International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Generally speaking, the Old Testament language employs no fixed term for the human body as an entire organism in exact opposition to "soul" or "spirit." Various terms were employed, each of which denotes only one part or element of the physical nature, such as "trunk," "bones," "belly," "bowels," "reins," "flesh," these parts being used, by synecdoche, for the whole: etsem = "bone," or "skeleton," hence, "body," is found in Exodus 24:10 the King James Version; Lamentations 4:7; nephesh = "living organism" (Leviticus 21:11 Numbers 6:6, 7, 11; Numbers 19:11, 13, 16 Haggai 2:13); nebhelah = "a flabby thing," "carcass" (Deuteronomy 21:23 Isaiah 26:19 Jeremiah 26:23; Jeremiah 36:30); beTen = "womb" (Deuteronomy 28:4, 11, 18, 53; Deuteronomy 30:9 Job 19:17 the King James Version; Psalm 132:11 Micah 6:7); yarekh = "thigh," "generative parts," "body" (Judges 8:30); gewiyah = "a body, whether alive or dead" (1 Samuel 31:10, 12 2 Kings 8:5 the King James Version; Daniel 10:6); me`im, "body" (Songs 5:14); guphah = "corpse" (1 Chronicles 10:12); gewah = "the back," i.e. (by extension) "person" (Job 20:25); she'er = "flesh, as living or for food," "body" (Ezekiel 10:12); geshem = "a hard shower of rain" hence, "a body" (Daniel 4:33; Daniel 5:21; Daniel 7:11); nidhneh = "a sheath," hence, the receptacle of the soul, "body" (Daniel 7:15).
The Greek word which is used almost exclusively for "body" in the New Testament is soma, Latin corpus (Matthew 5:29, 30; Matthew 6:22, 23, 25; 26:26 John 2:21; Acts 9:40 1 Corinthians 15:35, 37, 38, 44 Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30). chros, signifying primarily the "surface" or "skin," occurs in Acts 19:12. A compound word with soma, as its base, sussomos = "a member of the same body," occurs in Ephesians 3:6. From the above, it appears that the New Testament places the body as a whole into opposition to the spirit or the invisible nature. Paul, of course, employs the term also to designate the sublimated substance with which we are to be clothed after the resurrection when he speaks of the "spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44).
Frank E. Hirsch
1. In the Old Testament:
soma, Latin corpus: The term "body" is not found in the Hebrew of the Old Testament in the sense in which it occurs in the Greek "The Hebrew word for `body' is gewiyah, which is sometimes used for the `living' body (Ezekiel 1:11), `bodies of the cherubim' (Genesis 47:18 Nehemiah 9:37), but usually for the dead body or carcass. Properly speaking the Hebrew has no term for `body.' The Hebrew term around which questions relating to the body must gather is flesh" (Davidson, Old Testament Theology, 188). Various terms are used in the Old Testament to indicate certain elements or component parts of the body, such as "flesh," "bones," "bowels," "belly," etc., some of which have received a new meaning in the New Testament. Thus the Old Testament "belly" (Hebrew beTen, Greek koilia), "Our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly cleaveth unto the earth" (Psalm 44:25 the King James Version)-as the seat of carnal appetite-has its counterpart in the New Testament: "They serve. their own belly" (Romans 16:18). So also the word translated "bowels" (meim, rachamim) in the sense of compassion, as in Jeremiah 31:20, King James Version: "Therefore my bowels are troubled for him," is found in more than one place in the New Testament. Thus in Philippians 1:8 the King James Version, "I long after you all in the bowels (splagchna) of Christ," and again, "if there be any bowels (splagchna) and mercies" (Philippians 2:1 the King James Version).
2. In the New Testament:
"Body" in the New Testament is largely used in a figurative sense, either as indicating the "whole man" (Romans 6:12 Hebrews 10:5), or as that which is morally corrupt-"the body of this death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24). Hence, the expression, "buffet my body" (1 Corinthians 9:27, hupopiazo, a word adopted from the prize-ring, palaestra), the body being considered as the lurking-place and instrument of evil. (Compare Romans 8:13 the King James Version "Mortify the deeds of the body.")
3. Other Meanings:
Between these two the various other meanings seem to range. On the one hand we find the church called "the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:16 1 Corinthians 12:13), with diversity of gifts, enjoying the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." On the other we read of a spiritual, incorruptible body, a resurrection-body as opposed to the natural body, which is doomed to corruption in death (1 Corinthians 15:44). Not only do we find these meanings in the word itself, but also in some of its combinations. On the one hand we read in Ephesians 3:6 of the Gentiles as "partakers of the promise in Christ" as "fellow-heirs," and "of the same body" (sussoma) in corporate union with all who put their trust in the Redeemer of mankind; on the other, we read of mere "bodily (somatic) exercises," which are not profitable. (1 Timothy 4:8)-where "body" evidently is contrasted with "spirit." And again, we read of the Holy Ghost descending in "bodily" (somatic) shape upon the "Son of God" (Luke 3:22), in whom dwelt the "fullness of the Godhead bodily" (somatically) (Colossians 2:9). So, too, the "body" is called a temple of the Holy Ghost: "Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" (1 Corinthians 6:19).
