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What is the soul?


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Showing 1-25 of 277 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 21, 2012, 5:36:15 AM PST
The soul is a basic concept in Christianity. It is a something that survives after death, so the body is not a part of the Christian soul. It is something that is permanent and goes on forever, for all eternity. Christians regard it as something real.

Buddhism, on the other hand, regards the soul as an illusion. I tend toward the Buddhist position, but am interested in the Christian position.

In any case, I see it as an interesting question to explore. I see two ways to explore it. The first is abstractly, impersonally. The second is very personal and individual. Then the question becomes "What is my soul?"

I plan to try to explore the question both ways, to go into the specifics and details of either question. Let the exploation begin!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 7:48:56 AM PST
M. Galishoff says:
Hi

Body + Soul = a Human Being. They are together, distinct but not separate. We do not believe in disembodied souls but ensouled bodies. Plato and the Greeks believed in disembodied souls.

Soul.
Term translating the Greek word psychē and the Hebrew nep̄eš.
The Greek philosopher Plato (4th century B.C.) perceived the soul as the eternal element in man: whereas the body perishes at death, the soul is indestructible. At death the soul enters another body; if it has been wicked in this life, it may be sent into an inferior human being, or even an animal or bird. By means of transmigration from one body to another, the soul is eventually purged of evil. In the early centuries of the Christian era, Gnosticism also taught that the body was the prison house of the soul. Redemption comes to those initiated into the Gnostic secrets, leading to the release of the soul from the body.
Biblical thought about the soul is different. In the OT the soul signifies that which is vital to man in the broadest sense. The Hebrew and Greek words for soul often can be translated as "life"; occasionally they can be used for the life of creatures (Gen 1:20; Lv 11:10). "Soul for soul" means "life for life" (Ex 21:23). Blood is said to be the seat of life, for when blood is shed death ensues (Gn 9:4-6; Lv 17:11, 14; Dt 12:23). In legal writings a soul means the person concerned in a particular law (e.g., Lv 4:2; 5:1, 2, 4, 15). When people were counted, they were counted as souls, that is, persons (Ex 1:5; Dt 10:22).
In a narrower sense the soul denotes man in his varied emotions and inner powers. Man is called to love God with all his heart and soul (Dt 13:3). Within the soul lies the desire for food (12:20, 21), the lust of the flesh (Jer 2:24), and the thirst for murder and revenge (Ps 27:12). The soul is said to weep (Jb 30:16; Ps 119:28), and to be exercised in patience (Jb 6:11). Knowledge and understanding (Ps 139:14), thought (1 Sm 20:3), love (1 Sm 18:1), and memory (Lam 3:20) all originate in the soul. Here the soul comes close to what today would be called the self, one's person, personality, or ego.
There is no suggestion in the OT of the transmigration of the soul as an immaterial, immortal entity. Man is a unity of body and soul-terms which describe not so much two separate entities in man as the one man from different standpoints. Hence, in the description of man's creation in Genesis 2:7, the phrase "a living soul" (KJV) is better translated as "a living being." The thought is not that man became a "soul," for clearly he had a body. The use of the word in the original draws attention to the vital aspect of man as "a living being." The Hebrew view of the unity of man may help to explain why man in the OT had only a shadowy view of life after death, for it would be difficult to conceive how man could exist without a body (Pss 16:10; 49:15; 88:3-12). Where hope of an after-life exists, it is not because of the intrinsic character of the soul itself (as in Plato). It is grounded in confidence in the God who has power over death and the belief that communion with him cannot be broken even by death (Ex 3:6; 32:39; 1 Sm 2:6; Jb 19:25, 26; Pss 16:10, 11; 73:24, 25; Is 25:8; 26:19; Dn 12:2; Hos 6:1-3; 13:14).
