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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


PSYCHOLOGY . The Bible does not contain a science of psychology in the modern sense; but there is a definite and consistent view of man’s nature from the religious standpoint. This being recognized, the old dispute, whether it teaches the bipartite or the tripartite nature of man, loses its meaning, for the distinction of soul and spirit is not a division of man into soul and spirit along with his body or flesh, but a difference of point of view the one emphasizing man’s individual existence, the other his dependence on God. The account in Genesis 2:7 makes this clear. The breath or spirit of God breathed into the dust of the ground makes the living soul. The living soul ceases when the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’ ( Ecclesiastes 12:7 ). The soul is not, as in Greek philosophy, a separate substance which takes up its abode in the body at birth, and is released from its bondage at death, but is matter animated by God’s breath. Hence no pre-existence of the soul is taught (except in Wis 7:16; Wis 7:20 ), nor is the future life conceived as that of a disembodied soul. Man is the unity of spirit and matter; hence the hope of immortality involves the belief in the resurrection of the body, even though in St. Paul’s statement of the belief the body raised is described as spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 15:44 ). The OT has not, in fact, a term for the body as a whole; the matter to which the spirit gives life is often referred to as flesh.’ This term may be used for man as finite earthly creature in contrast with God and His Spirit. Man is ‘flesh,’ or ‘soul,’ or ‘spirit,’ according to the aspect of his personality it is desired to emphasize. The varied senses in which these terms are used are discussed in the separate articles upon them; here only their relation to one another is dealt with. These are the three principal psychological terms; but there are a few others which claim mention.

Heart is used for the inner life, the principles, motives, purposes ( Genesis 6:5 , Psalms 51:10 , Ezekiel 36:26 , Matthew 15:19 , 2 Corinthians 3:3 ), without precise distinction of the intellectual, emotional, or volitional functions; but it can never, as the preceding terms, be used for the whole man. St. Paul, influenced probably by Greek philosophy, uses nous for mind as man’s intellectual activity ( Romans 7:23-25 ), and even contrasts it with the ecstatic state ( 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 ), and adopts other terms used in the Greek schools. Another Greek term, syneidçsis . rendered ‘ conscience ,’ is used in the NT consistently for what Kant called the practical reason, man’s moral consciousness ( Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16 , Romans 2:15; Romans 9:1; Romans 13:6 , 1Co 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 8:12; 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1Co 10:27-29 , 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 4:2 , 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:2 , 2 Timothy 1:3 , Titus 1:15 , Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 13:18 , 1Pe 2:19; 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 3:21 ), and is an instance of the influence of the Stoic ethics on ‘the moral vocabulary of the civilized world at the time of the Christian era.’ This distinction of the intellectual and the moral functions of personality is the nearest approach in the NT to the modern science; but the analysis is not carried far. It must be observed that in poetic parallelisms ‘soul,’ ‘spirit,’ ‘heart’ are often used as synonymous, in contrast to ‘flesh’ ( Psalms 63:1; Psalms 84:2 , Ecclesiastes 11:10; Ecclesiastes 12:7 , Ezekiel 44:7; Ezekiel 44:9 ). The Bible distinguishes the material and the immaterial, the creaturely and the creature, man in his individuality and his dependence on God, but always in the religious interest, that he may recognize his own insufficiency, and his sufficiency in God.

Alfred E. Garvie.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Psychology'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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