Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Biblical Anthropology: Part IVb

Full Disclosure

I must amend part IV of this series for full disclosure.  While I believe that I have represented the general view of NT authors, namely that the human being is not made up of parts that can be separated from one another and that the human is an essential unity, there are verses in the NT that would challenge this view.  I will list those here and attempt a few comments.

Phil. 1:23-24 “I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh (sarx) is more necessary for you.” 
2Cor. 5:8 “Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body (soma) and at home with the Lord.” 
These verses seems to imply that departing from the flesh or body would mean to be with Christ. There is however, no indication of what that means.  Does this mean Paul's soul would depart from the flesh as in the Greek model?  We do not know.
Luke 23:43 “He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”
This verse seems to imply that the criminal on the cross to whom Jesus is speaking would somehow be with Christ in paradise "today."  First of all, what is "paradise?" Is it heaven?  Is it a temporary locale where one waits for the resurrection? Second of all, does this mean that his soul would be with Christ as in the Greek model? All I can say is that the NT is not univocal on what happens immediately after death.  This verse seems to state that right after a human dies he or she could go immediately to paradise, whatever that is. In Paul's discussion of the second coming of Christ and the Resurrection in 1 Thess. 4, Paul says the "dead in Christ" will rise first, and then be joined in the clouds with living believers.  In this scenario, where have the "dead in Christ" been?  This passage seems to delay the time of believers being with Christ until the final resurrection. 
Luke 23:46 “Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (pneuma).’ Having said this, he breathed (pneo) his last.”
 This verse could imply that Christ's spirit, a separate part of him, would depart and be in the hands of his father.  Yet, interestingly there is a play on words here.  Christ gives up his spirit (pneuma) by breathing (pneo) his last breath.  The root word is the same.  Is this any different from the OT concept of being animated by the spirit/breath of God, and when that spirit/breath departs, the human dies?  Breathing his last is in this verse a way to say that Jesus died. 

Rev. 6:9 “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls (psyche) of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given;” 
If one translates psyche here as "souls" and reads this through a Greek lens, then the souls have been separated from the bodies and are in heaven awaiting God's judgment on the wicked.  Yet, keep in mind, these are only the martyrs, not all Christians.

It is difficult to judge in such matters.  While there are verses that seem to fit more with the Greek system of thought, I think that the vast majority of evidence from the NT is that the human is a whole, inseparable, person.  Using different terms to talk about the human does not necessarily imply a Greek outlook, nor does it imply that humans are made up of different parts that can be separated.  Instead, I think the context of the usage of different terms is important.  In most of the contexts, it appears to me that the human is an essential unity.  Come back for part V when I talk about the implications of seeing the human as a unity, rather than as a duality like the Greek system.

No comments:

Post a Comment