Reclaiming the Soul

Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary, J. Richard Middleton, explains what “soul” really means in the Bible. For a more detailed treatment of biblical anthropology, that is, how the Bible envisions what humans are, here is a thought provoking and challenging paper by N.T. Wright.

CREATION to ESCHATON

Many Christians throughout history have thought that the “soul” was an immaterial part of the person, and of more importance than the body. Moreover, the “soul” has often been regarded as the immortal or eternal part of the person.

Plato versus the Old Testament on the “Soul”

We have now come to understand that this view of the “soul” ultimately goes back to Plato. In Plato’s anthropological dualism, the human person is constituted by body (partaking of mortality, change, and impermanence) and soul (the higher, eternal part of the person; in some sense, the true person). Plato understood soul (psyche) as essentially mind and regarded it as divine (he called it “the god within”).

Plato’s anthropological dualism (the split in the human person) corresponded to his broader ontological dualism (the split in the nature of reality). He thought that the finite, changeable realm of physical existence, along with…

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