Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reading (12-8-09): Green on Soul

Finally got back to the second half of Joel Green's second chapter in Body, Soul, and Human Life. In this half, he talks about some of the factors that confuse the issue. Whether you agree fully with him or not, he is almost completely right in his correction of some oversimplified understandings.

The first is to make a stark distinction between Greek and Hebrew thinking, where it is assumed that the Greeks were dualists of body and soul while the Hebrew Bible sees a person as a single whole. He notes that Bible scholars have caught up since Hengel forty years ago with the fact that Judaism had been under the influence of Hellenism for two hundred years before Christ. What scholars have not as much realized is that Greco-Roman thought itself was not nearly as dualistic as often assumed, indeed that the soul was generally thought of as material to ancient philosophers. The book that first turned me on to this was Dale Martin's The Corinthian Body.

Similarly, Green points out the language fallacies that often accompany such discussions. In particular, there is the assumption that words always mean the same things, such that the word psyche in itself might mean "soul" in some Cartesian sense. I'm not fully convinced that 1 Peter is not dualistic between flesh and spirit in 4:6, as well as in 3:18-19. But in general, Green successfully shows that the Bible is not nearly as dualistic as it might seem when we simply invest these words with our meanings.

The last part of the chapter deals with the meaning of humanity being "in the image of God." I feel like Green sees a little more theology in Genesis than its author might have but he's right, I think, to start off with a kind of "governmental" understanding of the image in Genesis 1. Humanity is in the image of God in Genesis as the ruler of the creation, like God is ruler of all. Green takes it a little further to the image being primarily relational and covenantal, and I don't really see this in Genesis' use of the expression.

As I said the NT often does in a controversial post, the New Testament then understands "image of God" in its own way in the New Testament, without placing any real emphasis on the governmental element that dominates (ha) Genesis 1, in my opinion. In the NT, it seems to me that the phrase image of God is more emotive and leans more toward humanity as a honor reflection/representation of God, much as a father might be proud of his son if he is a "chip off the old block." Christ is also a reflection of God in a more prominent and Sonship kind of way.

A good chapter...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

It sounds like "wholism" is Politicalism, in the sense that what one does in the body (the political realm) Is the Soul?! or not?

If this is the view, then one's political view is important as to what one thinks is important to "do" or not do. This is where conscience comes in, doesn't it?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Oops, what I meant to say, is that one's political view or ideology determine what one thinks is important....