This is our first episode related to our new word studies video on the Hebrew word “Nephesh” which often gets translated as “soul” in English bibles. In Hebrew the most basic meaning of the word is “throat.” Which seems weird to us. So how did we get “soul” from “throat”? Tim and Jon discuss.
In the first part of the episode (0-12:30), Tim and Jon outline where the word “soul” comes from (Old English), and why most people think that a core teaching of the Bible is people “having souls.” Jon asks how much you can really separate the ideas of a person’s “mind, soul, and body.”
In the second part of the episode (12:30-41:20), Tim explains that the Hebrew word “Nephesh” is an extremely common word in the Hebrew Old Testament. It occurs over 700 times, but less than 10% of the time is it translated as “soul.” It also gets translated as “life”, “heart”, “you”, “people” and several other words.
Tim outlines some famous verses in the Old Testament that use the word soul. Like Psalm 42 “ As the deer pants...My soul thirsts for you” the original meaning is Hebrew is “my throat thirsts for you.”
Tim explains that the word Nephesh is designed to show the essential physicality of a person. Whereas “soul” connotes the non-physicality of a person.
In the third part of the episode (41:20-end), Tim says “Nephesh” isn’t just used to describe humans, but also used to describe animals and what the land produced in Genesis. “And God said ‘Let the waters teem with living Nephesh.’”
The bottom line, biblically, is that people don’t have souls. They are souls. They don’t have “nephesh” they are “nephesh.” And the ultimate hope for Christians is not a disembodied existence living as souls, but an embodied existence living in their Nephesh.