Where are the Dead –
According to the Bible?
After the Flood the word “soul” (nephesh שפנ) is used in a unique manner. Genesis 9:4, 5 records this: ‘But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood (nephesh שפנ / psyches = soul) still in it. And for your lifeblood (nephesh שפנ / psychon ψυχη) I will surely demand an accounting.’ (NIV) This translation would hide the original word “soul” in these verses as does the Jewish Tanakh by the use of “life-blood.” Many translators render the Hebrew or Greek for “soul” as “life” here. This reads literally in the Hebrew Interlinear Bible: “But flesh its in (soul / nephesh שפנ) its blood not you shall eat. And surely the blood of your (souls / nephesh) I will demand. … I will demand the (soul / nephesh שפנ) of man.”
This connection of the soul with blood is seen again in the Law of Moses. Note a few cases: ‘Any soul (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) who eats any blood, that soul must be cut off from his people.' (Leviticus 7:27 NWT) Is it fair to conclude that here it is the “soul” that eats and that it can be “cut off”? Leviticus 17:10-12 also ties the soul in with the blood: ’I shall certainly set my face against the soul (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) that is eating the blood, and I shall indeed cut him off from among his people. For the soul (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη), because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) [in it]. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: "No soul (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) of you must eat blood and no alien resident who is residing as an alien in your midst should eat blood.’ (NWT) These verses would indicate that nephesh (שפנ) and psyche (ψυχη) are one of two things: a) the person; or, b) the life of the person. With this view it would be accurate to translate these same verses, For the LIFE (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your LIVES (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη), because it is the blood that makes atonement by the LIFE (nephesh שפנ / psyche) [in it]. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: "No PERSON (nephesh שפנ / psyche ψυχη) of you must eat blood.’
This dual use occurs in the teachings of the Nazarene when he relates the parable of the overly-concerned rich man. Note this in Luke 12:19, 20: ‘I will say to my soul (ψυχη psyche = PERSON; SELF): "Soul (ψυχη psyche = SELF), you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself." But [The] God said to him, 'Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul (ψυχη psyche = LIFE) from you.”’ (NWT) Thus, both the Hebrew and Scriptures use nephesh and psyche to mean the person as a living creature or the life of the living creature.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved