An exegetical, theological discussion of terms revealing man is a unified complex being

This paper provides exegetical and theological explanations of a range of Hebrew and Greek terms used to describe the constitution of the humanity. Scripture portrays man as a unified essence but his being is profoundly creative and complex. Man, as made in the image and likeness of God, should not be reduced to a certain trait or quality or attribute or function.

Clines discusses biblical examples of a disjunction between the body and the self where the body part represents the whole: i.e. the foot/feet [Is.58:13], the hand [Eccl 9:10; Prov. 21:25], the tongue [Psa. 50:19; Jer. 9:5], the heart [Psa. 16:9].

It will be argued that the terms: Soul[ nepes, psyche], Spirit [ruah, pneuma], Flesh [basar], body [soma], Heart, Heart-mind [lēb, lēbāb, kardia], describe man, the whole man, from different aspects. It will be stated that man is neither a tripartite or a bipartite being (Laidlaw). The paper contends that terms used defining man’s nature should not be used to divide man into opposing or different compartments. Each represents man as a total embodied being.

The paper will demonstrate that as soul, man is characterized as a living being, he is alive (Harder). Spirit focuses on the principle of life, the animating principle that is bestowed by and belongs to God (Bauer; Dunn; Foulkes; Kamlah). Here we see man’s dependence on God for his physical existence. Flesh, reminds man of his frailty, as one who is subject to death (Seebass; Wolf). Soma indicates man has physical and spiritual existence and that his spiritual existence is an integral part of his total being (Bass; Robinson).

Special attention will be given to the term heart. Heart addresses the inner core of man, his volition, his will. The heart is not so much an entity in itself, but speaks of man as a responsible being with capacities to think, feel and will. It is in the heart that God speaks, where a man is converted, and where the Holy Spirit takes up residence (Bowling; Eichrodt; Sorg).

The paper concludes by stressing that as God ministers to the needs of the body – food/sleep, grants life to man (spirit), sustains his flesh, and desires his heart, ministry also should address the whole man. Man’s inner needs, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually, his physical needs that sustain human life, must not be compartmentalized. God wants the whole man, redeems the whole man, and ministry likewise must see each aspect of a man’s being as areas to which to minister (cf. Matt. 25:41-46; James 1:27), and not isolate off a so-called spiritual area. Each represents the whole man as made in God’s image and likeness.

3 thoughts on “An exegetical, theological discussion of terms revealing man is a unified complex being”

  1. well-researched
    The proposal seems to be well-researched. Many might disagree with his conclusion, but it would be interesting to hear him to make the argument for his perspective.


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