4. The Body and Sin:
From all this it is apparent that the body in itself is not necessarily evil, a doctrine which is taught in Greek philosophy, but nowhere in the Old Testament and New Testament. The rigid and harsh dualism met with in Plato is absent from Paul's writings, and is utterly foreign to the whole of Scripture. Here we are distinctly taught, on the one hand, that the body is subordinated to the soul, but on the other, with equal clearness, that the human body has a dignity, originally conferred upon it by the Creator, who shaped it out of earth, and glorified it by the incarnation of Christ, the sinless One, though born of a woman. Julius Muller has well said: "Paul denies the presence of evil in Christ, who was partaker of our fleshly nature (Galatians 4:4), and he recognizes it in spirits who are not partakers thereof (Ephesians 6:12 the King James Version, `spiritual wickedness in high places'). Is it not therefore in the highest degree probable that according to him evil does not necessarily pertain to man's sensuous nature, and that sarx (say body) denotes something different from this?" (The Christian Doctrine of Sin, I, 321, English edition). He further shows that the derivation of sin from sense is utterly irreconcilable with the central principle of the apostle's doctrine as to the perfect holiness of the Redeemer, and that "the doctrine of the future resurrection-even taking into account the distinction between the soma psuchikon and the soma pneumatikon (1 Corinthians 15:44)-is clearly at variance with the doctrine that sin springs from the corporal nature as its source" (318).
5. The First Sin:
The very first sin was spiritual in its origin-an act of rebellion against God-the will of the creature in opposition to the will of the Creator (Genesis 3). It was conceived in doubt-"Hath God said?"; it was born in desire-"The tree was good for food"; it was stimulated by a rebellious hankering after equality with God: "Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil"; it was introduced from without, from the spiritual world, through the agency of a mysterious, supernatural being, employing "a beast of the field more subtle than any which Yahweh God had made." That the serpent in the Old Testament is not identified with Satan, and that the clearest utterance in pre-Christian times on the subject is to be found in the Book of The Wisdom of Solomon 2:24 ("by the envy of the devil death entered into the world"), may be true. That the narrative of the Fall is figurative or symbolical may also be granted. But the whole tendency of the early narrative is to connect the first human sin with a superhuman being, employing an agent known to man, and making that agent its representative in the "subtlety" of the great temptation as a prelude to the mighty fall. The New Testament is clear on this point (John 8:44; John 16:11 2 Corinthians 11:3 1 Timothy 2:14 Hebrews 2:14 Revelation 12:9). Great historic truths are imbedded in that narrative, whatever we may think of the form which that narrative has assumed. There can be no doubt that the oldest and truest traditions of the human race are to be found there. It is not denied that sin has desecrated the temple of the living God, which is the body. That body indeed has become defiled and polluted by sin. Paul recognizes "an abnormal development of the sensuous in fallen man, and regards sin as having in a special manner entrenched itself in the body, which becomes liable to death on this very account (Romans 6:23; Romans 7:24)" (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, I, 761). But we may safely say that theory which connects sin with the physical body, and gives it a purely sensuous origin, is alien to the whole spirit and letter of revelation.
J. I. Marais
In the New Testament (soma, "the body" both of men and animals) the word has a rich figurative and spiritual use:
(1) the temporary home of the soul (2 Corinthians 5:6);
(2) "the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19);
(3) "temple" (John 2:21);
(4) "the old man," the flesh as the servant of sin or the sphere in which moral evil comes to outward expression (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:7; compare Paul's use of sarx, "flesh");
(5) the "church" as Christ's body, the organism through which He manifests His life and in which H is spirit dwells (Ephesians 1:23 Colossians 1:24);
(6) the spiritual "unity" of believers, one redeemed society or organism (Ephesians 2:16; a corpus mysticum, Ephesians 4:4);
(7) "substance" (spiritual reality or life in Christ) versus "shadow" (Colossians 2:17);
(8) the ascended and glorified body of Jesus (Philippians 3:21);
(9) the resurrection or "spiritual" (v. natural) body of the redeemed in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:44);
(10) the whole personality, e.g. the spiritual presence, power and sacrificial work of Christ, the mystical meaning of "the body and the blood" symbolized in the bread and cup of the sacrament (1 Corinthians 11:27).