In the NT the word for soul (psychē) has a range of meanings similar to that of the OT. Often it is synonymous with life itself. Followers of Jesus are said to have risked their lives for his sake (Acts 15:26; cf. Jn 13:37; Rom 16:4; Phil 2:30). As the Son of Man, Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45). As the Good Shepherd, he lays down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:14, 17, 18). In Luke 14:26 the condition of discipleship is to hate one's soul, that is, to be willing to deny oneself to the point of losing one's life for Christ's sake (cf. Lk 9:23; Rv 12:11). In Luke 12:19 the rich man addresses his soul, that is, himself. But the soul can indicate the essential self of a man with its desire for life and well-being.
Frequently "soul" can mean "person" (Acts 2:43; 3:23; 7:14; 27:22; Rom 2:9; 13:1; 1 Pt 3:20). The expression "every living soul" (Rv 16:3 KJV; cf. 8:9) reflects the vital aspect of living beings (cf. Gn 2:7). In his teaching on the resurrection Paul contrasts the merely physical aspect of the soul with the resurrection body. "Thus it is written, `The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15:45). In the following verses Paul goes on to contrast the resurrection body with the natural body. It is clear that Paul is talking neither about the immortality of the soul nor of the resuscitation of corpses to the state in which they were at death. The resurrection body will be a new kind of body. "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (v 49).
As in the OT the soul can denote not only the vital aspect of the person on the physical level, but it can also connote one's emotional energies. It denotes man himself, the seat of his emotions, man in his inmost being. Jesus could speak of his soul being crushed (Mt 26:38; Mk 14:34; cf. Ps 42:6). In Matthew 11:29 Jesus promises rest to the souls of those who come to him. Here as elsewhere "soul" denotes the essential person (cf. Lk 2:35; 2 Cor 1:23; 2 Thes 2:8; 3 Jn 2).
Several passages place the soul alongside the spirit. Luke 1:46 is probably a case of Hebrew poetic parallelism which expresses the same idea in two different ways. Both terms denote Mary as a person to the depths of her being. Similarly in Hebrews 4:12, dividing the soul and the spirit is a graphic way of saying how the Word of God probes the inmost recesses of our being. The prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-that the readers may be kept sound and blameless in spirit, soul, and body-is a way of speaking of man on the level of his mind, will, emotions, and physical needs. Here soul probably suggests physical existence, as in Genesis 2:7 and 1 Corinthians 2:14, whereas spirit may imply the higher or "spiritual" side of life.
In other passages the emotions, the will, and even the mind come to the fore, though in each case there is the accompanying idea of man in his inmost being. Man is to love God with all his soul (Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30; Lk 2:27; cf. Dt 6:5). The expression "from the soul" (Eph 6:6; Col 3:23) means "from the heart," with all one's being. In Philippians 1:27 believers are called to be of one mind (cf. Acts 4:32; 14:2). Passages that speak of the soul in relation to salvation include Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5; Hebrews 6:19; 10:39; 12:3; 13:7; James 1:21; 5:20; 1 Peter 1:9, 22; 2:25; 4:19; and Revelation 6:9; 20:4. Such passages speak of the soul either to stress the essential human being, as distinct from the physical body, or to express man's continued existence with God prior to the resurrection. Jesus' promise to the penitent criminal (Lk 23:43; see 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21, 23; 1 Thes 4:14) gives assurance of abiding in his presence without, however, using the word "soul."
In quotations from the OT "my soul" is another way of saying "I." Thus God speaks of his soul, thereby summing up all that characterizes God in his love, holiness, wrath, and faithfulness (Mt 12:18, cf. Is 42:1; Heb 10:38, cf. Hb 2:4).
COLIN BROWN

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (1987-1988). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 8:54:14 AM PST
DocMMV says:
The soul is the transition piece between spirit and flesh. If you know metallurgy, then you know that some dissimilar metals cannot be joined. When that junction becomes necessary, a piece made of appropriate material (either forged as an alloy or of materials the two original dissimilars can both accept) is placed between to join them. So it is with soul. Spirit does not function effectively in flesh. Flesh cannot function in spirit. But soul makes the transition relatively easy. Spirit can now (via soul) function in flesh and flesh can now (again, via soul) manifest in spirit. It's really an amazing system. Once again, God proves to be the greatest engineer ever!

