Simply Jesus - Discussion

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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby teresa » Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:04 pm

agricola wrote:Let us: me God, and you living earth creatures - make humanity in our combined image: partly animal and partly 'divine being': a composite body/soul (in Jewish understanding) ...


I see what you are saying, now. Interesting way of looking at things. Is this a common Jewish view today among scholars?

Not impossible, but is there any indication that the ancient Hebrews at the time of the Babylonian exile would think in these terms (assuming that is when the Creation account was written)?

Also, I thought in Jewish understanding the soul referred to the breath of life, rather than a 'divine' component in human beings?
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby agricola » Sat Feb 11, 2017 9:41 pm

The soul is God's. It is given by God (and yes, the 'breath' thing is related) and at death it returns to God. At the end of days, if God wishes, God will 'return' you body to life (physical resurrection) and return your soul to you. God will 'remember' you 'to life'. God is 'spirit' and not physical, and the part of human which is not physical is the 'spirit' or soul. Kabbalistically, it is a 'spark'.

I don't think my idea about Genesis 1 is particularly common, but it is definitely a valid way to read the text. The normal traditional understanding in Judaism is split between 'the royal we' and 'God involving the whole host of heaven'. The text itself (documentary hypothesis) was written during the Babylonian exile, and from that time we can tease out a number of influences from Zoroastrian thought, including the 'heavenly host'. It is at this time that you first (chronologically) begin to see the idea of angelic beings (with names and hierarchies) and demons (evil angels, basically).

It is fairly well accepted among literary scholars, linguists, etc - that Genesis 1 is strongly influenced (that is, the priests were impelled to write THEIR Creation story down) by the impact of the Zoroastrian creation story. The Genesis 1 story is 'priestly source' and the Genesis 2 story (with a God who walks in a garden and creates humans physically by creating a clay doll from the dirt) is both older, and less 'sophisticated' - it is the 'J' source.

Reading such an influential and ancient text WITHOUT being influenced by traditional interpretations of the text is extremely tough! But I didn't just make up that interpretation: it is an existing (though currently a minority) opinion or interpretation.
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby teresa » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:13 pm

Thanks, agricola.

Checking to see if I understand you: Are you saying that in Jewish thought, the "breath" that God breathed into Adam (humankind) is the soul?
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby agricola » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:14 pm

Literally? no, our breathing isn't our soul. But metaphorically, yes it is. God 'breathes' into humans 'the breath of life' and when we cease to breathe, we are dead and our soul has 'left'. This idea that breath = life (and that human life is partly physical body and partly non-physical soul) is well established in Jewish law.

A baby becomes a 'living being' when it takes its first breath. Prior to that it is not an independent person, but is - basically - a body part of the mother. (Before 40 days, it is nothing at all; it is 'like water' and abortion prior to the 40 day mark is freely accessible for any reason, halakhically (in Jewish law). Between 40 days and birth, it is a 'limb of the mother' and abortion is generally prohibited except in cases where continuing the pregnancy is a major hazard to the mother's health or life - some authorities make exceptions if testing shows the fetus is non-viable, or suffers from some serious defect - others don't. Once the child is born and breathes, it is fully a separate human, and all normal human rights attach (in other words, infanticide = murder, but abortion is not murder, although it is sometimes illegal (and other times is mandatory)).

This comes up fairly often and has to be explained, because typically Jews fall in the 'pro-choice' category regardless of where they are on the Jewish spectrum of belief/behavior, but it is really a lot more nuanced than that. But the idea that taking a breath indicates independent human life is basic to that distinction.

But while related, they aren't the SAME (breath is not soul). Your 'soul' is spirit, not physical at all - God 'breathed' into Adam and Adam BECAME a living being - a composite body/soul. Maybe it works better to say that 'God's breath' isn't any sort of AIR.
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby agricola » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:41 pm

In the Creation story, we read of God blowing a “breath of life” into the man of earth and dust (Genesis 2:7). The word used is a form of the Hebrew root indicating breath. Although this “neshamah” later becomes associated with the soul, the word here only describes the element that animates a body. This animating element is not, in early biblical tradition, separate from the body in life, nor does it possess any personality.

Similarly, ruah is the animating force from God. Most often used as “wind,” ruahmay also be used as “breath.” “God said, ‘My breath [ruhi] will not govern man forever, since he is flesh…'” (Genesis 6:3). Here, we see the added element of transience: The ruah ends its association with the mortal body at death.

The word nefesh is often used to mean “person” or “living being”. In the Torah, however, animals may also possess this life force–a “nefesh behemah.” The term nefesh is particularly associated with blood, as in “the life [nefesh] of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).


