as Christians in both Romans and Ephesians. Since he is writing to a Gentile audience he uses “mind” rather than “heart” but in reality we can think of it as “heart” containing both “mind” and “emotions.”
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your [b]spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect.
Ephesians 4: 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, [m]excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality [n]for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn [o]Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old [p]self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new [q]self, which [r]in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
I generally think the emphasis of the mind in particular by Paul is due to the nature of our emotions. Even when we don’t feel like it we should always strive to make the conscious choice to obey God’s commandments despite what we feel. This is different from the writers to the Gentiles of the writers to the Hebrews.
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
17 Therefore, to one who knows the [k]right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
James who is writing to the Jerusalem Church just blasts through the muck between mind and heart and just says things clearly. This is because the Jews believed that the heart is both the rational and emotional holistically. What you do that comes out of it is what matters. This is the Semitic Totality Concept which I have discussed before. If you believe something to be true you absolutely live it out.
The image of God is found the image of man because God created man in His own image. God is a Spirit in the triune Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. We have His spirit of life in us which is made up of a soul, heart, and flesh.
The severing of God’s spirit and our spirit in the fall of man resulted in widespread consequences.
- We are not guilty for Adam’s sin, but we bear some of the consequences of his sin namely the separation of our spirit and soul from God, our mortal bodies, and our weakness and susceptibility to temptation.
- Our “human nature” or “lusts of the flesh” war against the “Spirit” in that our hearts which are susceptible to temptation are easily led astray due to the nature of the consequences of the fall still existing. It’s not that our bodies are opposed to the Spirit but that the material parts of ourselves which are our “heart” and “flesh” often become disordered with short term temptation and gratification over eternal reward.
- We must choose to align our spirits with the Holy Spirit as Christians. This means holistically aligning our soul, heart, and strength to the Holy Spirit in order that we may obey the commandments of Jesus. To live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit is holistically having your soul, heart, and flesh in alignment with Jesus. In other words, Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength or heart, soul, mind, and strength.
As you can see, the main issues to where I see some of the issues with Donal’s post are encapsulated in these three points:
- Lack of inclusion of the “heart” as the seat of the rational and emotional. Often times it can be said that the “heart” or “mind” is grouped within the “Soul” because it is the “Soul” which is judged. However, what is imputed by the heart is what is ingrained in the soul rather than vice versa.
- It is the “soul” or consciousness which processes and imprints the “heart’s intentions” to become “actions.” Thus, the Spirit is not actually warring against the fleshly body in a literal reading of Paul’s lusts of the flesh. Rather, whether our actions are in alignment or not with the Spirit come out of the heart as per Jesus’ words.
- Holistically, the Holy Spirit and temptation war for our spirit — our heart, soul, and body — to do the right or wrong thing respectively.
The Spirit, Soul, Heart, and Flesh all interact in a certain way to form one whole. The key then is to get our spirits in alignment with the Holy Spirit which is performed by aligning our heart, soul, and flesh to pursue truth and righteousness.
That’s it for now. Comments are welcome.