Living Being - Genesis 1:21
The Hebrew word חי (hhai, Strong's #5315), usually translated as "life," is pronounced like the English greeting "Hi," but the "H" is pronounced hard, like the "ch" in the name "Bach."
The concept of "life" is an abstract thought, meaning that the concept of "life" cannot be seen, heard, smelled, tasted or felt. As the Hebrew language does express abstract thought, it is always through concrete ideas. In order to demonstrate this process of concrete and abstract thought, let us examine the meaning of the word "heart," which in Hebrew is the word לב (lev). First, the heart is the concrete and physical "heart", the organ in the chest, and second, this Hebrew word represents the idea of the "mind" as the ancient Hebrews understood the "heart" as the seat of thought (in contrast to our understanding of thought being associated with the brain).
When we come to the word חי (hhai), we understand the abstract concept behind the word as awareness, existence, etc., but what was the concrete background to the word? The following passage (quoted from the KJV) can help us unravel this mystery.
|Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions (Job 38:39, KJV) |
The word "appetite" in this verse is the translator’s translation of the word hhai. The word "appetite" is also an abstract word and was probably chosen for the translation as it best fits with the idea of "life". But, if we replace "appetite" with "stomach", a more concrete Hebraic concept, we find that the verse makes much more sense.
|Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? Or fill the stomach of the young lions|
Just as the heart is the seat of thought, the stomach is, according to Hebrew thought, the seat of life. If we think about this we can easily understand why. We must first remember that the Hebrews were nomads who traveled from pasture to pasture with their flocks in search of food and water. This was their primary goal in "life". If food and water were in plenty, life was good, if it was not, life was very bad.
The Hebrew word נפש (nephesh, Strong's #5315) is usually translated as soul, but what is the soul? Webster' Dictionary gives the following definition; "The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state." In most cases people will understand the soul through this definition. But, as I have so often stated, our interpretation of Biblical words should be from a Hebraic perspective, not a modern western perspective such as we find in the English dictionaries.
If we look at the various ways that this word is translated in an English translation, such as the KJV, we will see a wide variation in its interpretation. Some of these translations include;soul, life, person, mind, heart, creature, body, dead, desire, man, appetite, lust, thing, self, beast, pleasure, ghost, breath and will. What exactly does this word mean?
I had always assumed that only humans had a soul, but it was during a study of the word "soul" that I discovered that translations often influence how we interpret Biblical concepts. In the KJV translation of Genesis 2:7 we find that man is a "living soul" and in Genesis 1:21 we find that animals are "living creatures". When I first started using a concordance to look up the original Hebrew words I was amazed to discover that these two phrases were identical Hebrew phrases - nephesh chayah. Why would the translators translate nephesh chayah as "living soul" in one place and "living creatures" in another? It was this discovery that prompted me to learn the Hebrew language.
In the Hebrew mind we are composed of three entities; body, breath and mind. The body is the vessel composed of flesh, bones and blood. The mind, or the heart in Hebrew thought, is ones thoughts. The breath is ones character; it is what makes a person who they are.
The soul is the whole of the person, the unity of the body, breath and mind. It is not some immaterial spiritual entity; it is you, all of you, your whole being or self.