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4

    Could the nature of human wind be the origin of the meaning given to ruah and the basis for the significant place it had in Hebrew anthropology? The differentiation of internal 'organs' came more from the identification of localizable felt events than the recognition of anatomical organs. It is likely the Hebrew had a general knowledge of internal anatomy, but not having much medical knowledge, he found it of little use. An awareness of body experience may be the origin of vocabulary reflecting a Hebrew's interpretation of himself. The modern mind must re-live man's self-discovery at this earlier stage in order to comprehend the actual nature of the concrete, synthetic thinking of the ancient Hebrew.

    This study also makes use of the view that the Hebrew anthropological terms had more linguistic unity than popular accounts and to some extent scholarly accounts tend to recognize. With N in particular, studies have concentrated on finding for a given passage the best concept or word with which to accurately understand or translate N. The tendency has been to establish a list of meanings in one's own language in to which uses for N could fit. H.W. Robinson developed three categories that covered all cases: A. Principle of Life -- 282 instances, B. Physical -- 249 instances, C. Personal -- 223 instances. (from Christian Doctrine of Man, p. 16) Johnson remarked on Robinson's classification, "The present writer would agree that each of these meanings may be distinguished in certain passages, but finds the meaning of the term as a whole far too fluid to be able to accept so definite a classification." (p. 8, n. 2) Others that followed Robinson may not have constructed so rigid a classification, but the precedent was set. Becker in Het begrip nefesi in het Oude Testament attempted an exact classification using five categories.

    The New Bible Dictionary gives 'possessing life' as the primary meaning for N and notes it was identified with the blood and indicated 'the life principle'. It cites numerous instances in which N had a psy­chical reference that covered various states of consciousness including 1) the seat of physical appetites 2) a source of emotion 3) an association with will and moral action. The individual or person, the self, and a dead body are other meanings given.

    Brown, Driver, and Briggs's A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament based on Briggs's "The Use of Nephesh in the Old Testament" gives a slightly different list of meanings. N was ‘that which breathes'. N could refer to 1) a living being 2) a living being whose life resides in the blood 3) the man himself 4) the seat of emotions and passions such as desiring, abhorring and rejoicing 5) the seat of appetites such as hunger and thirst and 6) occasionaly mental acts.

    The New Bible Dictionary and Brown, Driver and Briggs's Lexicon are only examples of the general perspective expressed throughout the body of literature useful to the reader who is seeking a beginning knowledge of N. Although there are differences in definitions given, the more popular sources agree on most of the main points. Life, life principle, possessing life, or vital force are the primary meanings given. That N was connected with the blood is always mentioned, though some prefer to emphasize a con­nection with the breath. Each exposition states that N referred to the self or person and identifies it as the 'seat of emotions' and 'seat of appetites'.

   This tendency to establish categories reflects the influence of structural linguistics from early decades of this century which gave a static, descriptive analysis of the lexical elements of language and how they were combined by certain grammatical rules into sentences. Like structuralism in psychology at the turn of the century, this approach to language reflected the empiricistic tradition in philosophy and the atomic model in chemistry. The structuralist school in the new discipline of experimental psychology operated out of the framework that sensory elements of mental experience combined to form sense experience analogous to the discovery that chemical elements combined to form new molecules. The empiricistic view that perceived combinations of sensory elements were the building blocks for knowledge antedated each of these developments. (See N. Chomsky's lecture on "The Past" in Language and Mind for his view of the history of linguistics.)

   This multi-discipline trend had its effect upon studies of the Biblical languages which attempted to classify and categorize various definitions of a word. Unfortunately, the method of elucidating categories created two related problems. For one, the unity among various uses was lost; for another, certain uses were forced into a category in which they did not accurately fit -- at least as far as the Hebrew was concerned. The way N is commonly defined today suffers from these problems. Its field of meaning has lost not only its original cohesive unity but its fluidity to encompass the multitude of ways N was originally used. This study assumes a rediscovery of the Hebrew view of N would restore its semantic unity and fluidity. Whereas several others have emphasized categories into which various uses for N can be catalogued, the emphasis of this study is upon developing the unity which overarches all OT instances of N, while at the same time demonstrating its fluid diversity.