Posted on Nov 21, 2012, 9:28:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012, 9:29:39 AM PST
I'm not sure the bible fully explains the distinction between "soul" and "spirit." Isn't the word "soul" generally used in scripture referring to beings that have had an earthly body and "spirit" referring to beings that have not?

Lucifer and his fallen angels are certainly "evil spirits" but not necessarily "evil souls."

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 9:37:00 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012, 9:45:45 AM PST
Heaven101 says:
AR: Let the exploation begin!

H101: Why are you curious about what Christians "think"...what will you do with the information you gain...can you believe what we say--in absence of the "proof" atheist usually require in order to accept explanation...do you mean "exploration" or rather "exploitation"?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 10:24:37 AM PST
M. Galshoff: From your use of "we" in your first paragraph and the rest of your post being filled with Biblical references, I conclude you are a Christian. Since I am interested in the personal aspect of "soul," where is yours located? What does it feel like, or how does it feel? I have diligently looked for the soul I was taught as a child I had, and have been unable to find it. If it is equivalent to "mind" I tend because of the culture I grew up in, to locate it in my brain, but other cultures and people locate it in different places. Enough lecturing, Where is yours located?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 10:38:59 AM PST
DocMTV: Interesting concept: God is or as engineer. You make "soul" and "spirit" distinct entities whereas most people see them as being equivalent, the same thing. Does this concept affect your daily life in any way? Do you put it into your actions? Or is it what some call "idle speculation" that has little or no use? I find idle speculation fun, so don't think I'm putting you down. I appreciate your reply, even enjoyed trying to picture it in my mind.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012, 10:42:31 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 21, 2012, 10:59:25 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 10:49:25 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 15, 2016, 3:27:07 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:06:44 AM PST
Heaven101: Good question!! I have a strong interest in how belief affects behavior. I also believe that there are many beliefs, concepts, ideas in Christianity that are highly useful, and I use many of those concepts in my own life. I can believe what you say, but will not necessarily agree with it. As a not in any organization Buddhist and almost atheist, I believe in clarity of thinking and communication. I also ask myself, and others, how is a particular concept useful to me in my life? Will it help me live a better life?

In a sense, my interest includes both exploration and exploitation. The exploitation is "Can Christians, or others posting in this topic, bring to and for me some words, beliefs, concepts, slants, that might help me lead a better life?"I am not here to sell my beliefs, but to explore them, change them, and possibly improve them. Is that why you're here? How old are you? I'm 87 and still believe I can change. Do you believe that of yourself?

Posted on Nov 21, 2012, 11:13:49 AM PST
Incidentally, Here for the Music, I don't believe in enlightenment. I think among other things that is an illusion also. My conventional answer to your question is simple, were I seeking enlightenment, would be "I am?" I will ask in return, What asked me the question you just did? I'm quite willing to explore these questions. Are you?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:17:25 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 15, 2016, 3:27:08 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:23:31 AM PST
Albert-
Traditional "Christian" beliefs on the soul, come, not from the Bible, but from the Greek Philosophers, i.e., Socrates and Plato.

The Hebrew word, nephesh, which is often translated as 'soul' is very different in meaning from popular usage, Christian or otherwise.

When Genesis says "God blew into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, he CAME TO BE a living soul." Most people, oddly enough, read this as "He gave Adam a soul." But that's not what it says.

This is a common usage in the Hebrew. The number of sons in a man's household were often stated as the number of souls. "And the sons of Jacob amounted to twelve souls." The word, soul' often refers simply to people.

Under the Law of Moses, a man who touched a dead soul (i.e, a corpse) was to remain ceremonially unclean for a period of so many days.

In the creation account, the waters were to teem forth with living souls - animals, fish, sea creatures. And later the beasts of the fields were called souls.

