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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Person; Personality

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pûr´sun , pûr´s ' n , pûr - un - al´ti ( נפשׁ , nephesh , אישׁ , 'ı̄sh , אדם , 'ādhām , פּנים , pānı̄m , πρόσωπον , prósōpon , ὑπόστασις , hupóstasis ): The most frequent word for "person" in the Old Testament is nephesh , "soul" ( Genesis 14:21 , "Give me the persons, and take the goods"; Genesis 36:6 , the King James Version "all the persons": Numbers 5:6 the King James Version "that person," etc.): 'ı̄sh "a man," "an individual," Is also used (Judges 9:2 , "threescore and ten persons"; 1 Samuel 16:18 , "a comely person," etc.); 'ādhām , "a man," "a human being" (Numbers 31:28 , "of the persons, and of the oxen"; Proverbs 6:12 , "a worthless person," etc.); 'ĕnōsh , "a man," "a weak, mortal man," occurs twice (Judges 9:4 , the King James Version "vain and light persons"; Zephaniah 3:4 ); ba‛al , "owner," "lord," is once translated "person" (Proverbs 24:8 , the King James Version "a mischievous person"), and methı̄m , "men," once (Psalm 26:4 , the King James Version "vain persons"); pānı̄m "face," is frequently translated "person" when the reference is to the external appearance, as of persons in high places, rich persons who could favor or bribe, etc., chiefly in the phrases "regarding the person," "accepting the person" (Deuteronomy 10:17 ; Malachi 1:8 ).

In the New Testament prosōpon , "face," "countenance," stands in the same connection ( Matthew 22:16 ,"Thou regardest not the person of men"; Galatians 2:6 , "God accepteth not man's person"; Acts 10:34 , "God is no respecter of persons"; Romans 2:11 , "there is no respect of persons with God"; Ephesians 6:9 ; Colossians 3:25 ; James 2:1 , James 2:9 ); in 2 Corinthians 1:11 we have "persons" ( prosōpon ), absolute as in the later Greek, "the gift bestowed ... by many persons," the only occurrence in the New Testament; in 2 Corinthians 2:10 prosōpon may stand for "presence," as the Revised Version (British and American) "in the presence of Christ," but it might mean "as representing Christ"; in Hebrews 1:3 , the King James Version hupostasis , "that which lies under," substratum , is rendered "person," "the express image of his person," i.e. of God, which the Revised Version (British and American) renders "the very image of his substance," margin "the impress of his substance," i.e. the manifestation or expression of the invisible God and Father. "Person" is also frequently supplied as the substantive implied in various adjectives, etc., e.g. profane, perjured, vile.

In the Apocrypha we have prosōpon translated "person" ( Judith 7:15 , the Revised Version (British and American) "face"; Sirach 10:5 , etc.); the "accepting of persons" is condemned (The Wisdom of Song of Solomon 6:7 ; Sirach 4:22,27 ; 7:6 ; 20:22 , the Revised Version (British and American) "by a foolish countenance"; 35:13; 42:1; "With him (God) is no respect of persons, Sirach 35:12 ).

The Revised Version (British and American) has "soul" for "person" (Numbers 5:6 ), "face" (Jeremiah 52:25 ), "man" (Matthew 27:24 ); "reprobate" for "vile person" (Psalm 15:4 ), the American Standard Revised Version, the English Revised Version margin "fool" (Isaiah 32:5 , Isaiah 32:6 ); the American Standard Revised Version "men of falsehood" for "vain persons" (Psalm 26:4 ); for "a wicked person," the Revised Version (British and American) has "an evil thing" (Psalm 101:4 ); "back to thee in his own person" (autón , different text) for "again thou therefore receive him" (Philippians 1:12 ); "take away life" for "respect any person" (2 Samuel 14:14 ); "with seven others" for "the eighth person" (2 Peter 2:5 ); "false swearers" for "perjured persons" (1 Timothy 1:10 ); "seven thousand persons" for "of men seven thousand" (Revelation 11:13 ).

Personality is that which constitutes and characterizes a person . The word "person" (Latin, persona ) is derived from the mask through which an actor spoke his part ( persona ). "From being applied to the mask, it came next to be applied to the actor, then to the character acted, then to any assumed character, then to anyone having any character or station"; lastly, it came to mean an individual, a feeling, thinking and acting being. For full personality there must be self-consciousness, with the capability of free thought and action - self-determination - hence, we speak of personal character, personal action, etc. A person is thus a responsible being, while an animal is not. Personality is distinctive of man. The personality is the unit of the entire rational being, perhaps most clearly represented by "the will"; it is that which is deepest in man, belonging, of course, not to the realm of space or the region of the visible, but existing as a spiritual reality in time, with a destiny beyond it. It is the substance ( hupostasis ) of the being, that which underlies all its manifestations; hence, the rendering "the express image of his person" in Hebrews 1:3 the King James Version. Hupostasis was employed by the early Greek Fathers to express what the Latins intended by persona ; afterward prosōpon was introduced.

Recent psychology has brought into prominence elements in the subconscious realm, the relation of which to the personality is obscure. There seems to be more in each individual than is normally expressed in the personal consciousness and action. The real, responsible personality, however, is something which is always being formed . The phenomenon of double personality is pathological, as truly the result of brain disease as is insanity.

In the Bible man is throughout regarded as personal, although it was only gradually that the full importance of the individual as distinct from the nation was realized. The use of prosōpon for "person" indicates also a more external conception of personality than the modern. With the Hebrews the nephesh was the seat of personality, e.g. "Thou wilt not leave my soul ( nephesh ) to Sheol" ( Psalm 16:10 ); "Thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol" (Psalm 30:3 ). God is also always regarded as personal (who has created man in His own image), and although the representations seem often anthropomorphic they are not really such. The divine personality could only be conceived after the analogy of the human, as far as it could be definitely conceived at all; but God was regarded as transcending, not only the whole of Nature, but all that, is human, e.g. "God is not a man, that he should lie" ( Numbers 23:19 ; 1 Samuel 15:29 ); "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11:7 ; Isaiah 40:28 ; compare Ecclesiastes 3:11 ; Ecclesiastes 8:17 , etc.). In the New Testament the personality of God is, on the warrant of Jesus Himself, conceived after the analogy of human fatherhood, yet as transcending all our human conceptions: "How much more?" (Matthew 7:11 ); "Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34 ). Man is body, soul and spirit, but God in Himself is Spirit, infinite, perfect, ethical Spirit (Matthew 5:48 ; John 4:24 ). He is forever more than all that is created, "For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things" (Romans 11:36 ). The human personality, being spiritual, survives bodily dissolution and in Christ becomes clothed again with a spiritual body (Philippians 3:21 ; 1 Corinthians 15:44 ).


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Person; Personality'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/p/person-personality.html. 1915.

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Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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