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The Person in Hebrew Scriptures

It is now widely agreed that the predominant understanding of the human being in the Hebrew scriptures is holistic and nonreductive physicalist. Jewish scholar Neil Gillman writes:

Biblical anthropology knows nothing of this dualistic picture of a person which claims that a human being is a composite of two entities, a material body and a spiritual or non-material soul. . . .

The [Hebrew] Bible, in contrast, portrays each human as a single entity, clothed in clay-like flesh which is animated or vivified by a life-giving spark or impulse variously called ruah, nefesh, neshamah, or nishmat hayyim. . . .

In the later tradition, these terms came to be understood as synonymous with the Greek "soul." But this identification is not in the Bible.John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 1.

For example, nefesh first meant neck or throat; by extension it signified a living being. Neshamah and ruah both mean breath or wind. Since death is the going out of the breath, it was possible to identify "something that goes out when one dies" with Plato's soul.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Nancey Murphy

Go to Neuroscience Topic Index

The Person in Hebrew Scriptures

Neuroscience & the Soul: Topic Index
Introduction
The Person in Greek Thought
The Person in Medieval Thought
The Person in Modern Thought
Neuroscience and Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, Moral Behavior and Phineas Gage
The Person in The New Testament
The Person in Christian Theology
The Person in Jewish Thought
Is Behavior Determined, or are we Free?
Implications Of A Nonreductive Physicalist View

Source:


Dr. Nancey Murphy

Bibliography

See also:

The Cognitive and Neurosciences
What Makes us Human?
Are we Free?
Philosophy
Theology
Saint Augustine
Rene Descartes
Sir Isaac Newton
Books on Neuroscience and Theology