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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Natural

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1. In Romans 1:26 f., Romans 11:21; Romans 11:24 (cf. Judges 1:10 ‘naturally’) ‘natural’ is the rendering of φυσικός. In Romans 1 St. Paul denounces certain forms of sexual vice as ‘against nature.’ To indulge in them is to pervert and degrade human nature. Its constitution is violated when the lower impulses refuse to be controlled. History confirms the Apostle’s judgment that ‘natural’ instincts and passions unbridled by reason and conscience lead to unnatural crimes which are dishonouring alike to man and to God. To Renan’s outburst, ‘Nature cares nothing about chastity,’ the true reply is, ‘Instead of saying that Nature cares nothing about chastity, let us say that human nature, our nature, cares about it a great deal’ (Matthew Arnold, Discourses in America, London, 1896, p. 60). In Romans 11 St. Paul, using figurative language, describes the Jews as ‘natural branches’ in contrast with the Gentiles, who are represented as artificially grafted into the tree of God’s people. The process described is ‘one that in horticulture is never performed. The cultivated branch is always engrafted upon the wild stock, and not vice versa. This Paul knew quite well (see παρὰ φύσιν, v. 24), and the force of his reproof to the presuming Gentile turns on the fact that the process was an unnatural one’ (J. Denney, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Romans,’ 1900, p. 680).

2. In 1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:44; 1 Corinthians 15:46, ‘natural’ is the rendering of ψυχικός. It is also used twice in Revised Version margin as an alternative to another translation of the same word. In 2 Peter 2:12 ‘mere animals’ is in the Revised Version text, but in Judges 1:19 ‘sensual’ is found, ‘animal’ being a second marginal rendering. In all these passages ψυχικός ‘has a disparaging sense, being opposed to πνευματικός (as ψυχή is not to πνεῦμα), and almost synonymous with σάρκινος or σαρκικός (1 Corinthians 3:1 f.).… This epithet describes to the Corinthians the unregenerate nature at its best, the man commended in philosophy, actuated by the higher thoughts and aims of the natural life-not the sensual man (the animalis of the Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] ) who is ruled by bodily impulses. Yet the ψυχικός, μὴ ἔχων πνεῦμα (Judges 1:19) may be lower than the σαρκικός, where the latter, as in 1 Corinthians 3:3 and Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:25, is already touched but not fully assimilated by the life-giving πνεῦμα’ (G. G. Findlay, Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘1 Cor.,’ 1900, p. 783, note on 1 Corinthians 2:14). To this helpful discrimination may be added a brief quotation from T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on First Ep. to Corinthians2, London, 1885: ‘the word ψυχικός was coined by Aristotle (Eth. Nic. III. x. 2), to distinguish the pleasures of the soul, such as ambition and desire of knowledge, from those of the body.’ As used by St. Paul, ‘the ψυχικός, contrasted with the ἀκρατής, is the noblest of men. But to the πνευματικός he is related as the natural to the supernatural.… The indwelling spirit is the Holy Spirit; and he in whom that Spirit dwells is at once supernatural and holy’ (p. 65f., note on 1 Corinthians 2:14 f.).

ψυχικός is sometimes rendered ‘psychic,’ and sometimes ‘soulish’ in 1 Corinthians 15:44, with the intention of emphasizing the contrast between the ‘natural’ and the ‘spiritual’ body. But ‘though inadequate, “natural” is the best available rendering of this adjective; it indicates the moulding of man’s body by its environment, and its adaptation to existing functions; the same body is χοϊκόν in respect of its material (v. 47).’ In this context, however, ‘ψυχικον is only relatively a term of disparagement; the “psychic” body has in it the making of the “spiritual” ’ (G. G. Findlay, op. cit. p. 937). The body which, in our present state, is adapted for the service of the soul, is contrasted by St. Paul with the body which, in the future state, will be adapted for the higher service of the spirit. ‘An organism fitted to be the seat of mind, to express emotion, to carry out the behests of will is already in process of being adapted for a still nobler ministry.’ Hence in v. 46 the history of man is said to be ‘a progress from Adam to Christ, from soulish to spiritual, from the present life to the future’ (T. C. Edwards, op. cit. pp. 441, 445).

3. (a) In two passages (Romans 1:31, 2 Timothy 3:3) the phrase ‘without natural affection’ is the rendering of ἄστοργος. By this word St. Paul describes those who are so regardless of the claims of nature as to be lacking in love for their own kindred. He assumes that love of kindred (στοργή) should naturally arise from such human relationships as parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister. Here, as in those passages in which ‘natural’ is the rendering of φυσικός, the word denotes not what is in harmony with our environment, but what is in accord with our own true nature or constitution.

(b) In James 1:23 ‘his natural face’ is the rendering of the phrase πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως, lit. [Note: literally, literature.] ‘the face of his birth’ (Revised Version margin). The meaning is the face which is ‘native’ to man. The contrast is between ‘the face which belongs to this transitory life,’ of which a reflexion may be seen in a mirror, and ‘the character which is being here moulded for eternity,’ of which a reflexion may be seen in the Word (J. B. Mayor, Epistle of St. James 3, London, 1910, p. 71, note on 1:23).

Literature.-J. Laidlaw, Bible Doctrine of Man, new ed., Edinburgh, 1895; H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, do., 1911.

J. G. Tasker.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Natural'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/n/natural.html. 1906-1918.

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Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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