In later books of the Bible, the soul (using all three terms) is mentioned apart from the body and as more than just an animating spirit. This subtle evolution of meaning reflects the growth of the idea of what we call the soul–the unique, everlasting, intangible part of a person. In the stunning poem that serves as the centerpiece of the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, the death of a person is described as occurring when “… the dust returns to the ground where it had been and the ruah returns to the God who had given it” (12:7). While previously we saw the life-breath leaving the body at death, here we see it as a separate entity that returns to God, rather than simply disappearing.


The path of the soul following death was not a particularly significant matter of speculation for the Sages, nor is there consensus on the matter in the Talmud and Midrash. In Tanhumah, we read a vaguely worded passage suggesting that the body cannot live without the soul nor the soul without the body. On the other hand, many Talmudic Rabbis taught that the soul not only exists separately from the body, but also exists in a fully conscious state in an ethereal realm (Ketubbot 77b, Berakhot 18b-19a, and elsewhere).


Saadia Gaon, a product of Greco-Arabic philosophy as well as Jewish tradition, presented his own view of the soul in the sixth chapter of his work Emunot veDeot. In it, he states that a soul is created at the same moment of the body, from a more subtle, but still material, element. Although he opposed many of Plato’s views, Saadia also disagreed with many of the more abstract opinions of the Talmudic Sages. Despite this, he preserved the belief that the soul benefits from its partnership with the body. Without the body, the soul would be unable to do the holy, redemptive work of following the commandments.

Maimonides developed a complicated Aristotelian model of the soul. He described a number of faculties of the soul, all of which are related to the relationship of a person to his or her material environment, perceptions, memories, creativity, and desires. Most of these faculties of soul exist only in a living human body; with the death of the body, they too die. For Maimonides, the only eternal aspects of soul are the logical and spiritual speculations and learning of a person produced over his or her lifetime.



In the Bible, body and soul are viewed as one, and existence and meaning are attributed to the soul on the physical, human, and historical plane. With the passing of time, however, the soul came to be viewed as a metaphysical entity that belonged to, affected, and was affected by the realm of the divine, transcending the confines of history and nature.

No Existence Separate from the Body

The biblical conception, as noted, views the soul as part of the psychophysical unity of man, who, by his very nature, is composed of a body and a soul. As such, the Bible is dominated by a monistic view that ascribes no metaphysical significance to human existence, for it sees in man only his tangible body and views the soul simply as that element that imparts to the body its vitality.

The soul is, indeed, considered the site of the emotions, but not of a spiritual life separate from that of the body, or of a mental or emotional life in conflict with that of the body, it is, rather, the seat of all of man’s feelings and desires, physical as well as spiritual.

Such a conception views the entire entity of man as a “living soul,” or, to put it in our terms, a psychophysical organism created in the image of God, whose existence has religious significance within the reality of time and place alone. Nevertheless, the fact that man is defined as having been created in the image of God allowed for the expansive development of post-biblical thought.


All quotes from My Jewish Learning.com
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby teresa » Fri Mar 03, 2017 8:32 pm

Thanks agricola.
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Re: Simply Jesus - book by N T Wright

Postby Acorn » Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:35 pm

Teresa Paraphrased NT Wright
In the Bible, "heaven" and "earth" overlap and interlock, as the ancient Jews believed they did above all in the Temple...Jesus' risen person -- body, mind, heart and soul -- is the prototype of the new creation....And the whole point of Jesus' identity, all along, is that he has been a one-man walking Temple; he has been, already, the place where heaven and earth have met, where people on earth have come into contact with the life and power of heaven. So for Jesus "going to heaven" isn't a matter of disappearing into the far distance...Heaven permeates earth. If Jesus is now in "heaven", he is present to every place on earth. Had he remained on earth, he wouldn't have been present anywhere except the one place where he was.


I agree with this. Jesus told the samaritan woman at the well that the day would come when people worshipped neither at Jerusalem nor in the mountains. He knew (imo) we would worship as part of the heavenly liturgy in Jesus(the new temple).
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby agricola » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:07 pm

Here's a thing which might be interesting to talk about -
in Second Temple times (when Jesus lived), 'heaven' was a fairly common expression that meant 'God', so 'fear of heaven' was 'fear of God', and 'go to heaven' was a kind of soul-union with God, and so forth - the 'kingdom of heaven' was 'the kingdom of God'. So 'heaven' to a contemporary Jewish audience did NOT bring to mind any sort of 'place' you went to after you died, it was instead, 'God'.
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Re: Simply Jesus - Discussion

Postby teresa » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:21 am

Thank you, agricola. I agree with what you said. And so does N T Wright.
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