   The term 'synthetic thinking' as described in the English translation of Wolff's book needs to be developed further in order to obtain a more accurate understanding of this 'grasping of a totality'. Wolff was correct when he noted in his preliminary remarks that "different parts of the body enclose with their essential functions the man who is meant." (P. 8) The reference in Is. 52:7 to 'beautiful feet' does indicate that the runner is 'swift of movement' and therefore 'good with his feet'. In a poetic, artistic manner this reference to 'beautiful feet' created for the Hebrew the familiar image of a messenger -- the hot-line of 3,000 years ago. It captured a 'beautiful event' -- the receiving of good tidings through the communication network of that day. However, could not the telephone of today be referred to in a way similar to the runner's feet? 'How beautiful is the phone of him who brings good tidings.' The feet and the phone are both vehicles of communication. One might not use modern English in quite this manner, but has not one had similar feelings about the phone after receiving a call from a close companion who is a great distance away? It is not a known English expression, but it is the same kind of poetical expression as is found in Is. 52:7. Moreover, the English word 'hand' can be used in the same fashion. 'How beautiful is the hand of the woman who gives herself in marriage.'

   The ancient Hebrew viewed the 'essential functions' of a part of the body with imagery more expressive than Wolff has indicated. The functioning referred to actually opened up into basic statements about the Hebrew view of man and even his relation to God. In the words of J. Robinson, "...all words pertaining to the life and constitution of man are to be seen as designating or qualifying this fundamental relation of man to God." (p. 16) This characteristic of the Hebrew perspective for N is what distinguishes tsynthetic thinking' from the English use of hand. The 'essential functions' which were circumscribed by 'the naming of a body part' encompassed more than, for instance, activities of a 20th-Century Western hand; they could even be statements about how man 'functioned' in the world. This kind of 'grasping of a totality' by which reference to a body part was able to make a statement about man is the distinguishing characteristic of 'synthetic thinking'.

    Anthropological words such as N were not limited semantically to body organs and a comment on how they functioned physically or for that matter just emotionally. The functions of N conveyed something about man himself, his nature, his life situation. N conveyed information about man just as a mants name communicated something about his nature. "For as his name is, so is he, Nabal is his name and folly [naball is with him." (I Sam. 25: 25b) Similarly, when children were born, they were given names that had certain significance for the Hebrew parents. "And as her N was departing (for she died), she called his name Benoni [son of my sorrow] but his father called his name Benjamin [son of the right hand or son of happy omen]." (Gen. 35­18) Likewise, naming man N, as occurred in the writing of Genesis, communicated a certain significance to the 'whole man'. N, as linked to a 'body organ', gave certain significance to the whole. The 20th Century Western mind might want to here employ the word 'symbol' instead of 'significance'; however, today a symbol often suggests a lesser reality than the object it represents. From the perspective of synthetic thinking, equal reality existed between the part and the whole for which it stood. In the world of the Hebrews a symbol had as much concrete potency as the object it symbolized. The synthetic thinking of the Hebrews enabled an anthropological term, founded in a part of the 'body', to carry a certain significance which conveyed how the Hebrews perceived life, including life before God.

   Using the above assumptions and information, the text, through use of an original-language concordance such as the Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament reveals what is here termed a 'theme'. It is perhaps not the best term since modern use can imply something constructed and thereby secondary, whereas it is here used, in Hebrew fashion, to refer to imagery intrinsic to the meaning of N. An elaboration of the theme surrounding N will reveal the significance N had for the people of ancient Israel and will set the stage for a discovery of the fulfillment N received in the NT message.


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