Hebrew word Nephesh and the Greek word Psuche
One particularly pompous preacher out there in videoland, named "pastor" David Middleton, has a long diatribe against the King James Bible and it’s alleged “Many Errors and Why It is Not Reliable”
This man apparently holds to the Textus Receptus that underlies the King James Bible, but he tells his congregation that they need to either learn “the” Greek and Hebrew languages in order to know what the Book REALLY says, or have someone like him who can tell them. Guess which option the people are going to go for.
This man has clearly made himself his own “final authority”, and what is worse, the final authority of his poor and misguided flock. He has effectively robbed them of their Bibles in their own languages, and has placed himself as some kind of intermediary between them and their God.
In his video he lists about 50 examples of what he calls “serious errors” and “bad translations” found in the King James Bible, and yet most modern versions out there do the very same things this man is criticizing about the King James Bible. He often refers to Young’s literal as “getting it right”, but then he goes on and criticizes several things in the KJB that are also found in Youngs.
This man has no authority other than himself and his own “school boy” understanding of “the” Greek and Hebrew.
I want to address one of the major “errors” this man brings up, and it typifies all his other examples.
He tells his congregation that the King James Bible is a horrible translation that cannot be trusted because of the way they sometimes translate the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psuche (psyche).
He tells us that the words should ALWAYS be translated as “soul” and therefore the King James Bible got it wrong when it translated these words, not only as soul, but also as “heart” and “mind”.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek words are closely related as far as the general meanings are concerned. Each word is not limited by any means to just the word “soul”.
The King James Bible translates the Hebrew word Nepesh # 5315 in a wide variety of ways, simply because it has different shades of meaning in different contexts. It translates Nephesh as “soul, creature, life, persons, mind, man, body, the dead, beast, yourselves, heart, breath, will, pleasure, myself, herself, and appetite.”
But so too do virtually every Bible translation in multiple languages, even the ones done by the Hebrew speaking Jews when translating into English.
The NASB, for example, translates this same Hebrew word Nephesh as “anyone, appetite (7 times), being, body, breath, corpse (2 times), creature, dead (3 times), deadly, death, desire, discontented, endure, feelings, fierce, greedy, heart (7 times), herself, himself, human, longing, myself, number, ones, others, ourselves, own, passion, people, perfume, persons (80 times), slave, some, soul, strength, thirst, throat, will, wish and yourselves.”
I have a hard copy of the NASB complete concordance here in my study.
The ESV and NKJV are similar and have the same wide variety of ways they translate this single Hebrew word.
The NIV has the Hebrew word nephesh translated as “life, soul, person, himself, heart(s) (21 times), yourselves, myself, anyone, herself, appetite (7 times), creatures, spirit (5 times), body (4 times), dead body (4 times), death (4 times), man, needs, desires, hungry, hunger, members, thing, affection, alive, all, being, corpse, cost, courage, discontented, earnest, faint, feel, fierce, greed, kill, perfume, pleased, plunder, slave, thirst, thoughts, throats, willing, wishes, yourself, and zeal.” And 46 times the NIV just left it untranslated.
All this information is found in the hard copy of the NIV complete concordance, which I happen to have right here in my study.
As for the New Testament word Psuche (psyche) it too has a multitude of meanings.
Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, 17th edition, 1887 tells us on page 798 that the Greek word Psuche means “breath”, the seat of the will, desires and passions, the “heart”, the soul, “the mind”, reason and understanding.”
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, 4th edition 1952 on page 901 informs us that the Greek word Psuche can mean such things as: “the breath of life, the life principle”, “the soul”, “feelings and emotions”, “hearts” full of love, “from the heart, gladly”, “with one mind”.
And Joseph Henry Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 1889 on page 677 tells us that the Greek word psuche has such varied meanings as “breath”, “life”, “the soul”, “the seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions, our soul, heart” and that the Greek phrase ek psuches means “from the heart, heartily”.
When we look at the King James Bible we see that they have translated this one Greek word Psuche as “life, soul, mind (3 times), heart (1 time), and heartily (1 time)”.
Yet the NASB likewise translates this single word as “ heart (2 times), heartily (1 time), life (36 times), lives (7 times), mind (2 times), person, soul, suspense and thing (1 time).
The NIV has translated this one Greek word as “life (32 times), soul, heart (4 times), minds (3 times), being, keep in suspense, man, myself, people, themselves, thing, us, you, yourselves and 8 times left it untranslated.
I would not want to be in the shoes of this particular pastor on the day of judgment. He not only has robbed the common man in his church of their faith in their Bible, but has placed himself as the “mediator” between them and God.
His “flock” has to come to him in order to find out what God REALLY said, because he has taught them that ALL bible translations are corrupt and cannot be relied upon as communicating the truths of God to them.
Get yourself the King James Bible and stick with it. You can be absolutely confident that you hold in your hands the complete, inspired and inerrant words of the living God and you don’t need anyone else to tell you what the Book REALLY SAYS. It is right there for you to read and believe every word.
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