Nephesh was often used for one's desires, emotions, affections, and so forth.

It was also used for the life of a person. David feared that his enemies would kill his soul. In other words - take away his life

It is sometimes used for the breath - an overlap with the word 'spirit.

And the most common usage is as a personal pronoun: "My soul is hungry" or "My soul is tired." It was simply a way of saying "I am hungry" or "I am tired."

And New Testament usage for psuche is pretty much identical.

And nowhere in the Bible, out of 858 occurences of the word, soul, will you find any suggestion that the soul is immortal, or that it survives the death of the body, to continue a conscious existence in an afterlife.

I can provide full documentation for all of what I have said here if you desire further information.
(But I'm not sure how available I'll be over the holiday)
Mike Davenport

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:39:46 AM PST
Heaven101 says:
AR: I'm 87 and still believe I can change. Do you believe that of yourself?

H101: Albert...after 87 years here on earth you're still not sure what a "soul" is--or does?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:42:41 AM PST
The Weasel says:
Albert R. Rustebakke says:
What is the soul?
***
It's that part of your inner being which craves chicken soup.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:47:22 AM PST
Rubedo says:
Soul is whatever we define it to be.

Levels of the soul
According to Kabbalah:
Nefesh - responding to world of action
Ruach - formation of emotions
Neshama - creation of ideas
Chaya - grasping of spiritual reality
Yachida - point of contact between individual soul and God

According to Vedanta:
Annamaya Kosha - physical sheath
Pranamaya Kosha - life force sheath
Manomaya Kosha - mental sheath
Vijnanamaya Kosha - wisdom sheath
Anandamaya kosha - bliss sheath

In Christianity we have faculties instead of levels or sheaths:
Sensus - perceiving
Ratio - judging
Mens - knowing
Memoria - remembering
Anima - willing

all that is the spiritus or animus.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 11:50:16 AM PST
Albert asked: "What is the soul?
***
An then explained: "It's that part of your inner being which craves chicken soup."

Hey, you may be on to something: How about writing a book? It could be called, "Chicken Soup for the soul."

Naaaah. It would never sell.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012, 12:31:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012, 12:33:28 PM PST
Sean B says:
From scriptures used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

"And the spirit and the body are the soul of man."

(Doctrine & Covenants, section 88, verse 15)

Thus our emphasis on the need for a bodily resurrection to achieve a fullness of joy with Jesus Christ, who also enjoys his physical body of flesh and bone. This, as Paul explains, is the hope of the Christian faith.

No resurrection = all your hope is vain because death is permanent.

http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/88.15?lang=eng#14

Posted on Nov 21, 2012, 1:34:48 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 2, 2012, 12:44:55 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 1:37:24 PM PST
Is your soul through your mind etc. willing to answer my questions as I have answered yours?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 1:40:06 PM PST
M. Galishoff says:
I don't know where it is located in an anatomical sense. I don't believe that anyone really does. I believe a good way to think of the relationship is that of two essence and one person. I suppose body and soul each make up one essence and together one person. This may not be technically correct. The brain is the seat of cognition among other things and in it we are aware. That, however, does not mean the soul resides just in the brain.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 1:55:47 PM PST
Thanks, Mike for the listing of various usages of the word soul. Your next to last paragraph blows my mind. I thought, and I expect wrongly, that the beliefs you say are not in the Bible, were there. So those who believe in a "literal interpretation" (whatever that is) of the Bible should be abandoning those beliefs, especially if they are the ones who say the Bible contains everything they need or want to know. I'm not big on wanting documentation, but some others reading here might appreciate it.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 1:56:52 PM PST
Don't even know I have one, despite seriously trying to find one.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 1:57:27 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012, 1:58:16 PM PST
Rubedo says:
Why not just go to the encyclopedia of philosophy?

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012, 1:58:51 PM PST
Thanks Weasel. I love your post, and it almost convinces me that I do have a soul.
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