Psyche, the word
In psychoanalysis and other forms of depth psychology, the psyche refers to the forces in an individual that influence thought, behaviour and personality. The Greek word ψυχή (psūkhē) meant “life” in the sense of “breath”, from the verb ψύχω (psukhō, “to blow”). This Greek word, rendered in Latin as ‘anima’, has traditionally been rendered in English as “soul”.
In the minds of most persons, the connotations of the word “soul” are not in agreement with the meaning of the Hebrew [נֶפֶשׁ] ‘ne′phesh” (Nepes, Nephesh)(Nefesh) and Greek ‘psy·khe′’ [ψυχή]) as used by the inspired Bible writers. This fact has steadily gained wider acknowledgement amongst scholars. Back in 1897, in the Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol. XVI, p. 30), Professor C. A. Briggs, as a result of detailed analysis of the use of ne′phesh, observed:
“Soul” in English usage at the present time conveys usually a very different meaning from נפש [ne′phesh] in Hebrew, and it is easy for the incautious reader to misinterpret.”
We should see the “soul” as “the capacity to live”, that is, any life chance for plants, animals and human beings.
Although the Hebrew word nefesh [in the Hebrew Scriptures] is frequently translated as ‘soul,’ it would be inaccurate to read into it a Greek meaning. Nefesh … is never conceived of as operating separately from the body. In the New Testament the Greek word psyche is often translated as ‘soul’ but again should not be readily understood to have the meaning the word had for the Greek philosophers. It usually means ‘life,’ or ‘vitality,’ or, at times, ‘the self.’
Greek-English lexicons give such definitions for psyche as “life,” and
“the conscious self or personality as centre of emotions, desires, and affections,” “a living being,”
and they show that even in non-Biblical Greek works the term was used of animals. We also can find all the meanings that the pagan Greek philosophers gave to the word, including that of “departed spirit,” “the immaterial and immortal soul,” “the spirit of the universe,” and “the immaterial principle of movement and life.” Evidently because some of the pagan philosophers taught that the soul departed from the body at death, the term psyche was also applied to the “butterfly or moth,” creatures which go through a metamorphosis changing from caterpillar to a winged creature.
In the past, translators brought their background in philosophical literature to the translation the Holy Scriptures. Those translators interpreted psyche to mean something that was of a different substance than the body. This translation of the NT psyche was inconsistent the OT nephesh, which referred to the whole living being. The Bible does not say humans have a special separate substance called a soul. The soul, psyche or nephesh, is the person, the whole being including the mind, the body with its need for food, the very blood in the veins – all of the person.
Years ago the definition of death used to include only cessation of heart and lungs but now after further development it has been altered so that it can include permanent and irreversible brain failure. In the Germanic speaking countries, from a medical perspective, it is considered that when the ‘psyche’ or mind is not working any more, when the brain does not function any more, the person is considered to be death. In Europe the specific criteria used to pronounce legal death are variable and often depend on certain circumstances in order to pronounce a person legally dead. Controversy is often encountered due to the conflicts between moral and ethical values. Legal death is usually pronounced when a person is considered brain dead. Brain death is considered an irreversible coma. A patient is diagnosed as brain dead when there is no detectable brain activity. In the United States, brain death is legal in every state.
This actually accords with the view of Scripture. It is when breath goes out of a person and the spirit (psyche) gives way, i.e. when the brain is not working any more, that a person dies and is dead. At that moment the memory is gone, and like plants or animals when they die, the person can no longer function and the body begins to decay. Then they shall rot or to cause to waste away and there shall take place a disintegrating of their body to end up into tiny particles of solid or powdery matter, called dust. Whatever the psyche is, ends at death.
Ecc 3:19-20 ESV For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
 C. A. Briggs ; Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol. XVI, p. 30)
 The Encyclopedia Americana (1977), Vol. 25, p. 236.
 Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, revised by H. Jones, 1968, pp. 2026, 2027; Donnegan’s New Greek and English Lexicon, 1836, p. 1404.
 Brain death is not the same as a vegetative state, but the two are often confused.
Preceding: Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #1 Intro
Next: Historical background
- Science, belief, denial and visibility 1
- Philosophy hand in hand with spirituality
- Are you religious, spiritual, or do you belong to a religion, having a faith or interfaith
- Creation of the earth and man #13 Formation of man #5 Living soul
- Elul Observances
- Human beings and creation
- Human Nature: What does the Bible teach?
- The Soul not a ghost
- Is there an Immortal soul
- Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid
- Dying or not
- What happens when we die?
- How are the dead?
- Dead and after
- Sheol or the grave
- Self-development, self-control, meditation, beliefs and spirituality
Further reading material:
- Be a Mensch..
- Absolute Being and the relative universe
- “One is not born, but made, a human”
- A definition can never explain the essence of a thing
- Life is much more than a cluster of cells
- Finding the True Self
- Daily Bliss – October 20
- Poi Dog Pondering-All Saints Ascension
- Set Your Soul on Fire
- The Soul vs The Ego
- Influencing the soul
- The Crucial Distinction Between Your Soul and Your Spirit
- “Whispers of Hope”
- For yourself
- God First
- My God, My Hope!
- The Way
- Prayer to The Dead
- The Petition For Souls
- Do All Living Beings Have Souls???
- I Walk Upon the Path of the Occult
- A Season for Souls.
- Souls’ mission II
- The More We Have
- #37 Evaporating Souls
- The Threat of Faith
- Where Word Belongs to Man
- Rest for Weary Souls
- Grief and Writing
- Life Depends upon a Sentence
- Life can change in a heartbeat, or none at all
- Falling into Beautiful Death
- Grave Choice
- meeting God in the garden
- The Voice of the Shofar
- Five Smooth Stones
- Chewing the Cud
- Praying Dirt
- The Repairer of the Breach
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