The term body is exceptionally rich in connection with the selfgiving, sacrificial, atoning work of Christ. It was the outward sphere or manifestation of His suffering. Through the physical He revealed the extent of His redeeming and sacrificial love. He "bare our sins in his body upon the tree" (1 Peter 2:24), thus forever displacing all the ceaseless and costly sacrifices of the old dispensation (Hebrews 9:24-28). Special terms, "body of his flesh" (Colossians 1:22); "body of sin" (Romans 6:6); "body of this death" (Romans 7:24); "body of his glory" (Philippians 3:21).
ptoma, used only of fallen, i.e. dead bodies (Revelation 11:8, 9).
Dwight M. Pratt
BODY OF DEATH
deth (soma tou thanatou): These words are found in Paul's impassioned argument on the reign of the law, which dooms man to continuous disappointment and convinces him of the terrible power of indwelling sin. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24 the King James Version). It is the "picture of the still unredeemed man in his relation to the law" (Meyer). The translation, "this body of death," though grammatically possible, is logically impermissible. The picture here before the mind of the apostle is not physical but ethical. Death points to the dominion of sin, to the reign of the law, as revealed in his physical life, from which he is delivered only through regeneration, by faith in Christ. It points to the "I must" and to the "I cannot." It is therefore the bondage under the law of sin, the body as the seat of this conscious and bitter struggle, that the figure points at. And yet the ethical may have a physical background. There may be a distant reference here to the dreadful punishment of the ancients of chaining the living body to a corpse, that the constant corruption of death might extinguish the life of the victim of this exquisite torture.
Henry E. Dosker
BODY OF HEAVEN
The King James Version translates the Hebrew idiom, etsem ha-shamayim, by "the body of heaven" (Exodus 24:10). A more correct rendering is given in the Revised Version (British and American), "the very heaven," taking the word `etsem in its idiomatic use as an intensive, which is derived from its literal meaning, "bone," as "strength," "substance," and then as "self" (compare Job 21:23); the substance of the blue, unclouded sky, hence, the clear sky itself.
spir'-it-u-al: Paul describes the body after the resurrection as a spiritual body (soma psuchikon) and contrasts it with the natural (psychical body, soma pneumatikon, 1 Corinthians 15:44). Our present natural body has for its life-principle the soul (psuche) but the resurrection body is adapted and subordinated to the spirit (pneuma). See PSYCHOLOGY. The apostle does not argue for a literal and material identity of that future body with the present one, but thinks of it as the counterpart of the present animal organism so conditioned as to be adapted to a state of existence which lies wholly within the sphere of the spirit. Against his Corinthian readers he argues that the resurrection cannot be succeeded by a state of non-existence, nor is he willing to admit a mere etherealized state. There must be a body, but between it and our present body there is a similar difference to that between the first and second Adam. The present body and the first Adam were alike dominated by the soul (psuche); but as the second Adam became a life-giving spirit, so will the resurrection body be a spiritual one. Christ became a life-giving spirit through the resurrection (Meyer on 1 Corinthians 15:45); and since we are to bear His image (1 Corinthians 15:49), it becomes evident that Christ's resurrection-body is the nearest possible approach to a sensible representation of the spiritual body. For this Paul argues more directly when he affirms that our resurrection-body shall be transformed according to the body of His glory (Philippians 3:21; compare 1 John 3:2). The body of Christ after the resurrection was conformed in many respects to the body of His earthly life, yet with some marked differences. He ate (Luke 24:42, 43); He breathed (John 20:22); possessed flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), and could be apprehended by the bodily senses (Luke 24:40 John 20:27). His body possessed characteristics which differentiated it entirely from the popular fancy of ghosts or apparitions (Luke 24:36-43). Yet His body was superior to the usual barriers which restrict human movements. Barred doors and distances did not impede His going (John 20:19-26 Luke 24:31-36). The context shows that the purpose of His eating was to convince the disciples that it was really He (Luke 24:41-43), and not to sustain life which His body was probably capable of maintaining in other ways. John speaks of His appearances after His resurrection as "manifestations" (John 21:1-21). A change in His person and appearance had certainly taken place, for those who knew Him best did not at once recognize Him (Luke 24:16 John 20:14). It is evident therefore that the post-resurrection-body of Jesus was one that had the power of materializing itself to natural senses, or withdrawing itself at will. It was this same body which was taken into the heavens at the ascension, and which remains in heaven (Acts 1:11; Acts 3:21). There is no hint that it underwent any change in its removal from earth. Hence, the spiritual body of which Paul speaks is not to be unlike the body which Jesus possessed after His resurrection. There is to be an absence of the desires and passions which belong naturally to the present bodily existence (Matthew 22:30 Luke 20:35, 36).
William Charles Morro
(soma pneumatikon, "body spiritual"): The resurrection-body, a body fitted to the capacities and wants of the spirit in the celestial world; an organism conformed to the spiritual life at the resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:44).
See BODY, SPIRITUAL.
DEATH, BODY OF
See BODY OF DEATH.