What Does “Soulish” Mean?Commentary for April 27, 2005 — We have a “soulish” body
QUESTION: What does “soulish” mean? You have used that word in articles.
ANSWER: I have used this adjective before and I will use it again. I use “soulish” because it is a sound biblical word (2 Timothy 1:13), which when properly used can be easily appreciated. It is an adjective that accurately describes your body, as distinct from a spiritual body. Your body, flesh, soul, and spirit are all distinguished in Scripture with great precision, but not always in translations.
We are soulish by nature but we do not possess a solely fleshly nature. Flesh is what makes up the body. The body is the structure of our flesh. The flesh alone has no thinking capacity, but the flesh which makes up the body (“body of flesh,” Colossians 1:22, 2:11, cf. Ephesians 5:30) does have needs such as hunger, thirst, weariness, pain, a need for sleep, etc. The flesh communicates those needs in a very efficient manner.
Our soul (a combination of the body and spirit in man, Genesis 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:45) is what gives us our consciousness and personality. It is our soul which is subject to judgment. Of course, the word “nature” is not used in the Bible as we use it today in common English to denote “human nature.”
The word “soulish” best translates the Greek word psuchikos. It is the adjective of the noun “soul” which should always be translated from psuche.
How else would anyone translate the adjective psuchikos except “soulish”? However, the word is translated with all-too-common KJV confusion as ”natural” 4x and “sensual” 2x.
Describing our nature as a “soulish nature” is very accurate. The following verse translations use the adjective “natural” or “sensual” but the Greek word is psuchikos, meaning “soulish,” derived directly from the root noun psuche or soul.
“But the natural [psuchikos, soulish] man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”You will note that in these verses the adjective “soulish” qualifies and describes the nouns “man,” “body,” “wisdom,” and “mockers” (in Jude 1:18). There is a precise distinction between the soul and the spirit which is made more explicit by the proper understanding of “soulish.” The Greek adjective “soulish” (psuchikos) is different from the usual King James rendering of “nature” which is derived from the Greek phusis. Most often phusis is associated with the flesh or fleshly nature.
• 1 Corinthians 2:14“It [the body] is sown a natural [psuchikos, soulish] body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural [psuchikos, soulish] body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul [psuche, soul]; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit [pneuma, spirit]. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural [psuchikos, soulish]; and afterward that which is spiritual.”
• 1 Corinthians 15:44–46“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual [psuchikos, soulish], devilish.”
• James 3:13–15“These be they [mockers] who separate themselves, sensual [psuchikos, soulish], having not the Spirit.”
• Jude 1:19
A further question was asked: What would be wrong with understanding the phrase “human nature” in those verses? Very little, so long as you maintained the distinctions between words that are in the Greek. Reading texts of Scripture often requires precision lacking in the King James Version.
There indeed is a phrase that can be properly rendered as “human nature” (from two root words phusis and anthroupinos), but the King James confuses the matter by translating the Greek word phusis by two different English words within the same verse. However, the phrase “human nature” occurs only once and has to do with the distinction between humans and animals:
“For every kind [phusis, nature] of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed of mankind [phusis anthropinos].”Note how a consistent translation of “nature” clarifies the understanding of that verse. This phrase formed from phusis (nature) and anthropinos (human) is indeed best expressed as the “nature of humans,” or “human nature.”
• James 3:7
Phusis occurs in 11 verses in James 3:7 (2x); 2 Peter 1:4; Romans 1:26, 2:14, 27, 11:21, 24, 1 Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 2:15, 4:8; and Ephesians 2:3, where it is translated “nature” in all except James 3:7. The adjective phusikos is used in only 3 verses (2 Peter 2:12 and Romans 1:26–27). Of course, as you noticed, the noun and adjective occur together in Romans 1:26.
Some day our human nature will be changed to be like Christ’s, divine as opposed to a soulish nature. At that time we shall have a divine nature as Christ has at present.
“According as his divine power [theios (divine) dunamis (power)] has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature [theios (divine) phusis (nature)], having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”Of course we must wait until the resurrection to have that blessing.
• 2 Peter 1:3–4
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”We all look forward to that day with anticipation.
• 1 John 3:2
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